Fall fishing is a revival after the quieter times of summer. Cooler nights and the melt of early snowfall in the mountains bring falling water temperatures and rains freshen the streams. Shadows are longer, shielding the pools. The fish are more active and there is a touch of urgency about it all, a feeling that it cannot last very long so one had better get out and be doing. After all, there have been falls when the heavy rains came early and suddenly, the streams flooded and everything was over before it had started.
Roderick Haig-Brown, Fisherman’s Fall, 1964.
As another Halloween passes, I repost this essay on Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of “The Legend of Sleepy Hallow.”
Originally posted on The Literary Fly Fisher:
At this time of year, Washington Irving’s well-known “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is often brought to mind. This, of course, is the classic tale of schoolmaster Ichabod Crane, his romantic rivalry with Brom Bones to gain the affections of Katrina Van Tassel, and his terrifying encounter with the Headless Horseman. It was originally part of a much larger collection of works by Irving, titled The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., published in 1819 and 1820. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” has subsequently been published many times as a solitary work.
The person who actually reads “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” in the Sketchbook, will find that it is preceded by a reminiscence entitled “The Angler.” Here, Irving shows a very clear familiarity with fly fishing and angling literature. He first describes his initiatory fly fishing…
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In 1806, Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and other members of the “Corps of Discovery,” made their return from the West Coast of North America, over the Continental Divide, on their way back to Saint Louis. In approaching the Divide, they relied heavily upon the knowledge and physical guidance of the Nez Perce or Nimiipuu. On July 3, Lewis and Clark divided the Corps, in order to explore different areas. Lewis and his party travelled east along what we now know as the Big Blackfoot River. The Nez Perce guides told the party that the river was the Cokahlarishkit, as Lewis rendered it, or “the River of the Road to Buffaloe” (better transcribed as Qoq’áax ‘í skit and translated as “buffalo road”).
On July 6, 1806, Lewis notes that the party crossed the North Fork of the Big Blackfoot. He describes it as 45 yards wide, deep, rapid, and turbid. He notes the squirrels, goats, deer, curlews, woodpeckers, plovers, robins, doves, hawks, sparrows and duck in the area. He also remarks on the cottonwoods and pines.
He notes, too, that the Corps was wary of meeting parties of the Blackfoot tribes or their allies. The Blackfeet, or Niitsitapiiksi (“Real People”), reside on the eastern side of the Continental Divide. At the time of Lewis and Clark’s expedition, the Blackfeet largely controlled Nez Perce and other Plateau people’s access to the bison of the Plains
I spend a great deal of time near the North Fork of the Big Blackfoot, as our family cabin is in the area. And, indeed, I drive along the main river, via Highway 200, to visit friends on the Blackfeet Reservation or on the Canadian reserves. The North Fork remains the powerful river described by Lewis over two hundred years ago. And the drainage remains a lively place, populated by all of the flora and fauna recorded by Lewis and many other plants and animals as well (including trout). It is a particularly pretty place during the fall. For this reason, I share a few pictures taken during my latest visit (the trout picture was taken my by friend, Bill Gregory).
I discovered recently that the venerable French maker of knives, Opinel, offers a model with trout engraved on an oak handle. Opinel has made simple, folding knives, in a variety of numbered sizes, for over 100 years. Despite their continued popularity and the fact that they are still made in France, Opinel knives remain very affordable to the working people for whom they were originally intended.
Today, Opinel knives are popular enough among outdoors persons that Patagonia sells them along with its own products. Patagonia describes the Opinel No. 8 that they offer, online, they describe their Opinel No. 8:
If we made knives, this is the one we’d want to make. The Opinel folding knife, with its clean, simple design and remarkable utility, has been prized by adventurers, artists and chefs for more than 100 years. This modern version of the classic Opinel No8 features a 3-1/4” stainless steel blade and beautiful olive-wood handle. It fits easily in a pocket, but also comes with a leather belt sheath for easier access. Packaged in a wooden, slide-top box.
You can read about the Opinel No. 8, oak-handled “trout” knife, available directly (and much less expensively) from Opinel, at their website. You will notice that they offer custom engraving. When ordering one, I could not resist making use of this service. It has been a handy companion during my time beyond the paved world.
In 1889, Anna M. Stodddart published a loving memoir of her father, Thomas Tod Stoddart (1810-1880), along with a collection of verses written by him (some of which were previously published). Most of these verses have to do with fishing. Thomas Stoddart was licensed to practice law, but he seems to have spent most of his life writing and engaged in fishing and fishing related activities. He was particularly involved in conservation. Living in Kelso, Scotland, the Rivers Tweed and Teviot received most of his attention. Besides his writer daughter, he had two other children-both boys.
To illustrate how seriously the senior Stoddart took his identity as an angler, daughter Anna writes:
My father called one day on Henry Glassford Bell, and the genial Sheriff hailed him with the very natural question, “Well, Tom, and what are you doing now?” With a moment’s resentment, my father brought his friend to his bearings. “Doing? Man, I’m an angler.”
