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Angling and Anglers

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Who can adequately describe the pleasured that surround the angler? Who can catalogue the charms that cling around his pursuit? He pursues his avocation amid scenes of natural beauty. It is he who follows the windings of the silvery river, and becomes acquainted -with its course, lie knows the joyous leaps it takes down the bold cascade, and how it bubbles rejoicingly in its career over the rapids. He knows the solitude of its silent depths, and the brilliancy of its shallows. He is confined to no season. He can salute Nature when she laughs with the budding flowers, and when her breath is the glorious breath of Spring. The rustling sedges make music in his ear ere the mist has rolled off the surface of the water, or the dew been kissed from the grass by the sun's rays. The lark sings for him, and the piping bullfinch chirps along his path. The gorgeous kingfisher heeds him not, and the water-hen scarce moves from her nest as he passes. The storm and the tempest scarcely hinders this sport. He throws his line when ruddy Autumn gilds the western heavens, and the fruit of the year hangs heavy on the bough, or waves in golden abundance on the uplands. Even stern Winter does not forbid him his enjoyment. If lie cares to pursue his favourite pastime, he may do equally when the tall bulrushes, wavy reeds, and reed mace rattle with December's winds, as when the marsh marigold opes its big yellow eyes on an April day, or the tall spike of the purple loosestrife mingles with the creamy hue of the meadow-sweet, and is relieved by the sombre green of the sedges. If he is an ardent sportsman, the whole year is before him. When the trout will not rise to the tempting fly, or be seduced by the seductive bait, the voracious pike will seize the spinning minnow and try the patience and skill of the fisherman.

It was always so. In the infancy of mankind, the finny tribes were pursued by a primitive people with as much ardour as they are by civilised Englishmen at the present time. Savage and cultivated nations equally followed, either as a business or as a pastime, the occupation of capturing fish with a line and hook, with or without a rod. We find its praises celebrated in ancient poetry, and its memory embalmed in Holy Writ. The rudest appliances of a savage life have been used to aid the angler at his delightful task, and science has not disdained to aid the modern fisherman in his favourite sport. There are tribes who yet fashion fish-hooks out of human jawbones; and our own progenitors managed to ensnare fish with hooks formed of flint. Indeed, the Anglo-Saxon race have followed angling with an energy and a zest far beyond any other European nation. We know they pursued it as a profitable occupation in remote times, and we have it on the authority of the Venerable Bede that the people of Sussex were at one time rescued from famine by being taught by Wilfred to catch fish. Among the earliest printed bocks is one on fishing by a countrywomen of our own, Dame Juliana Berners, Bernes, or Barnes, (whichever it is,) prioress of the nunnery of Sopwell, near St Alban's. This curious tract is entitled, " The Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle," and appears by the colophon to have been printed by old Wynkyn de Worde in 1496. The old lady shows that if sport fails the ambitious angler, his time is not spent in vain; for has ho not "atte the leest, his holsoin walke, and mery at his case, a swete ayre of the swete sauvoure of the meede flowres, that makyth him hungry; he hereth the melodyous armony of fogies; he seeth the young swannes, heerons, ducks, cotes, and many other fuwles, wyth thuyr brodes; whyche me semyth better than alle the noyse of houndys, the blastes of hornys, and the serve of foulis, that hunters, fawkeneis, and fowlers do make? And," says the good old lady, " if the angler take fysshe, surely there is no man merier he is in Ms spyryte." Then amidst the many other books that have been written for the solace of the angler, stands old Isaak Walton, with the " Complete Angler," as immortal as the language in which it is written in, and the instincts of the people by whom it is read.

I fancy, however, that few anglers care for that smattering of science which too many modern writers throw over the sport. They are somewhat indifferent to the " Rudiments of Ichthyology," and are heedless of the classification which their spoil might receive in a museum. They rather want to know the habits of the fish, where he frequents, the state of his appetite, and the particular variety of his taste at different seasons of the year, and in different waters. They may know but little of entomology; but they know the attractiveness of a May-fly to a speckled trout. Anglers study natural history in a natural way, and in the best school - that of experience; and hence the Englishman becomes not only the best and keenest sportsman, but almost the apostle of sport in every part of the globe.

It was formerly the fashion to jeer at the angler - Le was cruel, foolish, and wrong - but we have outlived this sickly sentimentalism; a stronger, healthier, natural feeling pervades oar national life. The whirling industry of the people requires sonic relaxation j and can we wonder that the thousand charms of " the honest man's recreation " commends it to thousands who wish fur exercise and amusement? Exercise, as we have elsewhere shown, is but of little use to the dyspeptic, unless it is carried out with a motive. The love of sport, and the gentle excitement of angling, famishes that motive in the most unexceptional manner. It carries, too, its votary out of the dull beaten track of mankind, and places the city-pent, health- set king, holiday-making angler face to face with nature in her most unconventional moods.

