Lesson Four Pale-Fishing
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Cary struggles into the classroom, eyes covered by a pair of wraparound shades and a mask covering their mouth, cartoon flames covering their face. They walk to the front of the class, looking fragile and old. Their shoulders slouch, their knees are loose, and their hands hang limply at their sides without their usual expressiveness. With hands covered in latex gloves, they leave a large stack of paper brochures at the front of the class, sitting down in the chair for the first time you can remember. It’s still their figure- strong shoulders, long legs, well-sized arms- but they are markedly exhausted. As you approach, Cary gestures to the stack, their breathing heavy and raspy.

“Take o-one… Free stud-dy today…”

Following their directions, you take the thick, multipage brochure. On the cover…

Is a fish. It is leaping, chasing after a lure shaped like a small minnow. It is a fish from your homeworld, Earth-8675, a Micropterus salmoides, surrounded by shimmering water droplets. As soon as you touch the papers, its fins wriggle, the mouth opens and closes, and the lure shimmies seductively. You cannot help but be drawn to the enchanted art piece, the fish so sparklingly distracting it is only now that you read the title.

“Friendly Fishing – A Guide to Fishing, Spectral Entanglement, and Fishing Beyond the Pale. By Cary.”

You are shocked. Fishing? You had no idea Cary was a fan of fishing. You go up and attempt to talk to them, but they are completely passed out in their chair, snoring loudly. So, you retreat to your quarters after browsing the library for a few moments and crack open the brochure. It folds out almost five times, creating 9 front and back pages filled with obdurate drawings, and blissfully painted pictures of various kinds of fish in their natural habitats. It is a beautiful piece of work, created for the love of a craft.

You stare at the work for another few seconds, before letting yourself dive into the deep blue waters of someone’s passion.

——-

Friendly Fishing

A Guide to Fishing, Spectral Entanglement, and Fishing Beyond the Pale.

By Cary

Hello! As you may or may not know, I am Cary, Chef of the Cosmos! But I have more loves than just cooking. Whenever I find myself on the scenic shores of an Earthen lake, the acidic coasts of a Veluvian stone beach, or the sublime waste rivers of the Playground, I always enjoy a spot of fishing. It is one of my favorite pastimes, something I have focused on and understood through a long life that I hope has not been wasted.

The elegance of fishing is impossible to ignore. Standing in thigh-height water with thick waders, conducting my fishing line as a commander at war, the invading fly running along the surface as an invading paratrooper, my back straight and head held high under a hat weighed down with lures. Not to mention the satisfying sound of a fish going for the bait, the slight dip in your line, the small burst of adrenaline when you successfully set the hook and begin the sometimes arduous battle between person and fish. (Well, as much as you could define me as a “person,” which changes depending on your view of shapeshifters.)

But, there is another layer to this effervescent quest to defeat our aquatic foes. Within the cultured spaces of aquatic cuisine, there lurks a certain desire for an otherworldly dish, for something that taps into desires that aren’t sated in restaurants outside of those run by my fellow chef-to-the-stars and good friend, A. Ambrose. From the hemavores to the noovores, there is a huge variety of palettes and tastes the potential chef must serve. I have been on that quest for nigh-on a millenia, and wish to share the joy of that journey with you. Along this quest, I have learned hundreds of things, understood deep truths within myself, and become one with myself.

This brochure is a (short) introduction to the world of Pale-Fishing, a skill I have developed and honed through long years of study and perfection. It will allow the user to fish in any pond, stream, lake, or river to your heart's content, to fish the rarest places in this universe and those beyond.

Well, take my hand (and grab your rod) and follow me into the Pale.

How to Fish, and How to Use Fish, and What Fish Are Anyway

So, if you are from a particular world, you may be asking yourself (rightfully so)- what the fuck are fish?

For some of you, the enchanted paper this brochure is printed on is displaying something in a completely alien text to your eye. I apologize. I also recommend you finish reading this brochure in its entirety- even if you have no idea what a fish is, they are an important part of my daily routine, and I believe that everyone should learn the joys of fishing.

The first step in fishing is obtaining a fishing rod. Rods are a very important part of this craft, and the toolkit is an easy way to look at a fisher and understand what kind of person they are. Do they possess a shiny aluminum rod, of high cost and exacting modeling, along with a variety of technological equipment to make the fishing even easier? Or is their rod dirty and well-worn, the reel having been respun time after time, the line faded, and their only equipment contained within a battered red toolbox. I have not made millions of dollars without knowing how to read people. By fishing, by immersing yourself in a culture, you will slowly learn this skill as well.

