North Country spider article

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Anherd
Posts: 49
Joined: Sun Feb 02, 2020 4:06 am

Re: North Country spider article

Post by Anherd » Fri Feb 07, 2020 4:35 am

For people who are curious about how I came up with that comparative list so fast, I did it when Magee's book was published. In those days, Word had not long made it onto Windoze, and as far as I know, Les submitted his text as a typewritten MS. Believe it or now, I have dealt with a few authors who still do. Amazing.

I got into writing because when I was at medical school I moonlighted as a copy editor and a fact checker. That was back in the late 70s. My training consisted of being told that there were three types of writers: the trusties, the chancers, and the cheaters. As a fact checker, I had to identify them. The reason was that the paper's or the publisher's good name rested on publishing stuff that was correct, and as one editor pointed out to me, if he had wanted to publish fiction, he would have been with Gollancz, not a national newspaper.

The way things were checked, which I still do, was that you sat down and checked every date mentioned in a piece, the spelling of every name, relationships (fortunately Somerset House, where all the genealogy records were held, was across the road), any assertion that a writer didn't corroborate or footnote, whether two people who were said to have met could have met, the whole nine yards. It took forever, but you very quickly learned how good a writer actually was. If they made assertions that they couldn't corroborate, and didn't flag them up as such in the text, then they were a chancer. On the other hand, if they made errors where a date was hard to establish, and they got it a year out, or you came across a mistake that was easy to understand the reasons for, then—as long as there wasn't too much of that kind of thing—then they were probably a trusty.

Trusties have a background error rate which is a matter of experience, I guess, but in a book of about 200 pages published pre interweb, I would expect to find about 50-60 minor errors. The pre interweb thing is important, because checking anything usually meant going to London to find out and spending a day in the British Library, or Somerset House. That is why you don't see many fishing history books published prior to 1995—the fact finding was too much like hard work. Magee falls bang in the middle of that range, The book generates three pages of errors, mostly of the sort "P.87. Otley angling club was founded c 1841 not 1853. Walbran was born in 1851 not 1853. Pritt was not a member of the Appletreewick, Barden and Burnsall club," or, "T. W. Wilson should be T. K". Mistakes like those aren't serious, unless there are too many of them. Some of the mistakes in his book aren't really mistakes, because he wrote down things that other writers had accepted to be true, but which were subsequently found out not to be so.

Around the time that Magee's book came out, publishers started asking my opinion about angling books, and from that moment on, I began to see many of the manuscripts that had been submitted, and I would make comments. In my spare time, I kept up my skills by checking any book about the history of angling that did get published—and as I subsequently discovered so did another guy, who is a friend of mine now. The problem with history is that there are lots of dates, and some of the angling books were quite bad, with double or triple the error rates you would have expected pre-Interweb.

There was one particular manuscript, written many, many years ago. The publisher was going to reject the MS, because he didn't feel right about it, but he sent it to me anyway. I discovered meetings in it that couldn't have occurred (in one case, one of the guys was dead before the other was born) and errors that weren't really errors, because the author used them to build a case for other things he wanted to prove, but couldn't. If you didn't question each error, then the case looked convincing, but if you did, it fell apart. The guy is dead now, but I have always wondered why he risked writing something where there was such a big chance of him getting caught out.

People write books for all kinds of reasons, but one motivation is because they want generate respect and love—it is as corny as that. Sometimes that goes wrong along the way, and short cuts get taken and facts even get made up, to make stories seem more likely to the reader. Some publishers don't check, and a big warning flag against them is if you ring up and ask who their editor is, and they either don't have one, or it is the designer.

Finally, one of the reasons why I have all those pesky footnotes in my books is so that if someone asks me a question, I can just retrieve the evidence, as in Magee vs Lister.

TL; DR: Les wasn't perfect, but as a pioneer of the history of North Country fly fishing, he did OK by the standards of the day. Some modern authors are still repeating the mistakes he made though, the best warning flag I can think of being missing out the t on Norman Nellist Lee, and the Chippindale/Chippendale thing. Those are minor errors, but they make a wonderful audit trail.
ronr
Posts: 336
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2016 12:03 pm
Location: Central Oregon/Texas Transplant

Re: North Country spider article

Post by ronr » Fri Feb 07, 2020 8:38 am

This has been one of the most entertaining and interesting discussion I've found on the forum. My first born is an editor and has worked for publishers such as Bloomsbury and Chronicle Books, as well as free lance. Though most of her work was in fiction, she often commented about types of writers, and how well they researched their topics.
The historians on this forum provide so much useful information to someone like me who came to the sport late in life and will never have the time to gain their levels of knowledge and skill. So, thanks for doing the research for me.

