The Fishermen’s Lore: What Lies Beneath?

Myanmar Inle Lake Fisherman's Lore-1

As with the morning sun, slowly I rise out of bed and slip on a new day without a sound.

The scents of algae, spices and humidity rise above the fading dreams of last night and I savor the moment.  Looking out at the pre-dawn sky I prepare my coffee, anxious for the day to begin.

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Wandering down a path, I climb into a thin, carved out teak boat and push-off from the dock. The silence of the morning respected by all.  The soft whisper of the breeze is music as I work my way over to the west side of the lake, and under the morning light the fishermen come to life.

Rare are the mornings when it seems as if I’ve stepped back in time, so when such moments arrive I relish the feeling.

Myanmar Inle Lake Fisherman's Lore-3

To be a part of a culture, even if only for a short moment along the periphery, I drink in the lore of the ancient art of fishing here in Myanmar.

Gone is the clamor of modern society, replaced with the soft millennial sounds of water lapping against the hull and the rhythmic stroke of oars. Breathing in the morning air, my lungs fill with the earthy aromas floating around the life of a fisherman.

Myanmar Inle Lake Fisherman's Lore-4

Mesmerized by the beauty and rhythm fishermen around the globe seem to share, thoughts drift to my home town and the benefit of growing up in a rural area with the abundance of nature.

Mountain lakes, streams and rivers feed the imagination at all times, none perhaps more potent as when having a line cast into the magical world below the surface of the water.

Myanmar Inle Lake Fisherman's Lore-5

Mysterious forces lay beneath the water capturing the imagination, matched by the tranquil calmness above.

Dipping a hand in the water as the teak boat glides into the morning fog, my mind wavers between questions of the depths of oceans and the cosmos, to the more enrapturing thought of her smile and what possible future could be in store for us.

Myanmar Inle Lake Fisherman's Lore-6

There is something about being on the water. Trying to understand the aquatic world beneath while untangling the knots of life above.

The great leviathan lurking beneath, the one we chase every time we go out on the water.  Does it even exist?

Perhaps it is a kindred spirit, there to help and straighten out the kinks in our lives so as to set our minds at ease as we enjoy and celebrate this thing called life.

Myanmar Inle Lake Fisherman's Lore-7

The Fishermen’s Lore ~ there are many sayings and stories, most involve the idea of chasing one’s own “white whale” to the dismay of others.  The unique decision to pursue, when hope is lost and those around shake their head perplexed as the angler once again heads off to be on the water.

The lore of the fishermen, off to chase the elusive is a common thread we all share in the everyday pursuit of our own unique dreams.

Myanmar Inle Lake Fisherman's Lore-8

In a place such as Inle Lake, located in the Shan State of Myanmar, it is easy to connect with the philosophies of the east and their own interpretation of what lies beneath?

How the ancient sages used the art of angling to explain the art of life: “fishing without catching any fish” is how one should live.  Learn, contemplate and develop patience.

Immediately this has me thinking of Santiago, the protagonist in Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, who went months without a catch until the day he met his leviathan: the marlin he battles, respects and in the end calls a brother.

Myanmar Inle Lake Fisherman's Lore-10

The fishermen’s life can be a salty, tough and a poor existence…but still a life I cannot help but romanticize.

The life of fishermen is anything but simple; wishes for a greater life for their children along with the increased burden society places on their craft can make for difficult days.

Myanmar Inle Lake Fisherman's Lore-11

Yet the artistic solitude of the craft must be admired, especially for those who fish in an “effortless way” reflecting a life we all chase. An artist always alert, thus able to refine their art of angling: through practice, contemplation and patience.

A recipe to perfect any craft and pursue any dream.

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As the morning passes, I see hardness in the work but a companionship as well. It is the echo of words from ancient sages who discuss the purity of understanding both yourself and what you do.  A mix of understanding, when combined makes a life complete.

The beauty of such philosophy is to become a master of yourself and thus your craft.

Myanmar Inle Lake Fisherman's Lore-9

When the art is slowly mastered, hope evolves into confidence and creativity ~ allowing the mind to flow.

Modern philosophers and educators believe the same; sprouting the idea that 10,000 hours of practice is necessary for anyone to become a master in one’s craft.  An idea worth building a life around.

