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EVERY trout-fisher knows a spot like that described by a Shropshire clergyman in the following lines :6. Where round about the mossy stones the glimmering water whirls, With bubbles making rings of light and strewing shadowy pearls ; Where through the sunlights and the shadows, by the ancient roots, Under the grey arch fringed with fern, the arrowy ousel shoots, Where the larches' glorious greenness shines all up the slanting
height, Greenness shining, not a colour, but a tender living light.”
And although he may not be able to reproduce in print, for the benefit of others, the impressions that the beauty of earth, wood, water, and sky make upon his mind, or though he may not even care to talk about them, for fear of being accused of “sentiment” (of which most men have a wholesome horror), yet he feels them all the same, and perhaps all the more deeply.
The praises of trout fishing have, goodness knows, been sung often enough, yet there are hundreds for whom the dose cannot be made large enough. With the hope, therefore, of pleasing these, and of bringing to the recollections of the elders of the guild the keen delights and healthy excitements of their younger days, I ask my readers to accompany me on another fishing excursion.
It is a sunshiny afternoon late in April. A few showers in the morning have wakened into life all the myriad forms of animal and insect life that we see about us as we strike into the wood. The singing of the birds is almost deafening. No wonder they put forth all their powers on such a day as this; I, too, feel inclined to burst into song, but am restrained by the knowledge that I have no voice. My vocal powers have been so persistently denied by an otherwise appreciative family, that I do not care to commit myself. Never mind, I can listen. As we wend our way along the mossy glades, the rabbits flit across in numbers, giving a derisive flip of their white tails as they seem to recognize the harmlessness of the fishing rods we carry. Acting on the rule that it is always best when walking along the side of a hill to keep high, we proceed along the crest of the wood and listen to the brawling stream which flows far down on our left. We catch glimpses of it sometimes through the lacing branches and the “ tender, living light” of the fresh spring foliage. We are not going to angle in a river, but a brook, or, more properly, I suppose, a burn, seeing that it is a mountain stream. Here we are, at last, at the path which leads down to it, and a quick run, with a leap or two over fallen logs, brings us to its banks. The rain of the morning has raised the water a little, but has not discoloured it much ; the mud soon clears away in a quick running stream. It is in famous order for fly-fishing, though.
It is quite probable that a worm would be as successful as a fly, and could be more easily worked in and out of the crannies, and under the roots and big stones; but, as we aim at being thoroughly sportsmanlike, worm fishing is tabooed, and—we had no time to get good bait before starting. How easy it is to be virtuous when we can't be otherwise! Well!, on with your fly—only one. It does not matter much what fly it is, so that it is in season and has a pretty rough body to hide the hook, for sometimes you are constrained for room in burn fishing, and you may not be able to give sufficient life to your fly to induce a trout to run at it without deliberation. Suppose, for instance, you had crept through the underwood to
the tail of a pool to which there was no possible access higher up, and you have to cast up stream, and let the fly float down towards you ; then it is very important that it should have the look of a drowning caterpillar, and have its sting well concealed from the spotted gentleman, who sails up to it without hurrying himself, for he knows that it cannot escape him. Then you may have the satisfaction of knowing that in all probability he will not escape you.
Generally speaking, one man is quite enough to fish a small burn; but, if there are two, let them take the pools turn and turn about, which is generally easy enough, if the banks are open, as, owing to the sinuosity of the brook, the pools, though close to each other, are yet not within fish sight. Each hole has a gradually deepening shallow above it, which is usually productive, and this can always be fished without interfering with the tail of the next. After first wetting our casts in the shallow under the wooden bridge, we are ready to begin. Now, it will not do to stand close to the stream unless there is covert; and here there is none. The brook flows through a green, mossy glade for about eighty yards, without a bush on its banks, and in no place more than six inches deep. So crouch down at some distance off, and watch the sparkling water, golden
brown against the gravel, and by-and-by you will see shadows hovering here and there, which you know to be trout on the feed. As the capture of one will effectually frighten the others in its immediate neighbourhood, you may as well look out for the biggest. There he is, under the lee of the opposite bank. Now, throw just above him. Ah! you have thrown too high, and one of the small fry has darted in, and in an instant is hopping about on the grass. That is a pity; but it cannot be helped, so basket it. We should throw it in again if we were fishing in a river, but we cannot afford to do so here. And now, for a while, we shall have a series of nice pools, from each of which it is easy to pick a trout, or, perhaps, two; but the cream of the sport awaits us further on. For a quarter of a mile the water comes down in a series of small cascades, wildly hurrying over the rocks, and boiling furiously in deep pools under overhanging ledges. On either bank, all the way up, the alders, hazels, and brambles crowd and hang over the deeply-cut channel, forming an impervious barrier to the thin-skinned angler, and meeting overhead in a leafy tunnel, up which we must wade. Ah, how cool the water is ! Take care how you make your way over the polisheú stones; you may easily slip in up to your waist.