Muriel Foster's Fishing Diary
Muriel was born in 1884 into a large, upper middle-class family and as a child seemed to prefer the activities of her two brothers rather than the more conventional pursuits of a small girl, although an interest in embroidery heralded an artistic talent that blossomed as she grew older. Her talent was such that she attended the Slade School of Art, studying under Henry Tonks and eventually exhibiting at the Royal Academy, and it is this talent for art that enriches her fishing diary, making it a thing of both beauty and delight.
Muriel did a lot of her early fishing on the West coast of Scotland, in and around Loch Broom. She fished with a fly rod for salmon and trout, but also ventured into the sea lochs for more diverse species, and almost every page, everything she did and saw is illustrated with elegant water-colours and drawings. Latterly, her interests moved to the waters of the Granta river in Cambridgeshire which she continued to document in both words and pictures, though after the Second World War, growing problems with arthritis made both illustration and fishing increasingly difficult, and the diary ends in 1949 with a small,poignant panel containing the words "FINIS ARTHRITIS!"
Aside from being a marvelous object, the book also gives a remarkable insight into the fishing of the past, the flies used and the sheer volume of fish to be caught. There is one entry that stood out to me, however. May 14th 1948 saw her fishing with her brother, Osborn Foster, who took fish on a fly described as "Osborn's Fly":
"This dressing was taught O.B.F by Patterson, the old man (now dead) who made Rods for Ogden Smith's"
The book was produced in three editions, the first was a small format, much abridged version titled "Days on Sea, Loch and River" closely followed in 1980 by a full facsimile, bound in faux-leather and a slip case. A later edition was produced by Penguin STUDIO in 1996, boxed and bound in claret book-cloth. Both editions are accompanied by a leaflet which acts as an introduction to the book, written by her niece, to whose father, Osborn Foster, mentioned above, the book is dedicated.
Although the book is now out of print, it is still freely available in the second-hand market. Buy a copy, you will not be disappointed. Better still, buy two and give one to your fishing partner.