Posts Tagged ‘Fishing Literature’

Museums, Nature, and the Substance of the Things we Love.

April 9, 2013

A man is the substance of the things he loves. The love of Nature was passed on to me and I in turn am passing it along. Maybe in their overcrowded world my boy and girl will discover escape from the concentrations and complications of people and revel in their own outdoors.

Charlie Fox, “By Way of Introduction” (no page number), Rising Trout (Carlisle: Foxcrest, 1967).

Charlie Fox Memorial, Letort

Charlie Fox Memorial, Letort Spring Run

This last weekend, I visited Central Pennsylvania, where I used to work and live for much of each year, to attend the 66th Anniversary Banquet of the Fly Fisher’s Club of Harrisburg.  I have written about this club, founded by Charlie Fox and Vince Marinaro, before.   Being in attendance at the dinner of this second oldest fly fishing club in America is always a somewhat humbling experience, when considered in the light of the figures who attended in the past.

This year, many of those figures were honored at the grand opening of the Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Museum (the website is not yet updated), now permanently installed at the Allenberry Resort in Boiling Springs, PA.  Of course, the museum will remain open henceforth.


George Harvey Display


Vince Marinaro Display

Visitors to the museum can enjoy the incredible displays focusing upon George Harvey and Vince Marinaro.  Both of these displays are reconstructions of these figures’ respective fly tying and rod building rooms.  In the latter, the visitor can see no less than four of Marinaro’s own, incredibly rare bamboo rods.  Between these two displays are shelves and full display cases devoted to other famous figures in Pennsylvania fly fishing history.  Of course, many of these figures influenced the development of fly fishing techniques, associated literature, and cold water conservation well beyond the boundaries of their state.


Gene Utech Display


Ed Shenk Display

For me, the highlights of the visit included seeing a shelf devoted to Gene Utech, a master of wet fly fishing techniques.  Gene was a close friend, to whom I was introduced by fishing buddy John Bechtel.  Gene, sadly, is now deceased, but I am immensely happy his love of fly fishing will live on in this museum.  A second highlight of the visit was shaking Ed Shenk’s hand.  While I have done so numerous times before, shaking Ed’s aging hand at this particular time, after viewing the display devoted to him, held special significance.  The final highlight included meeting (or renewing acquaintances with) the numerous visitors who were sharing their handmade bamboo rods, flies, landing nets, and art with the public. I was particularly impressed with the affordable (truly affordable — no lie) yet stunning nets offered by Drawbaugh Outdoors (  I will devote a separate post to them, however, as honest, affordable, handmade products deserve special attention these days.

Gene Utech's 80th, Yellow Breeches 3

Gene Utech’s 80th Birthday, on the Yellow Breeches

Any angler or lover of the outdoors (notice my avoidance of the term “nature,” the meaning of which is so very complicated) would enjoy the PA Fly Fishing Museum.  But it is equally true that such people would enjoy the literature produced by many of the people honored there.  One will find no more sincere a lover of the outdoors than Charlie Fox, who is quoted in the epigraph.  If you are a tree hugger and clean water lover — if you love the substances of this world, of which we are all made — he is your man.

Please forgive the poor quality photos.  Most of them, with the exception of the birthday party photo by Leslie Bechtel, were taken on a camera phone.  I am simply too lazy (or focused upon the present) to carry a decent camera around.

Charles E. Goodspeed, Francis Francis, and Christmas

December 16, 2010

Copyright 2010, Kenneth H. Lokensgard

NOTE: For a correction of these dates, please see the first reader’s response, written by a former employee of Goodspeed’s Book Shop.

Charles Eliot Goodspeed opened Goodspeed’s Book Shop in 1937.  His Boston store grew to be one of the most respected antiquarian book shops in the United States, and it was in business until 1993.  Goodspeed cared not only about books, but also about fishing. As biographer Walter Muir Whitehill puts it, Goodspeed was “a devout disciple of Izaak Walton.”[1] No doubt, this prompted Goodspeed to compile a massive collection of new and previously published fishing essays.  This collection was published in 1946, as A Treasury of Fishing Stories (New York: A.S. Barnes and Company). According to the book’s “Acknowledgements” section, Goodspeed gathered most of the previously published selections from a collection of fishing works left to Harvard Libraries by Daniel Butler Fearing.

