Hawthorn Fly Fishing & Angling Collection

An angler's autobiography Halford, Frederic M. (Frederic Michael), 1844-1914 1903

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3 9424 06203 2476
An Angler's Autobiography
:. HALFORD 1$$
Harry Hawthorn Foundation
for the
Inculcation Sc Propagation
of the Principles Sl Ethics
of Fly-Fishing  I AN  ANGLER'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY *■  Frem. themotojra/ik Cy FurlcyZoris. Jtratford Studios. J&nsin?'6m..
Hurler's  Hutobiograpb^
" Detached Badger" of " The Field "
Author of "Floating Flies and How to Dress Them"
'Dry Fly Fishing in Theory and Practice," "Making a Fishery'
and "Dry Fly Entomology"
Editor   of   The   "Field"
VINTON & CO., Limited
9 New Bridge Street, Ludgate Circus, E.C.
I must tender to readers my humble apologies
for writing the history of my angling life from childhood to the present day. After all, the episodes of
this uneventful career are of interest only to a few
intimate and dear friends, and may be to many of the
brotherhood of anglers with whom we are ever in
sympathy, even if our hands have never met in per
sonal fellowship. When I was urged to write this
book 1 had grave suspicions that it must savour far
too much of egotism to be justified. The only excuse
I can offer is that the idea was originally suggested
to me by good friends as a proper completion of the
series to which I have occasionally referred. I am
but too conscious that my powers of descriptive
writing are but limited and my appreciation of witty
and pithy anecdotes far below the average. I have,
however, done my best, and must ask the readers
to endeavour as far as possible to palliate my short-
The blame of persuading me to the task must
be thrown principally upon my old friend William
Senior and my publishers, and after them I must
accuse my dear friend Major Cooke Daniels of being largely responsible for this work. He warmly supported the views of the genial Editor of the Field,
and has, like him, read and in many respects improved the text in proof. In one respect the
assistance he has rendered has been simply invaluable. A remarkably able and experienced photographer, and one eminently capable of composing
the best possible picture of any landscape or view,
he devoted many long days of last summer to travelling with me to the various spots to be illustrated,
and took hundreds of photographs, placing all the
negatives at my full disposal for reproduction.
Besides the numerous photogravures and halftones bearing ,his name, the inception of the idea
of giving half-tone initial letters and tail-pieces
to the chapters is entirely due to him, and they
have without exception been reproduced from his
My thanks are also due to the proprietors of the
Field, who have, as in previous books, tkindly given
me permission to re-publish articles or other matter
which have appeared in their columns from my pen.
The representatives of my deceased friends, whose
portraits are given in this book, one and all acceded
without a moment's hesitation to my request for permission to publish, and have given me all possible
assistance by submitting prints in their possession
and obtaining in many instances the use of the negatives for the purpose of reproduction by photogravure.
Mrs.  Marryat  kindly placed at my disposal all   her
\ late husband's negatives, and Mr. Charles Moss was
also kind enough to let me use the negatives of the
views he had taken at Houghton in 1892. The view
of Houghton Mill was taken by my old friend Arthur
N. Gilbey ; Mr. E. J. Power had the view of the
Brae Pool on the Spean taken specially : and to all
of these my deep gratitude and thanks are heartily
My previous books were written with the intention of conveying instruction to the beginner, and
possibly, too, to the adept, on the innumerable matters
of detail requiring consideration of the earnest student
of dry-fly fishing, and anything like ornate descriptions, humorous anecdotes, or amusing episodes would
have been entirely out of place. It is almost a
necessity to introduce into an autobiography some
light touches to relieve in a measure the uniform
dulness of mere recapitulation of fishing days, which
all bear a strong family likeness.
I know that this is quite a new departure for me,
and I feel proportionately anxious as to its reception
by my readers. In the past they have overlooked
many weaknesses and tolerated numerous faults in
my work, and I can only hope that a similar spirit
of kindness and forbearance will impel them to
view with favouring eyes, this the last of the dry-fly
Frederic M. Halford.
July it^tk, 1903.  INTRODUCTION.
It is a time-honoured custom for authors to excuse
their first appearance in print by the plea that they
have been unwilling victims of pressure from friends,
and the familiar jeering of the critic is a perfectly
natural consequence. Though the excuse is probably
often of the flimsiest, we may in fairness suppose that
it is sometimes warrantable. With regard to this
book, which is the clinching, so to speak, of pieces of
labour extending over a long course of years, I can
vouch for the absolute accuracy of that paragraph in
the preface which attributes the blame of persuasion
to others, the truth being that the author, who makes
anything but a ddbut, received the idea with disfavour, and at length abandoned his opposition with
The three volumes of the series of which this
is the conclusion were apparently exhaustive of their
respective subjects, yet there remained much to say
upon germane matters that were but indirectly connected with those subjects, and that }iad been rejected
as strictly speaking outside treatises which were
written in the spirit of scientific enquiry. The publication of the sequence raised Mr. Hal ford to the
proud  position   of a proven  Master,   with  admiring
j introduction
disciples in the fraternity of anglers scattered over the
wide world; and by that token there was no need
to apologise for gathering together remnants of
memories, incidents, and ideas, combining them into
a work, as is here accomplished, in which the author
could indulge himself with more freedom than he felt
able to allow himself in the practical expositions that
aimed at reducing what is known as dry-fly fishing to
as near a science as it could be brought.
