Fly fishing casts spell on literature buffs


Students practice fly fishing at the Museum of Art lagoon.

Man met nature last week as fly-fishing lines and rods whipped through the air at the Cleveland Museum of Art’s lagoon and bluegills nipped at the lines.

For 15 students in Case Western Reserve University English professor John Orlock’s SAGES seminar–Fly Fishing:  The Sport, the Metaphysics, & the Literature–it was the moment to connect with nature.

Lining the pathway along the lagoon, the first-year students got some step-by-step instructions from a master of the sport, George Vosmik.  The rods and reels for the experiential component of this seminar were a generous gift from the Orvis Corporation, a major manufacturer of fly-fishing gear.

With rods in a forward position, Vosmik had the students repeat, “It’s great to be from Ohio” as they accelerated the rods into the back cast.  The phrase serves as a mnemonic device to aid in achieving the proper rhythm and timing of the movement.

They then cast forward, accelerating and then stopping and abruptly releasing their lines with no flick of the wrist to create a balletic stream of lines dancing and arching through the air and into the water.

Emily Wixted, who is interested in creative writing, got her line caught in nearby trees and shrubs, but after moving a few steps away from the foliage she gracefully sent her line soaring.

But casting isn’t the only thing Wixted likes about the class.

She enjoys the syllabus filled with “water and fishing” literature: Dame Julianna Berners’ Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle; Verlyn Klinkenborg’s The Rural Life; Norman F. MacLean’s A River Runs Through It; and Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler, or the Contemplative Man’s Recreation.

These literary classics provide access into the metaphysical, spiritual and aesthetic dimensions of the sport, Orlock said.

The seminar has become a popular offering over the past several years and has grown from a handful of students in its first year to full enrollment of 15 students across the disciplines, according to English professor Bill Siebenschuh, a fishing enthusiast who stopped to observe the students practice the sport.

He added, “As I remember it, the first students John had in this course took a while to get comfortable with a fly rod. This year’s kids seem to be taking to it pretty quickly. A couple that I watched were casting surprisingly well for the first time out.”

But the seminar is more than fishing and reading.  Ashley Seitz Kramer, the course’s writing instructor, guides the students toward mastering the art of casting their thoughts into words for an effective research paper as well as other writing assignments.

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