Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Selectivity History- Vol_4- Waller Hills- Artistic Eloquence with Empirical Observation

A Masterpiece- I have read it a dozen times!!!

John Waller Hills -- artistic eloquence with empirical observation

Major John Waller Hills was the perfection of the British aristocracy. Having been honored in World War II and having an illustrious career in British Parliament, he chose to pursue these later life in search of the wiley trout of Britain's Hampshire chalk Stream country. He had access to all the prime beats of the River Test and with his affiliations with land barons, the Houghton Club and privy to private beats held by British nobility. Unlike the standard English country sporting gentleman, who was in search of easy quarry both by fly rod and gun, who was tucked neatly into his britches and Wellington boots, Tattersall and tweeds, Hills was an observant naturalist who spent as much time logging notes and diaries as he did tying on flies.

In his two highly acclaimed books, “History of Fly Fishing For Trout”,and ,”A Summer on The Test”, (1921-1952), he used to ask of authorship: one as a fly angling historian looking at the development of the sport and its flies; the other as a magnificent prose and observation on his days along the chalk streams on the world's most magnificent trout waters. For all selective trout anglers the Test chronicles should be read over -- and -- over which I have. Each time you read this magnificent and endearing account of the life of a fly angler and the pursuit of highly selective fish, you gain more insight into a world in which we don’t often“ stop to smell the roses’, in the heat of fishing pursuit.

In his”History”, Hills made great observations on the development of the dry fly, wets and nymphs. His giving credit to the modern establishment of the dry fly in the early 1800s to G.P.R.PULMAN, and with his work”Vode Mecum of Fly Fishing For Trout”, (18510, Hills gave accolades to Pullman for the first total dry fly concept of false casting to dry the fly in casting the fly to float over rising, surface feeding trout. Whether Pullman's account of false casting was to drive the fly or line, or to keep either floating, is still up to interpretation.
In Hills”History”, he had opinionated views on the whole Hallford versus Skues controversy. On Halford's views, Hills goes on to say:
“if he is to be criticized is because like most reformers he overstated his case. He considered that the dry fly has superseded for all time and all places all other methods of fly fishing, and that those who thought otherwise were either ignorant or incompetent. He did not realize and perhaps it is impossible that he should have realized, that the coming of the floating fly did not mean that previous experience and  previous knowledge were as worthless as though they had never been; but that meant that from then onwards fly fishing was divided into two streams. The streams are separate, but they run parallel, and there are many cross channels between them.”
As for Hills's comment on Skues development of the nymph he writes;
“Since Minor Tactics appeared, there has been another noticeable movement, the use of imitation nymphs. The underwater life of flies is much better known than it used to be, thanks largely to Hallford, and the names of the olive dun, the blue-winged olive, the iron blue and pale watery dun have been identified and are being copied. And those copies are not taking the form of traditional sunk flies, with head and tail, wing and hackle, but are being built on new lines, copying more closely the original. These are now being used extensively and with success on the shyest chalk stream trout.”
However, Hills's major contribution as an empirical selective flyfishing founder lies in  his observation on the natural world of the trout. He weaved the beauty with science like no other writer and describes the new Machiavellian selective fly anglers goal to observe, listen, watch and enjoy spectacle and hand. Hills writes:
“So much has been written about the scenery and surroundings of fishing, but a late comer in the field is reluctant to embark on it: so much good areas to which he cannot hope to obtain, so much bad into which he may easily fall. But, after all, scenery amd surroundings can hardly be omitted, for I doubt whether anyone thinks of his great days without at the same time recalling not only the weather which must be always be a permanent part of the picture in the fisherman's mind, but also the scenery. You remember the look of the river, the green of the reeds, the wind blowing over the thick bed of sedges, the long line of rustling poplars. And while most rivers are beautiful, especially to him who follows the river and not the road, there is quite particular charm about those of Hampshire and Wiltshire. It is hard to describe, but we all feel it, deep down in our beings. We may belong to the north and would not belong elsewhere if we could; but when May and June come we are caught and swept by a longing for those gracious and lovely valleys, which is not satisfied till we go there.
 In these happy valleys each season is a charm of its own.   There will come days in May when the olives will sail down in fleets.  As April runs into May, the valley changes greatly. The yellow-green of the young willows, bright green of the reeds, the blue-green of the iris, the vivid green of some water weeds -- these are seen simultaneously. May too is the month of the hawthorn, and thorn trees flourish particularly well on the chalk. And to the chalk stream fisherman Junr is the best month of all, for would not if he could choose a windless day in June? It is the month of the meadow flowers, and through the different shades of green are less marked and are merging into the summer sameness, the  yellow iris makes the banks a garden, the wild rose stars the hedges.  As summer goes on in the rest of the world grows dry and dusty, the valley remains green and cool. Running water is everywhere: racing in a miniature trout stream by the roadside; feeling deep brimming carriers, rivers in themselves; trickling and percolating over the fields. The Valley is a delight all year!”
Hill’s anecdotal accounts of the selective will trout become ever more enticing as his observations spin the reader delving into the essence of the poetic beauty of events such as a chalk stream mayfly hatch is meticulous in his insect identification. He used a narrow throat scoop and petri  dish and kept them in vials for taxonomic documentation. When he describes an evening on the River Test, you feel like you were there:

“But  it was now past six o'clock: in the spent fly began to come on the water. All over the surface mayflies were to be seen; they were in clouds in the air above, busy egg - laying, now dipping down and just touching the top of the stream, then rising in the air, then dipping again. They got thicker and thicker, and so did the bodies of dead mayflies floating down. If you're I followed an individual egg - layer, you noticed, if you could pick her out from the swarms of her companions, that her trips through the air got shorter, and her visits to the water more frequent, and that, instead of just brushing the surface in order to lay her eggs, she began to sit for a second or so upon it, until the time when she could rise no more. Then her work done, her store of six or 7000 eggs safely laid, the future of her race assured, she settled on the surface and sailed down upright; but soon she would give a shiver, one of her wings would collapse on the water, until finally she died and fell flat, wings extended in the form of the cross. Thicker and thicker grew the mass of fly over the water, more and more numerous those carried down by the current. At first those floating were present in all stages, sitting upright, or half collapsed, or dying, or dead: but soon the dead predominating, until all that could be seen with their bodies, the dead fly, the spent gnat. These came down in ever-increasing quantities. In the backwaters in eddie's they were packed nearly solid. In the main current, the quick swinging stream of the lower Test, they were separated only by inches. All the broad river was covered, and bore them seawards like a moving carrier. Now all these had escaped the attacks of trout and grayling, and the swifts andswallows and wagtails and warblers and chaffinches and many other birds which prey upon them: all of them had escaped, and had reproduced their species: when you looked at the countless thousands which floated down in the small time during which you saw only a small part of the river, you realized the quantities of them which had survived were so vast that the assaults of all their enemies made no appreciable impression on their numbers”      (SUMMER ON THE TEST)