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Angling

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



ANGLING-Definition of the Term-Although there may be considerable doubt as to the exact origin of the term, " Angling " may be defined as the art of fishing with rod, line, and hook. Even the derivation of the word is a matter of dispute, but whether it be from the Latin, Greek, or Dutch, we may safely assume that the hook is always indicated as indispensable for the catching of fish. One of the recently published dictionaries describes Angling as " fishing with an angle." About this there is a charming vagueness which leaves abundant room for the exercise of private judgment.

History-In the voluminous and ever-increasing literature of Angling a vast variety of interesting speculation has been compassed as to the history of the art. There are well-known passages in the Old Testament which are quoted as proof that the ancients were accustomed to fish with hook and line, if not with rod; and inscriptions and drawings recovered from unearthed cities leave no doubt that the Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans included Angling amongst their occupations or pastimes. The Egyptians must have brought their practice of the art to considerable perfection, for amongst the wonderful relics excavated from the tombs by Professor Flinders Petrie are well-preserved examples of fish-hooks of admirable shape and make, and in general characteristicsnot unlike the Limerick pattern beloved by salmon fishers in the present day. Here, again, is suggested food for fancy, and if there is no evidence (as some have alleged there is) that Tubal Cain was the first manufacturer of fish-hooks, and that one of Noah's sons was the first fly-dresser, there is no living person who can authoritatively affirm otherwise. The supporting argument that fish were the only outside animals which survived the flood is, to say the least, ingenious.

The old-world fishing must have been a matter of honest and every-day pot-hunting. It would first become a calling, and then a science. However, early in civilisation Angling was evidently practised as a sport, and there are oft-quoted passages from Oppian that might be, with little alteration, adapted in describing a fight today with a big salmon or pike in a British stream.

Older Literature-The character and progress of Angling amongst the ancients are too much matters of conjecture to justify more than a passing allusion; but we are on firm ground in the period which may be said to be represented by the legendary Dame Juliana Barnes, whose treatise was the first published work upon fishing, although it would seem that the earliest known reference to Angling in England is a brief passage in a tract, entitled Piers Fulham, supposed to have been written about the year 1420. The Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle goes, however, into particulars, and shows that fishermen of the day were familiar with the use of rod, line, hook, leads, floats, and fishing boats. The Romans undoubtedly knew something about artificial flies, and used them, but it is believed that fly fishing was practised in this country in the fifteenth century, and the afore-said lady of St. Albans gives a respectable list of the flies to be used in successive fishing months, her season very reasonably beginning with March instead of February, as with us. This list of flies, however, only refers to trout and grayling. In the next century Leonard Mascall published a book on fishing with hook and line, and it contains much practical wisdom about fish culture. The angling pictures were taken from Dame Barnes. Early in the seventeenth century a published angling poem by " J. D." (John Dennys) teemed with sound advice and instruction to anglers. In these old books the development of Angling may be traced, and they indicate that the sport was well established amongst the English people. In the same period Gervase Markham issued his Art of Angling, which is to a great extent a rendering into prose of " John Dennys, Esq."

Walton-Walton and his contemporaries may be taken to represent another period, in which the anglers were good all-round sports-men. More than that, not only Cotton's contribution to the Compleat Angler, but Barker's little book which was published before Walton's immortal classic, furnishes internal evidence of proficiency in the dressing of flies and use of the fly rod. Walton probably took not a little of his information from Barker, who appears to have been the first English writer to mention the use of the winch in fishing. The old woodcut illustrations of this period represent the rod without the winch, but some sort of a reel (or as they used to call it, winder) was not unknown to the few. After Walton there is not, for a while, much in literature to indicate in what degree Angling developed; but an active and cultured English Angling-School arose soon after the opening of the nineteenth century, and Salter, Davy, Hofland, and others were amongst its head masters. The revolution brought about by steam and cheap literature gave an impetus to our play, no less than to our work, and Angling advanced with leaps and bounds, foremost amongst the leaders of the more modern period being " Ephemera," Francis Francis, Rooper, Pennell, and many others in England ; Stoddart and Stewart in Scotland ; Newland and Maxwell in Ireland. Anglers are now a great host; their sport has its periodical press; a modern community is not complete without its fishing club ; and Westwood and Satchell's Bibliotheca Piscatoria, which was published in 1883, catalogues over three thousand works more or less concerning fish and fishing.

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