So, how does one go about obtaining a fishing rod? That is simple. Within our very own Library, I have established a simple communication nexus that works through certain Ways and sources. Based on your needs and desires, my organization, The Fisherfolk of Letters, will assist you in obtaining the necessary tools to begin your journey. And, along with that, you will be able to take your first steps into the wonderful world of fishing.

Now, what kind of fishing can one do? Each of the ones I cover here can be used to fish within the Pale, but some are far easier than others. I will include some of my personal opinions on each, and my particular favorites.

Trolling and Casting

The simplest form of fishing involves flinging a piece of lure or bait out into the water, at varying depths. The most important facet of this method is the cast and the lure. Lures can be composed of many things, with the Earthfolk typically utilizing small invertabrates called worms as bait. Thankfully, the wide variety of fishing spots has already been researched by many fisherfolk before you. Utilizing proper bait and lures for the fish you intend to catch is highly important- want to catch a large beast, use a lure that looks like its usual prey. Want to catch a smaller fish, use bait that they would prey on in their habitat- mealworms, smalls, and flashsquids are common bait.

The second ideal you must strive for is the cast. This is highly dependent on your biology, of course, but I will be using the standard humanoid model. Please contact the local fisherfolk of your biological cousins in order to receive the proper advice.

First, plant your feet about shoulder width apart, facing yourself parallel to the body of water you are desiring to fish in. Hold the rod and reel in your hands, at a forty-degree angle from your body. Each reel has a different release mechanism, so be sure you understand how yours operates. Swing your arms behind you, turning your abdominals (or core, or whatever particular part of your biology handles vertical rotation of the torso) along with your arms, pointing the rod away. Then, swing your arms toward the body of water, releasing the reel catch when it is just past the point between your feet. The bait/lure should fling out into the body of water, in a beautiful parabola, an arc that swings gently. If this is your first time, it will take quite a bit of time to get used to the timing necessary. But it is a needed skill to master, as being able to place your lure exactly where you want is incredibly helpful. The hook could get caught in some palm fronds or seaweed, breaking your line, wasting bait, or losing a valuable lure.

The simplest kind of fishing, whether done with a bobber or not, is where we all need to learn. Please take your time mastering this craft, for once you are able to, you can utilize this to fish within the Pale. In my experience, this simple casting is among the best methods to do so. Simply plant your feet and shoulders, employ one of the several chants I detail further on in this piece, and just cast away.

Pros: Simple, easy to learn, rich content for teaching and learning

Cons: Simplicity may lead to complacency, and you may never change your cast.

Bowfishing

Done using a bow, of course, this method is usually conducted at the edge of a shallow body of water in which fish swim near the surface and are easily hit by arrows. Utilizing a sense of timing and accurate shooting, you can shoot the fish out of the water. The tools you require for this method is bows, arrows, and a roll of strong string. I would highly suggest that you have a good amount of skill at archery before attempting this. Simply attach a string to the arrow, aim, and fire at the fish. This requires a certain amount of patience and exacting skill, of course, as hitting the fish in a spot that doesn’t damage a majority of the flesh can be tricky. I would advise decent amounts of practice before attempting this.

I have some experience with this method, personally. While stranded in the jungles of the Himalyanin planetary shores, I was forced to subsist on the environment. Utilizing the skills taught to me by a chieftain of a village that I met on Earth, I was able to craft a bow and a rudimentary set of arrows. Utilizing this method, I was able to survive for several days until my rescue from the wilderness. Shooting fish is definitely satisfying, but I did several hours of deep meditation in order to apologize to the spirits of the fish I had consumed.

That is the biggest downside of bowfishing, in my opinion, is that you lose that connection with the fish that the rod and reel give you, that inherent fight between the two of you. Instead of giving the fish a chance, all you do is hurt it in a singularly aggressive motion. If you are me, this method leaves a bad taste in your mouth, and not just in the meat. If you are here to get more in touch with your meditative side, I do not recommend this method.

Pros: Teaches you patience, exactitude, accuracy, and timing.

Cons: You will lose arrows in the process.

Noodling

Ah yes, the ancient redneck art of noodling. The first few drafts of this section were written in an accent one of my editors advised me was imperceptible to most languages without a similar style of fricative speaking, so I had to change it. Apparently, other realms do not have an accent similar to the one I was writing with, which is unfortunate. But, such is life.

