Gone Fishin’

Would you have liked to go fly-fishing in the Adirondacks with Winslow Homer? For sure I would, despite total lack of interest in fishing. I would just loll around watching the action, like the implied action in this painting; the colors; the sparkly light; the beautiful lines of the canoe. The bright white hat does imply blackfly season, though. Would he have been so foolish as to go up there during blackfly season? Maybe it was just somebody’s favorite hat.

 

This is one of many engravings by Henry Thomas Alken (1785-1851,) whose satirical sketches of the actors in “sporting life” were very popular, appearing often in Punch. Engraving technology, with colors and everything, was figured out by English engineers in the early decades of the nineteenth century, and boy did it become popular fast. For the first time, color images could be reproduced cheaply and in quantity.

Note the top hats, two black and one light grey, worn by the gentlemen anglers. Are they beaver or silk? Michener, in Centennial, dramatically introduces the reader to the voyageurs, rulers of the North American continent, who hunted the beaver to supply the fashion demands of London. Then he tells of a toff deciding one day that beaver was no longer the thing; a hat had to be silk. The voyageurs’ beaver pelt market evaporated.

 

The gentleman in green is reaching for pike. Now there is a sport; pike have teeth and temper! Isn’t pike-grabbing a popular sport in the southern US? I have seen photos of scarred forearms of participants.

 

When Kipling was in Vermont in the 1890s, he wrote short stories, including my all-time favorite, The Brushwood Boy. The hero, on leave from Army service in India, returns to his boyhood fishing haunts:

The black gnat was on the water . . . a three-quarter-pounder at the second cast set him for the campaign, and he worked down-stream, crouching behind the reed and meadow-sweet . . . he had known every inch of the water since he was four feet high. The aged and astute between sunk roots, with the large and fat that lay in the frothy scum below some strong rush of water . . . came to trouble in their turn, at the hand that imitated so delicately the flicker and wimple of an egg-dropping fly. Consequently, Georgie found himself five miles from home when he ought to have been dressing for dinner.

And that fact was of great and good consequence. What a story.

 

Ken Young painted his friend and got some fly-fishing lessons in return. This is in Columbia County, New York: east of the Hudson, in Sleepy Hollow Country. Ken Young’s friend’s hat might be felt, but then again it might be a true beaver-pelt Stetson. You can still get those on eBay.

Anybody know this song: I’m goin’ to town, honey – what you want me to bring you back?     –     Bring a pint of booze – and a John B. Stetson hat!

 

There are quite a few animated GIFs of Michael Kitchen fishing for trout as Christopher Foyle in Foyle’s WarThe Chief Superintendent is never without his felt fedora. On a few precious occasions, his RAF pilot son shows up, on a short leave. The son doesn’t fish, either. But he shows up.

 

I’d love to see Ratburgian fishing favorites: paintings, photos, hats, songs, prose. As long as I don’t actually have to go and try to catch a fish, it would be delightful.

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19 thoughts on “Gone Fishin’”

  1. jzdro:
    There are quite a few animated GIFs of Michael Kitchen fishing for trout as Christopher Foyle in Foyle’s War. The Chief Superintendent is never without his felt fedora. On a few precious occasions, his RAF pilot son shows up, on a short leave. The son doesn’t fish, either. But he shows up.

    I enjoyed that series. We saw most of the episodes. His sidekick Samantha was charming. I like that she was a fan of Churchill, though Foyle was not.

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  2. drlorentz:
    I enjoyed that series. We saw most of the episodes. His sidekick Samantha was charming. I like that she was a fan of Churchill, though Foyle was not.

    Oh yes, a great series, and Kitchen is unsurpassed. Honeysuckle Weeks put forth her Samantha character perfectly. One thing that stays with me is her way of walking, difficult to describe, sort of forthright but a little side-to-side with each stride, altogether conveying the earnestness and honesty at the core of her character. What a darling, and what a partnership of the two, as characters and as actors.

