Bowfin Country

My name is Henry Veggian. My friends call me Hank. A lifelong angler and fossil enthusiast, I first came to know of the Bowfin while living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the end of the 20th century. Since that time, I have developed a bad habit of reading everything I can get my hands on regarding those fishes that Darwin famously described as “living fossils.” These include Gars, Sturgeon, Paddlefish, Coelacanths, Sharks, and Lungfish, to name a few.

My favorite of the lot is by far the Bowfin (Amia calva), a fish that is widely disliked by the majority of anglers. The Bowfin is also admired by a significant minority of anglers, revered by some cooks, and widely studied by by scientists. Some claim it is the most thoroughly studied of fishes, particularly with respect to its anatomy. On the other hand, very little is known of its movement, forage and reproduction in the wild (although that is also beginning to change).

Confronted with the enigma of a fish that is as thoroughly studied as it is despised, I began reading widely and taking notes. I also fished for it quite a bit, in North Carolina and elsewhere. In 2007, I started to write a book entitled Welcome to Bowfin Country. It was the start of an odyssey that continues to this day. Over the course of six years, I visited the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University and studied the archives of our nation’s scientific record of the Bowfin. I read widely, from the 16th century to the present, so as to track down every reference, description, story, drawing and article that I could find. I ventured into swamps and rivers, lakes and marches, to find the Bowfin. In doing so, I began mapping what I call Bowfin Country, a place and time parallel to our conventional history and habit, where things that we regard as obsolete – animals, printed books, imagination – persist in surprising and vital ways.

In 2013, I received a small grant to complete the manuscript, and I started this blog. I will post updates on the book’s progress to this blog and also post my musings, photos and doodlings here and to my affiliated Twitter account @miacalva.

I obviously spend a good deal of time angling, both from the shore and from a fishing kayak. I fish competitively in kayak tournaments in order to scout new waters and learn new techniques, but also wander around aimlessly quite a bit, thinking.

A few disclaimers

1. I am not a trained fisheries biologist.

2. Readers should not venture into some of the places where I go fishing, as they may risk physical harm.

3. Original material is mine; RT’s are yours. When quoting my work, please remember to cite it.

4. “The individual and isolated hunter and fisherman, with whom Smith and Ricardo begin, belongs among the unimaginative conceits of the 18th century Robinsonades, which in no way express merely a reaction against over-sophistication and a return to a misunderstood natural life, as cultural historians imagine.”  – Karl Marx, Grundrisse

Please leave comments. I enjoy reading and responding to them.

Henry Veggian

Copyright 2016

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