Downward facing dogfish

We’re at the time of year when prudent anglers start getting in shape for the long slog ahead.

By “prudent anglers” I mean “hardly anybody.”

Many years ago, when I was a callow youth of some 45 years, my off-season routine was simple. When I wasn’t working I rested.

I noticed, however, that when I first got into a big river like the Housatonic or Farmington in the spring, I didn’t have the leg strength I was used to.

Quite by chance I discovered the elliptical machine. You know, like a treadmill but harder to fall off.

The motion on an elliptical is very similar to wading in moving water.

So the next winter I ellipticalled like crazy. When spring rolled around, I was ready.

I found other ways to flounder, but I didn’t have trouble wading.

I also noticed an increasing tendency to stiffness. Think the Tin Man, before Dorothy got busy with the oil can.

I drew on my imperfect recollection of decades-old yoga sessions, and worked out a series of stretches that can be done in waders.

In fact they are best done in waders, if only for the shock value.

Anglers are, by and large, a small-c conservative bunch, very wary of change.

Doing my favorite angler’s yoga position, The Barfing Crane, streamside causes comment.

Photo by Patrick L. Sullivan

Step 1: Grasp your hands behind you. Ignore creaking sounds. Maintain tension.


Fast-forward to 2023. I found to my horror that I was weighing in at just a hair under 200 pounds, by which I mean 207 pounds.

This would have been bad enough when I was 5 feet 9 inches.

But cruel fate shrank me to 5 feet 7 and a half inches. I have avoided measuring lately. I don’t want to know.

So I went from being chunky to being positively spherical.

I went on a diet, which consisted mostly of avoiding bread and pasta.

This takes some getting used to. The worst part of carbohydrate-based post-acute withdrawal is waking up at 3:17 a.m. in a cold sweat after dreaming of buttered toast. Luckily this phase only lasts a year or two.

Haha! Just kidding. More like a week or two.

I added some exercise. I wanted something I could do at home, in the morning, without a lot of equipment or fuss. Something that would be portable, and not require a gym membership.

I blush with shame to admit that I own a yoga mat.

I also consulted with my cousin Jean, a yoga teacher.

She said I should strengthen my core.

“I don’t think I have a core,” I said.

“Everybody has a core,” she replied, patiently, as if speaking to a nitwit. Which she was.

She got me on crunches and planks. I added squats, with a 10-pound kettle bell, to replace the elliptical leg strength routine, because the old gym closed and I’m too cheap to sign up elsewhere.

And I use stretchy things, also known as resistance bands, for the upper torso, to loosen things up.

This regimen has undoubtedly delivered the goods. I have been holding steady at 170 pounds for months, and all my pants are too loose.

More to the point, when a fishable moment arises, I will be ready physically.

Mentally? That’s a discussion for another edition of Tangled Lines.

Latest News

Banned Book Awards champions children’s right to read
Judy Blume connected digitally at the ceremony and was honored with a lifetime achievement award.
Alexander Wilburn

There can be no question that democratic freedoms are currently being attacked and restricted in the United States, and somehow, children and the information they have access to have been the ongoing targets of attack.

As AP News reported in 2023: “More than 1,200 challenges were compiled in 2022, nearly double the then-record total from 2021 and by far the most since the American Library Association began keeping data 20 years ago.” Conservative groups across the country have become well-organized machines harassing individual public and school librarians with threats of legal and violent action. The message from these groups, often supported by government leaders, is that children should not have access to books — books meant for young readers — that engage with topics of race, gender or sexual identity.

Keep ReadingShow less
Never a secret: The Black wife of a vice president

In a new American biography, Amrita Chakrabarti Myers, a multi-award-winning author and director of the graduate studies history department at Indiana University Bloomington, uncovers the hidden story of the wife of Richard Mentor Johnson, the ninth vice president of the United States, serving under President Martin Van Buren.

“The Vice President’s Black Wife: The Untold Life of Julia Chinn” from Ferris and Ferris explores the lost account of Chinn — a woman with no official portrait, no legal record of her marriage and no surviving letters or diary to expose her own thoughts or feelings. What we do know: Chinn was a Black woman born into slavery in Scott County, Kentucky; trained as a household domestic worker from a young age; and taken as Johnson’s common-law wife as a teenager when Johnson was 15 years her senior. Chinn was never legally freed from slavery, but she would also come to wield significant authority over the management of Johnson’s property, overseeing the slave labor she was born into, now from a position of power.

Keep ReadingShow less
String quartet dazzles Hotchkiss Library

Ivalas String Quartet

Matthew Kreta

The Guild at Hotchkiss Library presented the Ivalas String Quartet in collaboration with Music Mountain Sunday, Feb. 18.

It was immediately apparent that the members of the quartet have a perfect understanding of each other as performers. Comprised of Reuben Kebede and Tiani Butts playing violin, Pedro Sánchez playing cello and Marcus Stevenson playing viola, the quartet would make constant movements, eye contact and audible breathing to guide and communicate with each other. This made their complex program sound effortless, even though their selections certainly sounded difficult to navigate.

Keep ReadingShow less