Fishing in History
The catching of fish with a hook and line is a pastime or occupation, as you like, dating back into prehistoric times. We read of this in the Bible and are told that the ancient Greeks and Romans even practiced fly fishing.
Of course the methods of the early fishermen were crude compared to those practiced at the present day, even though they did fish with the artificial fly, for the beautiful rods, reels, lines and other paraphernalia of the present day angler were unknown then. There is no doubt whatever that the first fishing done by mankind was not for sport, but to procure the wherewithal to satisfy the cravings of the inner man. Doubtless our remote, savage ancestors picked up fish that were cast up on the beach and as everything in the line of flesh was food, they so6n learned that fish were good to eat. Then they devised means of capturing the finny denizens of the deep, perhaps using crude nets of bark, strips of hide, and like materials, perhaps also making pound nets or traps of rushes; and when they learned that fish would bite at dainty morsels thrown into the water, they doubtless resorted to hair lines and bone hooks. Liner of horsehair were the only kind in use in ancient times, an J even down to the days of "Sir" Isaac Walton, in the first half of the seventeenth century, perhaps much later. Anyway we know that not many years ago it was quite common to see a horsehair line used for trout fishing, and such lines may even yet be in use in rural districts.
Catching fish with hook and line therefore is an ancient sport, but it is also a modern one for there is no more delightful pastime to be had. It leads one into the country, if not into the wilds, away from the haunts of man quite often, and always to the quiet places where Mother Nature reigns. There the enthusiastic angler gives no heed to the rapidly passing time, as he casts his flies first to this and then to that likely looking spot, where his close study of the habits of the fish have taught him that a gamey bass or trout may lurk. And then the rise and the strike, the mad rushes and acrobatic leaps of the hooked prize, as it vainly tries to break the line or shake the stinging hook from its mouth! But the steady tension of the bended rod and the scientific methods of the angler are too much for him and he is eventually reeled in, fighting all the way; the landing net is slipped under him and he is lifted bodily from his beloved waters.
Or perhaps the fisherman is a bait-casting enthusiast. With his short, stiff rod he sends his many hooked artificial bait, resembling nothing in nature, out many rods over the quiet waters, in much the same way that we, when barefoot boys, threw apples from a stick. With unerring accuracy he places the bait onto the very spot of water he had in view, commencing to reel in the line as soon as the bait strikes the water. His method is certainly scientific, but will hardly appeal to the fly-fisherman. But he enjoys it more than any other form of sport, and it yields fish, and big ones, too.
But there are many who like to fish who are not enthusiasts. They fish on holidays, on Saturday afternoons, sometimes between Saturday and Monday, and sometimes when they should be at work. It is the rest, the quiet, the fresh air, and a mess of fish that they are after, usually, but many like the fishing for itself and to them there is as much pleasure in hauling a surprised and protesting carp or bullhead from his watery home as can be secured from any other form of sport. Let us not despise still-fishing, as it is called, for it is the sport of the man or woman who wants fish, and it yields fish too, in many cases more than the artistic methods of the fly-caster or the strenuous methods of the bait-caster. There is scarcely a person who cannot enjoy a day's fishing for "sunnies" with a cane pole and can of worms, and how many are there who have not, when a boy, spent many a day idling on the river's bank, watching the cork float; and then remember if you can the pleasures you experienced when the cork did its acrobatic feat and dived beneath the water, how you pulled the rod from its rests and hauled the flapping prize on shore, swinging it far overhead lest it fall off into the water and escape! And sometimes when you drew the fish to the surface but the hook failed to catch, how greatly magnified that fish appeared to be as he turned over and you got a fleeting picture of his gleaming side! Nobody could have made you believe that the small fish that you caught a few minutes later was the same one that you had lost—it was much larger than that one. And you believed you were perfectly honest and truthful in your story of "the big one that got away."'
But regardless of your purpose, whether for sport or fish, it is fish that you want to take home with you, and what you want to know is how to get them. There is much in knowing what tackle to use and how to use it; in knowing the habits of the fish, what they feed on, and where they may be found. Let the old hands say what they like about learning from experience — we know it is the best way — but it is a fact too evident to be disputed that if the novice can read a good work on fishing, he can learn much that would require years of experience to teach him. New methods of fishing are taking the place of the old and new kinds of tackle is being invented almost every day, and unless one is satisfied with his "luck" and content to fish in the same locality with which he has become familiar, he should not depend on observation and experience alone. The purpose of this book is to teach you how to catch fish.
It is my aim to give most attention to the common fishes, those that are well distributed throughout the country and are considered of most importance, either because they offer the most sport, or because of their value as food-fishes. The black bass in particular, being the finest game fish of the fresh waters, and being distributed over a very large part of North America is a' fish of the utmost importance. As a game fish, the speckled trout comes next, being one of the fighting kind and found only in the clear cold waters. Its distribution is even wider than that of the black bass. Then there is the savage muskellunge, the fresh water shark of the North; it is important because of its size and fighting proclivities. Even the most common fishes of the central and eastern sections are of importance, because of their abundance and the fact that they are found in the thickly settled portions of the country and are therefore valued by those who cannot go far from home to fish, and those who prefer the quiet bait fishing. Such fish are the carp, sucker, catfish and the various kinds of sunfish.
Fishing will offer sport to the outdoor lovers long after the game birds and animals have become so rare that they no longer will be sought by sportsmen, if that time ever comes. The conservation of the fish supply only needs the support of the public, for if nature is given a chance she will keep up the supply. Laws protecting the more valuable fish for a part of each year, and prohibiting the use of unsportsmanlike methods of fishing should be encouraged and supported by the public, instead of being broken as is too often the case by fishing during closed season, using dynamite which kills hundreds of small fish, fishing with seines, and like methods. The public can do much towards preserving the fish supply, in fact the whole matter rests with the people. Let us each one do our part well.
Brooks, Lake. The Science of Fishing. Columbus, OH: A.R. Harding, 1912. Print.
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