It should be understood that Mr. Halford has
never pretended, as some indiscreet writers have
assumed, to be the inventor of a cult or the founder
of a school ; nor has he advocated the particular
form of trout fishing to which he is most attached at
the expense of any other. It is necessary to say this
much, since it is not to be denied that the dry-fly
school, as it is called, has been unjustly accused of
contempt for those who follow other methods, of
dogmatic assumptions, of affectations of superiority.
The only ground there can be for such a charge is
the popular supposition that there are dry-fly fishermen who are sworn to catch never a trout save with
the floating fly. There are always enthusiasts who
push their ideas to extremes, and no doubt there are
chalk stream men who act upon that determination,
and do not dream of regarding their action in the
light of a self-denying ordinance. Forsooth, on
Itchen and Test, it is the correct course to follow;
it is the game ; it is; as Pope puts it— introduction XI.
Good sense, which only is the gift of Heaven,
And though no science, fairly worth the Seven.
To be content with such chances as a floating fly
will bring is surely not to be construed into an aggressive demonstration against the brother who puts up
his cast of three flies and " fishes the stream " like an
honest sportsman! In a word, it is no question of intolerance, still less contempt; it is just a matter of predilection. A chooses the cockwing, B the sunken fly,
and both are within their rights, and sportsmen both.
There is no harm in admitting that in these matters
the purist is generally with us, or not far off. I once
met a brother of the Angle who denounced as downright poachers all persons who fished for salmon with
lure other than the artificial fly under any circumstances whatever; there was a dear old Colonel down
in the west not later than last year who was heard to
assign to the gallows every pike fisher who used live-
bait ; I have known during a score of years perhaps
half a dozen trout fishers who on a free rising water
would deny themselves the sport they loved rather
than employ anything but a floating fly; and there was
one dear crank who had no good word for a trout that
would rise to any artificial delicacy that was not an
exact imitation of the fly that was on the water. But
it would not be " cricket" to judge the whole of us
by the whims of the odd man.
" Detached Badger," in a word, is one of the most
liberal-minded of anglers. You may always agree to
differ with him, yet save your scalp.    In his interest- introduction
ing chapter upon the Kennet water' it will be found
that he tells a very instructive story of the management of a fishery, a story, moreover, to which it is
possible to point more than one moral. I had fished
that water in the pre-management era, the days when
SiVnor Foli, raking down the stream one day with
three flies, hauled out at one swoop a leash of trout of
a pound average. This I remembered on an evening
during the period dealt with in Chapter XIII., and
three good men and true meeting at a bridge at sunset, and deploring the day-long absence of fly and
rising fish, I hinted at such a thing as a fly fished wet.
Halford at once insisted upon my having the courage
of my opinions, and I took it, lest the light should fail.
With a coachman worked in the old-fashioned style I
hooked fish after fish, and no one was more delighted
than the manager and his associates in the venture.
But I doubt whether either of them was ever betrayed
into following my example. No: the men who
believe in the dry-fly as the highest type of angling
for trout, are, so far as I have known them, all
tolerant, and would be the last to infringe the rule
of live-and-let-live. They only claim to have and to
hold and to exercise their own ideas,
The point to consider here, however, is that Mr.
Halford devoted himself to a thorough study of a
form of fishing which, under circumstances which the
wide margins of a book like this allow him to explain,
became the fashion some time since. Mr. Hall's
eyed hooks, as he tells us in his first book H Floating
P introduction
Flies," pricked him to endeavour. No one knew
better than he that the dry-fly had been heard of long
ago, and even specified by that name. I may cite
one instance in " The Vade Mecurn of Fly-fishing for
Trout" by Pulman, author of that charming work '" The
Book of the Axe." Writing in 1850 he advised: "Let
a dry fly be substituted for the wet one, the line
switched a few times through the air to throw off its
superabundant moisture, a judicious cast made just
above the rising fish, and the fly allowed to float
towards and over them, and the chances are ten to
one that it will be seized as readily as a living insect."
It is not, however, necessary to quote references, for
this method, which is sometimes discussed as a
modern invention, must be as old as fly-fishing itself.
It is obviously the device which any ordinary observer
of the ways of trout would put into practice when the
fish gave him the hint direct to dry and float his fly.
What Mr. Halford undertook was to formulate the
leading principles upon which the system should be
pursued, the initial theory being accepted that the artificial fly to be used must be an accurate imitation of
that upon the water, and delivered to represent the
insect as the trout would probably see it. In the first
book he therefore catalogued the favourite flies of
the chalk streams, and gave instructions as to dressing them. "Dry-Fly Fishing" conducted the angler
to the river and combined theory with practice.
V Making a Fishery" brought us to the fish and
other inhabitants, desirable and otherwise, of a trout
stream, and the natural consequence of these studies
was the mass of information about the aquatic insects
which was arranged in " Dry-Fly Entomology,"
the fine magnum opus of the set.* The enormous
labour involved in the production of these practical
expositions, with their apposite illustrations, and the
thoroughness of plan and execution which gives them
value, may be read plainly in the narrations of the
later  chapters   of this  volume.
