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 Est. 1998

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Quotations about Fishing

He wins Few Fish with Rod or Net
Who fears to get his Clothing wet.
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Fish," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924

A bad day of fishing is better than a good day of work. ~Author unknown

Somebody just back of you while you are fishing is as bad as someone looking over your shoulder while you write a letter to your girl. ~Ernest Hemingway, "Trout Fishing in Europe," 1923

The trouble all lies in the old sophistry that men who like to sit on the bank of stream or lake and watch a float or wait for the feel of a bite must necessarily be of the shiftless sort. This planet is covered with sordid men who demand that he who spends time fishing shall show returns in fish. ~Leonidas Hubbard, Jr., "The Anglers of the Wharf," 1902

I love fishing. You put that line in the water and you don't know what's on the other end. Your imagination is under there. ~Robert Altman, "What I've Learned," in Esquire, 2004

Angling... a stick and a string, with a Worm at one end, and a Fool at the other... ~Thomas Frankland, Cautions to Young Sportsmen, 1801

I know a dandy place to fish,
The kind of place that makes you wish
There never was no work er school,
An' all you had to do was fool
Around all day with line an' pole
An' pull 'em out of that there hole.
~Douglas Malloch, "The Fishing Hole," c. 1912

Fishing is boring, unless you catch an actual fish, and then it is disgusting. ~Dave Barry, "Borrrinnng!," in The Miami Herald, 1994,

Water constitutes only one part of the puzzle a fisherman is eternally trying to solve. The other part, of course, is the fish... There he stands, draped in more equipment than a telephone lineman, trying to outwit an organism with a brain no bigger than a breadcrumb, and getting licked in the process. ~Paul O'Neil, "In Praise of Trout," in LIFE, 1964

It has always been my private conviction that any man who pits his intelligence against a fish and loses has it coming, but this is a highly un-American thought. ~John Steinbeck, "Fishing in Paris," in Punch, 1954

The best way to a fisherman's heart is through his fly. ~Author unknown

Trout are quite unaware of their exalted status. All the romance of trout fishing exists in the minds of the angler and is in no way shared by the fish. ~Howard F. Blaisdell, The Philosophical Fisherman, 1969

There is certainly something in angling, if we could forget, which anglers are apt to do, the cruelties and tortures inflicted on worms and insects, that tends to produce a gentleness of spirit, and a pure serenity of mind. ~Washington Irving, "The Angler," The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., 1821

Here's to the fish he caught,
Here's to the one that got away,
And here's to the one he bought.
~Author unknown

...for I tell you, Scholar, fishing is an Art, or at least, it is an Art to catch fish. ~Izaak Walton (1593–1683), The Compleat Angler

      Yes, I know it, they are bony, and they are muddy and they are not often lauded in anglers' stories; but there's something about perch-fishing that no other angling gives — it's the return of youth...
      [Y]ou got up before dawn and stole downstairs to the dim kitchen. A drink of milk, a doughnut, and a triangle of pie; then you stole out quietly to the barn and got the spading-fork. Then the search, armed with fork and tomato-can, under the broad leaves of the rhubarb-bed, back of the hen-house and down by the cow-barn, until you had enough worms for the day's sport. Then, of course, you left the fork sticking in the ground — you never would learn to put things away — and started off. Through the garden and orchard, stopping long enough for a handful of currants and a pocketful of sopsyvines — over the pasture-bars, eating a handful of huckleberries or lowbush blackberries here and there. Into the wood road, — very dark and still in the dawn, — where you stepped along very quietly so as not to disturb the bears. You knew perfectly well there were no bears, but you rather enjoyed the creepy sensation. Then out through the deep wet meadow-grass to the river, where the sun was now beginning to burn away the wisps of mist, and the red-winged blackbirds were making a tremendous fuss over their housekeeping. You reached the river-bank at the pout-hole, or the big rock, or the old willow (of course, you know the exact place), and then you started fishing.
      The river slipped dreamily by, the meadow-grass waved about your head, the sun climbed high, and the day grew warm. Perhaps you caught some perch — perhaps you did n't. What did you care? it was good to be sitting there... you were fishing; everything else was unimportant; you knew they would be looking for you to help get in the hay; you knew you had left the fork out back of the barn; you knew your chores were n't done. Ah! well, these were all petty troubles, not to be considered when one is fishing.
      How many times since, when you have sat chained to a desk, have you wished that your duties might be slighted as easily, and that you could reach for your pole back of the kitchen-porch and start for the river? ~Anonymous, "Perch-Fishing," The Contributors' Club, The Atlantic Monthly, May 1908

There's a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot. ~Steven Wright, 1988

A plain and simple answer for
      This riddle's what we wish:
Does fishing make men liars, or
      Do only liars fish?
~New York World, 1900

