Esoteric London

No. 1120: Westferry Road, E14

Posted in Sport by esotericlondon on June 13, 2014

©RogerDean_RED_1510 copy

Westferry Road, London, E14. Photo ©RogerDean 2014

Curiosities Of London Life: Or Phases, Physiological And Social, Of The Great Metropolis – Charles Manby Smith, 1857:

The angling season begins in London with the very first disappearance of frost and the first blush of blue sky in the heavens; and, with comparatively few exceptions, Sundays and holidays are the only days of sport. The young angler begins his career in the Surrey Canal, the Grand Junction Canal, or the New River, which ever happens to be nearest to the place of his abode. His first apparatus is a willow-wand, bought at the basketmaker’s for a penny, and a roach-line for fivepence more. A sixpenny outfit satisfies his modest ambition; and thus equipped he sallies forth to feed – not the fishes – them he invariably frightens away – but himself, with the delusive hope of catching them. The blue-bottles have not yet left their winter quarters, and “gentles” or maggots are not yet to be had; so he has recourse to kneaded bread or paste, hoping to beguile his prey with a vegetable diet. In order that the fishes may be duly apprised of the entertainment prepared for them, he crams his trousers-pockets with gravel, which he industriously scatters upon his float as it sails down the stream, doubtless impressed with the notion that the whole finny tribe within hearing will swarm beneath the stony shower to take their choice of the descending blessings, and finding his bait among them, give it the preference, and swallow it as a matter of course. The theory seems a very plausible one; but we cannot say that in practice, though witnessing it a thousand times, we ever saw it succeed. For the sake of something like an estimate of the amount of success among the juvenile anglers of this class, we lately watched the operations of a group of nearly thirty of them for two hours, but failed in deriving any data for a calculation, as not a fin appeared above water the whole time. With the exception of a few “stunnin’ bites,” and one “rippin’ wallopper,” which was proclaimed to have carried off a boy’s hook, there was no indication of sport beyond that afforded by the party themselves.
When the sun, bountiful to sportsmen, begins, as Shakspeare has it, “to breed maggots in a dead dog,” a new and superior race of anglers appears upon the margin of the waters. The dead dogs then have their day, and are now carefully collected from holes and corners by the makers and venders of fishing-tackle, and comfortably swaddled in bran, where they lie till their bones are white, originating “gentles” through the live-long summer for the use of the devotees of angling.

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