Myanmar Inle Lake Fisherman's Lore-13

The late afternoon sun burns away many of the hopes and dreams of catching the elusive white whale we were chasing today, but all is not wasted.

We find enough to make the day a success and while there is no other choice for these fishermen but to head out tomorrow, there is another night to dream and to imagine what may become.

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To fishermen around the world, who live according to their own code and accept the cycle of life: to struggle, to endure and then redeem their existence through the art of angling.

Watching them mine the value out of life, passing their knowledge from a lifetime of work. The angler is the everyman, the archetypal representation of who we are and who we wish to be.

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Taking the narrow, rickety plank leading back to my room, I drag my gear and listen to the crackling call of the eastern great egret echoing through the trees and over the water.  This small room sitting on stilts over the lake; another place of solitude allowing me to wash away a bit of the day ~ just enough to welcome in the evening.

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Looking into a cracked mirror, exhausted I turn on the tap and splash cold water over my head and breathe a sigh of relief as dinner and a cold beer lie ahead. Hearing the laughter from the dining hall, I let out a small chuckle as well, I am at peace.

I smile knowing that soon a perfect shade of darkness will engulf the lake, ensuring that the night once again will loosen more knots as I drift off to dream.

Myanmar Inle Lake Fisherman's Lore-18

266 Comments on “The Fishermen’s Lore: What Lies Beneath?

  1. Randy, just HOW do you manage to outdo yourself, each layout of photography? The contrast of shape and color between the first two images alone is remarkable. Love how you bring in the Old Man and his marlin and afford us this precious glimpse of people whose livelihood (and therefore lives) depend on timing and nature’s elements. It’s like you live in another planet. But all the more fantastic that it is our very own world you hold up to us.


    • Thank you Diana ~ this post came together almost as if I was sitting back on the lake, and with my favorite character ever written, the Old Man, this post seemed to be a perfect home for him in my mind. Fishermen, ranchers, farmers…all of the same ilk ~ their lives dependent on timing and Mother Nature, and how can they not inspire patience and understanding 🙂 So nice to for us to share the fantastic worlds we find ~ take care!

    • Thank you Indah ~ for someone who spends a lot of her time underneath the water as above, I think it is very fitting for you 🙂

  2. Truly extraordinary and remarkable piece, beautiful images and writing…WOW. 🙂

  3. Captivating and beautiful. Such a wonderful story teller you are~ I always feel your images seem to whisper stories of their own and yet echo your narrative perfectly.

    “…As with the morning sun, slowly I rise out of bed and slip on a new day without a sound…” Extraordinary.

    • Sometimes there is nothing better than drawing a story out of photos ~ and the beauty is just as you eloquently say “images whisper stories of their own…” There is nothing better than listening to the stories of a photo, something you do very well with your work. Thank you very much for the great compliment on the opening line ~ it is described the mornings there so well. Cheers!

  4. Another beautiful post Randall. And one very near and dear to me. Fishing and photography make my world go round. Living simply and by the water in such an idyllic setting. And you painted it so beautifully. Bravo.

    • Ron, you have two great faucets of creativity with photography and fishing. Admirable. The art of angling remains this great mystery that holds many answers to an idyllic life. It shows in your work as well. As they say, a bad day of fishing beats the best day at the office ~

  5. Those silhouettes made me more appreciate how hard working they are and as you put it, can’t help but romanticize a fisherman’s life being salty, tough and poor.

    • Thanks Farrell. Yes, something about the life of fishermen and their like: a tough life but admirable.

  6. Inle lake looks magical and beautiful. I deeply regret not going but I at least can experience the place through your wonderful description and photos. Thank you 🙂

    • It is a place I hope to visit often ~ really magical and if you get a chance well worth it, peaceful and serene.

  7. What a wonderful ode to the life of fishermen. I can feel your oneness with the water world and Mother Nature – and your respect for the culture, the fishermen and nature. Your words are like a poem, only to be enhanced to a spiritual level by your photographs. Oh, so beautiful. Such delicate colours, such lovely light, such beautiful compositions. It’s a touching post.

    • It was a post that came together for those reasons you mention ~ the people and culture are so in-tune with Mother Nature, it was impossible to separate the two. Thanks Otto, the lighting and landscape the light made for days that I didn’t want to end.