    Funny about the Churchill dichotomy. It does not square, in my mind, with Samantha going all Labor post-War, even unto marrying a Labor politician.

    Can you remind me why Foyle disliked Churchill? Was it Yalta? Or something else; did the scriptwriters specify?

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  3. Lovely post!

    I have only gone fishing a few times. I used another person’s gear. I caught a trout once in Packwood Lake. Other than that I think I caught mud sharks in Commencement Bay. Great sport having one on the line but you throw them back in the end.

    I have never seen the wonder of fly fishing. It takes a lot of skill and more patience than I have.

    jzdro, do you fish? What kind of fishing? Do you tag along as others do the casting?

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  4. jzdro:

    I bought a CD of old hits and this song was on it. I love voices and Bing and Louis Armstrong had two of the best. Their voices had a conversational style about it. They had a stage presence that kept the audience wanting more.

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  5. 10 Cents:
    jzdro, do you fish? What kind of fishing? Do you tag along as others do the casting?

    No, none of those. It is all in my head. I love to be on the water and in the woods, is all.

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  6. 10 Cents:
    I love voices and Bing and Louis Armstrong had two of the best. Their voices had a conversational style about it.

    In this kind of arrangement, 2 male voices go back and forth from song to speech, and back and forth with each other as duet and patter. That is all pleasing, especially the good-natured mutual teasing in the patter.

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  7. jzdro:

    10 Cents:
    I love voices and Bing and Louis Armstrong had two of the best. Their voices had a conversational style about it.

    In this kind of arrangement, 2 male voices go back and forth from song to speech, and back and forth with each other as duet and patter. That is all pleasing, especially the good-natured mutual teasing in the patter.

    It is hard to remember how hip Bing was. His singing career was long. I first saw him when he was a crooning grandpa. My grade school was near where he used to live.

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  8. jzdro:

    10 Cents:
    jzdro, do you fish? What kind of fishing? Do you tag along as others do the casting?

    No, none of those. It is all in my head. I love to be on the water and in the woods, is all.

    What do you me on the water? Do you just walk or use a boat? Waterski? Swim?

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  9. jzdro:

    Robert A. McReynolds:
    There is a lot going on in this painting.

    – and no rudder, no oars.

    That is not a criticism of the painting as art, though.  The boat is clearly depicted as much less than half the size that such boats are, if you judge scale by the height of the man.  This makes the boat appear small and vulnerable.

    Great work.

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  10. “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing-absolutely nothing- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

    —From TheWind  in the Willows ( Water Rat speaking)

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  11. I’ll see yer Water Rat and raise ya a Girl Scout camp song:

    Land of the silver birch
    Home of the beaver
    Where once the mighty moose
    Wandered at will – 
    Blue lake and rocky shore 
    I will return once more!
    Boom diddy-yah-dah! Boom-boom!
    Boom diddy-yah-dah! Boom-boom!

    There where the blue lake lies
    I’ll set my wigwam
    Close to the water’s edge
    Silent – and still!
    Blue lake and rocky shore 

    I will return once more!
    Boom diddy-yah-dah! Boom-boom!
    Boom diddy-yah-dah! Boom-boom!

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  12. jzdro:
    I’ll see yer Water Rat and raise ya a Girl Scout camp song:

    Land of the silver birch
    Home of the beaver
    Where once the mighty moose
    Wandered at will – 
    Blue lake and rocky shore 
    I will return once more!
    Boom diddy-yah-dah! Boom-boom!
    Boom diddy-yah-dah! Boom-boom!

    There where the blue lake lies
    I’ll set my wigwam
    Close to the water’s edge
    Silent – and still!
    Blue lake and rocky shore 

    I will return once more!
    Boom diddy-yah-dah! Boom-boom!
    Boom diddy-yah-dah! Boom-boom!

    It is hard to top a Girl Scout song!

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