History has always been perplexing to me a bit. Since none of us were around in the 17-1800's for example we are all at the mercy of the writings or verbal stories of those before us. Who can say what actually occurred, who said what, what were the biases of those early writers, and what really is the truth.... So we have historians to interpret and provide their opinions of what occurred... and as we all know... opinions are like arseholes... we all have them.. :roll: :D
Mike62
Posts: 296
Joined: Mon Aug 06, 2018 3:50 pm

Re: North Country spider article

Post by Mike62 » Fri Feb 07, 2020 1:44 pm

This is a fascinating discussion. I was a little taken aback at first by what I thought was an unnecessary broadside toward Mr. Smith, but Rob seems to have an arsenal worthy of rebutting Mr. Herd. I just finished reading McDonald's 'Quill Gordon', again, and the tone of this conversation is wonderfully similar to the way McDonald wrote of the heated discussions of antiquity over certain claims of authenticity.

The painting of the fishing monks has always been a favorite of mine, and now it's become the wallpaper for this computer. It also serves as a reminder of the back and forth between scholars over the authorship of the Book of Saint Albans. Was Julianna really a fishing prioress? Did monks fish? ...and why wouldn't they. I guess when scholars fall all about themselves over the details it can get a little pointed. I'm just glad the gentlemen here are willing to sit down and share a pint after this dust settles.

Carry on, gentlemen. Carry on.
DUBBN
Posts: 226
Joined: Sat Jul 06, 2019 3:41 pm

Re: North Country spider article

Post by DUBBN » Fri Feb 07, 2020 1:53 pm

ronr wrote:
Fri Feb 07, 2020 8:38 am
opinions are like arseholes... we all have them.. :roll: :D
Yes, and most people's stink, a lot more than mine.
😉
Anherd
Posts: 49
Joined: Sun Feb 02, 2020 4:06 am

Re: North Country spider article

Post by Anherd » Wed Feb 12, 2020 6:01 am

ronr wrote:
Fri Feb 07, 2020 8:38 am
This has been one of the most entertaining and interesting discussion I've found on the forum. My first born is an editor and has worked for publishers such as Bloomsbury and Chronicle Books, as well as free lance. Though most of her work was in fiction, she often commented about types of writers, and how well they researched their topics.
The historians on this forum provide so much useful information to someone like me who came to the sport late in life and will never have the time to gain their levels of knowledge and skill. So, thanks for doing the research for me.

History has always been perplexing to me a bit. Since none of us were around in the 17-1800's for example we are all at the mercy of the writings or verbal stories of those before us. Who can say what actually occurred, who said what, what were the biases of those early writers, and what really is the truth.... So we have historians to interpret and provide their opinions of what occurred... and as we all know... opinions are like arseholes... we all have them.. :roll: :D
Exactly right—and that's where people like the much maligned Les Magee are so useful. They blaze the trail, and maybe they don't get everything quite right, and inevitably they make a few mistakes here and there, but it is a hell of a sight easier walking the track they leave than doing it yourself. Second person through gets to smooth off the corners, everyone after that gets to admire the scenery. But everyone who walks the trail owes its existence to the first person who went there.
Anherd
Posts: 49
Joined: Sun Feb 02, 2020 4:06 am

Re: North Country spider article

Post by Anherd » Wed Feb 12, 2020 6:26 am

Mike62 wrote:
Fri Feb 07, 2020 1:44 pm
This is a fascinating discussion. I was a little taken aback at first by what I thought was an unnecessary broadside toward Mr. Smith, but Rob seems to have an arsenal worthy of rebutting Mr. Herd. I just finished reading McDonald's 'Quill Gordon', again, and the tone of this conversation is wonderfully similar to the way McDonald wrote of the heated discussions of antiquity over certain claims of authenticity.

The painting of the fishing monks has always been a favorite of mine, and now it's become the wallpaper for this computer. It also serves as a reminder of the back and forth between scholars over the authorship of the Book of Saint Albans. Was Julianna really a fishing prioress? Did monks fish? ...and why wouldn't they. I guess when scholars fall all about themselves over the details it can get a little pointed. I'm just glad the gentlemen here are willing to sit down and share a pint after this dust settles.

Carry on, gentlemen. Carry on.
The trouble with the Internet is that most of the content is so dull, that the moment two people don't absolutely agree with each other, it ends up getting built up into something like mortal combat. Comments that would pass between you and I in a bar as normal conversation end up being lit up like some kind of reality TV dispute between celebs, the difference being that the celebs get paid for doing it and you and I don't, fortunately!

What started this off was a question about what the Romans did for us, and Rob has put his view and I have put mine, and we are both OK with it. As Rob wrote further up this thread, he made a leap of faith that I am not prepared to take, and that is a perfect summing up of the position.

