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Fisherman's Luck Henry van Dyke

Fishing in Books

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Certain it is that the art of angling, in settled regions, is growing more dainty and difficult. You must cast a longer, lighter line; you must use finer leaders; you must have your flies dressed on smaller hooks.

And another thing is certain: in many places (described in the ancient volumes) where fish were once abundant, they are now like the shipwrecked sailors in Vergil his Aeneid,--

"rari nantes in gurgite vasto."

The floods themselves are also disappearing. Mr. Edmund Clarence Stedman was telling me, the other day, of the trout-brook that used to run through the Connecticut village when he nourished a poet's youth. He went back to visit the stream a few years since, and it was gone, literally vanished from the face of earth, stolen to make a watersupply for the town, and used for such base purposes as the washing of clothes and the sprinkling of streets.

I remember an expedition with my father, some twenty years ago, to Nova Scotia, whither we set out to realize the hopes kindled by an ANGLER'S GUIDE written in the early sixties. It was like looking for tall clocks in the farmhouses around Boston. The harvest had been well gleaned before our arrival, and in the very place where our visionary author located his most famous catch we found a summer hotel and a sawmill.

'T is strange and sad, how many regions there are where "the fishing was wonderful forty years ago"!

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The second class of angling books--the literature of power--includes all (even those written with some purpose of instruction) in which the gentle fascinations of the sport, the attractions of living out-of-doors, the beauties of stream and woodland, the recollections of happy adventure, and the cheerful thoughts that make the best of a day's luck, come clearly before the author's mind and find some fit expression in his words. Of such books, thank Heaven, there is a plenty to bring a Maytide charm and cheer into the fisherman's dull December. I will name, by way of random tribute from a grateful but unmethodical memory, a few of these consolatory volumes.

First of all comes a family of books that were born in Scotland and smell of the heather.

Whatever a Scotchman's conscience permits him to do, is likely to be done with vigour and a fiery mind. In trade and in theology, in fishing and in fighting, he is all there and thoroughly kindled.

There is an old-fashioned book called THE MOOR AND THE LOCH, by John Colquhoun, which is full of contagious enthusiasm. Thomas Tod Stoddart was a most impassioned angler, (though over-given to strong language,) and in his ANGLING REMINISCENCES he has touched the subject with a happy hand,--happiest when he breaks into poetry and tosses out a song for the fisherman. Professor John Wilson of the University of Edinburgh held the chair of Moral Philosophy in that institution, but his true fame rests on his well-earned titles of A. M. and F. R. S.,--Master of Angling, and Fisherman Royal of Scotland. His RECREATIONS OF CHRISTOPHER NORTH, albeit their humour is sometimes too boisterously hammered in, are genial and generous essays, overflowing with passages of good-fellowship and pedestrian fancy. I would recommend any person in a dry and melancholy state of mind to read his paper on "Streams," in the first volume of ESSAYS CRITICAL AND IMAGINATIVE. But it must be said, by way of warning to those with whom dryness is a matter of principle, that all Scotch fishing-books are likely to be sprinkled with Highland Dew.

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Fisherman's Luck
Henry van Dyke

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