Young Knights of the Empire

by Sir Robert Baden-Powell


George and I would have gone pretty hungry in our camp and on our tramps while in Norway had we not both been able to catch fish, for there was little else in the woods to eat besides blue-berries (we were now too high up for the wild raspberries which are so good in the valleys).

Every Scout must know how to fish, otherwise he would feel so silly if he died of starvation alongside a stream full of trout. And fishing--like shooting, or cooking, or swimming, or anything else--is not a thing that you can do straight off without having practised it beforehand; so my advice to Tenderfoots is to take every chance of learning how to fish, so that they may be able to do it when they may be in need of fish for food.

Sea fishing, as you know, is generally done with a long line from a boat, with a good lump of lead on the end of the line, and a number of hooks every foot or so up it, baited with strips of fish with the silvery skin left on them.

Then in rivers and lakes you fish with rod and line, with a float to hold the bait at the right distance above the bottom. The hook is on a yard or so of gut line, which is invisible to the fish; this is weighted with split shot or small bits of lead, and the bait is usually a worm, or a grub, or a little bit of bread paste. This kind of fishing is called bottom fishing.

By the way, here is a good dodge for catching worms which every Scout ought to know.

Mix a little mustard powder in a can of water, and then sprinkle the water over a grass plot, and very _soon you_ will see worms coming up out of the ground in a tremendous hurry.

It would be rather a fine conjuring trick to play when people are not up to it--to take an ordinary watering-pot and apparently pour ordinary water on the grass, and then play a mouth-organ or whistle a tune to call up the worms. Someone else will be sure to try it, too, and if you have taken care to empty your can of mustard and water they will put in plain water and will get no result in the shape of worms.

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Then there is a third kind of fishing, and that is fly-fishing. It is the most difficult, but at the same time the most useful, because it is the only way that will do in the rapid rivers and streams with which you meet in the wilds; and also it can be used on lakes and slower rivers, and it is much the best fun.

All the boys in Norway catch their fish by fly-fishing. You have to have a whippy rod with a long line to it, and a long piece of gut (called the "cast") on it, with from one to three hooks made to look like flies on it, these are fixed at about two feet apart.

By using the rod as a spring you can throw the line a long distance to any point you wish, so that the flies will float past the nose of a fish and tempt him to rush out and swallow one.

The throwing of the fly--casting it is called--is at first the difficulty for a beginner, but it comes all right with a little practice. You can learn to do it perfectly well without going to a river and without having any hooks on your line to begin with.

Take a rod, and a line as long as a rod and a half, and try throwing it in a field or road or anywhere--till you can get the line to go out perfectly straight to its full extent on to the ground at the spot you wish. The great points to remember which are the key to success arc these: All the work is done by the tip of the rod, not the butt. Bring your rod back with a little jerk at the end to throw the line back behind you, but don't let the rod itself go back much beyond the upright position.


Before throwing the line forward again, give a pause so that it has time to straighten itself behind you--and that pause is the secret of the whole thing. It must not be too short, or your line will still be curled up when you shoot it forward and will not go out the distance you want, and if the pause is too long it will fall and catch on the ground behind you, and also will lose its spring. That is where practice is so necessary, so that you know exactly how long to pause.

Then an important point to remember is that the jerking of the rod, whether forward or backward, is done from the wrist and only slightly from the elbow, and not at all from the shoulder. A beginner would do well to tie his elbow by a loose strap to his waist, so as to remind him not to wave his whole arm as most beginners do.

All this sounds a good deal to think of, but if you go and practise it you very soon get into the way of it, and fly-fishing is the best sport that I know.

There are two kinds of fly-fishing, "wet" and "dry." Wet fly means that you let your flies sink into the water and you then draw them along under the surface. A dry fly is made in such a way that it floats on the top of the water as many natural flies do, and the fish, seeing it floating there, rises at it. This is the best sport of all fishing, but is also the most difficult to do well.

Of course, it is difficult for some boys to buy rods and fishing tackle, but a Scout ought to be able to make his own as most of these Norwegian boys do.


Cut a straight, whippy rod of about ten feet, put on a line of strong, thin twine, and a cast of horsehair out of a pony's tail if you cannot get gut, A hook is difficult to manufacture for yourself, though it can be done with a bit of wire and a file; but most Scouts going on an expedition take a few hooks with them as part of their outfit.

When I was out with George, I had to make myself a rod, as we only had one rod between us and I got tired of waiting for my turn with it; but we were high up in the mountains where the woods were thin, so I only got a poor choice of sticks from which to make one.