All fishermen are liars; it's an occupational disease with them like housemaid's knee or editor's ulcers. Deacons and doctors alike enlarge upon "the one that got away," measuring off with ecclesiastical or surgical fingers the size of the mythical monster. ~Beatrice Gray Cook, Till Fish Us Do Part: The Confessions of a Fisherman's Wife, 1949

What do the little fishes do
      That make most truthful men untrue,
      Whose word in all's as good as gold
      Until a fishing tale is told?
A five-inch fish my friend pulled out—
      His "monstrous catch" he talked about.
      To give its size—oh wondrous charm!—
      He measured off full half his arm.
It was a most elastic fish,
      Would stretch as far as he could wish.
      Each time he told the fable o'er
      The fish elongated the more.
A crowd drew round to hear the tale;
      It last became a little whale.
      Its length he showed in all his pride—
      His arms extended clear out wide!
Must he now give account for lies
      Like these, somewhere beyond the skies?
      Or will Saint Peter wink his eye,
      And understand, and let him by?
~Joseph Morris, "Fish Stories," Songs for Fishermen, 1922

When they go fishing, it is not really fish they are after. It is philosophic meditation. They like to smoke a pipe peacefully by the river side and watch the clouds go by. They sit for hours on the edge of a pier in a bleak sou'-wester, and it is little or nothing to them whether they take anything home to tea. They put their large feet firmly down on slippery rocks and brace themselves against the wind, while every ninth wave drenches them with spray; of course they wouldn't mind pulling in a few big ones if it were in the day's work, but the main thing is to get as wet as possible and think great thoughts until it is time to go home. ~E. T. Brown, "On Gambling," Not Without Prejudice, 1955

Half the charm of fishing is that it generally takes one into beautiful scenery. Catching fish is not all of fishing. ~J. Arthur Hutton, "Some Pre-War Fishing in Norway," c. 1931

It is remarkable that many men will go with eagerness to Walden Pond in the winter to fish for pickerel and yet not seem to care for the landscape. Of course it cannot be merely for the pickerel they may catch; there is some adventure in it; but any love of nature which they may feel is certainly very slight and indefinite. They call it going a-fishing, and so indeed it is, though, perchance, their natures know better. Now I go a-fishing and a-hunting every day, but omit the fish and the game which are the least important part. I have learned to do without them. They were indispensable only as long as I was a boy. I am encouraged when I see a dozen villagers drawn to Walden Pond to spend a day in fishing through the ice, and suspect that I have more fellows than I knew, but I am disappointed and surprised to find that they lay all the stress on the fish which they catch or fail to catch, and on nothing else, as if there were nothing else to be caught. ~Henry David Thoreau, journal, 1853

"Carpe diem" does not mean "fish of the day." ~Author unknown

ANGLER:  A man who spends rainy days sitting round on the muddy banks of rivers doing nothing because his wife won't let him do it at home. ~Author unknown

If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles. ~Doug Larson, as quoted in The Reader's Digest, 2000

Spare the rod and throw in the reel. ~Student, Brookside School, Long Island, completing the first part of the proverb as given by Candid Camera, CBS, 1966

The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but obtainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope. ~John Buchan, unverified

Save face, save the ego at any price — too often it's all a fisherman brings home. I've heard sterling characters swear to the most unlikely stories simply to cover their humiliation. For it is embarrassing to have a wee bass outthink you. I've seen a fifteen-pound salmon make a sucker out of a top-flight executive and a rainbow fool a psychology professor. Those big fish don't get that way by being dumb; a trout that doesn't think two jumps and several runs ahead of the average fisherman is mighty apt to get fried. ~Beatrice Gray Cook, Till Fish Us Do Part: The Confessions of a Fisherman's Wife, 1949

For thee, thou need'st no such deceit,
For thou thyself art thine own bait;
That fish, that is not catched thereby,
Alas! is wiser far than I.
~John Donne (1572–1631), "The Bait"

I am against roads. I am against detergents. I am against insecticides. I am against logging. I am against flood control. I am not against golf, since I cannot but suspect it keeps armies of the unworthy from discovering trout, but I pity them for playing it when they could be putting a fly on the water. ~Paul O'Neil, "In Praise of Trout," in LIFE, 1964

Gone fishin' — Be back at dark-thirty! ~Author unknown

Oh, fishing isn't fishing,
      If fishing doesn't mean
      A generous lot of loafing
      In a pleasant rural scene...
Oh, fishing isn't fishing,
      If fishing doesn't mean
      A joy in dancing waters
      And vistas, cool and green.
With a slender pole to cling to
      Lest Izaac Walton frown,
      A thousand miles from trouble
      And a half day's ride from town...
~Lalia Mitchell, "Fishing," early 1900s

