Monday, 19 January 2009

Proper Impetus

Datus Proper was a retired Foreign Service officer who wrote What the Trout Said: About the Design of Trout Flies and Other Mysteries, one of the best books ever published on fly tying. That's saying something since fly fishing and fly tying literature are some of the earliest books published in the English language. The Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle, attributed to Dame Juliana Berners, was published as part of the second edition of The Boke of St. Albans in 1496.

Sometime in the late 1980's, browsing the shelves in the Ben Franklin Bookshop in Nyack NY, I ran across a copy of Proper's Pheasants of the Mind: A Hunter's Search for a Mythic Bird; until I held it n my hand, I did not know it existed. I did know that beside his fly tying book, Proper had written a travel book about Portugal but I was completely unaware of his bird hunting book and, in a real way, it changed my life.  It was reading Proper's Pheasant book that was the impetus for me to buy a shotgun and hunt game birds; for fly tying materials and to eat wild meat.

As far as I can tell, aside from a blurred and tiny reproduction of the same image, the photograph above may be the only  photograph  of Datus Proper on the web. I photographed the back flap of his Designing Trout flies to get it.

Datus Proper died on July 27 in 2003 while fishing near his home in Montana at age 69. It was a kind of freak fishing accident; fishing with a friend, but alone at the moment, he apparently fell, hit his head on a rock and drowned in shallow water. He had an erudite appreciation of sporting traditions, fine firearms, hunting dogs, good cooking and fine food. Although I never met him myself I miss him.

1 comment:

  1. Ichabod Crane with snow white hair, partial to shotguns with 16" stocks and 32" barrels, dry humor, a love of dogs, eternal cheer. Wish I knew him better but we did hunt together and he taught me things.

    Both his trout and pheasant books plus Dame Juliana will be in my next...