However, I cut down a likely looking birch sapling and trimmed him down, and he did pretty well; but he was not very springy, so it required more brute force on my part than skilful turning of the wrist to get my line out, But I caught a lot of fish with him all the same.

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One day I broke the delicate top joint of my fly-fishing rod by catching the fly in a bush during the back throw.

Well, it's no use giving up fishing because your rod is broken; the thing to do is to set to work and mend it. It is an accident which often happens, especially to a beginner, and every Scout ought to know how to mend his rod.

My rod had snapped off a few inches from the tip, so I took the ring off the broken tip, and, after trimming the broken end of the rod with my knife, I put the ring on to this and thus made my rod workable; but it was just a few inches shorter than it had been before.

This is the way to bind your ring on to the new tip--at least, it's the way I did it, and it served quite well for the rest of my trip.

Having no beeswax, I took some "gum" from the bark of a fir tree and rubbed a thin coating on the rod and on the black silk thread I had with me; then, putting the ring on to the end of the rod, I bound it there with a very careful and tight wrapping of the silk. This I had previously wound on to a stick so as to get a good hold on it for pulling each turn tight.

To fasten the end of the silk, proceed as follows:


After winding from A steadily up towards the point B (about an inch), when you have still about half a dozen turns to do, make a big loop of your silk C, and lay the loose end of it, B D, on the unbound bit of rod, and go on binding over it until you have reached the point B with your thread as in the sketch. You then pull D and the loop C gradually closes in till there is nothing left of it. Then you cut off the loose end D close to the rod.

Put a coating of gum or varnish over the whole to make it fast and watertight, and then you have your rod as strong and as sound as ever.

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In order to be able to fix your hook on to your line and to join up the different bits of line, you want to know how to tie your knots; but in addition to those which you have learnt as a Scout there are several more which come in useful for a fisherman.

I will only give you one or two here, but there are many others. These are drawn half tied, just before pulling tight.

Here is the overhand loop:

[Illustration: KNOT]

To join a line to a loop do it this way:

[Illustration: KNOT]

Much the same kind of knot is used to tie a hook to a line:

[Illustration: KNOT]

To join two lengths of line together, even when of different thickness, follow out this method:

[Illustration: KNOT]

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The Scout Law says that you should not kill God's creatures without good reason. It is allowable when you need them for food. In the case of fishing you often catch them when practising, but you need not kill every fish you catch; you can take them carefully off the hook and put them back into the water.

The hook as a rule catches them in the lip, which with them is not the tender flesh that it is with us, but merely a lot of bones held together by gristle, so they do not suffer pain as we should--and this is shown by the way the same fish will come on again after having been already caught.

When you want to keep a fish that you have caught, you should kill him at once and put him out of his misery, and this you can do either by hitting him on the head with a stick, or by driving your knife into his brain, or by putting your finger down his throat and then bending his head backwards and breaking his neck.

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Then when you have killed your fish you will want to cook him.

First of all you must clean him--that is, take his insides out. The stomach and guts of the fish are carried rather far forward in his chest, so with your knife you cut across the narrow bit of skin which joins his chest to his chin, and with the point of the knife underneath the skin slit the skin of his chest and belly open as far as the fin near his tail. Then cut through the gut in his throat and the whole of his insides will be let loose to fall out.

But before doing this, if you have slit the belly neatly it is interesting to look at the wonderful insides which he carries--the heart, and lungs, and liver, and intestines, all beautifully arranged and kept in their place and protected by the delicate ribs. It is a wonderful piece of God's work, and when you come to find that each trout that you catch is made exactly in the same way, and just the same as a trout that you may catch in New Zealand on the opposite side of the world, you begin to understand what a wonderful Creator there must be Who makes us all, and gives this wonderful kind of machinery inside the body, which keeps life going for us.

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There are many ways of cooking your fish. The usual way is to fry him in a hot frying-pan. A slit should be cut in each side of the fish, as otherwise the heat is likely to burst his skin. A little salt and a pinch of mustard put in with the butter in the pan will add to his flavour.

But the simplest way, for you don't generally carry frying-pans with you when you go fishing, is to cut a long stick that bends at an angle of forty-five degrees. Cut one arm to about one-third the length of the other. Trim the short arm with your knife till it is fine and pointed; pass this through the fish's mouth and then through the flesh near his tail, and toast him by the fire, back downwards, with a small lump of butter and a pinch of salt and mustard powder in his inside. You will find him very good eating! A clean, flat stone makes a good plate.

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There, now I've told you how to catch and kill and cook your fish, I hope that you will soon be able to do it, and I wish you the old salutation which every fisherman wishes to another when they start out to fish, "A tight line to you," meaning that I hope you will get a big one on.

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