Secret Weapons

Brian O’Keefe, cutthroat trout

by Scott Sadil

O’Keefe sends me a list: PMDs, caddis, spruce moths, hoppers, water boatmen.

Water boatmen?

“Damn good.  In the creek,” he confirms, including a photo of a page of images from an online site, plus a couple of pattern examples, flies tied and held in a vise, and even a close-up of a dozen of the real thing from the water we’ll be fishing.

I guess he’s not joking.

Water Boatmen

Because of my age, of course, I reach for a couple of reference books.  People I talk to are always telling me how much they still like to hold a book—or magazine—when they’re reading, an opinion I share and have all the respect in the world for, while wondering if readers, such as we are, even matter anymore.

I recall while still teaching, not that long ago, a colleague pointing out how funny it seemed to her when, during a discussion in the lunch room about the meaning of a word, I reached for an actual dictionary.  You know, one of those books with a whole bunch of words arranged in alphabetical order.  

I confess I also look for my whereabouts or destinations in statewide gazetteers, identify birds with the help of a Peterson’s Field Guide, and key out tree species in Edward Jensen’s unrivalled Trees to Know in Oregon and Washington, orginally published over seventy years ago.

I’d probably still be using a phone book if I could find one.

“But Mr. Sadil, it’s a waste of paper!” students would argue. 

Water Boatmen

“They don’t cut down trees that matter,” I’d counter.  “The ones they use are planted and grown for paper, the same way we grow corn to make tortillas.”

(I know there’s an energy cost, as well, to making paper—but if you’re arguing with high school sophomores, my advice is to embrace a pedagogical rhetoric straight from old Henry Stamper in Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion: “Never give a inch.”)