"A Gentleman's Delight"
By Kenneth Reinard - German Regiment
"Kind sirs, what is your sport?" asked the gentleman seated at the end of the table.
Pondering over this question, the other gentlmen looked at each other in amazement and wondered why someone would make such a statement.
After a brief moment, the question was asked again. "What sport is your pleasure and gives you great satisfaction?"
The wealthy sugar refiner said, "My sport which gives me great pleasure is hunting. I am the master of the Glouster Hunt. I enjoy chasing the red fox. The sound of the hounds on the trail is most exciting. Also, one must be well off and have a good purse to engage in such a sport."
"Here, Here!" said the others in agreement. "Truly a proper sport."
"My sport," said the gentleman of questionable means, "I like going to a certain part of town and wagering some of my purse in a good cock fight. This is most exciting, and on a good night, you will gain a healthy purse."
It also was agreed that this was indeed a proper sport.
The gentleman at the end of the table tapped his glass, again gaining the ears of the rest. "Now before you go further, I will enlighten you fine gentlemen on which is truly a gentlemen's delight. A sport that will give you a quiet contemplation and peace of mind. This sport will not empty your purse of your livelihood."
"But first, kind sirs," he continued, "I must tell you that the sport of chasing the fox is a noble one and is fitting of a gentleman. In a brief reflection on this, all of the work which involves this sport — keeping the stables clean and your mounts in top shape, worrying to their health — can be quite stressful. Seeing to all those hounds is a chore in itself: so many dispositions to worry about. Some hounds are headstrong, like some fellows you by chance meet. When some hounds are sent to chase, some just run about and chase a hare into some dark burrow — and some chase who knows what! To me, this sport is too much bother and frustration. This can cause a bad temper."
"Now to address the cockfighter. This sport is a game upon which nothing is certain, an absolute waste of one's good time and money. I must quote a good friend, 'Gaming should be shunned as the child of avarice, the brother of iniquity and the father of mischief.' This sport is not an honest one to indulge in."
"Kind sirs, angling is my preferred sport and pleasure," he explained. "Please do not scoff at such a statement. This sport is centuries old and is found in our Holy Scriptures, unlike the above mentioned sports. Fishing is the act of catching a fish by using bait, long lining, and netting. Angling is the art of fishing with a long pliant rod, a good line made of horse tail, and artificial tied flies which resemble a living insect. This, my friends, is a proper sport and recreation."
"To describe my angling tackle, first, the angle rods are to be made of a curved wood, such as hickory, ash, willow, and cane — I pray that you fine gentlemen not tire of this brief discourse about my sport. Here, tavern maid! Bring us some more cider, cheese, and bread for my companions to enjoy."
The gentlemen all agreed to listen to the discourse and wished him to continue.
"Next, one must secure and make a proper fly line, made from a good stallion's tail. Kind sir, in your stable do you have a white or gray? If so, I beg of you some of this material so I can make a proper flyline to fix upon the tip of my pliant angle rod. This will make the strongest line possible."
The sugar refiner nodded.
"Hooks are to be made from the finest English needles, and are to be made in every size. The hooks are to be hung with the white hair like the flyline. This must be done first, because the snell is then fixed to the flyline with a loop on the end."
"To dress an artificial fly which resembles some insect that the trouts feed upon, I have a strict discipline that must be used when afield. You must be patient to learn the art of dressing a proper fly. It is only proper to hold the hook in your left hand, while with the right, you must wind the silk, feather, and fur about the hook to form a fly."
"One must be wealthy enough to enjoy this sport as well. An honest angler will hire a gillie to do his work for him. The gillie's duties are to assemble the tackle and select the right fly to match the natural insect. He must also prepare a good lunch for the angler and attend to the guests' needs."
"As one enjoys the sights and sounds in nature, this is far better than running about chasing hounds and jumping some fence, hoping to win the mask. We can sit and have a lunch by our favorite stream and contemplate our duties and manners of our well being. This is far better than wagering on some rooster who cares for no one. Truly, gentlemen, this is an honest sport."
"If you, kind sirs, will extend me the pleasure to show you this sport, I shall meet you near the falls on the Schuylkill. From here, I will teach you this most worthy sport."
The gentlemen agreed and, with a crisp "Huzza!" and a toast to all the good sports, the meeting was ended.
They left the tavern with the anticipation of this "angling" — a proper gentlemen's delight!
Ken Reinard protrays "The Colonial Angler of 1770" at Colonial Williamsburg and other sites and is author of The Colonial Angler's Manual of Flyfishing and Flytying, a guide to the history, methods, equipment, and craftsmanship of the early fisherman.
Copyright © 1996 Kenneth Reinard . All rights reserved.