  8. Good word! Insane photography! And I love the “play” on these images.
    That true about the ocean … I love your dipping the hand …. paragraph … that’s what we do when we were kids, and still even as we grow, you see the ocean … and like automatically, we wonder depth and space. The oceans truly are wonders.
    I always think that every creator is an artist. People doing their job is doing art. Surgeons, builders, plumbers are artists. People do art without them knowing it. It’s up to us what quality we provide with our crafts.
    I don’t even have to say – You, my friend, is a top-quality artist. 😀

    • Ha, ha ~ yes, I cannot be a boat without the urge of sticking my hand down in the water and skimming it along the water… You say it so well, anyone who gives their true effort to their work are artists; for they create a quality special and unique. Those are the people to be admired and respected at all times. Cheers and thank you very much Rommel ~ enjoy Crete 🙂

  9. These are beautiful pictures, Randall — from such a different world than I’m used to — so calm. I especially love the one where you are shooting through the net to the fisherman — so good!

    • Thank you Dedy, it really is a bit of a choreograph between water and man ~ incredible to see.

  10. Oh my! This is sheer poetry Randall!! Your visuals make me catch my breath in wonder, and your narrative pulls me right into the scene. Thank you!

    • Thanks Madhu, there was such a great undercurrent of calmness during my time on Inle Lake…nice to revisit it in photos.

  11. Oh, my dear poetic Manolin:) did a local Santiago teach you to fish?? Do they ask you about the American baseball, too?? And do you also love Joe DiMaggio?? 🙂
    Psychological and physical endurance, absolute beauty and wonder…. that is what I see here. Luckily no sharks devoured your catch and the pictures show just infinite beauty (you are able to capture wherever you go).

    Have a nice weekend.

    • What a perfect reply ~ takes me back to the coast of Cuba, such a great story! Had a few Santiago’s in my life and treasure each one! Nothing quite like enjoying what is out in front of you, and accepting what comes your way with determination to continue moving forward trying to keep sharks at bay. Thank Luana, and have a great day too!

  12. This is such an amazing post Dalo 🙂 i admire the attempt of to bring as much as possible of your experience to the readers. For a while i thought i was there too for i could imagine clearly how everything was just by reading your post. And all the photos are just out of this world!! Such great dedication 🙂 cheers!

    • Thank you so much ~ it was an environment that I think anyone could lose themselves in, so happy that I was able to bring you into this world 🙂 I hope all is well, and that you are getting ready for Tet. Best and take care!

      • Yes Berlin for Tet. Would be great for a catch up if u happen to travel there too. Wish u a lovely Lunar New Year!

      • Berlin ~ ah, I was just in Munich last week for the ISPO (sports/outdoor show). Wish you happiness and safe travels!

  13. Those photos are beyond spectacular! And your writing has a poetic rhythm that matches the mood set by the pictures. It looks so calm, peaceful, and beautiful there that I wish I was there too. You outdo yourself every time!

    • Thank you Sharon ~ this was a place I could not recommend more highly…a great way to see & feel an amazing culture and piece of life that is so different yet also so comforting and familiar too.

  14. Hello, Randall! Once again, it’s nothing but pure pleasure to view your stunning photography and read your thought-provoking narrative. For me, your amazing photography makes these traditional Burmese fisherman look like beautiful dancers in a perfectly choreographed dance. I adore all of the photos in this post, but I especially love the third photo. Your images are beautifully composed, so pleasing and well balanced—they instantly draw one into the image. The light is incredibly beautiful. And so perfectly exposed too. I’d be over-the-moon to have taken any one of these shots. I’ve always been magnetically attracted to water—its beauty, its power, its hidden depths, its symbolism, its ability to cleanse, both as “the universal solvent” and to physically and emotionally cleanse us. I am always awed by water and the way it sustains life on this planet—as your photographs so evocatively and artistically convey and your narrative so eloquently expresses. As always, your posts are such a pleasure to see and read. ~ Jeannie

    • Thanks Jeannie, the fishermen were so in-tuned to what they were doing that it really was this great choreographed dance with the boat, water and fish…and the early morning and evenings had the lighting that made being there incredible. I’m with you on the great power & magic of water. Cheers!

    • The subtle rhythm…that is perfect. There is something there that is just very soothing to the soul, no matter where you come from. Cheers!

