Swedish version


A Fly Fisherman reflects upon
Ernest Hemingway’s Big Two Hearted River
By Commander Walter Dinkins, CHC, US Navy (Ret)

  If you readers of Sporting Outdoors writing take time to read Ernest Hemingway’s 1925 short story, Big Two-Hearted River, which is found in his book of short stories: In Our Time. It matters not if you are a Veteran or have never served your country. Perhaps you still in University, or perhaps you are a Middle or High school student; you could easily relate to the story’s character- “Nick Adams” and how he deals with life after returning from war.

Told in a unique and simple way of a young man dealing with certain fears and struggles in light of a unfolding tale of his experiences in the wildness and wilderness with all its dangers and its reflection of the joy reflective in that time and place. Although published well after WWI as a two- part story, these two short stories are best read as a single story. Nick is a young man recently returned from war, and is trying to put himself back together through his experiences in the outdoors and fishing.

  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) hits all veterans differently. Those of us who have seen the ugly face of war can understand that someone who has been brutalized by the vastness of evil or death know intimately just how important it is to find your own peaceful place of comfort in the outdoors.

  In reflection: I find that “Saltwater fly fishing allows my soul to be quenched, and gives my heart and mind, time to mend in the tide cycle of life that flows softly and floods the salt marsh with oxygen and renewed life bringing fish up out of the deep dark waters and onto a Spartina grass flat full of life and hope and joy.”

  Although not mentioning - war at all, the reader of Big Two-Hearted River can come to grips through an introspective reading of this short story, and become reflective with their own unique struggles of life, and better understand, how chaos- can cut deep- within our your own soul, and can easily toss our hearts and minds, to and fro- like some wild rip tide throughout life’s unique journey.

  Sometimes we all just need to get away- to take a walk, or a boat ride- deep into the outdoors, or in my case - the salt marsh wilderness. The reality of life and death can be too much at times to come to grips with the evil that people can do to one another in the name of religion.

  We may not wish to self-medicate. Hemmingway like many veterans of his day, and in previous wars turned to alcohol. However he also found peace in fishing & being in the great outdoors. Everyone falls at different times in ones life. We all struggle with life’s adventures, or in not meeting our expectations, however take heart, and find your heart through the healing waters of the great outdoors. Fly Fishermen and women live closer to the water and fishing than most other who fish. Nature and the outdoors can be our own “healing waters” as post traumatic stress impacts each person differently. How each Veteran deals with PTSD varies, yet we all seek some shelter from the ravages of our own storms throughout our individual journey. I helped “Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing” (PHWFF) get established at National Naval Medical Center-Bethesda (now Walter Reed Medical Center at Bethesda, MD) when I was a staff Chaplain there back in 2010. If you are not familiar with PHWFF, take a good look at it, for it’s a excellent program, and I encourage my readers to GOOGLE PHWFF and read more about it.

  As for myself, I need and appreciate getting out in my skiff, and smelling that salt air, deep in my lungs, and as I wade with my fly rod- the vast salt marshes of the low country of North and South Carolina that stretch out for acres of sweet Spartina grass flats, I can also find my own happy place. Perhaps my readers can see some of those wonderful Spartina grass flats that my old Professor, now deceased Dr. Don Millus PhD (Yale) referred to as “…a wonderful and exotic saltwater wonderland of Redfish and Speckled Trout waters known to all who visit, and desire to return again and again".

By Commander Walter Dinkins, CHC, US Navy (Ret) 2013

Note: The Chaplain’s adventures around the world in times of War and Peace and his many years of Humanitarian and Peacemaking work is well documented if you choose to GOOGLE him. He guides Saltwater Fly Fishermen along the Carolina Coastal wilderness now since he is retired from the US Armed Forces. Visit his website (www.joeguideoutfitters.com)



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© Mats Sjöstrand 2013

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Mats Sjöstrand

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