Modern Conditions

In the modern history of angling there are one or two features that should be touched upon. The great increase in the number of fishermen has had several results. One is a corresponding increase in the difficulty of obtaining fishing, and a notable rise in the value of rivers, especially those which are famed for salmon and trout. Salmon-fishing now may be said to have become a pastime of the rich, and there are signs that trout-fishing will before long have to be placed in the same exclusive category, while even the right to angle for less-esteemed fish will eventually be a thing of price. The development is natural, and it has naturally led to efforts on the part of the angling majority to counteract, if possible, the growing difficulty. These efforts have been directed chiefly in two ways, one the establishment of fishing clubs, the other the adoption of angling in salt water. The fishing club of the big towns was originally a social institution, and its members met together to sup, converse on angling topics and perhaps to display notable fish that they had caught. Later, however, arose the idea that it would be a convenience if a club could give its members privileges of fishing as well as privileges of reunion.

So it comes about that all over the United Kingdom, in British colonies and dependencies, in the United States, and also in Germany and France, fishing clubs rent waters, undertake preservation and restocking and generally lead an active and useful existence. It is a good sign for the future of angling and anglers that they are rapidly increasing in number. One of the oldest fishing clubs, if not the oldest, was the Schuylkill club, founded in Pennsylvania in 1732. An account of its history was published in Philadelphia in 1830. Among the earliest clubs in London are to be numbered such societies as The True Waltonians, The Piscatorial, The Friendly Anglers and The Gresham, which are still flourishing. A certain amount of literary activity has been observable in the world of angling clubs, and several volumes of "papers" are on the records. Most noticeable perhaps are the three volumes of Anglers' Evenings published in 1880-1894, a collection of essays by members of the Manchester Anglers' Association. The other method of securing a continuance of sport, the adoption of sea-angling as a substitute for fresh-water fishing, is quite a modern thing. Within the memory of men still young the old tactics of hand-line and force were considered good enough for sea fish.

Now the fresh-water angler has lent his centuries of experience in deluding his quarry; the sea-angler has adopted many of the ideas presented to him, has modified or improved others, and has developed the capture of sea-fish into a science almost as subtle as the capture of their fresh-water cousins. One more modern feature, which is also a result of the increase of anglers, is the great advance made in fish-culture, fish-stocking and fish-acclimatization during the last half-century. Fish-culture is now a recognized industry; every trout-stream of note and value is restocked from time to time as a matter of course; salmon-hatcheries are numerous, though their practical utility is still a debated matter, in Great Britain at any rate; coarse fish are also bred for purposes of restocking; and, lastly, it is now considered a fairly simple matter to introduce fish from one country to another, and even from continent to continent. In England the movement owes a great deal to Francis Francis, who, though he was not the earliest worker in the field, was among the first to formulate the science of fish-breeding; his book Fish-Culture, first published in 1863, still remains one of the best treatises on the subject.

In the United States, where fishery science has had the benefit of generous governmental and official support and countenance and so has reached a high level of achievement, Dr. T. Garlick (The Artificial Reproduction of Fishes, Cleveland, 1857) is honoured as a pioneer. On the continent of Europe the latter half of the 19th century saw a very considerable and rapid development in fish-culture, but until comparatively recently the propagation and care of fish in most European waters have been considered almost entirely from the point of view of the fish-stew and the market. As to what has been done in the way of acclimatization it is not necessary to say much. Trout (Salmo fario) were introduced to New Zealand in the late 'sixties from England; in the 'eighties rainbow trout (Salmo irideus) were also introduced from California; now New Zealand provides the finest trout-fishing of its kind in the world. American trout of different kinds have been introduced into England, and brown trout have been introduced to America; but neither innovation can be said to have been an unqualified success, though the rainbow has established itself firmly in some waters of the United Kingdom. It is still regarded with some suspicion, as it has a tendency to wander from waters which do not altogether suit it.

For the rest, trout have been established in Ceylon, in Kashmir and in South Africa, and early in 1906 an attempt was made to carry them to British Central Africa. In fact the possibilities of acclimatization are so great that, it seems probable, in time no river of the civilized world capable of holding trout will be without them.