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There, you've done so already, and nearly broken the top joint of your rod against the rock. You must shorten your cast to about 3 ft., and wind up till the gut touches the top ring. Then pitch your fly against that large, mossy stone that breaks the rush of the water; then, as the fly falls back into the eddy, look out for squalls. There, you've got him, and a nice one, too: but the difficulty is to get him out. You cannot lift your rod, because of the branches overhead ; so you let the line run out, and push the rod further up stream, and move up yourself till you come within reach of your captive, who is held, by the help of a good yard of gut and a stiff rod, right under a little cascade, and you insinuate your fingers softly under him, and ladle him out. Risky work, undoubtedly, but all the more pleasant because exciting. There will be a little more room higher up, and you may probably get more than one fish out of each pool. This one is a good half-pounder, and in a certain hole further on you may expect to get one three-quarters, or, if you are extremely lucky, a pound in weight; for the deep holes sometimes shelter uncommonly good fish, and just here are not sufficiently “comeatable” to be cleaned out every summer by the farm lads groping and netting with two pole nets, after the manner of their kind.
The reader must imagine the capture of the succeeding fish for himself. To help his imagination, let him think of the dark, cool water, eddying in and out of the cracks and crannies, boiling over the polished rocks, and splashing the long golden-brown and darkgreen moss on the perpendicular rocky sides of the chasm—for such it is—up which we wade ; of the graceful ferns and odorous flowers that grow on every ledge, of the drooping branches and pendent wild l'oses, and, in spite of the deafening noise of the water and the monotone of the insects, of the strange feeling of loneliness and quiet which— Murder! what's that? Ha! ha! ha! While you were sitting on a stone fastening on another fly (the last was sucked under that root and lost), you were not aware that your head was within a foot of a dipper's nest, and that, just as you were turning your head to seek some fresh beauty to descant upon, its occupant, thinking all was not quite as it ought to be, or alarmed at the idea of a poet being so near her, left her nest with a mighty whirr, brushing your face as she went. Enough to startle anybody, wasn't it? What a 'cute place for a nest, under the edge of the bank, and looking like a magnified wren's ; and how effectually that drooping fern conceals it! The five pure white eggs are quite hot, and will soon be hatched. It is late, though, for the dippers to breed, for I have found their nests early in March; but, perhaps, her first was plundered.
Now we come to the last and best pool of all, and oh! for the skill of—but no! no one's skill could reproduce that picture. The stream, after a wild leap over a ledge, spreads out to some five yards in width, deep at the upper end, but shallowing as it broadens. Through the leafy archway, which there comes suddenly to an end, you see a small meadow bright with flowers, a picturesque farm and mill, and then the hill side, and, beyond and above, the bright, fleecy blue. On either side the wood comes down to the brook, and here and there we see the blue haze of the hyacinths, while through the green roof a marvellous chequerwork of light and shadow falls on the rippling water, and is thrown back in quivering reflections on the rocks and tree stems. To crown the picture, on a projecting branch, and in a patch of sunlight, sits a kingfisher gorgeously attired. But we are fishing, not painting—so silence. There, if that beauty is not within an ounce of a pound, I am much mistaken!
Turn them out on the grass in the open-two dozen! That's what I call good sport for burn fishing, and sport, also, that you will only get in the spring. Bythe-by, how dappled many of the fish were when they came out of the water; sometimes one whole side would be light-coloured and the other dark, or maybe the shoulder light and the rest of the body dark, or otherwise curiously varied. This, I suppose, is caused by the fish lying in deep holes, against the stones, and with but a scanty allowance of light. They are beginning to get of a uniform colour now, though.
Over the crest of the hill yonder you come upon boggy land; and, although the brook there is very small, it contains some fair-sized fish of a deep rich colour, and were it not getting late we would take a cast there ; but it is time to be turning. When we get to the high road we see two or three anglers who have been fishing in the lower waters of the brook, where the fishing is much easier, though to my mind not so pleasant. That man in a mason's dress with bulging coat pockets, has, ten to one—for I know him of old—been fishing with preserved salmon roe!* Here is a city youth out for a week's fishing in the country. Look at his big basket and bran new rod. Poor fellow ! the former is empty, and its owner is downhearted. He probably does not admire burn fishing; we who are successful do.
Burn fishing, however, can only be enjoyed to advantage in the spring. In the summer heavy rains
* It is the most deadly bait known, and its use is prohibited by Act of Parliament, under a penalty of £2.
will bring the fish upon the feed, but as the water is then thick, the worm (or sometimes a small minnow) must be used? Often, too, on hot bright days, when the water is low and clear, a small well-scoured redworm will take them when nothing else will. Of course one cannot expect the sport in burn fishing that one gets in a river, but nevertheless it is very enjoyable.