SI Vault
Ed Zern
August 22, 1966
Smythe-Preston, an angling sorcerer, kept the ancient secret of Stonehenge as staunchly as the Druids did themselves until an American came with a magic potion. He got the truth—almost
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August 22, 1966

Something Was Fishy About Stonehenge

Smythe-Preston, an angling sorcerer, kept the ancient secret of Stonehenge as staunchly as the Druids did themselves until an American came with a magic potion. He got the truth—almost

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"For God's sake, do!" I urged.

"Can't you get it through your thick colonial skull," he said, "that Stonehenge, that so-called riddle of antiquity, is nothing more nor less than a fishing calendar—a monstrous, megalithic so-lunar table, so to speak, constructed by a prehistoric race of trout fishermen! Once I got to wondering why it had been built in the heart of the chalk-stream country, everything fell into place. And so, you see, I go there every morning I'm able, during the season, and by observing exactly where the sun's rays strike at sunup—which means crawling about on my hands and knees sometimes in the outer ring—I know precisely, virtually to the split second, when the trout will be voraciously, passionately, uncontrollably on the feed, and will take almost any fly that's presented to them. As I've long ago learned where most of the larger fish lie. it's a simple matter to be there at precisely the right time. And while that overpowering compulsion to feed is affecting the trout, sometimes for as long as three or four minutes, I can take every fish within reach of my cast. The problem is that, having hooked a three-or four-pounder, I may need the entire feeding period to land him. However, there are usually several such periods during the day, sometimes of as short a duration as 15 seconds, and by the time the sun has been up a few minutes I can have determined exactly when they will occur and arrange my itinerary accordingly."

"Fantastic!" I said. and meant it. "But tell me, how do you determine the exact times of day?"

"Look here, old man," said Smythe-Preston, peering at his watch. "I can't stay here any longer. My wife is frightfully jealous and has the silly notion that I dally sometimes with a widow on the other side of the common, no matter how convincingly I deny it. And, of course, it might be that she has reason—bound to be a bit of fire where there's that much smoke, eh? But since I've told you this much of my secret, I suppose I might as well go the entire pig, as I believe you Americans have it, and fill in the details. If you'll meet me here tomorrow morning at 5 o'clock, I'll take you over to Stonehenge and show you."

"You will?" I said incredulously, thinking even as I spoke of the story I'd be able to tell my friend at the research center. "You're not just putting me on?"

"On my word of honor," said Smythe-Preston sadly, "although, for the life of me, I can't imagine why. Good night, sir." And he hurried off down the lane.

That night I lay awake calculating the possibilities of a genuinely accurate system of forecasting fishing; it was certain that the secret of Stonehenge, once known, could be adjusted for latitudinal, longitudinal and altitudinal variations to apply to any part of the world on which the sun shines, and that the pattern of recurring feeding periods could be projected far in advance.

When 5 o'clock came I was at the appointed spot, but waited in vain. At 7, having formed some uncharitable opinions as to the value of an English angler's word of honor, I walked back to the inn, where I was informed by my host that Mrs. Smythe-Preston had just been arrested for the murder of her husband, into whose gizzard, in the course of a family discussion, she had plunged a carving knife.

I suppose I shouldn't have used that third pill.

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