Some guy came up to me at the Fly Fair and said he was looking forward to seeing Rob and I lock horns, and he was hellish disappointed when I said that Rob was the guy I had just been talking to (-: I would imagine that Rob would have said the same of me.

So if anyone wants us to carry on, they are going to have to come up with a question for us to kick around. I am up for the Dame, but I can't speak for Rob.
wsbailey
Posts: 741
Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2009 6:30 pm
Location: Fort Wayne Indiana

Re: North Country spider article

Post by wsbailey » Wed Feb 12, 2020 9:18 am

I've spent a lot of time researching the colors in the descriptions of the flies in the Treatyse. Language changes greatly over time and words can't be fully understood in the way they were actually used in their time.
Anherd
Posts: 49
Joined: Sun Feb 02, 2020 4:06 am

Re: North Country spider article

Post by Anherd » Wed Feb 12, 2020 10:43 am

There we go, the flies for the Treatyse:

The most frustrating thing about the Treatyse is that there are paragraphs of instruction about how to die horsehair and nothing about how to die the flies, as WSBailey has doubtless cause to chew the table over!

In 1998 Connie Feely at Rogan's tied the flies for us and Partridge made a special set of hooks, so we could have some fun playing around to show our guess at what the flies might have been like. Mary Shiels in Wicklow did the dyeing of the materials using traditional techniques and the article was published in The American Fly Fisher.

Anyway, for everyone's interest, here are the dressings of the Treatyse flies. The entertaining thing about the flies is that they may not even belong to the rest of the MS, but they are the earliest printed list in existence.

These are the twelve flies with which you shall angle for the trout and grayling; tie them the way you will hear me describe:

March

The dun fly: the body of dun wool and the wings of the partridge. Another dun fly: the body of black wool; the wings of the blackest drake mallard; and jay under the wing and under the tail.

April

The stone fly: the body of black wool, and yellow under the wing and under the tail; and the wings, of the drake. In the beginning of May, a good fly: the body of reddened wool and lapped about with black silk; the wings, of the drake and the red capon’s hackle.

May

The yellow fly: the body of yellow wool; the wings of red cock hackle and of the drake dyed yellow. The black leaper, the body of black wool and lapped about with the herl of the peacock’s tail: and the wings of the red capon with a blue head.

June

The dun cut: the body of black wool, and a yellow stripe after either side; the wings of the buzzard, bound on with barked hemp. The maure fly: the body of dusky wool, the wings of the blackest male [could equally mean 'mail'] of the wild drake. The tandy fly at St. William’s Day: the body of tandy wool; and the wings contrary either against the other, of the whitest breast feathers of the wild drake.

July

The wasp fly: the body of black wool and lapped about with yellow thread: the wings of the buzzard. The shell fly at St. Thomas’ Day: the body of green wool and lapped about with the herl of the peacock’s tail: wings of the buzzard.

August

The drake fly: the body of black wool and lapped about with black silk: wings of the breast feathers of the black drake, with a black head.
Last edited by Anherd on Wed Feb 12, 2020 11:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
Anherd
Posts: 49
Joined: Sun Feb 02, 2020 4:06 am

Re: North Country spider article

Post by Anherd » Wed Feb 12, 2020 11:00 am

wsbailey wrote:
Wed Feb 12, 2020 9:18 am
I've spent a lot of time researching the colors in the descriptions of the flies in the Treatyse. Language changes greatly over time and words can't be fully understood in the way they were actually used in their time.
See my other post, and pitch in with some comments. I remember Mary Shiels being a delight to deal with—at one point she offered to bury a fleece in a bog to get a black! Amongst other stuff she used weld and madder, as I am sure you do. The latter, I gathered, is a PITA to get in Ireland, because the summers are usually too wet for it.

The trouble with the tying instructions is that they don't specify whether feathers should be wound as a hackle or put on as a wing, and so while they probably made perfect sense to whoever wrote the fly tying instructions in the mid 15th century (or whenever) they are pretty opaque now. I was all for tying the flies three different ways, but I remember Ola Bjerke (which I think was his name) who ran Partridge back then only had the capacity for making a couple of dozen hooks. Which was fine, because the alternative was converting an existing set of hooks and that did not appeal!
wsbailey
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Location: Fort Wayne Indiana

Re: North Country spider article

Post by wsbailey » Wed Feb 12, 2020 11:33 am

I don’t want to be like Johnson in his definition of oatmeal, but dyeing wasn’t much of a thing in Ireland. While dyeing in Scotland is well documented; the same can’t be said of Ireland. I think Donegal tweed would well represent the Irish tradition. Wool that was dyed would be boiled until it felted. It would be snipped into bits and blended with the wool from sheep of natural colors. I have a chart of some these blends and they were extensive. The Irish excelled at getting the most from what they had.
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