Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Voices from the Past: William Henderson's My Life as an Angler (1874)

A book I rarely hear mentioned today, but is of interest to angling historians, is William Henderson's My Life As An Angler… (London: Satchell, Peyton & Co., 1874, 1879).

A noted folklorists, Henderson was an accomplished angler and a good writer who set to put down his fishing exploits not necessarily as a record of accomplishment, but rather as an inspiration to others to find the same kind of joy in angling that he did.

The entire book is well worth reading, but I would point out the lovely introduction as especially worth perusing. It is humble and full of mirth, and isn't that what we aspire to find in our fishing literature?

I am now sixty-one years of age, and am still attached as ardently as ever to the noble sport of angling for salmon and trout. In manhood as in youth, it has often happened that I have been unable to leave home at the periods which my judgment pointed out as the most promising for sport. During these times of disappointment I have never failed to seek what comfort I could in reading books on angling, pisciculture and kindred subjects, and frequently I have succeeded in transporting my mind to the streams I knew and loved so well. At moments such as these, when Pepperhaugh on Coquet, or Coupland on Glen, seemed again to smile upon me, regretful feelings would rise in my mind with regard to the past, with a craving to read the record of my wanderings for half a century by broad river and rippling streams—to recall some scenes of special interest in which with companions, many of them dead or far away, I have enjoyed the fly-fishing of May, or the more productive worm-fishing of June. Though the thoughtlessness of youth and the manifold occupations of maturer age have prevented me from keeping a regular journal of my many and varied wanderings, yet I am not wholly without memoranda of days given to the gentle art—days which do not appear to have been noted down for the excellence of the sport obtained but by mere caprice, and which detail average rather than exceptionally successful angling.

It is with regret that I feel myself unable to relate many a tale of mirth and frolic in which I bore a part. I could neither do justice to them in the recital, nor place them in chronological order. I must content myself with doing little more than copy such memoranda as my old writing-case contains, and chronicle faithfully such incidents as memory has preserved. And this I do in the hope that my dear children will feel an interest in the stories of the past, and especially that my sons may gain from them some instruction in the art of angling.

-- William Henderson. Florence: Christmas, 1874.

To download a full copy of Henderson's book, click here.

-- Dr. Todd

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