  15. The shots of the fishermen are really extraordinary! The light is just perfect and makes the scenery very interesting. Could not decide which ones I liked best, the further down the post I came more beautiful pictures and text revealed. It was a pleasure reading!

  16. Amazing! Stunning! Fabulous! Perfection! What more can I saw? Absolutely some of the most beautiful photographs I have seen in a long while. I am inspired!!!

    • It was an inspiring place…every day, every morning it felt great to get out of bed to see what was ahead. 🙂 Thank you!

    • Thank you ~ dreaming and traveling do tend to go hand-in-hand, and one day hopefully you’ll see Inle Lake yourself…you’d love it.

  17. I can’t remember having stayed so long with a post for ages, what a dreamlike, gorgeous post, Randall. Your photography in the blue and golden hour has captured what every photographer hopes to find; the emotional link to the viewer. Every image ist art and pure beauty in colour, light and composition and the third one is a gem.
    Wonderful, inspiring words from the opening to the end, you have a unique gift for touching us with your writing as well as your photos. Thank you for this fabulous post!
    Dina, Klausbernd, Siri & Selma

    • Agree, the spirit of the fishermen along with the great light of the dawn and dusk created the perfect ambiance for the art of fishing (and in a sense photography as well). You say it so well Fab Four of Cley, finding that emotional link is always the hope when picking up a lens or pen… Thank you for such inspiring words ~ the community we have created has gifted us inspiration within all our posts. Cheers and wish you all a Fab day 🙂

    • Dear Dalo
      Thanks for this great portrait of fishermen! So well written that it was pure joy reading it.
      Do you know this other approach to a water determined life by Roger Deakin in his book “Waterlog”? A kind of aquatic “Songlines” as it was called.
      Klausbernd 🚶

      • Thank you Klausbernd. I’ve not heard of this book but just placed an order for it. The fascination of water is one of those mysteries of life I will never get tired of trying to understand. Cheers!

  18. Wonderful writing and photographs, I’ve just recorded a folk song called the Boatman I will close my eyes and picture your beautiful images whenever I sing or listen to it now. Best wishes Charlotte

    • Ha, ha ~ that is great, now I really look forward to hearing your rendition of the Boatman 🙂
      Wish you a great weekend Charlotte ~

  19. Dalo.. how exquisite are your thoughts which match your fantastic photography.. You have captured ‘contemplation and patience’ as you ‘Practice’ your own art through the camera lens.. You transported me with your words through your day, as you stepped into the fishermen’s lore of what lies beneath.
    Your words ” When the art is slowly mastered, hope evolves into confidence and creativity ~ allowing the mind to flow.”……. Dalo you mastered your craft.. And I spent quite a time here reflecting among the nets and lines being cast into the ocean…

    We each of us are casting and reeling in, sometimes coming up empty, other times rewarded with our patience. I am so very inspired as you were with “The angler is the everyman, the archetypal representation of who we are and who we wish to be.”..

    May we continue to cast out our nets and real in our Dreams..

    Blessings Sue

    • What a great response Sue, thank you. Your thoughts of us casting and reeling in daily, and only through patience can we be rewarded is spot on ~ and as with fishing, dreams take the same patience. Cheers!

  20. Your photos show hard work of fishermen done with such elegance and grace… what a beautiful series of photos Randall! I loved reading your thoughts too, another great post! 🙂

    • It is something else to watch and see the ‘effortless effort’ that fishermen, craftsmen and artists everywhere put into their work. I agree, it is an elegance and grace that defines beauty. Thank you Elina, very much appreciate your words!

  21. Your captured the gracefulness of fisherman’s movements and the tranquility of the place. Amazingly beautiful, both words and photos. What a treat to view these exquisite photos. Thank you for taking us there, Dalo!

    • Thank you Amy, a very tranquil scene ~ made photographing it that much more enjoyable. Cheers!

  22. Your posts always bring essence of the places and people in the form of pictures and the well narrated stories. Love those golden times you captured!

    • Thanks, the golden/blue hour lighting is unmatched and always the best part of the day for me ~ at Inle Lake I was also lucky to have such great surroundings. Nothing quite like being on the water. Cheers ~

  23. Dear Dalo,

    I am a bit confused here …

    Feels strongly that, this time, your poetic narration has even outperformed the visual extravaganza 🙂

    What a stunning post!!!