The Halford books may be justly reckoned—runtil
others take their place—as our highest authority upon
the special subjects of which they treat; and they
occupy a unique position in that they represent a
developed type of angling literature. Books on fish
and fishing have been written in hundreds in past
generations. Westwood and Satchell's " Bibliotheca
Piscatoria" in 1883 accounted for 3,158 editions and
reprints of 2,148 distinct works, and Marston's supplement of publications between 1883 and 1900 brought
the total (including omissions from the " Bibliotheca")
to about 4,000. Making a liberal deduction for the
proportion which must be credited to the commercial
side of fishing, especially as conducted in the sea, the
sport of angling can boast of an extraordinary predominance in the literature of sport. This press
supremacy   of the   rod  as   compared   with   the  gun
* Note.—In the subsequent re-arrangement of editions
" Floating Flies " was incorporated into " Dry-Fly Entomology," the final series consisting of four, instead of five volumes
(see p. 238). INTRODUCTION
may partly, no doubt, be explained by the great
mass of things which we do not know about the
denizens of stream and sea, and the necessity which
compels the angler to adapt his methods to the capture of game seldom seen, and to conditions which
are ever varying. His lesson is, in truth, never fully
learned, and that is why there is always a listening
audience for the revelation of what is new, or a fresh
presentment of what is old.
Amongst this great library of fishing; books there
is nothing that may be quite compared with the three
Halford volumes devoted virtually to a consideration
of how to catch a trout in a chalk stream. Previous
authors have made good excursions into parts of the
field, but they have kept to the surface, and ranged
wide. Halford has kept within his own bounds and
dug deep. His peculiar place amongst the angling
authors will be apparent if the reader will bear with
a slight rehearsal of what others have done.
For all reasonable purposes we may follow the
time-honoured plan and begin with the book attributed
to Dame Juliana Berners, because it was the earliest
treatise on fishing, though Piers of Fulham left a
reference to angling in a MS. written some seventy
years before the publication of the edition of the
Book of St. Albans, which added " Fysshynge " to its
sections on Hawking, Hunting, and Coat Armour.
The productions of Leonard Mascall, John Dennys,
Gervase Markham, Lawson, and Barker, either in
prose or rhyme, followed somewhat similar lines, and INTRODUCTION
in most of them there are allusions to fly-fishing.
Walton's " Compleat Angler " started a different order
of angling book, and though the old man has had many
imitators he keeps his niche to this day above them
all. A contemporary of Walton, the pedantic, arbitrary, mystic Franck, the Cromwellian trooper, wrote
remarkably well about angling in the Scotch salmon
streams, yet his influence upon succeeding writers was
not great.
Many delightful angling books appeared in the
early part of the nineteenth century, and they were
a happy blend of descriptions of scenery, scholarly
references, and disquisitions on natual history and
sport with rod, the gun being frequently kept near at
hand. The most practical men were Ronalds—by
whom Mr. Halford was, as he tells us, inspired—and
Hofland, the one writing for fly fishers, the other
covering- the wider field of general angling. With
Fitzgibbon and Francis Francis was introduced a
more pronounced dealing with methods and apparatus ;
but for many years angling works, which succeeded
one another quickly, fascinating as they were to read,
had little pretension to scientific treatment. Fennell
wrote "The Book of the Roach," and Pennell "The
Book of the Pike " ; and during the last twenty years
the angling author has, in the main, become more and
more an expert, falls less and less into raptures with
the birds, trees, and flowers, and, in short, prefers the
prose rather than the poetry of his theme. The
success of John   Bickerdyke's  " All Round Angler," INTRODUCTION
and the fishing volumes of the Badminton Library,
indicate the modern keynote, and the angler of today may be said to have a distinct taste for what will
instruct, garnished with what will amuse.
From this point of view the Halford series may
be regarded as a valuable monograph in three parts,
and it embodies all that can be told for the present of
the mysteries of dry-fly fishing, in which is comprised
definite knowledge of the beds, currents, subaqueous
vegetation, minute animal life of the rivers, of which
the chalk stream is the primary example ; of the life
histories of the fresh water Salmonidae, and the insects
which breed beneath and around to furnish their
daintiest food; of the means that may be adopted to
replenish and preserve at a time when the strain upon
the native stock, by the increasing popularity of the
sport, and the dangers of pollution and mismanagement, has become excessive ; of the construction of
lures and tackle, with all the latest improvements; of
the control of the future of fisheries by heeding the
lessons of the past; and, not least, of the maintenance
of the true spirit of sport which, spite of inevitable
departures from the desirable standard in exceptional
cases, appeals at once to the angler of every rank
and degree.
\r* ■ The debt therefore which we owe to the author
of books like these is indeed great. At home and
abroad there are many men who have profited by
Mr. Halford's written instruction, and some who
have had the advantage of his kindly patience, full INTRODUCTION
knowledge, and abounding willingness to guide and
advise by the riverside. Therefore a supplementary
volume, in which the personality of the man is to
some extent revealed, cannot fail to be welcomed,
and I take the liberty of repeating my opinion, that
there is no apology required for these reminiscences.
The illustrations speak for themselves, and the
best of them were a labour of love on the part of
an American disciple, who came hither to put the
precepts of the teacher into practice on the streams
so often mentioned in the pages of this work.
He carried his dry-fly fever back to the rivers of the
Far West, returned again to report pleasing progress ;
roamed the banks of Test and Itchen to add
pictorial charm to his friend's text, and is now bound
for a scientific expedition to southern seas, where he
will find neither fario, rainbow, nor fontinalis.
These illustrations represent as graphically as the
camera can do the sweet scenes that gladden the eye
of the angler on such streams as those I have mentioned, scenes which are an influence that inspires,
though the eye takes no cognisance of their details.
