Monday, September 14, 2009

Day 8 - One more book

So, after all the talk about books on my shelf, I neglected one very important book. This book is very instrumental in fly fishing history. It was published in 1653 and talks about a fly fishing instructor named Piscator and his student Venator. It is the book, "The Compleat Angler" by Izaak Walton.

I have read this book, and find that you must read the book with a fly rod in one hand and the Bible in the other. Maybe this is why I feel so drawn to fly fishing in terms of spirituality. When you hear verses like this:
Gentlemen, let not prejudice prepossess you. I confess my discourse is like to prove suitable to my recreation, calm and quiet; we seldom take the name of God into our mouths, but it is either to praise him, or pray to him; if others use it vainly in the midst of their recreations, so vainly as if they meant to conjure, I must tell you, it is neither our fault or our custom; we protest against it. But, pray remember I accuse nobody; for as I would not make a watery discourse, so I would not put too much vinegar into it; nor would I raise the reputation of my own art, by the diminution or ruin of another's.

Yet there are other reasons that I enjoy this book. Reasons that include the huntsman's hatred for the otter, and why I choose it for my moniker.
...I can tell you, that this dog-fisher, for so the Latins call him, can smell a fish in the water an hundred yards from him...

You now know my secret obsession. To know the ways of trout so well, it is as if I can smell them. Now wouldn't that be truly interesting? To walk onto a stream, and instantly know where the fish are at? How many hours of unproductive fly fishing could be eliminated? However, there are those that would say that every error is not wasted for you now have traded a mistake for wisdom. Yet, I digress...

I've mentioned the deep spiritual nature of the writing, and of course the refrence to the otter, however I haven't even touched upon the very instructive nature of the book. Piscator takes Venator (a former hunter) as his student to teach him the ways of angling with a fly. This is a HOW-TO book at its very core.

Each chapter is devoted to explaining to Venator how to fish for a specific species of fish. It includes chubs, trout, salmon, carp, perch, grayling, bream... this list goes on and on. And nestled within each chapter are golden nuggets of historical experience. For example, Piscator remarks to Venator that a friend of his, Oliver Henly, used a special box to keep his worms in. The box was inffused with a couple of drops of ivy-berry oil. Supposedly, this would attach itself to the worms and make them more desirable to the fish.

I hope that I conveyed my interest of this book to you, and hope that you might pick up the book and give it a go. While the old English is a little hard to understand, if you press on you shouldn't be disappointed by this classic work. For a more modern approach to this classic, please check out James Prosek's book/documentry on retracing Izaak Walton's characters. Mr. Prosek has posted this documentry on YouTube and the link to the first part is:

To end today's reflections on fly fishing, I'd like to take a verse from the Angler's Song from "The Compleat Angler":
I care not, I to fish in seas;
Fresh rivers best my mind do please;
Whose sweet calm course I contemplate
And seek in life to imitate:
In civil bounds I fain would keep,
And for my past offences weep.

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