Noodling is an ancient art in certain places, a tradition that goes between realms. It is beautiful in how obvious and simple it is, but incredibly hard to master. It is not something I would go into without any training or experience. It is a familial art, usually passed down through the generations of woodspeople. I learned it myself, from a tribe of fisherfolk. There are some variations for each species, but essentially it consists of putting your hands or fingers within the lips of the beast, making sure that your digits can’t be stuck within the teeth. Then, using your own strength, wrestle the fish into submission until you can easily pull it out of the water.

While still being one of the most difficult, this method is by far the most satisfying, similar to knife hunting on land. The satisfaction of literally grabbing your meal and wrenching it from a river bottom cannot be understated. At least once in your existence, I suggest engaging in some noodling. But make sure you have a fingersmith on the sides, just in case- the tips of my left hand are completely artificial.

Pros: Extremely impressive, will let everyone know how swollen and positively badass your brain is, exhilarating

Cons: Extremely frightening, fraught with risk, requires an exceptional level of self-attunement to pale fish.

Bottom Fishing

One of the more advanced forms of cast fishing, bottom fishing, or bottom trawling involves lowering a weighted hook or lure directly to the bottom of the water column you are fishing in. This process brings many complications depending on where you fish, what you fishing for, and the environment you are hurling your lure and bait into. We can split the environments into four, but this is most usually done on populated planets in which the seas are filled with manufactured structures that have become home for fish. Think of the scuttled warships of the Pacific, the burned wreckage of the Platomic Methane Plains, and the decrepit ruins of the Shasterholden. Areas like this are perfect for bottom fishing, as the solid debris means far less vegetation (or the local equivalent) to catch on your hook.

Another thing that makes bottom fishing advanced is the gear you need to do it well. The fish that live on the bottom of oceans are rough, mean beasts, used to fighting and surviving, and will not simply give in to the siren song of your rod, reel, and persistence. You need strength and durability in your gear, and that comes with a price tag.

I would suggest finding some professional, in-depth guides on bottom fishing. There’s just so much variability based on environs and gear and desired targets that going over all of it with a deft touch would extend this to be a packet of double-sided, small type font. If you do desire to know, I recommend Antione Gugstaffel’s excellent guidebook “How to Fish the Deep Seas like a Submarine Albatross,” and G.G.G.G. Garfunkel’s “The Penetrative Stare of the Bobber- Bottom Fishing and Meditation.”

Pros: Extremely far-reaching within the Pale, highly meditative.

Cons: Extremely high initial investment and repair costs.

Kite Fishing

Kites! The childhood toys of many races, it is quite specialized and only possible on the open ocean or large lakes, kite fishing involves fishing the surface of the water for predator fish that jump out of the water to attack and eat their prey. It sounds extremely simple, of course, but it is in fact a very difficult thing to accomplish. It is focused on surface fish, and if done correctly, can involve two of my personal favorite meditative activities, fishing and kite flying.

I have little experience with this method. While I can go anywhere I desire with some creative transportation solutions, the setup of transporting a large fishing vessel to a particular body of water is not something accomplished easily. This is another subject I would suggest researching on your own if you have the money to obtain your own boat or flotation device particular to your society. Here I could recommend years worth of reading, but by far the best (in my opinion) is “Flight, Fishing, and Floatation- Essays on the Times and Trade of Kite Fishing” by Pernelopious Garterstart.

Pros: Another highly meditative state, teaches timing to an absured extent

Cons: Another high initial investment, this time with an even higher repair cost (kites are beautiful and fragile)

Fly Fishing

I saved fly fishing for the last, both because it is one of my favorite methods of fishing, and because it is one of the best for pale-fishing. The meditative and movement aspect allows you to harness your movement potential so essential for pale-focusing. And besides that, even normal fly fishing is an engaging and wonderful activity that everyone getting into fishing should attempt at least once. I do it at least once a week in a personal fishing pond I keep ethically stocked.

Fly fishing utilizes a special fishing rod with a release-lock reel that you can control with your own hand. You release the line out further by pulling on the slack line with one hand, then moving the tip of the rod in a figure-eight movement that brings the slack line out, tightens the line to pull the slack and make the released line longer. Similar to trawling, you draw the line back with the reel as the lure you possess floats on the top of the water. This imitates how flies on the water behave. While it seems simple with this explanation, I would recommend quite a lot of practice in an open area without any tree branches- even experienced fisherfolk have had the terrible loss of a few feet of fishing line and the tangled depression of a clotted casting line.

