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The World’s Greatest Angling Authors Went by Names Like ‘Badger Hackle’ and ‘Old Log’

If you're an angler and an author, there's a good chance you're using a pen name

If you’re an angler and an author, there’s a good chance you’re using a pen name—perhaps “Piscator” or “Hampshire Fisherman” or “Pelagius.” Angler pen names hit their heyday in the mid-1800s, but they also appeared as early as 1613, in the earliest known poetical treatise in English on fishing, The Secrets of Angling (written by John Dennys, a.k.a. “I.D. Esquire”).The list of pseudonyms that angling authors have taken up spans from obvious salutes to the fishy nature of their pursuit to the more thought-provoking (or eyebrow raising) “Sparse Grey Hackle”, “Detached Badger” and “Theophilus South.”

The American Angler, published in 1864, compiles a list of nearly 100 of the most significant angling author pseudonyms. By way of explanation, the books says only:

It may be interesting, in this connection, to note the well-known names, in American and England, of those who are enrolled in the coterie of angling authors, under various pseudonyms. To present a complete list, even of notable piscatorial writers who have assumed pen names, would be impossible, but according to Plato, “It is the commendation of a good huntsman to find game in a wide wood, so it is no imputation if he hath not caught all.”

The list of pseudonyms and initialisms, incomplete though it may be, has a range of time from the Waltonian period down to the present.

Fennel’s Priory explains the draw of writing and reading about fishing:

Traditional angling authors write about the peripherals of our sport – the nature around them and the joy of being by the waterside – as much as the act of catching fish. Their books are not so much technical instruction; instead they are entertaining reads that will transport you to a happier place.

Or as Arthur Ransome, author of the classic angling book Rod and Line published in the 1920s wrote, “To read a fishing book is the next best thing to fishing. It is like talk in the fishing inn at night.” Other authors, accoridng to Fennel’s Priory,  ”successfully articulate the emotional reasons why we fish.”

Nearly all of the great, if pseudonymous, angling authors listed in The American Angler are male. However, a few exceptions did exist. Some ladies who wrote of their love of angling included Mrs. W.D. Tomlin (“Lucy J”), Miss Cornelia Crosby (“Fly Rod”) and Mrs. H.C. Brown (“Beryl”).

More from Smithsonian.com:

Fish Story
Simple Pleasures at Nanny’s and Poppop’s 

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