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.