In San Francisco during the early fifties fly fishing was an important part of the Beat scene. Widespread interest in Buddhism and nature naturally led to Zen Flies. It was admittedly a passing phenomenon—as one angler-poet later explained in City Lights Review: “It got to where ‘the perfect cast’ meant ‘no cast.’ Eventually we just went swimming.” Influences from the Zen Fly period can be traced on into the sixties. For example, the lyric “Fly Jefferson Airplane” was taken from a fishing poem by Richard Brautigan. Then there is the lettering carved deeply into a cliff above Muir Beach: “First there was a fish, then there was no fish, then there was.” But of course the primary and most eloquent record is the remarkable flies (we have included four examples here) that have made their way into the hands of collectors over the years.
I found this one-of-a-kind fly in a
Salvation Army shop in Hollister in
the early seventies. It was glued into a
little wooden box with the following
words hand-lettered on the inside
of the lid:
zen bug sits