Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Voices from the Past: The New Sporting Magazine (1858)

The following excerpt, from the pages of Britain's New Sporting Magazine (September 1858), was written by an anonymous wag as the preamble to a discourse on trout and salmon fishing in Southern Ireland. I found it both timely and interesting, which should not be surprising coming from a journal that regularly featured the writings of Theophilus South, author of the charming The Fly Fisher's Text Book (1841).

Rambles Along the Trout and Salmon Rivers and Lakes in the South of Ireland

"No murmur waked the solemn still,

Save tinkling of a fountain rill; 

But when the wind chafed with the lake

A sullen sound would upward break, 

With dashing hollow voice, that spoke 

The incessant war of wave and rock."

I suppose there is not a reader of the Sporting Magazine who has thrown a fly, but knows there is no better sport, no more exciting manner of passing an hour, nay hours, than fishing—when the fish are taking. And yet, of all those who "go a fishing," not one-fifth know how to fish. It is a science that, to be successfully enjoyed, must be earnestly studied; and not alone the art of fishing, but the habits of the fish you angle for, must be studied likewise. Each resident of the stream, the pool, or the shallow, has its own peculiarities; and, to be successful, the angler must know what those peculiarities are.

I would travel any length to spend my month's annual tour with a scientific angler. Not a cast is made, not a corner fished, by such a one, but is the result of study. How often will the unlearned in the ways of trout pass thoughtlessly a small curl behind a stone at the very neck of the stream! Yet it is there the father of the family has taken up his abode, to pick up the various descriptions of prey which he seeks, as they pass away with the endless wave of waters. The scientific fisherman knows the construction, as well as the philosophy of the movement, of the prey he seeks. There are few of this class of anglers but are intelligent men; and so little envious is the true sportsman, that it will add to his enjoyment if you tell him of something requisite for his sport which he has not previously learned.

-- Dr. Todd

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