There is a glamour in the meadows that may not be
escaped ; you may devote your attention to the river
and its wayward denizens with fierce resolve to permit
of no distraction, and be absorbed heart, soul, and
body in the sport of the moment; but the flowers of
the season, the greenery of the rill-watered pastures,
the hawking of the swallows, the drowsy hum of
insect life, the distant red and brown of the thatched 	
cottages, the feeding herds—they are all there, pervading the senses through the long summer days,
and remaining a memory to mingle in reverie and
Without a real love for these surroundings of
which you never tire, it is not easy indeed to be a
contented dry-fly fisherman. " There are too many
waits in this play," said an actor friend on a day
when flies did not hatch and fish did not rise. He
preferred his beat of many pools on the salmon river,
and the rippling runs and glides of the northern trout
stream, where he could steadily ply the rod with the
eye of faith, rise or no rise. He was not made for the
chalk streams, and had not acquired the enviable habit
of setting the dry against the wet fly, and enjoying, by
mastering, both. Wet-fly fishing requires no defence
nor advocacy, since the majority of the trout streams
of these islands demand it. And there is this consolation for the adept at the floating fly—on any
trout stream, be it at home or abroad, he may light
upon water, or a condition of atmosphere, that enables
him to dry-fly with advantage; whereas the wet-fly
man, pure and simple, has no corresponding chance
upon some of the chalk streams.
But it is idle to talk of "dry versus wet," there
being room enough for all, and as much skill
imperative for the one as for the other. It is true
delight to wade knee-deep up the merry mountain
stream with orthodox wet-fly equipment, basketing
your half-pounders now  and   then  as you  advance; INTRODUCTION
and it is none the less something to live for to
saunter up and down the southern meadows, stalking, beguiling, and in fair fight bringing to net the
two-pounder that has taken your tiny hook, and been
checkmated in his dashes for the cover characteristic
of his haunts.
In one respect the wet-fly has an undoubted
advantage in the great elasticity it offers in the
matter of rules. The dry-fly method is clear and
concise; there are different ways of achieving it,
but the one thing needful is to float the proper fly
over the fish in a natural fashion. Wet-fly fishing
admits of variations; you have a cast of two flies
to-day, of three to-morrow (David Webster in his
"Angler and the Loop Rod" prescribes not less
than nine flies) ; now the cast should be up-stream
and now across and down ; and opinions are much
divided as to whether the flies should be worked or
allowed to drift unchecked with the stream. Be that
as it may, the successful angler is he who makes,
or who if he so desires can make, the best basket;
and in dry-fly fishing~at any rate the best basket
must go to the maker's credit, for the neophyte's
chances are very small.
William Senior. 	
Early Recollections
Coarse Fishing
Sea Fishing
Thames Trouting .
The Wandle
Salmon Fishing
Fishing the Sunk Fly   .
The Test and Floating Flies .
Dry-Fly Fishing   ♦
119 table of contents
The Itchen
The End of Our Houghton Club
The Kennet and Making a Fishery .
The Upper Test and Dry-Fly Entomology
Winchester and District .
The Author
Plate I.
—itchen above twyford
—itchen at twyford
—Tea at the Riverside .
—" It  Rose   Just  Below that
Weed-patch" .
—On Candover Brook    .
—Itchen—The Old Barge
—Bridge Over Candover Brook
—The Late Foster Mortimore
—Itchen—St. Cross Mill .
—Itchen—Old Barge
—Spean—Brae Pool
—Itchen—Above Trimmer's Hill
Hotel  .
Stockbridge — Bridge   Over
the Test
•Mouth of Candover Brook
•The Late Francis Francis
Sheepbridge Shallow and Hut
Houghton Mill .
The Late G. S. Marry at
•Sheepbridge at Houghton
-Machine Barn Shallow
ice page
120 list of plates
late     XXI I.-
-Weir Below Stockbridge      .   toj
'ace page    124
„         XXIIL-
-North Head       .          .                 ,
»        129
—Black Lake        .          .                 „
—Chilland Mill   .          .          .      ,
„        140
1           XXVI.-
-The Late Thomas Andrew    .      ,
—Martyr Worthy Shallow     .      ,
—Itchen Below Chilland         .      ,
„        160
—Test Below Houghton Lodge      ,
„        178
—"Farewell to Houghton"     .      ,
„        190
—Test at Houghton       .          .      ,
—Our Fishing Box on the
Kennet.          .          .          .       ,
,        „        201
—Mill on the Kennet   .         .      ,
,        „        206
-Itchen Above St. Cross Mill       ,
,       „        214
„         XXXV.-
—The Late J. A. Day      .          .      ,
,        „        221
—The Late J. H. Leech .          .      ,
,        „        226
1     XXXVII.-
—Itchen — Winchester  Cathe
dral in Background
—The   Long   Bridge  at  Chil-
bolton ....
»        239
„       XXXIX.
—Butcher's Corner
„               XL.
—Itchen on Canal
„        254
„              XLI.
—Compton Lock
„       „        262
„            XLI I.
—St. Cross-.          .          .
„        268
„          XLIII.
—"Jack!"    ....
T is never * very easy to
record the earliest recollections of childhood, because from lapse of time
we are apt to confuse the
facts we can remember
with those recalled to our
memories later in life
by our nearest relations*
Hence I must crave the kind indulgence of my
readers if the references in this respect are not as
definite and accurate as they should be. Many of
the most pleasurable days of boyhood are however indissolubly connected in my mind with various
forms of fishing.
