Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Voices from the Past: Ben C. Robinson, Angler-Soldier (1919)

This article, from a 1919 American Angler, details an incident from the career of Ben C. Robinson, a noted outdoor writer, who was also a soldier in France during World War I. Born in Bernice, Ohio in 1890, he wrote his first article for Field & Stream in 1906 at the tender age of just 16. It was the beginning of a very long career. A graduate of the Art institute of Chicago, he came to write for nearly all of the outdoor magazines in America and was Outdoor Life's angling editor from 1929-1934. His seminal work Muskellunge Fishing did much to publicize this sport.


Among the many thousands of keen anglers in the American Expeditionary Force fighting "somewhere in France," there were comparatively few fortunate enough to find opportunities for fishing. Ben C. Robinson, of Ohio, well known to readers of the American Angler as a practical writer on fish and fishing—was one who enjoyed excellent fishing during the preparatory period before participating in the great battles leading to final victory. His angling experiences will doubtless be published in one of the popular magazines in due time. In conversation with the editors of the American Angler, soon after his return to the United States, he gave some very interesting details regarding the fish and fishing of streams near Semur.

Mr. Ben C. Robinson fished mainly in the Mauves River, the name signifying Bad River, a misnomer, as he states that it is a beautiful stream, clear as crystal except in the rainy season, and fed by numerous brooks which flow into it on its course through the charming valley of Millery, a picturesque vale under the shadows of the Great Forest, near Semur.

Mr. Robinson's fishing was principally in the vicinity of Menetreux, and he found the varieties of fish almost identical with those of kindred species in American waters—the perch nnd pike families being: most numerous. He caught many La Perche, closely resembling the American yellow perch, and a number of La Couche, akin to our pike-perch: also many small specimens of the pike, or La Brochet, and a quantity of La Blanc, practically the same as the croppie of our lakes and streams. Not far from Semur, in the smaller streams, brook trout were reported to be plentiful.

The majority of French anglers, Mr. Robinson states, use primitive appliances, and the usual method is still fishing with bait, although the tackle as a rule is light —and this applies to rods as well as lines, leaders and hooks—while the landing net is almost invariably used. So popular is angling in France that Mr. Robinson is inclined to believe that a larger proportion of French than of Americans find their favorite recreation in fishing. Every member of the family joins in the sport with equal zest, the artificial lures m vogue there are practically duplicates of those used here, except that artificial flies are not in evidence on the streams fished by Mr. Robinson, nor are the wooden minnows and wobblers, although he believes these would be very effective.

Ben C. Robinson talks with enthusiasm of his fishing experiences in France, so near to the battle zone that the reverberating sound of the big guns could be distinctly heard, but the peasants and townspeople pursued their vocations quietly, peacefully, prayerfully. His recollections of his pleasant angling jaunts will be treasured through life, but he is hopeful that the too vivid memories of war's horrors will fade, save only the glorious achievements of American soldiers and the victories of the Entente Allies.

-- Dr. Todd

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