By Thomas F. Schwartz
In response to receiving an inscribed copy of Herbert Hoover’s Fishing for Fun, Arthur Beeby-Thompson sent his friend a lengthy “thank you” on May 10, 1963, recalling many memorable fishing experiences in his world travels.
“It was indeed a pleasant surprise to receive ‘Fishing for Fun’ with your friendly wishes. I delayed not a moment in reading every word and was surprised how close your sentiments coincided with my own. Although no fisherman, in youth I indulged in exactly the same practices as you by fishing with a stick, hook and worm in streams, or hooking pikes which lay in wait for some passing fry. When older I used a spinning bait and tackle and landed many pike up in local rivers to 10 lbs. in weight. When still more mature I was invited to join a relative who had rented fishing rights over a 3-mile stretch of Spey. As a novice at fly fishing I suffered all the misfortunes of others while casting, but to my intense surprise after harsh tuition from a Scotch gillie I succeeded in landing three bonnie salmon this first day—8 to 10 pounders—after a struggle which closely agreed with the conventional periods of play at 1 lb. per minute. But the thrill of this first day has never been forgotten.
During my world-wide peregrinations I have found time for an occasional fishing excursion in open sea, mangrove swamps; and have even caught Scotch trout in a stream at 7,000 ft. in Kenya. I can also recall my surprise at tickling trout in a burn on a Scottish moor when instructed by a poacher who knew the tricks. In the Red Sea when anchored off coral reefs in a Government yacht, I shared with the Gippy crew the landing of enormous fish, all mouths, which literally chased us about the deck until exhausted by their leaps.
I also recall a day’s fishing on the Blue Nile just after the completion of the new dam. On the downstream side of the dam masses of large Nile perch collected in a pool struggling to find a way of proceeding upstream. On casting a line with bait of any kind a bite was immediately obtained, but a catch was rare as they plunged and swam with such strength that they either broke the tackle or dived so that they got the line entangled between boulders.
I also recall when in Russia trout fishing in a Caucasian mountain lake amidst glorious scenery. The local peasantry got their fish by exploding cartridges in the water and stunning the trout, and they smiled when we appeared with rod, flies and tackle. However, so innocent were the trout that when a cast of three flies was made the same number of trout took the bait that somewhat complicated a landing. When tired of this fun, we just waded in a steep in rushing mountain stream and hand ladled them out from shelters beneath boulders—not very sporty I fear.
Tarpon fishing off Trinidad shore appeared to represent a mixture of fishing and kite flying for their leaps in the air somewhat upset the normal process of playing them until tired.
Many noted fisherman used to proceed annually to Port Sudan from winter fishing in the harbor where fish abounded. Fish were so abundant that little time was spent in awaiting a bite; but having hooked a sizable fish few were captured as sharks, seeing the distress of a hooked fish, made a grab and quickly departed with fish, bait, line, and even tackle, unless the line broke.
I personally found greater pleasure in watching from a boat through a glass the great variety of small fish in innumerable colours and disguises that swam around the face of equally glorious coral reefs. Finally, I remember watching natives digging for fish in the wet mud left on the drying up of swamp waters connected with the Nile drainage in Uganda. Apparently, large fish had acquired the property of hibernating in mud during the dry season when the water level fell.
Apart from all these ‘fishy’ stories, I must say how much I also shared throughout life that love for Nature and its wonders, and the solitude of soliloquizing and musing in the wilds undisturbed by the passions and problems of human life. The sight of myriads of strange creatures, each struggling for some objective and each seeking protection from some enemy or calamity, showed that not man alone was afflicted with troubles.”