Even if you've been fishing for three hours and haven't gotten anything except poison ivy and sunburn, you're still better off than the worm. ~Author unknown

I never lost a little fish — yes, I am free to say
It always was the biggest fish I caught that got away.
~Eugene Field, "Our Biggest Fish," A Little Book of Western Verse, 1889

Bait.— One animal impaled upon a hook in order to torture a second for the amusement of a third. ~"Specimens of a Patent Pocket Dictionary, for the use of those who wish to understand the meaning of things as well as words," The New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, 1824

Enjoy thy stream, then, harmless fish;
And, when an angler, for his dish,
Through gluttony — vile sin!
Attempts, a wretch! to pull thee out,
Heaven give the strength, O, gentle trout,
~John Wolcot (1738–1819)

Calling fishing a hobby is like calling brain surgery a job. ~Paul Schullery, "Home River," Mountain Time, 1984

A feller gits a chance to dream,
      Out fishin';
He learns the beauties of a stream,
      Out fishin';
An' he can wash his soul in air
That isn't foul with selfish care,
An' relish plain and simple fare
      Out fishin'.
~Edgar Guest, "Out Fishin'," Breakfast Table Chat, 1914

"Men will grow weary," said the Lord,
      "Of working for their bed and board.
      They'll weary of the money chase
      And want to find a resting place
      Where hum of wheel is never heard
      And no one speaks an angry word,
      And selfishness and greed and pride
      And petty motives don't abide.
      They'll need a place where they can go
      To wash their souls as white as snow.
      They will be better men and true
      If they can play a day or two."
The Lord then made the brooks to flow
      And fashioned rivers here below,
      And many lakes; for water seems
      Best suited for a mortal's dreams.
      He placed about them willow trees
      To catch the murmur of the breeze,
      And sent the birds that sing the best
      Among the foliage to nest.
      He filled each pond and stream and lake
      With fish for man to come and take;
      Then stretched a velvet carpet deep
      On which a weary soul could sleep...
      And so on lakes and streams and brooks
      The Good Lord fashioned fishing nooks.
~Edgar A. Guest, "Fishing Nooks," Just Folks, 1917

The blessings of fishing include not only Edgar Guest's "wash of the soul" with pure air, but they also now include discipline in the equality of men, meekness and inspiration before the works of nature, charity and patience toward tackle makers and the fish, a mockery of profits and conceits, a quieting of hate and a hushing to ambition, a rejoicing and gladness that you do not have to decide a blanked thing until next week. ~Herbert Hoover, "In Praise of Izaak Walton," c. 1930

And I am the willinger to justifie the pleasant part of it, because though it is known I can be serious at seasonable times, yet the whole Discourse is, or rather was, a picture of my own disposition, especially in such dayes and times as I have laid aside business, and gone a fishing... ~Izaak Walton (1593–1683), The Compleat Angler  [To the Right Worshipfull John Offley, from Your most affectionate Friend and most humble Servant, Iz. Wa. —tg]

Three-fourths of the Earth's surface is water, and one-fourth is land. It is quite clear that the good Lord intended us to spend triple the amount of time fishing as taking care of the lawn. ~Chuck Clark, unverified

Anxious by the gliding stream,
See the steady anglers watch,
Trying every wily scheme,
The heedless finny tribe to catch...
And thus they toil from morn to night,
But then they get—
      Get what?
A bite!
O, the joys of angling! O, the joys of angling!
Now the drizzling rains descend...
Still their watchful looks they bend...
But ere they get it to the shore,
He snaps the line, they're balk'd once more;
Then home they go, the tale is told,
That they have caught—
      Caught what?
A cold!
            O! the joys, &c.
~"Angler's Duet," The Encyclopedia of Comic Songs, 1820

You cannot catch trout with dry breeches. ~Proverb

You must lose a fly to catch a trout. ~Proverb

On the drive back home, Finley was fairly spewing with famous outdoor quotations... "There is no greater fan of fly fishing than the worm." ~Patrick F. McManus, Never Sniff a Gift Fish, 1979

Fishin' ain't jest ketchin' fish
      In a pond or river—
Though a fresh trout on a dish
      Makes ye sort o' shiver—
Fishin's settin' on some spot
Where it's neither cold ner hot,
Without thinkin' on your lot—
      Fortune, love, or liver.
Fishin's gettin' far away
      From all noise and flurry;
Gettin' off where you can play
      Nothin's in a hurry;
There to sort o' loaf and set,
Blind to all the things that fret,
And forgettin' all regret,
      Quarrils, cares, and worry.
Yessir! I'll give up ambition,
And fer fame and fortune wishin'
Any day to go a-fishin!
~John Kendrick Bangs, "Fishin'," 1914

