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Said and Done

Said & Done: Giving lady anglers their due

The word “women” should have come before “worms” and “world records.” We found “worms” without difficulty, but search as we would, we uncovered nothing under “women.”

Our encyclopedia, a massive collection of fishing facts, was published before the surge in the direction of sexual balancing of human rights.

That text, barely noting the accomplishments of women at fishing, is plainly out of date. The few and scattered references to records set by lady anglers provided a wholly incomplete picture of the angling successes that have been scored by women in recent years.

Our search for data pertinent to lady fisher persons was triggered by some good-humored complaints lodged here over our “bad-mouthing” Eve in previous columns.

In deference to all Eve’s daughters, especially those who have taken to the great outdoors, we thought we’d make an apology by digging up some weighty fish facts to show that women, too, can lug home some bragging-size lunkers.

We need an up-to-date book. Never mind — we can get on without it

In 1944, we spent six weeks in Miami. During our time there we made regular trips to visit the charter boat piers to watch the day’s catch being weighed. It wasn’t unusual to see a tiny little woman of less than 100 pounds posing for a picture beside a fish that outweighed her 3-1.

We have a mother-in-law who fished Lake George back in the 1920s, a period in angling history that must be recorded as a golden age for men with fish rods.

Her husband, a retired West Point Army officer, was used to being in charge. He arranged all the details that went into a successful fishing trip. Some of the vital details he was unable to control.

Katy used to sit reading a book while she held a hand-line charged at its end with a helgramite pirouetting in the twilight depths below. The major and his wife enjoyed their fishing trips together — but it was inevitably she who hoisted the day’s biggest fish up and over the gunnel of their rowboat.

Most everybody has heard of Lee Wulff, celebrated fisherman and writer, creator of trout and salmon flies. His wife, Joan, is equally skilled and has successfully drawn the ladies to her school on the Beaverkill in New York, where beginner ladies go for schooling — and back again to polish their fine art.

Most men who fish, and who have read anything about fishing’s beginnings, naturally think of Izeak Walton as the father of the fine art of angling for trout.

Walton, who wrote his original “Compleat Angler” in 1653, outlived two wives — which may explain his freedom to meander along the slow-moving chalk streams of the Merrie England of his time.

It should holster the advocates of women to know that a full century and a half before Walton’s day a book was published by an English woman: “Treatise of Fishing With An Angler.”

This remarkably complete text on trout fishing was written by a certain Dame Juliana Brenners, the prioress of a Saint Benedictine nunnery at Sopwell, St. Albans.

The lady took great pains to explain in precise detail how to build a fishing rod. “Butt section 9 feet, as big around as your arm. Tip, either hazel, black thorn, crab or juniper — 6 feet.” Total: 25 feet of fishing rod. You had to be some kind of female to handle a club of such massive properties — never mind that Dame Juliana gave specific instructions how to hollow out the butt portion of her rod.

Purists, the real anglers for trout, would appreciate this lady most because of her scientific observations of the effect of insect hatches on the feeding habits of fish.

She studied the cycles of winged creatures that swarmed over the rivers and streams of England. In consequence of her researching, she produced artificial lures, describing them in her treatise. Her theory that “he who matched the hatch caught the fish” is considered the original expression of this most acceptable dictum.

So — in this we have tried to undo some of the damage we may have done by teasing our serious sisters who fish. Bless them and may they keep at it!

As far as we’re concerned, let them know this: two of us share the same fishing boat, troll the same baits, present them to the same fish. It’s the lady who seems always to have the most active rod. When the day is done, her fish are invariably longer and larger. This sort of thing is conducive to our modesty.

Paul Seamans is a permanent resident of the Charlene Manor nursing home. A picture window on his room’s west side gives a full view of Shelburne Mountain, a continuing inspiration for “Said & Done.” Some of his columns will have been previously published.

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