"We Have Always Done It This Way!"
Reading an article, that had nothing to do with
fly angling, I came across a story that could easily
apply to many things we do in fly angling. It was a
story on why railroad rails in the United States are
exactly 4 feet 8 ½ inches in width.
By Steven H. McGarthwaite
Early railroads in the United States were built by
English Engineers, who were the experts at that time,
in constructing railroads. The railroads in England
were 4 feet 8 ½ inches wide, because that was the axel
width between wheels on the horse carriages for road
travel. On dirt roads back then, the wheels would cause
ruts when the roadways were wet, and a common wheel
width would insure that a carriage would not suffer
a broken axel. But just how did that exact measurement
came about? It is such and odd measurement.
The axel width story goes back to the Roman Empire.
Roman Legions had Chariots, and those Chariots, had
a wheel width distance of exactly 4 feet 8 ½ inches.
Reason for this was that two horses hitched in tandem
side by side pulled the Chariots. The two horses hitched
in tandem, side by side, resulted in a horse hoof pattern
on the ground of 4 feet 8 ½ inches width. Since it was
important that you not have a horse going lame, the
horses would pull the Chariots thru the ruts in the
roadway made by previous Chariots.
All carriages were of a width no wider than the combined
width of two horses' ass. All roadways were made wide
enough that two horses' ass, could easily pass two other
horses' ass, heading in the opposite direction. All
bridgework and tunnels were designed with horses' ass
taken into consideration and measurements.
Just what does all this has to do with fly angling? Fly
angling is steeped in history, most of it obscure and
mysterious. Many times, you will hear someone say,
"Because...We have always done it this way!"
It matters in the type of fly you fish with, or how
you tie a fly. "We have always done it this way!"
It matters in building a fly rod, designing a rod handle,
or spacing the guides. "We have always done it this way!"
Does matters how you think you should fish a stream.
"We have always done it this way!"
So the next time you hear someone tell you the reason
you are wrong, "Because we have always done it this way!"
Just remember that there is a good chance that there was
a Horses' Ass involved with the reason, somewhere in the
distant past! ~Parnelli
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