Our tradition is that of the first man who sneaked away to the creek when the tribe did not really need fish, a tradition developed for us through thousands of years and millions of river lovers. ~Roderick L. Haig-Brown, A River Never Sleeps, 1946

Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, and crystal brooks,
With silken lines and silver hooks...
~John Donne (1572–1631), "The Bait"

If you've got short, stubby fingers and wear reading glasses, any relaxation you would normally derive from fly fishing is completely eliminated when you try to tie on a fly. ~Jack Ohman, Fear of Fly Fishing, 1988

Nothing makes a fish bigger than almost being caught. ~Author unknown

A feller isn't thinkin' mean,
      Out fishin';
His thoughts are mostly good an' clean,
      Out fishin';
He doesn't knock his fellow men,
Or harbor any grudges then;
A feller's at his finest, then
      Out fishin'.
~Edgar Guest, "Out Fishin'," Breakfast Table Chat, 1914

      Scholars have long known that fishing eventually turns men into philosophers. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to buy decent tackle on a philosopher's salary. I have always thought it would be better if fishing turned men into Wall Street bankers, but that is not the case. It's philosophers or nothing.
      I became a philosopher at age twelve, after a scant six years of fishing. One evening at supper I looked up from my plate and announced, "I fish; therefore, I am." ~Patrick F. McManus, Never Sniff a Gift Fish, 1979

All little books on dynamics contain in big black letters the following exciting statement:
Fortunately, this is translatable. It means: "If a trout doubles the speed with which he darts up at a fly, he is putting out four times the amount of energy." ~J. W. Dunne, Sunshine and the Dry Fly, 1924

...for Angling is somewhat like Poetry, men are to be born so: I mean, with inclinations to it, though both may be heightened by practice and experience; but he that hopes to be a good Angler must not onely bring an inquiring, searching, observing wit, but he must, bring a large measure of hope and patience, and a love and propensity to the Art it self... ~Izaak Walton (1593–1683), The Compleat Angler

      And Angling too, that solitary vice,
      Whatever Isaac Walton sings or says
      The quaint, old, cruel coxcomb, in his gullet
      Should have a hook, and a small trout to pull it...
It would have taught him humanity at least. This sentimental savage, whom it is a mode to quote (amongst the novelists) to show their sympathy for innocent sports and old songs, teaches how to sew up frogs, and break their legs by way of experiment, in addition to the art of angling, the cruellest, the coldest, and the stupidest of pretended sports. ~Lord Byron

I hate fishing—
Most overrated amusement
But because it's
And old as sin—
It's thrillingly popular!...
~Jack Appleton (b.1872), "Poor Feesh!"

Men and fish are alike. They both get into trouble when they open their mouths. ~Author unknown

This morning as I went to work
      (For work I was not wishing),
A worm crawled briskly out and said:
      "Come on, let's go a-fishing!"
~Anonymous, "The First Worm," early 1900s

There will be days when the fishing is better than one's most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. Either is a gain over just staying home. ~Roderick L. Haig-Brown, Fisherman's Spring, 1951

A boy and his dad on a fishing-trip—
There is a glorious fellowship!
Father and son and the open sky
And the white clouds drifting lazily by,
And the laughing stream as it runs along
With the clicking reel like a martial song...
Which is happier, man or boy?
The soul of the father is steeped in joy,
For he's finding out, to his heart's delight,
That his son is fit for the future fight...
Oh, I envy them, as I see them there
Under the sky in the open air,
For out of the old, old long-ago
Come the summer days that I used to know,
When I learned life's truths from my father's lips
As I shared the joy of his fishing-trips—
A boy and his dad on a fishing-trip—
Builders of life's companionship!
~Edgar A. Guest, "A Boy and His Dad," When Day Is Done, 1921

I am angling now,
Though you perceive me not how I give line.
~William Shakespeare, Winter's Tale, c. 1610  [I, 2, Leontes]

Frateretto calls me, and tells me Nero is an angler in the
lake of darkness. Pray, innocent, and beware the foul fiend.
~William Shakespeare, King Lear, c. 1605  [III, 6, Edgar]

Third Fisherman:  I marvel how the fishes live in the sea.
First Fisherman:  Why, as men do a-land; the great ones eat up the little ones...
~William Shakespeare, Pericles, c. 1608  [II, 1]

How from the finny subject of the sea
These fishers tell the infirmities of men;
And from their watery empire recollect
All that may men approve or men detect!
Peace be at your labour, honest fishermen.
~William Shakespeare, Pericles, c. 1608  [II, 1, Pericles]

There are times when it would seem as if God fished with a line, and the devil with a net. ~Madame Swetchine, translated by Harriet W. Preston

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