I can relate to Thomas Stoddart, as he responds to Bell. If my own daughter were ever to write a memoir about me after my death, she might very well include a similar story, to illustrate just how passionate about fly fishing I was. She could not describe me as a poet, however; in that way I am different from Thomas Stoddart. Thus, due in part to my own lack of talent, I include two of the “songs” written by Thomas and published by Anna in Angling Songs, with a Memoir.
THE FAIRY ANGLER
‘Twas a bland summer’s eve, when the forest I trod;
The dew-gems were starring the flowers of the sod,
And “faire mistress moone,” as she rose from the sea,
Shed apart the green leaves of each shadowing tree.
I passed by a brook, where her silvers lay flung,
Among knolls of wild fern it witchingly sung,
While a long fairy angler with glimmering hand
From the odorous banks waved her delicate wand.
In silence I watched, as with eager intent
O’er the moon-silvered water she gracefully bent,
And plied with green rush-rod, new torn from its bed,
Her line of the thorn-spider’s mystical thread.
A pannier of moss-leaves her shoulder’s bedecked,
The nest of some bird, with the night winds had wrecked,
Slung round with a tendril of ivy so gay,
And a belt of stream flowers bound her woodland array.
No snow-flake e’er dropped from its cloud on the brook
So gently impelled as her moth-plumaged hood;
The pearl-sided parlet and minnow obeyed
The magical beck of that wandering maid.
And aye as her rush-rod she waved o’er the rill,
Sweet words floated round her, I treasure them still,
Tho’ like a bright moon-cloud resolved in the air,
Passed from me, regretted, the vision so faire.
Through sun-bright lakes,
Round islets gay,
The river takes
It western way,
And the water-chime
Soft zephyrs time
Each gladsome summer day.
The starry trout,
Fair to behold,
One fin of gold;
At root of tree
His haunt you may see,
Rude rock or crevice old.
And hither dart
The salmon grey,
From the deep heart
Of some sea bay;
And herling wild
To hold autumnal play.
Oh! ’tis a stream
Most fair to see,
As in a dream
And our hearts are woo’d
To a kind of sweet mood
By its wondrous witchery.
I am sharing the flyer for a course that a colleague in anthropology is teaching. She is an archaeologist, but she is offering a comprehensive look at the place of salmon in Pacific and Inland Northwest cultures, both Native and non-Native. She has worked closely with Nez Perce representatives to incorporate contemporary Native views. All in all, it’s an impressive course. In fact, it would be nice to see more classes that focus upon such basic, yet essential topics. Academic theories are important devices through which to understand human perception of the world. But discussions should always start with the tangible things in life.
Thomas Frederic Salter was a London hatmaker. He fished as a child with his father and remained a devoted angler as an adult. Apparently, his health prevented him from fishing regularly in his later years. He therefore turned his attention toward writing several books having to do with fishing, each of which went through several editions. The first was The Angler’s Guide, or Complete London Angler in the Thames, Lea, and other Waters twenty miles round London, which was published in 1814. Interestingly, he dedicated it to “Her Royal Highness the Duchess of York,” whom, he says, “occasionally enjoys the amusement of Angling” (vii). At the time, the duchess was the beloved Princess Frederica Charlotte of Prussia. An independent woman, she lived separately from her husband, apparently preferring the company of her many pets and other animals.
In his guide, Salter speaks highly of fly fishing, describing it as “gentlemanly and pleasant,” if also “difficult to learn” (82-83). In all, he dedicates five chapters of the book to the practice. Had I been Salter’s editor, I might have pointed it out that the sport must also be “ladylike” (or something to that effect), since the Duchess, so highly praised in Salter’s, dedication, was an angler.
Interestingly, Salter also includes a poem by a “Mr. Cracknell,” entitled “The Female Angler” (103). Two stanzas follow.
From town I walk’d to take the air,
Shun smoke and noise of coaches;
I saw a lovely damsel fair,
Angling for Dace and Roaches.
Close by a brook, with line and hook,
Which curiously was baited,
Attentively the maid did look,
While for a bite she waited.
Looking back as readers, and not editors, we should commend Salter for acknowledging so clearly that field sports are not only or best practiced by men. While many authors of Salter’s time and before paid homage to the legendary Juliana Berners, O.S.B., supposed author of the 15th century Treatyse of fysshynge wyth an Angle , few of them seemed to consider that there may have been many other figures like her. Admittedly, there seems to be a hint of romance in the poem Slater includes in his book; there is an implication that the “female angler” shares in the simple purity of nature or the rural area free from “smoke and noise.”
Yet, Salter tells us that “The Female Angler” was inspired by a very real friend of Cracknell’s. Also, as its subtitle indicates, Salter’s book focuses upon fishing in urban and suburban London (in later editions, the subtitle changes). Thus, he does not see to see the divide between nature and culture as being so bold as many others did and do. This makes him a rare figure in his time — one worth reading. While the Guide is mostly a technical manual and guidebook to certain fishing locations, there is, as I have indicated here, some material that truly stands out.
I leave you with a stanza from another poem, “The Angler’s Morning Walk,” apparently written by Salter himself (x).
From sweet repose I early rose
To fish, and take the air;
I look’d around, saw good abound,
Then why should Man despair.