Among the sometimes obscure, other times famous, and almost always incredibly entertaining pieces that Goodspeed includes in A Treasury is one by Francis Francis, angling editor to the English sporting magazine The Field and author of the well-known A Book on Angling (1867). The piece that Goodspeed includes is titled “Christmas in the Fisherman’s Snuggery,” from Francis’ Hot Pot; Or Miscellaneous Papers (1880).

In “Christmas,” the narrator, presumably Francis, visits his wealthy friend, George, for Christmas.  The two of them retire to the host’s angling “snuggery” — the Victorian equivalent of a “man cave” — for a smoke between festivities.  The narrator describes the room, perfectly designed for someone who enjoys tying flies, playing with tackle, and having the occasional smoke and drink in private:

A Fisherman’s Snuggery — What is it like?  A squarish room, about 16ft. each way, low rather than lofty, with recesses on either side of the fireplace, and a glazed bookcase in each — one containing a choice collection of works upon angling, ancient and modern, and the other a good selection of works upon natural history, botany, geology, and kindred sciences; for your true angler should always have a love for Nature and her secrets, and should study how to unlock them.  Below the book-cases are chiffonnières [sic], with cupboards.  In one long drawer, with a let-down flap, is contained in various small drawers and pigeon-holes the entire arcana of bait fishing, and in the other of fly fishing.  Both are open this Christmas day, and a loving ramble amongst their contents is going on.[2]

The narrator continues to describe the room, paying special attention to mementos and trophies accumulated by the host on various fishing trips.  George, for his part, indulgently relates the story behind each item.  For example:

“There,” says George, taking a dusty, dingy old salmon fly, past color or mark of teeth, tied on treble gut, off a hook on the wall, where it hung: “that is the fly I killed my first salmon with, twenty five years ago April next! Well I remember it.  Shall I ever forget it, indeed?  Does anyone ever forget his first salmon? Aye, aye, it was in the Thurso, in the Linn of Skinnet, as the pool was called then, though it has long been called by another name, close to where Brawl castle stands now.  …  He wasn’t much of a fish, and in the dead water played rather pikeishly, but I got him out at last, quite panting with excitement.  He weighed 10 ½ lb.; and surely so beauteous a creature never was seen by mortal eyes.  I never got tired of looking at him.”[3]

 The narrator clearly enjoys the tour, as any angler would. At last, though, the host reminds the narrator that they should return to the other guests:

“But now there’s Jane with the coffee.  Just spring that night bolt, will you? — I never allow people to come bursting in on me without due notice, and some I don’t let in at all — it’s a bore to get up and let them in; so a night bold is invaluable.  And now, just one pipe more.  Maraschino or Chartreuse? Chartreuse; all right, my boy.  And then let us join the ladies with forfeits, and Sir Roger de Coverley; and I trust you have enjoyed your Christmas afternoon’s pipe in the angler’s snuggery.”[4]

I know that I would certainly have enjoyed some time in George’s snuggery.  There are few activities that I love more than perusing the fishing books and tackle in my office, which is, no doubt, infinitely more modest in design and contents than George’s sporting sanctum.


Enjoy the winter holidays, fellow anglers.

[1] Walter Muir Whitehill, “Charles Eliot Goodspeed,” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Third Series, Vol. 71 (Oct, 1953- May, 1957),  p. 362.

[2] Francis Francis, “Christmas in the Fisherman’s Snuggery,” in A Treasury of Fishing Stories, compiled by Charles E. Goodspeed (New York: A.S. Barnes and Company, 1946), 193-194.

[3] Ibid., 195.

[4] Ibid., 199.

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