It was my absolute pleasure to have Writer and New Jersey fisherman Bruce Edward Litton discuss his writing, fishing, and photography. After reading his blog, I quickly realized the writing talent of Bruce as he brilliantly wove together his fishing adventures with observations of life and people. To say Litton’s Fishing Lines is not your average fishing blog is a complete understatement. If you are only interested in the exact how-to’s on the latest fishing techniques, this may not be your favorite read. But if you are like me and can get lost in time reading and learning from someone who writes at a different level than most of us, I can’t recommend Bruce’s blog enough. He is truly a brilliant writer and his works make for interesting, captivating and thought provoking reading.
How would you describe your personal approach to outdoor writing?
I began writing for various publications on fishing at 16, reading every outdoor publication I could find from age 13. I got published for two years and gave it up, pursuing a literary career instead, harvesting clams at the Jersey Shore’s Long Beach Island to make a self-employed living more and less for 13 years while studying, and writing in numerous notebooks. When I returned to the mainland–the great American mainstream–I had no college degree, no regular employment history, just about nothing but my Social Security number.
The readjustment was extremely difficult, but by 2005, I figured out that if I was ever going to get seriously published, I better start writing about fishing again. After five years of getting published, my style began to emerge, but by blogging, beginning in 2011, it really took off, just as a pianist practices regularly.
I write for everyone who fishes, hikes, explores local history, goes on photo shoots, but that’s not really all. For four years, I wrote a column on fishing for Recorder Newspapers, a New Jersey Highlands regional, and I quickly discovered that many housewives read “Reel Time” and loved it. I write from contemplative experience. This is true of the style of my how-to articles also, the magic in the words I choose to convey an underlying pulse by which I try to connect the reader—any reader—to what I get from being there outdoors. Facts, techniques, lures, structures, etc. etc.—all of this and more is important, but the way knowledge is presented involves my breathing the same air when I’m at my computer, as when I’m on the water.
Who has influenced you most as a writer?
I’ve taken influences from so many writers, it’s hard to say who has influenced me the most. During my teens, not literary writers, but the many voices I read in magazines and newspaper columns. New Jersey’s Jim Stabile was my favorite. Aldous Huxley influenced me greatly at age 17, Nietzsche and Ayn Rand during my early 20’s. If I were to choose one writer who has patiently awaited my development while haunting the background of my life, Ernest Hemingway is the man, because I used to sit in English class, aged 16, and admire him featured in a poster on the wall. He’s been with me ever since and I greatly respect his life and work.
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
That I can speak my mind to other people.
You have a diverse collection of articles on your blog. How do you get and then select what topics you will write about on your blog?
Litton’s Fishing Lines first owes its existence to my son, who got me fishing very seriously again more than a decade ago. He wanted to go all the time, so I took him all the time. And most of the articles take particular outings as subject matter, but not all of them do. I’ve written on environmental issues a little, given Lake Hopatcong and Knee Deep Club reports, and I often tailor articles previously published in magazines to the blog. As for the outing posts, you can tell they take themes. Some more so than others. This is a function of what I had been thinking about while on the water.
You have been writing fishing articles since you were 16. I look around and see what I call the “youth movement” of fishing, which are the 16 to 22 year old fishermen and fisherwomen all over social media. There was no social media when you and I were 16, but what lessons did you learn in your early years of writing fishing articles that you feel are still important today in the social media world?
Know the medium you choose. I not only read everything fishing I could find from age 13—including some books—I guess I studied these magazines and columns better than I usually studied for class. And if you write, not only the urge to excite and enthuse others matters to you—excitement so important in youth. Words matter. I guess as you age, words become more important, or should. But even in youth, respect for language, if you will use it, is tantamount. Language mechanics can feel like frozen gears to a young person. Who has patience to learn it cold? But if you like games, there you have it. Treat grammar and syntax as an intricate game and it becomes a lot of fun.
You are working on a book. What will you be covering in the book and when can we expect it out?
It’s a memoir about fishing in my middle aged years, but it takes starting points from my boyhood and youth. It’s a redemption story. My shore experience became a life or death struggle for me, and thereafter hope remained tenuous. If not for my son and fishing, I never would have recovered to live a full, vibrant life. It’s an in-depth book that has achieved insight mostly by fishing local waters, often with ordinary working people, who I hope will read this book and understand the good life is for absolutely everybody. I’m hoping the book will be out late in 2019, but if the process takes longer, patience is part of writing, as fishing.
From reading the different entries over the years, your photography has evolved, and you take some amazing photos of scenery, fishing, life and Americana. One of my favorites is actually not a fishing photo but of a Methodist-Episcopal Church. What equipment do you use for taking photography?
I started shooting aged nine with a Kodak Instamatic. Once I got my first article published in The New Jersey Fisherman, I treated myself to a 35mm Pentax K-1000 and used this model until 2008. Thereafter I often borrowed my son’s Nikon D-60. Finally, I bought a D-60 early 2011. I upgraded lenses—Tokina 11-16mm wide angle (love this lens!), Nikkor 70-200mm f/4., Nikkor 1.4 teleconverter. I bought a Nikon D-7100 camera last year. I’m glad you like the Methodist-Episcopal Church. I almost overlooked that RAW file! On second take, I realized it has value.
I am an amateur at best when it comes to photography, what 3 pieces of advice would you give me and others trying to work on their skills?
Start with composition. Invest in a DSLR when you can, and shoot in RAW. Lightroom is worth the slight expense over Elements, and may seem daunting at first, but isn’t really. Learning techniques—like single-point focus, if your camera has it, or aperture priority, etc. etc., are not nearly so hard to learn and become habituated to as they seem before you try. If time is tight, as it is for me, just take your own time and don’t rush the process. Meditate through a photo shoot. And taking pictures of guys with fish are some of the toughest to do well, for me.
According to your blog profile, you are a member of the iBass360 team. What is iBass360 and what is your involvement with them?
iBass360 is a bass fishing organization founded by Rob Zorn and Joseph Loretti, who have hopes of us becoming a tournament function, but for me, the fellowship is what matters, as does for the rest of us. Eric Evans, the brand manager, approached me by phone about writing for the online blog, and I found the conversation interesting and didn’t hesitate. Eric has a blog of his own, and is, like me, very interested in history. iBass style is mostly in the vein that Ray Scott promulgated going back to about 1970 with the rapid rise of the Bass Angler’s Sportsman’s Society, which my competitive youthful temperament responded to enthusiastically. I joined B.A.S.S. at age 13 or 14, and the Mercer County Bassmasters chapter at age 16, taking trophies from men twice my age. The youngest in the club besides me was 23, but I might have looked as if I were 20 at age 16. I’m not much in that vein any longer, but since I was so, and dreamed of becoming a tournament pro before my ambition converted to becoming a novelist, I still keep a peripheral interest and very much enjoy iBass360 informal tournament/barbeques.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can’t wait for the book. For now, I will keep reading the blog to absorb the wonderfully crafted tales of Mr. Litton. I appreciate so much his unique take on fishing and life.
Thank you to Bruce for doing the interview and providing all of the photographs for the article. Good luck with the book.