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painting of a sprawled out man fly fishing

Poem: A Fly from the Early Anglers

Devin Johnston

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In August, on a hot day,
walk by the Tweed and mark what falls
on the water, in some quiet place,
beneath a bridge, above a bed
of sand or gravell, wherever a Trout
lies boldly gleaming neer the top
and keeps watch for a wrinckle
betwixt him and the skie.

Take a brass-plate winding reele,
and for your line, five horses hayres,
and for your flye, a Cloudie Darke
of wooll clipt from betweene the eares
of sheepe, and whipt about with silk,
his wings of the under mayle of the Mallard,
his head, made black and suitable,
fixed upon a peece of corke
and wrapt so cunningly round the hooke
that nothing could betray the steele
but a hint of poynt and beard.

At no time let your shadow
lye upon the water
or cause a stone to clap on stone.
Be stil, and smoothly draw your flye
to and fro in a kind of daunce
as if it were alive.

This poem, which is included in Johnston’s new book Far-Fetched  draws on Gervase Markham (ca. 1568–1637) and Izaak Walton (ca. 1594–1683). Artwork: John Singer Sargent, Val d'Aosta: A Man Fishing.

painting of a sprawled out man fly fishing
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