In those days games and athletics were not deemed
all important by parents and guardians, and it is quite
possible that a natural and inherent predilection for
outdoor exercise may well have tended to drive me AN ANGLER'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY
to the* banks of the nearest river or pond. Perhaps,
too, the well-known and oft-quoted classical maxim,
" Nascitur non fit poeta," may with equal force be
applied to the humble ptscator.
The first seven years of my life were passed in the
Midlands, and adjoining the garden of the house in
which we lived there was a large meadow containing a pond. A guest while on a visit discovered
that there were fish in this water, and brought into
the house some fair catches of roach and perch.
Very little persuasion sufficed to obtain permission
for the children of the family to try their hands at
the sport, under the supervision and protection of
one of the nurses. An elder brother and sister
were the first ardent disciples, and very soon I was
allowed to join them for a few hours.
Aged respectively 9, 7J, and 6 years, we cooperated on the following terms : My sister, who, like
most little girls of her age, had a rooted objection to
worms and other dirty crawling creatures, undertook
to unhook the fish when caught. I, who positively
revelled in getting myself covered with mud and
slime, had to bait the hooks for the whole party,
while the elder brother, relying on his seniority and
superior strength, haughtily declined to soil his hands
by either of these necessary operations, and literally
compelled us to fag for him.
The pond as far as I can remember was of the
ordinary kind, of fair size, moderately deep, and
approximately oval  in  shape.      The water was not EARLY RECOLLECTIONS
very muddy, as presumably it rose from a spring
either in or immediately adjoining the pond itself. I
do not think it contained any pike, but it was fairly
well stocked with small roach and perch. The tackle
used was of the very primitive kind found in the toy
shops, consisting of a hazel rod with a loop at the
point, and a silk line with gut hook and a brilliantly
coloured float. Such details as plumbing the depths
were beyond us in those days, and as long as the
float cocked and the bait was somewhere below
the water the rest was left to chance.
My elder brother was fairly keen on the sport,
but I shrewdly suspect that the sister did not take
any great interest in it, but joined us from a spirit
of camaraderie, and was willing to contribute her
share of work to give pleasure to the two troublesome little boys. I fear that my education had not
advanced far enough to enable me to read anything
on the subject, but from the first moment when leave
had been given to me to join in the amusement I had
deluged all the grown-up members of the household
with questions, until I fancied I had acquired some
general notion of how to proceed.
On a fine summer afternoon, immediately after the
early dinner, the fishing trio, personally conducted by
the head nurse, made their way to the pond. Some
little wrangle as to "choice of swim" ensued between
the brothers, but in this instance my position was
impregnable, as I flatly refused to bait the hooks,
unless in return for this service I had the first pick AN ANGLER'S A UTOBIOGRAPHY
of position. Thus I scored for once, and the moot
point having been amicably settled, and the hooks of
the party roughly covered by the worms, we seated
ourselves side by side. My eyes were simply glued to
the gaudy blue and red cork, and after some time it
began to bob and move. Wild with excitement, I
struck violently, threw the hook into the air, and was
promptly rebuked by my elders for not giving the
fish enough time. My brother then got a bite and,
showing me how it should be done, struck, hooked
and landed a small perch.
Presently my float once more showed signs of life,
and restraining my youthful ardour as well as I could,
I waited for what appeared an inordinate length of
time. Then remembering the advice tendered I gave
a very slight twitch and was immensely gratified at
feeling the resistance of a fish. Gradually drawing-
it towards the bank a little perch, of perhaps 2 ozs.,
which had swallowed the baited hook, was safely
landed, and after some difficulty the sister managed
to get the hook out of its gullet.
The child's pleasure at seeing this specimen with
its scarlet fins and black-barred sides can well be
imagined. Seizing it in my hands, and getting in
reward a somewhat painful prick from the spines of
its sharp dorsal fin, I scampered through the garden
into the kitchen, where, regardless of the vociferous
chiding of the cook, I peremptorily demanded that it
should be cooked for my tea. From that day my fate
was sealed, and in fine weather all my spare time was EARL Y RECOLLECTIONS 5
passed on the banks of the pond. It is a family
tradition that my youthful enthusiasm at this period
was so great that in bad weather I often got into
trouble for trying to fish over the banisters with a
crooked pin for one of the housemaid's caps.
Soon after this we moved to London and I was
promptly sent to a public day school, where, beyond
the weekly half-holiday and the ordinary vacations,
there were few opportunities for trying to catch fish.
On fine Wednesday afternoons I was always to be
found, rod in hand, on the banks of the Serpentine,
except on the frequent occasions when some boyish
freak had been discovered and visited with condign
punishment in the form of detention at school or of
an extra task at home.
Very few of my schoolfellows were keen on fishing, and I got unmercifully teased by those who
despised the sport. The usual '' worm at one end
and fool at the other " expression was generally
applied to me, but all things considered, this early
training was salutary. I got so accustomed to being
severely chaffed that throughout my after life that
sort of banter never affected my spirits, in fact,
seemed to run off n\e like water from a sou' wester-
Before the completion of the first decade of my life
an invitation to select a form of amusement or a
recompense for good conduct almost invariably culminated in a day's fishing on the Thames, either from
the Windsor chair of a punt or as a humble banker,
according to the amount of cash available from the
donor of the treat. AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Looking back, I can see before me plainly the
appearance of the Serpentine and Long Water on
a fine autumn afternoon and evening. The banks
were thickly lined with shabby, quiet-looking old men,
patiently sitting on their tackle boxes, each with a
long roach pole supported on two wire stands. All
eyes were fixed on the points of the slender quill floats
just peeping above the surface of the water, and each
angler was intently watching to detect the smallest
movement, ready to strike, and gently detaching the
lower joints of the cumbersome rod, work the big
roach or bream, with the three or four upper joints,
round to the bank.
