Greeting To American Anglers by Christopher Morley

Story type: Essay

From Master Isaak Walton

My Good Friends–As I have said afore time, sitting by a river’s side is the quietest and fittest place for contemplation, and being out and along the bank of Styx with my tackle this sweet April morning, it came into my humor to send a word of greeting to you American anglers. Some of your fellows, who have come by this way these past years, tell me notable tales of the sport that may he had in your bright streams, whereof the name of Pocono lingers in my memory. Sad it is to me to recall that when writing my little book on the recreation of a contemplative man I had made no mention of your rivers as delightsome places where our noble art might be carried to a brave perfection, but indeed in that day when I wrote–more years ago than I like to think on–your far country was esteemed a wild and wanton land. Some worthy Pennsylvania anglers with whom I have fished this water of Styx have even told me of thirty and forty-inch trouts they have brought to basket in that same Pocono stream, from the which fables I know that the manners of our ancient sport have altered not a whit. I myself could tell you of a notable catch I had the other morning, when I took some half dozen brace of trouts before breakfast, not one less than twenty-two inches, with bellies as yellow as marigold and as white as a lily in parts. That I account quite excellent taking for these times, when this stream hath been so roiled and troubled by the passage of Master Charon’s barges, he having been so pressed with traffic that he hath discarded his ancient vessel as incommodious and hasteneth to and fro with a fleet of ferryboats.

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My Good Friends, I wish you all the comely sport that may be found along those crystal rivers whereof your fellows have told me, and a good honest alehouse wherein to take your civil cup of barley wine when there ariseth too violent a shower of rain. I have ever believed that a pipe of tobacco sweeteneth sport, and I was never above hiding a bottle of somewhat in the hollow root of a sycamore against chilly seizures. But come, what is this I hear that you honest anglers shall no longer pledge fortune in a cup of mild beverage? Meseemeth this is an odd thing and contrary to our tradition. I look for some explanation of the matter. Mayhap I have been misled by some waggishness. In my days along my beloved little river Dove, where my friend Mr. Cotton erected his fishing house, we were wont to take our pleasure on the bowling green of an evening, with a cup of ale handy. And our sheets used to smell passing sweet of lavender, which is a pleasant fragrance, indeed.

One matter lies somewhat heavy on my heart and damps my mirth, that in my little book I said of our noble fish the trout that his name was of a German offspring. I am happy to confess to you that I was at fault, for my good friend Master Charon (who doth sometimes lighten his labors with a little casting and trolling from the poop of his vessel) hath explained to me that the name trout deriveth from the antique Latin word tructa, signifying a gnawer. This is a gladsome thing for me to know, and moreover I am bounden to tell you that the house committee of our little angling club along Styx hath blackballed all German members henceforward. These riparian pleasures are justly to be reserved for gentles of the true sportsman blood, and not such as have defiled the fair rivers of France.

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And so, good friends, my love and blessing upon all such as love quietness and go angling.

IZAAK WALTON.

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