Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Art of Angling

For the past couple of months I have been holed up in my shed, grappling with writing a journal article. I am pretty rubbish at writing such things basically because it is super boring. Formatting footnotes and writing wanky phrases that please reviewers like "the evidence presented here" "close examination of the text reveals" has managed to suck the joy out of any research. This confirms my choice to not apply to do a PhD. A wise move by a twenty-one year old.
I was checking a reference the other day when I came across The Art of Angling by R.Brookes, written in 1721 and published in 1789. You can download a version of it here.


The book goes through all sorts of weird and wonderful ways of catching all sorts of weird and wonderful fish. I found the endless pages of equipment needed for making artificial flies unnervingly familiar. The author spends two pages listing materials, then concludes, 'When the Angler is furnished with all these materials, he may make any sort of Artificial flies' before listing yet more pages of 'essential' equipment. My filing cabinet full of sorts of fly tying tat is testament to the universal truth that the fly dresser is never fully equipped.
Recent sunny days remind me that the trout season in England will be starting soon and the sooner that I finish with this wretched piece of writing, the sooner I can fish however, my mind can't stop wandering 'To verdant Banks of Crystal streams'.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Sophia Banks's Trade Card

Sophia Banks was the sister of the famous naturalist and all round polymath Jospeh Banks.
She would make astute observations of the natural world and many of her ideas found a place in her brother's writings. She is perhaps best remembered for her large collections of ephemera which are now housed in the British Museum. The thousands of visit-cards, trade notices and prints are the detritus of an elite gentlewoman's life. It's particularly pleasing therefore to find this rather fabulous trade card, one of three from Iverson and Sons in her collections.

Trade Card of Iverson and Stone (c.1792) Collection of Sophia Banks
Copyright: The Trustees of the British Museum. Museum Number: D,2.2084

In Georgian England, angling was a gentle art, enjoyed equally by both men and women. Rivers and lakes became dotted with dinky little houses, furnished with comfortable chairs for ladies to pursue this art in comfort, with servants to do disgusting things like baiting hooks. It would be wrong to conclude that such comfort replaced an angler's obsession and enthusiasm for the sport. Look at Lady Mary Coke's account of fishing with Princess Amelia in 1768,

The Princess order'd me to attend her to the Great Water to fish: 
in two hours I catched three score; two large carpe & above twenty considerable perch;
the rest small. The Princess catched about forty, but none so large as mine, to the great 
mortification of the page who attended her. He seem'd to think it a reproach that the 
Princess shou'd catch less fish than mine: his distress made me Laugh.

Op.cit. Kate Felus The Secret Life of the Georgian Garden, pg. 84.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Small Things. Quiet Achievements.

Enforced rest caused by a frightful pox upon my legs and kidneys is good for me, though I'm not sure I can keep this up for much longer. I'm listless and lethargic, wondering if I am tired because I am not quite well or tired because I haven't done much. I'm not used to this. 

My Head of Research has told me to get well and strong doing all the things I enjoy. "What do you like to do Polly?" I like to be outside, quietly and vigorously expending energy in order to truly relish something warm and hearty and stodgy. I like the feeling of my cold, chubby cheeks turning red, warmed by log fires and laughter. I like this to have been preceded by a sense of quiet achievement. A day tramping about chasing pheasants would do the trick as would digging in some manure into frost crusted beds. I was looking forward to stalking pike in the frost. From my bed right now, I can almost feel my cold, chapped lips crack with a smile earned from a good catch.  All to much for me to cope with right now although I know I'd feel better straight away for having a good, log walk in the cold, fresh air. Hopefully I'll be stomping round again before spring. Instead, today, I experimented with tying paraloop flies. I also mopped the floor and made a lasagne. Small things, quiet achievements.