I have some recollection of seeing it stated somewhere that the accumulation of mud on the bed
of the lake had become so great and so noisome
that the authorities, from due regard for the health
of the population, were constrained to clean it out.
To do this the water was pumped away, the fish
removed elsewhere, the depth of the lake largely
decreased, and then allowed to fill up again. Why
the fish were not returned to the water, or why it
was not restocked, is a mystery to most of us. No
doubt the present aspect of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens is far more respectable, and the
absence of the great number of ill-clad individuals
from the margin of the lake is an advantage in the
eyes of the nurses and children who frequent these
parts, but to many poor men it suggests a deep
injustice. H
The fish ought to have been replaced in the water,
or if that was impracticable, the cost of restocking
would not have been sufficiently heavy to be appreciable to the taxpayer. The poorer classes of the
Metropolis ought to have been given the chance of
getting harmless recreation in catching or trying to
catch the fish, instead of being obliged to travel some
considerable distance to get their sport on the banks
of the Thames, Lea, or other waters in the vicinity
of London. But it must be remembered that in
those days angling was the sport of few, and the
idea of stocking or replenishing had not been
discussed, for there were few angling societies and
fish culture was in its infancy.
Itchen—near Chilland. CHAPTER   II.
T the age of 13 I gained
some two or three School
prizes, not, I fear, from
any very exceptional hard
work on my part, but
because the other boys in
the class were, if possible,
even more incorrigibly idle
and inattentive than myself. My father, who was
the most generous of men, suggested a further
reward at his expense, and at once fell in with my
idea of it taking the form of a new and complete
rig-out of fishing gear. The joy of being allowed to
accompany him to the shop and select my first rod
with rings, reel and running tackle can be readily
imagined by my readers.
I remember that I was persuaded by the voluble
and plausible shop assistant to have what was called
a general rod. Since then a witty friend has described
such an implement to be one professing to do everything and succeeding in doing nothing satisfactorily. COARSE FISHING
I have no doubt that this description quite accurately
represents the one I selected, but to the boy of 13
it was perfect. It had, of course, rings and winch
fittings, and was in many pieces, with a number of
tops of varying length and stiffness for different styles
of fishing. There was also a spare joint with which
I was told the combination would be sufficiently
lissom for casting the fly.
The reel with its twenty yards of plaited silk line,,
a winder holdingTour gut lines with gaudily painted
floats, and compartments in the middle containing
float caps, split shot and plummet, the whole fitted
into a leather tackle book, which also held parchment
pockets with hooks of various sizes on hair, gut, and
gimp, some ledger tackles, paternosters, and an assortment of leads completed this ideal outfit.
A furnished house at Chertsey had been rented
for the family for the summer holidays, and to add
to all my joyful anticipations there was a little muddy
stream meandering slowly through a field at the
bottom of the garden. The first exploration of this
brook revealed the fact that there was a clumsy, safe
old boat moored at one end of it, and substantial
gratings at either extremity of the water effectually
removed any possibility of our trespassing on neighbouring property. Having represented all this at
headquarters, and after reminding my good parents
that I could swim, permission was granted me to use
the boat either for fishing or paddling about.
There were a few small roach and smaller perch in io AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
the stream, and every spare moment of my time was
taken up in baiting places and fishing for them, with
the occasional companionship of schoolfellows and
other boys who were invited to visit us. The number
of fish was not appreciably diminished by our youthful
efforts, but what was lacking in skill was amply made
up in enthusiasm, and hou.r after hour and day after
day we could sit in the boat watching the floats
, sailing slowly down-stream, to be returned and despatched on many a similar journey, generally without
the remotest sign of a nibble.
Sometimes we were allowed to go and fish another
stream within easy walking distance; it was called
the Abbey Mill River, and one day I achieved the
distinction of landing my first big fish, which I can
remember was a roach of quite i lb. in weight. One
side of the meadow from which we fished adjoined
the old Abbey stew, in which there were veteran carp
of incredible age and fabulous weight to be seen
slowly cruising about among the stems. and flowers
of the water lilies, but they were far too cunning
for us, and we never succeeded in^ even hooking
one of them.
For a very great treat we had an occasional day
on the Thames in a punt, and killed what were in our
eyes veritable monsters, but which nowadays would
probably have to be returned to the river as under
the legal limit of size. Never before or since was
there such a summer vacation, and at its termination
I   returned  to  school in   very low   spirits,  but   was COARSE FISHING
cheered by looking forward to the chance * of more
(fishing during the Christmas holidays.
As time went on the happy school days came to
an end and the serious work of life commenced ; but
in every year some portion of the holidays was spent
on the river. The management of boats, canoes,
punts, and other river craft came naturally to me,
and the various styles and methods of coarse fishing
were gradually mastered.
The memory of a week spent at Great Marlow,
with a companion, long since deceased, looms out distinctly. We had secured the services of one of the best
local fishermen with his punt for the term of our visit.
