Troutmanship

STEPHEN POTTER has published in the Atlantic some of his most instructive articles on Gamesmanship or, The Art of Winning Games Without Actually Cheating. New that the season is at its height, tee have asked him to apply his research to that special group of fanatics who muddy up every mealtime with their talk of pools, dry flies, and the speckled beauties which got away. This essay is a chapter in Mr. Potter’s forthcoming book, which will also contain his account of It inesrnanship, Rockmanship, and Clubmanship. More later.

by STEPHEN POTTER

WHAT a complex world is here! Yet in the relatively small province of our little Correspondence College, we have made enormous headway and gained the thanks of all the fishership community by delining once and for all the two basic trout approaches, in one of which students are expected to satisfy the examiners.

Our visiting reader, J. Hargreaves, is a pleasant teacher who plays the two-approach system admirably himself. With newcomers, he demonstrates this twoness with a pair of ordinary fishing rods, one of which is new, the other old.

Rodman ship

The man who still keeps his old rod is pitted against the man who has just bought a new one. Old Rod makes the first move: —

OLD ROD: I like it. I like it. I like it. Of course I’m in my forties. I suppose my old one will see me through. Ought to. Ought to. Ought to.

NEW ROD (countering implied criticism): I was sorry to see my hist rod go. Hut if one really fishes in waler like this . . . You know ... I suppose one kills aboul a rod a season? Mind you, if you don’t go in for these acrobatic casts I’m always attempting, rat her unsuccessfully . . .

OLD ROD (pretending to suspect origin of rod): Tell me — where did you . . .

NEW ROD (no, it wamit mass-prod need): Well you know — “Jackie” Hampton happens to be rather a friend of mine. And my difficulty is that Tm not really comfy unless the action is, well, inches nearer the butt than normal . . .

OLD ROD (outgambited but fighting hack): Don’t worry . . . don’t worry . . . it’s like a woman. You get used to it. In a couple of years, anyhow, it will be part, of you. Even if you don’t catch many trout.

If New Rod’s rod is longer, with a longer line, and the river needs it. Old Rod will be in difficulty. Spandrel’s Underthwart can be used here.

SPANDREL (old-rodding): Nice rod, but it isn’t alive till you’re about fifteen yards out. I like to throw a shorter line myself.

With right inflection, O.R. can suggest that, he is an ancient, almost neolithic virtuoso of the trout stream, a sort of Red Indian really, belly to the ground, who finds no difficulty in trout work at ten yards.

Troutmanship Basic

After practice in the two-approach system with rods, students may then start practicing troutmanship proper.

This is essentially A vs. B. A the purist, the scholar of dry fly, vs. B the rough-and-ready, the ham, the hack.

“Tell me frankly,” says A the purist, “were you fishing the water or the rise?

To counter t his accusation of just chucking aboul, the student trained in Old Rodship should have no difficulty. I’m hound to say that Gattling-Fenn was at his best in this situation. Shirt open to the waist and apparently mil-brown to the navel (actually he wore a “Suntan Gypsyvest”), Gattling was able to imply “For Heaven’s sake!”

“ For Heaven’s sake!” he said, and the gleam of his almost, suspiciously white teeth suggested “A wandering gypsy I, bred from a long line of poachers — and born natural hunters to a man, like every Englishman born a mother’s son.”

While suggesting every word of this, Gattling was at the same time able actually to say: “I had him in a corner — I’m bound to say the fly was a bit damp (digging scholar trout man in ribs). I’m afraid it was the old Spam Special. I had to rob the sandwich ...”

The following Hargreaves Hampers are worth study and are useful to others besides Iroutinen.

1. Do not cast in presence of other fishermen. Proved odds are 28 to 1 against anything happening. So if A says, “Have a go at him,” you, B, should reply either, “No — you. I had a good day yesterday,” or “Oh, that one? He’s nearly had me once already. Iluddy great chub.”

2. Arm yourself against the man who catches fish bigger than yours in the same water: —

TROUTMAN: That’s a good one. What does it weigh ?
LAYMAN: I don’t carry scales.
TROUTMAN: I’ll weigh it for you ... 1 ¾ pounds. That’s funny. How long is it?
LAYMAN: Frankly, I don’t earn a tape measure eit her.
TROUTMAN: I do. . . . Thought so. Under 16 inches. That’s the trouble with this water—it won’t stand fish this size. Ought to be 2 pounds. It’s gone back.

Layman begins to realize he has caught a fish practically fainting for want of food. He could have picked it out of the water with his bare hands.

3. Always be more observant than your rival: —

TROUTMAN: Anything moving?
LAYMAN: Not much. You saw the fish just below the boathouse?
TROUTMAN: Oh, you mean the one with the torn tail?

4. Rub it in. If, for instance, rival makes clumsy cast, go on and on pointing it out. Thus: —

TROUTMAN (smiling through clenched teeth):Now you’ve put him down. Now you have pul him down. Crikey, were you trying to brain him? Doubt if he’ll put his nose up for a week. Should think he’d rather drown. I’ll move upstream a bit, I think. Happens to all of us.

5. Snob-play with flies, Cogg-Willoughby once had an invitation to fish at — The owner, last of the great sportsmen-Marquises, was later proved to be in Rhodesia at the time but Cogg built up a considerable snob approach on these lines: —

COGG (rubbing the bridge of his nose with one finger): No, I always tie my own. One thinks of the girl — some unfortunate woman at Redditch making twenty-four flies an hour. And I use a dressing recommended by Rude. Jim Rude, you know, ———s keeper. He quite opens up to me, now.

This subject is still very “young,” as we call it at Yeovil—that is, there is still a lot of loose fishing play within our orbit, and a dozen gambits have not yet been properly described. That is why I am glad to mention Marshall’s “Mangier” — a gambit invented by H. Marshall and needing a finesse and urbanity of execution which totally belies its sobriq uet.

The general object is to express an enormous Upper Sivthism so devastating that practically no one else can ever speak about fishing again: and it is done in this way :—

The catching of your specific fish is a problem, and must be so approached, without fervor, without even enjoyment.

On one side of your equation is your possibly fly, x. On the other, certain variables.

Let x = weather ʺ y = width of stream ʺ y1 = flow of stream ʺ & = probable age of trout ʺ a = wind ʺ TT = humidity ʺ y = temperature of water

Then, by a simple calculation jotted down in a waterproof tent with unrunnable ink on unsmudgeable paper, you get some such equation as this: —

y16 o /x7/ y1 — 8 fir 7r

= Split’s Indefatigable or Aunt Mary’s Special

Hand this result with your rod to the gillie and walk quite slowly away, leaving him to catch the actual fish.

Marshall has learned to rub in the effect of all this by turning up on the bank in a bowler hat and a dark pin-stripe and a pair of thin, blindingly well-polished black shoes, in which he delicately picks his way through pool and undergrowth.