There is nothing more satisfying than fly fishing. Nothing. Your two or more feet planted in the thigh-high water, your mind ruminating on your troubles and engineering the capture of the fish, bringing yourself to the ecstatic nirvana of reeling in a big un’. To put yourself into not just the waders, not just wearing the singular hat of a fisher, but feeling your life energy flow through the line, the perfect expression of yourself and your passion in the field. To become one with nature in the way that only those above it can do- as a hunter, utilizing your tools to capture your prey.

In my long and varied existence, I have tried and sampled a universe of things. Of actions. Of emotions, fulfilled and learned, of desires taught and satisfied in mere moments. But fly fishing takes the veritable metaphorical cake. You can have walked the crystalline shores of the Dunna-Dunade-Din-Day, and seen their tri-crested mountains shirk the very bonds of gravity on their annual pilgrimage across the sky. You could have drifted close to a black hole, and felt the thrill of almost disappearing across the unkowns of the event horizon. You may have fel tyour entire body dissolve into the pleasure-dust of the floatarie. But nothing, nothing is ever more satisfying than when, as the bait makes touching, kissing, delicate contact with the surface of the water, and a salmon arcs through the air, hook lodged within its lip. That is pure bliss. And I have found naught that can match it.

The Pale And Fishing Beyond It

Now you have methods of fishing. Here, we discuss how you will put them into practice in the field.

The Pale is an ethereal force I have theorized about for several decades. After doing a large amount of research, I have discovered that the Wanderer’s Library itself can and will harness the Pale in order to do a number of things, but the clearest execution of the pale energies are the books. Browsing the shelves, clicking your hand across the spines, clicking your fingernails across the beautifully colored books, you can see a huge variety of novels and references and journals and documents and more and more and so many wonderful collections of words and pages from across so many realities. You can drift into the shelves and loose yourself, finding pieces from across the entire world. You can browse the universe.

Why?

How?

More importantly, what?

There are no answers to any of these questions. No real ones, anyway. The Pale is inconceivable, incomprehensible, immeasurable, yet it exists, it slams into our eyes whenever we walk into this beautiful home, it slips into our veins and slams us against the wall. But, but but but.

We can reach out.

We can harness that Pale.

Do it with me now.
Put this piece of paper on your lap.
Cross your legs.
Place your thumb and forefinger together.
Breathe in deeply.
Feel the breath migrate into your body, feel it rush through your veins.

Feel the world around you.
Feel an insect crawling across the floor, microscopic and unseen.
Feel your body melt into the nothing.
Feel your mind dissolve into the words.
You are liquid.
The entirety of your bones are spinal columns.

You can twist in a thousand directions.

Reach up.

See the very fabric of the universe.

Let it drift part.

Let the matter of the world act as naught but a soft curtain

And part it, with all your power concentrated

Let the finger be the point

That pierces the sky

The dawn

The night

Let it all move aside

And embrace yourself

To feel it all

Reach up. Touch the Pale.

Feel the universe in your hand.

You can do it.

Practice this meditation every day you can.

I believe in you.

I know you can do it.

But first you need to believe in yourself.

In the rod.

In the reel.

In the cosmic river of the world.

In the skills you practice every day, you can harness the Pale. Put yourself in the mindscape of the universe, and let that cast loose into other realms.

———

Sitting up from your slouched position, you meditate on yourself, on your abilities. You begin to cook yourself a meal, expertly slicing onions thin and clear, grinding garlic to mush, finally slicing the prime cut of beef you obtained into thin, quick-cooked slices.

You realize, suddenly, that what you are doing mimics the first lesson that Cary gave you. You find your cooking liquids, and grab the vodka, hands closing over it with cooking intent. You open it, sniffing the grain, eyes closing. If anyone was to see you, they would claim that your body was glowing, fingers flexing at your side as the vodka bottle meets your lips. With a sip, a single quarter cup of liquid enters your mouth.

You quickly cook the onions and garlic, getting the rice ready and grinning. The vodka goes down your throat, the burning in you chest a sign of something happening. Your fingers snap, the trigger for the spell a teacher once attempted to teach you so long ago. The pan catches alit, fire streaming upwards,shifting into the shape of a garlic knot, swirling around the room.

You grin.

You feel your fingertips tingle.

You finally get it.

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