Finding us apt pupils, he successfully imparted the
art of paternostering for perch. We had most enjoyable days with him, drifting down the stream slowly,,
admiring in succession the beauties of the various
reaches, with the foliage of the woods glowing in all
the fiery tints of late autumn. Sometimes, when the
perch would not deign to look at our minnows on the
lightest of tackle, he would teach us how to cast and
work a spinning bait for pike. On other days he
would take us under the roar of Hurley Weir and
ledger a well-baited spot for barbel. Some days,
as might be expected, there would be a great display of fish in the well of the punt, and on others, as
might equally be expected, we killed but few. Each
evening, however, we returned to the riverside inn
in the best of spirits, to sleep .the sleep of contentment, lulled by the sound of the rushing waters of
the Great Marlow weir. 12 AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
At that time the volunteer movement was in fit
infancy, and like most of the young men of the
community I joined and worked assiduously for many j
years at the drill and shooting. What with this and
the exigencies of a business life I had not much time
to spare. Whenever a day could be arranged or
fitted in with other engagements I generally contrived
to get a companion to share a punt on some convenient part of the river. Gradually most reaches of
the Thames from Henley to Twickenham thus became
familiar to me, and during the summer, autumn, and
even winter, many happy days were passed ledgering
for barbel, or paternostering, spinning or live-baiting
for perch and pike.
The Nottingham style of fishing was then coming
into vogue on the Thames, and it fascinated me so
much that it was certainly at that time my favourite
form of sport. In those days Halliford Deep was one
of the best bream holes in the district, and I can recall
a day we had there with Thomas Rosewell, then an
elderly man, and who has long since joined the
majority. He had baited the place liberally, the
height and colour of the water were just right, and
my friend and I settled down early in the morning,
he ledgering and I tight-corking, as it was then called.
Tight-corking means fishing a swim of perhaps
40 yards with the float fixed and a light twisted silk
running line on a free-running Nottingham reel. The
float was arranged to leave a length of gut and reel
line below it about two feet more than the maximum 	
depth of the swim. As it was carried down by the
pace of the stream it slowly drew the hook, baited with
a well-scoured lobworm, dragging on the bed of the'
river. At the least stoppage or sign of a bite it was
necessary to strike, and as Rose well's theory was that
no bream would take a worm which had been already
bruised, even slightly, by the lips of another fish,
a bait marked in the smallest degree was at once
discarded in favour of a fresh one.
The other form of Nottingham fishing then practised, in which the float ran up and down on the line
so as to regulate its position according to the depth
and strength of the stream, was in those days called
travelling, and was often successful for chub under the
boughs, especially in late autumn and winter.
To return, however, to the day among the bream.
From the first we both found that the fish were
feeding well, and from morning to evening we kept on
taking them. Nearly all were bream and the majority
large ones, so that on the light tackle we were using
the sport was most exciting. At one time I hooked
an extra large bream and after some play succeeded in
steering it into Rosewell's capacious landing net. To
attempt to give even approximately the total weight
of our day's angling from memory might lead to
unintentional exaggeration. The three largest, one
of 6 lbs. referred to above, and two others of 4\ and
4\ lbs. respectively, were set up in a case, presented
to my father and hung up in the hall of his house,
where they remained to the day of his death. AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
To compare the fishing capabilities of the Thames
of those days with the river in its present state is
not a very easy matter. I do not think that there
were really more fish in the river than now, but
there were undoubtedly fewer fishermen, and the
majority fished with heavier and coarser tackle than
is used at the present time.
The river itself was far more of a natural stream,
and the canalisation which has been effected by the
Thames Conservancy in modern times had not been
commenced. The old piled weirs with their movable
wooden paddles and the guard piles and struts to the
aprons, a weather-beaten beam running along the
greater part of the length of each weir, were far more
picturesque although probably far less effective for
their work than the present structures of concrete
and iron.
The traffic on the river was not one-fiftieth of
what is seen now-a-days. Occasionally barges towed
by horses would pass up and down, and perhaps twice
in a week a paddle tug would pass, drawing a string
of four or five laden barges slowly up-stream and
poisoning the air with clouds of black smoke. The
launches which are now present in great numbers,
and the pleasure steamers with their crowds of sometimes noisy and rowdy beanfeasters were unknown,
and even of boats rowed or sailed there were
comparatively few.
The wash of these launches and steamers and the
generally increasing pleasure traffic gradually carried COARSE FISHING 15
away the banks and necessitated continual and costly
repairs. The method of repairing the banks with
bags of dry concrete simply placed in position and set
by the action of the water has no doubt been a very
inexpensive one, but the rustic appearance and natural
contour of the banks has thus been utterly destroyed,
and the old Thames has disappeared and made way
for what in some reaches may be termed an ugly,
but perhaps, strictly utilitarian flowing canal.
The increased popularity of boating, the modern
institution of week-end holidays, and the improvements
in the construction of steam and electric launches has
had the effect of removing all the charming sense of
repose from the Upper Thames on Saturdays and
Sundays. The rush, the noise, the continual picnic,
the splashing and heavy waves caused by the pleasure
boats, have effectually destroyed the changes of the
poor banker on these days, and as too many of them
cannot contrive to make holidays on other days, they
have to travel further afield to find water where they
can have peace, quiet, and an occasional chance of
some little sport.
