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The Autobiography of a Fisherman

The Autobiography of a Fisherman

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    The Autobiography of a Fisherman
    Book Description:

    With the recent selection of Frank Parker Day's 1928 novelRockboundas CBC's 2005 "Canada Reads" winner, interest in the life and work of Day has never been greater. In 1927, Day wrote his autobiographical reflections on fishing, family, and, more broadly, humanity's place in the natural world.The Autobiography of a Fishermanis a wonderful recollection of one man's life, with characters struggling in a depressed economy, contending with the social pressures of local village life, and responding in one way or the other to the pull of the big city.

    Day details his early introduction to fishing, which becomes a life-long passion, at once a 'gentle art' and a 'disease'. Studying at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship ('it was easier to get one in those days'), his fervour for fishing is shared by many, but while at the University of Berlin studyingBeowulf, he laments that he 'did no trout fishing.'

    Eventually, Day returns to Canada and is hired as an English professor at the University of New Brunswick, knowing it to be 'the centre of a well-watered district.' The reader sees him through his final episode of fishing with his father before his father dies, as well as the First World War, during which time he 'never wet a line', and beyond, as he marries, builds a family, and continues to fish. Day's reflections suggest the restorative powers of the environment and should appeal to even those readers who have never thought to sit quietly by the side of a stream, line in hand, waiting.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8051-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
    (pp. 1-12)

    The year 1892 is my Anno Domini from which I work backward and forward to reconstruct my memories of early fishing. That date is fixed by an indelible memory related in time and place. The great World’s Fair was to be held in Chicago, and children all over America were told by their schoolmasters to write copybooks in their fairest hands, for from these multitudinous copybooks the best were to be selected to be shown to the millions thronging the great exhibition. Perhaps it was only a shrewd device to advertise the Fair, perhaps only a trick to stimulate our...

    (pp. 13-44)

    The farm was a failure, and we went back to preaching, moving by train and then eighteen miles in carts over the Wentworth mountains to Wallace, a dreary place for a fisherman. The Wallace River was too far away, and no brooks were close at hand: I never caught a single trout while we lived there.

    After three years, we moved on to Acadia Mines, the place of my Anno Domini, a little mining village set in a river valley between high hills that contained shallow deposits of low-grade iron ore. There were a blast furnace, a rolling mill, and...

    (pp. 45-66)

    I WAS fourteen when we moved from my fisherman’s paradise to Mahone Bay on the south shore, where for a while I had no trout fishing and, as a rather sorry substitute, began to learn something of ships and the sea. There were no lakes or trout streams within reach, and the fleet of vessels that sailed every spring to the Grand Banks and the Labrador to fish for cod became a new interest. The lives of the fishermen were romantic and adventurous. I made friends with one stout red-faced skipper, Enoch Mason, a giant man weighing three hundred pounds...

    (pp. 67-78)

    I was seventeen and ready to enter my sophomore year in the university, but as I could not go until I had some money, I got a position as under master in the dreariest of boarding schools, at a salary of one hundred and fifty dollars a year with board and lodging. At this school, which was well run by a heavy-handed, old-fashioned schoolmaster, were gathered boys who were backward or unmanageable at home; some were feebleminded and obscene, others downright rowdies. Corporal punishment was the order of the day. I used to teach all day and have charge of...

    (pp. 79-90)

    Then college and football absorbed me. I was suddenly a man tall and strong; I used to glory in my strength in those days, and get a thrill out of bursting through the line and sending lesser men spinning like ninepins. I fell in love, fishing was almost forgotten! In my college there were no fraternities and few social functions; we led rough, vigorous lives and did a little thinking. I remember I used to feel that my brain was growing, as I sat at my little deal table and tried to solve in my mind some complicated syllogism in...

    (pp. 91-105)

    I WON a Rhodes Scholarship—it was easier to get one in those days—went to Oxford, and for four long years was separated from my lakes and still-waters. I wrote little poems about them in the seclusion of my rooms with my thick oak barred, and sustained myself by dreaming of them in many hours of loneliness, since I made friends with the English slowly. Once, on a holiday excursion, I fished in County Wicklow with Bobby Barton, a mild-tempered young fellow, who since has become a furious Sinn Feiner and languished in prison for his convictions. The stream...

