He is only a sentimental fiction.

By Gregory Clark, June 23, 1923.

You know this freckle-faced, barefoot country boy, with a string of fish dragging on the ground and an old alder pole in his hand?

Have you ever seen him?

Sure you have – in cartoons.

Did you ever see him in the life?

Not likely. For he is only a sentimental fiction.

He is often pictured as selling his string of trout or bass to some perspiring and disappointed city man who is laden with scores of dollars’ worth of expensive fishing tackle.

He is quoted right and left by those who don’t fish for the discomfiture of those who do. If a man goes away for a week-end of bass, and comes home without them because wind or weather were against him, his motoring or gardening or golfing friends crow at him about the freckle-faced country boy with the willow tad who can go out any old time and bring home a string as long as your leg.

This country boy, however, is one of those sentimental fictions of which the world is unfortunately full. Fictions such as this hide the truth and are at the root of half the ills of the universe. This barefoot boy was conceived and is kept alive not by the scoffers, but by the anglers themselves. All good sportsmen like to cover their defeats with good-humored self-derision. When a man goes out for trout, and gets none, he does not blame the wind or the weather, which are really to blame. He blames himself, and says that he passed some freckled urchins on the stream who were getting plenty. When a man will so deride himself, watch out.

With a patience covering many years, I have hunted for one of these country boys I have heard so much about. I would meet boys on the side roads with willow gads and bare feet and freckles, with all the equipment, in fact, except the fish. I have encountered country boys on streams, and they have hung around me for hours watching my methods, trying to learn the secret, and hinting broadly in the hope that I would part with some of my bagfull of beauties.

Up east of Toronto I met four boys striding down the highway towards the lake. There was a likely looking trout stream crossing where we met, and I asked the boys if there were any fish in it.

“No,” they replied. “The on’y fish they is hereabouts is down in the Pickering River. Perch and suckers.”

Having long ago discovered the country boy to be the worst-informed angler in the world, I promptly disembarked at that stream, and as the boys went on with winks and grins, towards the Pickering River, I unlimbered all my tackle.

That evening we met again. From the Pickering River came the four barefoot country boys and their willow gads. One had three dried and miserable little perch on a twig. The other three had nothing.

And I had a bag of twenty as nice trout as ever graced a frying pan.

Needless to say, I didn’t show them my fish. I intended coming back to that creek. No, I admitted I had caught nothing, and they passed proudly up the road with their three perch, grinning derisively, perfectly conforming to the legend of the freckle-faced country boy.

And that’s the way it should be.

I could recount scores of instances such as that one. Like any good fisherman, I can tell them by the hour.

In fact, I am all for organizing a new fishing competition in which, on the first of June each year, the best ten trout fishermen in the National Club, say, or any other such easily sorted institution, would go up to Orangeville, or some such centre, and compete with the ten best barefoot, freckle-faced country boys of that neighborhood. At dawn of the first of June, the two parties would be turned loose on a given township, in which are enough trout creeks to accommodate twenty anglers.

If the country boys win, then the country boy crack can be sprung on all anglers for the current year.

But if the city anglers, with their fancy tackle, win, then the rule would be that the country boy gag be buried for the current year.