Nor is this all. There is a fascination in the sport which has captivated the greatest minds of the world. We have a fine picture of the brave old Christopher North, as a child in petticoats, " whipping a stream " for " wee troutie." We have Lim as the stalwart man, wandering through his native hills and by the roaring stream, combilling sport and philosophy in a charming manner. What a host of names rise up in connexion with the sport! Sir Francis Chantrey,

" The Phidas of the second Greece,"

as rugged Ebenezer Elliot calls him; the author of " Waverley; " the inventor of the safety-lamp, and the author of a pleasant treatise on fly-fishing, Sir Humphry Davey; Archdeacon Paley, the author of the " Evidences of Christianity; " burly Daniel Webster; the hero of Trafalgar; and a thousand others whose names arc " household words" for wit, learning, valour, piety, and truth, suggest themselves as identified with the sport. Neither is the love of it confined to the British isles; for across the Channel, up the Rhine, nay, even in the solitudes of a Lapland forest, Way enthusiastic anglers be found. A friend speaks of the sport he had on the Guadalquiver; another has "whipped" an Alpine stream with success. Wherever trout are to be found, there will the fisherman be. The Pharaohs fished in the Nile - the Romans paid fortunes for red mullet. The Church took care of fishing-grounds in the middle ages, and some of the best streams and lakes know are near the ruins of an old abbey or priory.

Who can say that is, then, an ignoble sport? I have seen it asserted that angling is so quiet, gentle, and contemplative, that I picture at once the snaring of tittle-bats with a crooked pin; or a dull afternoon in a punt, without a bite - discovering after a world of patience that yon have forgotten the bait. Ignoble and unexciting! Let those who have felt the thrill of delight, when they have hooked a magnificent salmon, answer. There is a thin, tapering, flexible wand, a fine, thin gut-line, a small fly, and a trial of skill which generally ends in the triumph of the angler. But if he is clumsy, unskilful, or careless, he loses his pains and his fish. There may be more exciting sports, but none that require a quicker eye, a more delicate hand and sense of touch, readiness of resource, activity, and physical endurance. Large fish are captured daily in their native element with tackle which seems too frail to secure a gudgeon; yet it is done by art and skill. The most active of river fish, bounding, vigorous, and agile, succumb to the untiring patience and well-exercised judgment and skill of the angler. Attempt to use rude strength, and your labour k in vain.

I wish to initiate the tyro into this marvellous art. I wish to give him confidence in his strength and knowledge; for although it is impossible to teach in art entirely by a book, much may be learned from it. The lessons of experience may be acquired, so that practice, when attainable, may not be thrown away in vain attempts, but rather that it should be judiciously applied to the given end, preventing waste of time and disappointment of heart. I shall indicate the best mode of practice, show what shallows to avoid. The young angler will soon find that brethren look upon the best angler as the best man. He will find glorious companionship by the rivers and the streams. He will be separated from the toilsome, hard- breathing, hard-working world, drinking in visions of beauty amid scenes which will remain ever after amongst the most cherished memories of the heart.

There is something fair and honourable in the " gentle craft," whether pursued in still waters in the primitive, honest, and easy fashion of bottom fishing - whether by the more active exercise of trolling, or the most difficult, but most glorious fly-fishing - whether natural or artificial insects are used - whether spinning or trolling with alive, dead, or artificial bait in mid-water, or laying seductive worms, gentles, or paste near the river bottom. Fish are not easily entrapped by the uninitiated. Still and experience must be brought into play ere the angler can fill his creel> and these must be aided by no little special knowledge.

The fly-fisher must be in a certain sense an artist and a naturalist. Ho has to represent as best he can, by means of different substances of varied delicacy, tissue, and colour, insects of the most diverse forms and changeable hues. He must do his work with the. most perfect neatness. He must know well the outward form of many varieties of insects, their habits and localities, as well as the seasons in which they live and die. He should know which is likely to prove the most attractive food for the fish lie angles for, and when to use it. Every kind and species ought to be associated in his mind with the proper place and the proper season. To do this well requires no little special knowledge, which I will help him to attain, and then he will be able to appreciate the truth of the doctrine, the " better angler the better man."

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Pictures for Angling and Anglers

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