- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The first necessity is the rod. It must be long, for there is no reel, and the line is tied directly to it. The foundation is a considerable piece of timber: si pole of aspen, hazel or willow nine feet long and as thick as your arm. This must be cut in midwinter when the sap is dormant, then straightened in the heat of an oven and seasoned for a month in a cool dry place. You next bore a hole right through the center, from end to end, with a red-hot wire. This hole is enlarged by the use of progressively larger spits, beginning with the little spit on which small birds are roasted. (Any good kitchen would have a wide range of spits.) You then season your rod once more in wood-smoke. At the upper end a yard-long switch of seasoned hazel is inserted. At the top, and perhaps also at the bottom, a "crop" is fixed, made from seasoned blackhorn and bound with horsehair. Your line will be fixed to the binding at the top of this crop. The whole is strengthened at top and bottom by iron ferrules.
The final result is a strong springy rod all of 10 feet long, reinforced by bindings of horsehair and metal. The author claims that it can be easily taken down and assembled, and that when it is used as a walking stick no passer-by will recognize it for a fishing rod. This last seems a direct encouragement to poaching, but I find it hard to credit.
All this skilled joinery is to be done at home by the prospective fisherman himself.
The line also is made at home, of hair from the tail of a white horse. It may be dyed any one of six colors and, of course, the dyes must be fast. Instructions are given for compounding dyes from ingredients that would be found in any well-equipped kitchen; for it was then the custom to dye cloth at home. The colors required are yellow, green, brown, tawny, russet and dark gray, to be used in the appropriate state of the water.
Your line may be of any gauge from 15 horsehairs to one, according to the size of the quarry. Of course, the individual hairs will not be more than two to three feet long, so frequent knots will be necessary. To twist the hairs into a line, Juliana gives a picture of a most ingenious tool, a miniature rope-walk. The basic idea is that the hairs are held fast at one end of a short rod, and all twisted together on a little catch. She points out with regret that one bolt of the Instrument, as she calls it, must be made of iron by the local smith; but all the other parts are wooden, and may be made at home. The picture makes the design reasonably clear, at least to householders who were accustomed to making their own ropes for work on the land. Presumably, since the seasoning of the rod must take the best part of a year, fishermen then were willing to learn by experiment the right way of twisting a line.
Even Juliana admits that the manufacture of hooks is tricky. Working in metal was no part of the education of a lady, and, though it is easy to bend a red-hot needle into the right shape, the tempering that will give it strength is more difficult. The tools needed—files, tongs, anvil, hammer, etc.—are very small; they may have to be made specially by a skilled smith. For once, in specifying materials she does not begin right at the beginning, with the mining of the ore; probably because at that time first-class steel was not produced in England. The best raw material is osmund, the trade name for bundles of little steel rods imported from the Baltic; or you may cut out one stage and begin with needles of various sizes, from miniature embroidering points to shoemakers' brads. Any handy man or woman should be able to bend the hook, sharpen the point and "raise" the barb at home.
These homemade hooks will have no eyelet at the shank for attachment of the line. Instead, fine silk is bound downwards towards the hook end of the shank; the free end is led through the "hosepipe" formed by the binding and attached to the end of the line. The author notes that the line should always be attached "within the hook," on the barb side of the shank; otherwise the hook will lie crooked under strain.
Except in fishing for pike, where Juliana recommends a copper trace, there is no leader. At the other end the line is tied directly to the rod so that its length cannot be varied.
In the 15th century fly-fishing called for a very high degree of skill. For it was not a matter of persuading a fish to bite, then striking and hauling him in. Juliana expects her pupil to play his fish, if a big one is hooked on a light line, though if you are trying for a particular monster you should use a line strong enough to hold him whatever he may do. Her advice is perfectly sound: "Do not let him get out on your line's end straight from you, but always keep him under the rod so that your line may sustain and bear his leaps and plunges with the help of your crop and of your hand." Of course, if you can do that you can "lead him in the water until he is drowned and overcome." But she does not explain how you set about it.
There follow instructions on when and where to fish, what color of line to use in different conditions of water, and on tactics in general. Dame Juliana knows that the angler must keep out of sight, and that a shadow on the water is especially frightening. Her advice is the result of careful observation. But it may not be the author's observation; she may be repeating age-old country lore now written down for the first time.