Adolphe Appian, Fisherman in a Boat at the Riverside1887
Etching with monotype printing in black ink on ivory laid paper
315 x 463 mm (image); 346 x 485 mm (sheet)
"Fishing makes rivers my corrective lens; I see differently. Not only does the bird taking the mayfly signify a hatch, not only does the flash of color at the break of the riffle signify a fish feeding, but my powers uncoil inside me and I must determine which insect is hatching and what feeding pattern the trout has established. Then I must properly equip myself and properly approach the fish and properly present my imitation. I am engaged in a hunt that is more than a hunt, for the objects of the hunt are mostly to be found within myself, in the nature of my response and action. I am on the Parsifalian quest. I must be scientist, technician, athlete, perhaps even a sort of poet."
Nick Lyons, from “Bright Rivers,” in The Armchair Angler, ed. by Terry Brykczynski and David Reuther (Macmilian, 1986)
Claude Monet, The Towpath at Granval, 1883
I know four men
who paddled the length of the Mississippi
in a dugout they hacked
and burned out of a beech tree. When anyone
they would look at each other
and their eyes would soften with the memory
of mists and sandbars,
of the grave black brows of river barges.
Charlie Smith, from “Liar,” in Jump Soul: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton & Co., 2014)
“To understand water is to understand the cosmos, the marvels of nature, and life itself.”
“On the Big Blackfoot River above the mouth of Belmont Creek the banks are fringed by large Ponderosa pines. In the slanting sun of late afternoon the shadows of great branches reached from across the river, and the trees took the river in their arms. The shadows continued up the bank, until they included us.”
Norman Maclean, from A River Runs Through It and Other Stories (University of Chicago Press, 1976)
Issac Levitan, Fog over Water, 1895
"We live day to day with little change in our perceptions, but I never go to a river that I do not see newly and freshly, that I do not learn, that I do not find a story […] No, those rivers are more. They are my Pilgrim Creek and Walden Pond, however briefly. Those rivers and their bounty—bright and wild—touch me and through me touch every person whom I meet. They are a metaphor for life. In their movement, in their varied glides, runs, and pools, in their inevitable progress toward the sea, they contain many of the secrets we seek to understand about ourselves, our purposes."
Nick Lyons, from “Bright Rivers,” in The Armchair Angler, ed. Terry Brykczynski and David Reuther (Macmillian, 1986)
[The god of the river] has watched the passing
of other boats, assemblages,
whose voyages bore down the currents
to the dark shores of their eyes
—and has forgotten them, innocent
of his seasonal wraths, his mischiefs
accomplished and portending, as his present
forbearance is innocent;
of his forgetting allows the sun
flows away, its blue and white
peeling off the green waves.
His mind contains
the river as its banks
constrain it, a single act
receiving it and letting it go.
Wendell Berry, closing lines to “Observance,” from New Collected Poems (Counter Point, 2012)
“It was late in April, with the river running fine and as clear as a young parson’s conscience.”
Tom Sutcliffe, M.D., from Reflections on Fly Fishing: Further Thoughts of a South African Flyfisherman (Mark and Ronald Basel, 1990)
I want, like a little boat, to be isolate,
slipping across one element
Toward the horizon, whose lips know something but stay sealed
under the heaven of the moon.
Charles Wright, from “Laguna Dantesca,” in The Southern Cross: Poems (Random House, 1981)
Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Boats on the Shore, 1884
They had come to see the salmon lunging and leaping
Up the white spillway, but the water was empty.
Now one young girl lingers behind the others,
And slowly, her thin arms held out from her sides,
Alone on the riverbank, she begins to dance.
Her body moves as the salmon would have moved
In place, holding that place in a soundless calm
Under a soundless frenzy of surfaces
Against a currently only she remembers
To welcome, to break through, to gather again.
The wind and the river pulse against her face
And under her feet. She listens to what they know
And moves her lips to find the mouth of the river
And the mouth of the slow wind against her mouth.
The source of the river and the source of the wind
Have taken her breath away. But the others come
Shaking their fingers, opening and closing
Their mouths, to take her back to another silence.
David Wagoner, “The Excursion of the Speech and Hearing Class” in The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry, ed. J.D. McClatchy (Vintage, 2003
"One may love a river as soon as one sets eyes upon it; it may have certain features that fit instantly with one’s conception of beauty, or it may recall the qualities of some other river, well known and deeply loved. One may feel in the same way an instant affinity for a man or a woman and know that here is pleasure and warmth and the foundation of deep friendship. In either case the full riches of the discovery are not immediately released—they cannot be; only knowledge and close experience can release them. Rivers, I suppose, are not at all like human beings, but it is still possible to make apt comparisons; and this is one: understanding, whether instinctive and immediate or developing naturally through time or grown by conscious effort, is a necessary preliminary to love. Understanding of another human being can never be complete, but as it grows toward completeness, it become love almost inevitably. One cannot know intimately all the ways and movements of river without growing into love of it. And there is no exhaustion to the growth of love through knowledge, whether the love be for a person or a river, because the knowledge can never become complete."
Roderick Haig-Brown, from “To Know a River,” in A River Never Sleeps (Harold Ober Associates, 1946)