Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Voices from the Past: The Science of Fishing (1850)

Lately I've been researching fishing in the 1850s for an upcoming project. I ran across this piece on trolling in Spirit of the Times (1850) and thought it interesting as it was one of the earliest mentions of rubber baits, as well as kill-devils, I had run across. Imagine using a 17-foot trolling rod!

The Science of the Rod

The best artificial minnow is that made of India-rubber, which really succeeds as well as the natural one; it is made by Mr. Flynn, of Worcester, and the price of it is three shillings and sixpence.

There is a thing called the kill devil, which is made of silver twist, and red silk, whipped around a bit of lead, and which will kill fish when the water is rather discolored; it has the advantage over the artificial minnow, as it spins better. I imagine the fish take it for one of the hairy caterpillars. In a small brook that was just clearing after rain, I once killed a great quantity of trout with the kill-devil, but I could never succeed with it in clear streams.

Your rod for trolling should be about seventeen feet long, though for small rivers a shorter one would be better, and as light as possible, neither too pliant nor too stiff; if it is too pliant you will never hook your fish, and if it is too stiff it will strain the mount, so as to run the risk of breaking the hold: it should have rings whipped on rather closer than they are for fly fishing, and until they should be stronger and larger.

-- Dr. Todd

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