Thursday, 21 May 2015

Fish Tale

The big buzz in our province is the opening of an enormous fishing and hunting supply store. Anglers throughout our region are itching to get inside to see the latest and greatest gear that they need to land the big one.
Now, as enthusiasts go, fishermen have some of the most amazing attire you will ever come across. A pass time that requires rubber pants, nets and hats completely studded with barbed fishing hooks suggests not only great passion….. but perhaps a wee bit of eccentricity. Fishing attire has not always looked this odd.
One hundred years ago it looked even more peculiar.


In this photo from our archives, a collection of intrepid explorers pose in front of Squirrel Cot, a fishing lodge on Dick’s Lake in Kings County. The group, in full Victorian attire, are ready for fishing adventure in the wilds of New Brunswick. In true Victorian fashion, no one sports a smile for the camera (it just wasn’t done – neither were ‘selfies’). 
Each steely gaze testifies to the serious nature of this rendezvous in the country but, more interestingly to the modern eye, is the clothing for this fishing adventure. The men are fully suited with jackets, vests and ties and sporting bowler hats and fedoras. On the porch in the front left corner one fisher holds an elegant leather bound booklet – slightly larger than a wallet – that contains his fishing lures. Another seated on the lawn holds a net on a pole so long that you just know it will be tangled and mangled in an alder bush within the first 100 yards to the river.
The ladies add their own unique element to the scene, wearing dresses with layers of petticoats and bustles and elaborate hats that would make a stroll in the woods pure delight. One has even brought along her pet parakeet in a wire cage to enjoy the wilderness – apparently Dick’s Lake had a scarcity of birds and you had to bring your own for a bit of atmosphere.
It is all so wonderfully strange to our modern view of relaxation and comfort and, at the same time, strangely wonderful.
The following article from the Kings County Record records Victoria Day celebrations at this same fishing lodge in 1908:

Kings County Record, May 29, 1908:
Victoria Day, which was observed on Monday, this year, proved an ideal holiday. The weather was all that could be desired and everybody took advantage of the opportunity to take a day’s outing. Saturday night trains brought in many visitors from outside points and numbers left town to spend two or three days with friends in other places. Altogether, railway traffic in and out of Sussex was unusually heavy and on Monday morning extra cars were brought to Sussex on the No 2 train.
Fishing parties were very numerous and large numbers of fish were brought back. At Squirrel Cot, Pleasant Lake, Walton Lake and Crawford Lake, the followers of Isaac Walton had good luck and brought back large fares. Some of the fish were good sized weight and the successful anglers were in particularly good humor as a result of their good luck. The riverbanks were lined with fisherman, young and old, and many trout were brought out during the day. Murrel Cole, a small boy, caught a trout measuring 16 inches, which weighed 2-1/4  pounds.
There were picnic parties in almost every direction and livery stable men did a rushing business and every available team was engaged by the pleasure-seekers, who arrived here in the early evening thoroughly satisfied with their day’s outing.
In the evening firework displays were made in different places and the youngsters, who took park in the fusillades, enjoyed themselves to the limit.

It's a wonderful image of a joyful bit of relaxation in summer, despite what the stiff pose of our picture might suggest. So, if you find yourself squeaking along river banks in hip waders with rod and reel, trying your luck in the many pools of Kings County, spare a moment for those that came before and relish your place in this long tradition.
Who says you can’t fish comfortably in rubber pants – or in a jacket, vest and tie?!

Identified in photo:
Top row: Mrs. Ed Hallett, Ed Hallett, Ed McIntyre (?), Mrs. Ida (Fairweather) White (2nd woman seated—wife of S.H. White), Samuel S. McLeod (?)
2nd row:  Ora P. King(?), Lottie Hallett (daughter of Ed), Walter Mills, Mrs. S.A. McLeod (?)

Bottom row:  Bill Fairweather, Fred Fairweather, Maggie Roach (?)

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