Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Voices from the Past: Fishing in Greece (1884)

The following account of fishing in Greece in the 1880s comes from the Murray's Handbook for Travel in Greece (5th Edition--1884). It's important because it chronicles the potential for fly fishing in the Balkans, a very dangerous place in the late nineteenth century. While researching my dissertation on travel in the Balkans, I found many accounts of fishing in the region, but I can't imagine it would have been widely appealing, with the activity of klephts (a kind of Greek highwayman) on the rise up until 1914.

Fishing in Greece

The majority of the Greek rivers being mere mountain torrents, dry during summer, the country affords very little sport in this respect.

Good trout-fishing is to be had in some of the rivers of Albania and Arcadia.

Salmon is reported to be found in some of the AEtolian lakes which communicate by the Achelous with the sea. M. v. Heldreich quotes a salmon from Lake Trichonis weighing over 13 lbs.

Very fine carp is found in the Lakes of Joannina and Kastoria, and an inferior kind in the lakes of AEtolia and Acarnania.

Barbel occurs in the Alpheus and the lakes of AEtolia.

Mullet is found in the brackish lagoons of Western Greece, and frequently ascends the Eurotas, Alpheus, and Achelous.

Perch is caught in the lakes of AEtolia.

Chub is found in the river of Karytena and in the Alpheus.

The Silurus or Sheat-fish abounds in the Achelous and the lakes of AEtolia and Macedonia. Col. Leake mentions a Silurus which weighed 176 lbs. as caught in the lake of Kastoria, but says that these fish are sometimes much larger!

The angler's prospects would probably be better in Albania, Macedonia, and Thessaly, but all details on the subject are wanting. Any traveller inclined to try his hand on the Greek lakes and rivers should bring complete tackle, flies, etc., from England, as nothing whatever of the kind is procurable in Greece, and very seldom in Turkey. Greeks have no idea of fishing as a pursuit followed for pleasure, and all information on the subject is wanting.

There is no evidence that the ancient Greeks, any more than the modern, practised angling as an amusement, although we know from Athenaeus that several treatises existed on fishing. The earliest known allusion to flyfishing occurs in the gossiping Natural History of AElian, a contemporary of Hadrian. He describes the art as practised on the river Astraeus, in Macedonia, and even gives directions for making the artificial fly. AElian's ippoouros is evidently one of the Ephemeridoe, and in all probability a Palingenesia.

-- Dr. Todd

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