    (pp. 106-121)

    At last I was free of Europe and came home like one returning from exile. As I paced the deck of the steamer, my heart was almost bursting with eagerness, though I knew it was too late for fishing that season. Still, I could explore through September and locate likely pools and streams. I was to be professor of English at the University of New Brunswick at Fredericton, which I knew to be the centre of a well-watered district. I was travelling second class on a boat that moved with the speed of a sick whale: fourteen knots was the...

    (pp. 122-132)

    It was while I was in Fredericton that I made my last fishing excursion with my father, who had retired from the mission field and was living on his slender pension with my brother in Pictou County. I went down to visit him in early June, and after a long day of talk, Father proposed that we go fishing together on the morrow. He had, he informed me, already explored some good lakes and streams. Though old, weak, and half sick, he was still full of good cheer. For fifty years, he had bumped over rutted roads or travelled in...

    (pp. 133-143)

    I was in Pittsburgh at the Carnegie Institute of Technology when the war broke out to carry me off from quiet and peaceful pursuits to four years of restless worried life in which I had no time to fish and scarcely time to think of fishing. From my father I had inherited a love for horses, and, while at Oxford, I had joined a yeomanry regiment, the King's Colonials, now the King Edward Light Horse, so that I might have a horse to ride for nothing. But one seldom gets something for nothing in this world. After three years’ service,...

    (pp. 144-149)

    The war was over: I came home tired and worn-out, obsessed with one idea—I wanted rest, quiet, and peace; I wanted never to speak again without necessity or to give or receive an order. I wanted to live in the woods, and be alone along my streams. A puny hand that reached up and clutched my forefinger warmed in my heart a hope, but even that faded in the memories of the war. “Poor little chap,” I thought, “he, too, may march away proudly in twenty years, to fight in a horror that some perverted madman has initiated.” What...

    (pp. 150-164)

    Boni’s meadow is my favourite nearby fishing place; I can go there, fish the pools, and be back home in three hours. The name in itself is alluring, for no one in the country knows who Boni was, or whence he came or when he owned the meadow. I am fortunate in the names of all my fishing places, Boni’s Meadow, Burnt Brook, Three Branch Brook, Dean’s Brook, Black Water, Brazil Lake Brook, Clearwater Lake, Lake Jesse, Lot’s Lake. To get to Lot’s Lake, one has to pass Obb’s Camp, and I never go there without getting a thrill out...

    (pp. 165-170)

    In the early morning, just after sunrise, I take my fishing gear in one hand, sling my canoe on my shoulder, and go down to the lake. The canoe is light but broad of beam, for Arch built it for me a few winters ago, just as we had planned it. Arch, one of my best country friends, is rather trapper and hunter than fisherman; he can make anything in wood with a hatchet and jack-knife. He is proud and silent, quick to take offence but a prince of good fellows, a perfect companion in the woods. If he accepts...

    (pp. 171-186)

    Salmon fishing is a kind of postgraduate course to trout fishing. When one has caught a great many trout and has become convinced that he has mastered the art, his heart may turn for a little toward salmon fishing, though he never forgets his first love. Several years ago, I was infected with the virus. There are two good salmon streams near my bungalow at Lake Annis: the Tusket that rises in inland lakes and dashes through many white waters to the Atlantic, and the French Salmon River that flows out of the big lake at Maxwellton to Saint Mary's...

    (pp. 187-199)

    After the fever and excitement of salmon fishing, I always go back to my trout streams. Salmon are temperamental fish; sometimes you may see a dozen great fellows in a clear pool, rubbing their bellies against the gravel or darting to and fro in the current; sometimes the river is full of playing fish that leap from the water or roll out to expose a silver side, and, though you whip every kind of fly you possess over them all day, not a rise will you get. Days like these are sources of disappointment and irritation to the fisherman, who...

    (pp. 200-202)

    One morning last summer, my wife, Donald, aged seven, and I put our canoe and camping gear on an ox-cart and had them hauled to the foot of Lake Edward. Donald rode triumphantly on the top of the pile, shouting in shrill treble to the birds and trees, just as I had ridden years before on our treks from village to village. We loaded the canoe snugly, so that she would trim well, and set off up the lake, keeping close to the eastern shore. My wife paddled bow, I had the stern paddle, and Donald, tied fast to a...