    I am not taking anything away from the picture perfect images of the ballet dancers of Myanmar 🙂

    The first thing that comes up in my mind is, how do you identify the theme for a photo shoot and I used to wonder how easily you connect with the locals, be it in Myanmar, in China or anywhere else?

    Great to see that you are so close to India, and need to cross only one international border 🙂

    I won’t miss an opportunity to meet you, if you ever plan a trip to India 🙂

    Have a beautiful day ahead…

    • Ha, ha ~ that is a wonderful compliment Sreejith, as I enjoyed writing this quit a bit…just flowed along with the fishermen and their stories/life. There is something about a new culture that really excites me and draws me in. It is funny you mention this as during my first trip to Mumbai I was driving into town from the airport and I said to my colleague “I want to live here…” as it was just mesmerizing from the car window all the there was to experience in India just in that short journey 🙂

      A return trip to India is definitely in my future, and it will be to explore the culture, countryside and of course catch up and finally meet a good friend! Thank you and wish you a very happy Shivaratri ~ take care.

  24. thank you dalo for the work you do. it is very fresh and inspiring. Thanx for the like as well. I’ll follow you. good luck in your travels.

  25. These are the most beautiful pictures I have seen of Inle Lake and the fisherman. I also did a fishing blog of Hoi An and haven’t posted it yet. i love the story you tell with your words and photos. i was in Myanmar before I started blogging so whatever I’ve written is from memory. I was with a photographer so he helped me to get good shots but I shot more people. For me, Myanmar was the most foreign country I have ever been in and i wasn’t blogging so I think I was staring most of the time. i was there the week they released Aung Sun Soo Kyi so it was a confusing time. I got sick and had to leave earlier than I planned but I got to see a lot. Im not a good photographer but I collect photography now so I know that you are. thanks for this beautiful piece.

    • Thank you Jaz, Myanmar is one of those places that as you say, you can just stare at all the things around you…such beauty and differences. It must have been pretty amazing to have been there when they released Aung Sun Soo Kyi. When we were there, the freedom people had in speaking their minds was incredible to see… Look forward to see your Hoi An post. Cheers!

  26. Absolutely amazing photo shoot, I enjoyed it. Amazing composition and colors. Beautiful places and people I love it! 🙂 Thank you Randy.

    • Thank you very much DellaAnna, Inle Lake was a place stuck in time, and the lighting, colors and mood of the place was a perfect place to spend some time. Cheers ~

  27. As always, I’m in love with your work! Thank you for making my day more beautiful with your wonderful stories and pictures!

    • Thank you Camelia, such a great comments and it is nice to be able to lose a bit of yourself in a photo. Take care ~

  28. My! What a post and what photography!! I have seldom seen better work than this. Have you posted in National Geographic? Your work would easily qualify.

    Keep shooting…. and keep blogging.


    • Thank you Shakti, enjoyed this place so much ~ and with such lighting it was a photographer’s paradise. Cheers!

  29. Magical images and they tell the story of fishing in Myanmar. The colors, composition and light make each image special. A place I would love to visit. Thanks for a great post.

    • Thanks Jane. It is a place that once visited, you will long to return ~ which is always a good feeling to have after travels. The people and culture (quite varied from place-to-place) and seems to invite the mind of a photographer to create something unique but not losing the real essence of the place. 🙂

    • Thank you Rahki ~ it seems you are doing very well yourself and look forward to hearing more about your studies. Cheers.

  30. You tell an enchanting and adventurous story with these great photos of fishermen in Myanmar. Thanks for this great experience!

    • Thank you very much Truels ~ the stories each of these fishermen have to tell I’m sure would be amazing. Cheers ~

  31. These photos are stunning! Such a great job with the composition, light and creative framing! Wow!!
    Do you have a instagram account?

    • Thank you ~ this place was such a perfect setting for light, and the fishermen simply artists that made a photographer’s job easy. Beautiful place. I do not have an instagram account, although planning on it at some point.

      • You did a fantastic job! 🙂

        Yeah, you would be a success on Instagram, great and easy way of sharing your images 🙂

      • I spend so much time in China where they ban so many media sites: WordPress, FB and from what I’ve heard Istagram…a bummer. But will get it for when I’m in the States and HK.

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