Itchen—below Winchester. CHAPTER   III
I, N the year 1864 I spent
the month of August at
Eastbourne, and finding
the fresh water fishing in
the neighbourhood non-
existent or poor, naturally
turned my attention to
the sea in the hopes of
getting better sport. I
had previously fished with
the ordinary sea-line from piers and sometimes
from boats, and at first tried this simple gear,
killing a few whiting pout, sea bream, congers, dogfish, &c. This, however, soon palled on me, and the
highly-coloured local accounts of the bass fishing
off Beachy Head attracted my attention. The plan
generally adopted was to trail spoons or other artificial baits on heavily-leaded hand-lines behind a
sailing or rowing boat, and in favourable weather
good bags were sometimes made. SEA-FISHING
One day I suggested the possibility of substituting
a stiff jack rod and running line with gut trace, for the
coarse, heavy gear used with the hand-lines. Even
now I can recall the look of astonishment on the
boatman's stolid and weather-beaten countenance at
such a heterodox notion. ..He summed up his opinion
by enunciating the confident dictum that we should
catch no more fish and lose plenty of tackle in the
attempt. Being endowed by Nature with more than
a normal share of obstinacy, I insisted on trying the
experiment, and the result was as gratifying to me
as it was unexpected to the fisherman.
With an old jack rod and reel and twisted gut
trace with brass swivels, one or two fairly heavy
pipe-shaped leads, and a variety of glittering artificial
baits, we set out on most of the days when tide and
weather served. Time after time we had better sport
and brought home heavier bags than the local hand-
liners. The bass ran from perhaps i lb. to 3 lbs., with
occasional specimens of 5, 6, and even 7 lbs. On
some days we killed a few pollack and an odd horse
mackerel, and once we got a shad, which was certainly
in those days, and as I am told it would be now, an
unusual capture on any part of the south coast.
Many visitors were fascinated by this novel form
of sea-fishing and adopted it, and some years later
I was gratified by seeing fishermen with short stiff
rods and reels starting in the boats for Beachy Head,
full of anticipation, and on some rare occasions returning  in  the  gloaming with   that  air of complete
c i8
satisfaction    engendered     by     finding    their    most
sanguine   hopes   realised.
As soon as I was convinced that there was a
future for rod-fishing in the sea I had a strong rod
made about 9 ft. in length, with large upright rings
and an 8 in. Nottingham reel carrying 150 yards
of fairly stout undressed line. This I used for many
years for all kinds of sea-fishing, spinning for bass,
pollack or mackerel, or as a substitute for the old-
fashioned hand-line with metal spreader or chopsticks when lying at anchor. For this ground-fishing
I found no tackle in my time more efficacious than
a three-hook paternoster, either of twisted or single
gut, according to the clearness of the water or the
size of the fish likely to be killed.
With the ordinary coarse hand-line and ponderous
lead, slack tide is the only time during which it is
possible to fish, and the moment the new tide commences to make, it is necessary to raise anchor and
make for home. By carefully regulating the number
and weight of the leads on the paternoster it was,
however, quite possible to continue fishing during
the early part of the run of the new tide, and the
fish seemed to feed best at this time on some days.
Then, too, the probability of hooking the fish with
the hand-line when they are not taking very freely
is somewhat remote, but with the rod and a little
practice and patience, the precise moment for striking is arrived at, and a very large proportion of the
feeding fish are landed. H  SEA-FISHING 19
One of the Eastbourne fishermen showed me a
form of bait he had used with advantage for bass
and mackerel, and this proved most effective in my
hands also. It consisted of a strip of the white skin
of a sole cut to the shape shown in the accompanying
diagram. For bass it should be about five inches long
by two inches in breadth, and for mackerel considerably smaller. The tail end for about one and a
half inches is split into a series of narrow widths.
Three holes are made through the skin with the
point of a' sharp knife at the places marked a, b,
and c.     Soleskin is so tough that it is barely possible
Sole Skin cut for Bass Bait.
to force the point of a hook through it. The hook
point is passed through the hole a, turned over,
carried through the hole b, and the hook again
turned over and the point passed through the hole
c. The hook is then puljed back and the projecting end of the shank passed through the hole b, so
as to keep the bait in its place during use. Two or
three turns of silk are then passed round the bait and
gut of the hook at a and secured.     This presses the
skin into a bunch round the gut and hook shank, and
when drawn through the water the narrow widths at
the tail-end move gyrating about, giving the bait
a semblance of life.
The bait is trailed without any lead or other
weight behind a sailing or rowing boat, or used like
a spinning bait. If soleskin is not procurable a strip
of skin can be cut from the ventral side of a gurnard,
but the soleskin is far better, as it is very tough and
stands such a quantity of work and hard usage that
I have known one to last for several days and kill
quite a number of bass or mackerel. This form of
bait is described in detail because I do not remember
having seen it in use since those days.
Rod-fishing in the sea for bass, mackerel and
other fish proved a most acceptable variety in the
form of sport pursued by me for many years. In
every part of the coast visited it was practised with
invariable success, but the result was, of course, dependent on the presence of fish and whether they were
taking freely or not. One year at Scarborough, when
the silver whiting were plentiful, I engaged a boatman
and showed him the rod, reel and gut paternoster
which I proposed using. There again the local
talent derided the notion that it would work well and
probably be productive of better sport in clear water
than the hand-lines with coarse snoodings.
I insisted on trying it, and, shrugging his shoulders,
the sturdy boatman pushed off his coble, set his sails,
and while on our way to the fishing ground told me
that he had as a precautionary measure taken his
hand-lines, as we should be glad of them when the
failure of the new-fangled rod and line had been
effectually proven. On our arrival among the fleet
of whiting boats hailing from all parts of the coast,
from Penzance to the Firth of Forth, he lowered his
sails and prepared for action.
Where the fish are plentiful the whiting boats do
not anchor, but drift backwards and forwards with the
tide, working their hand-lines as long as they can get
sport. The men with their lines are placed on both
sides of the boat, and all hands on board are engaged,
firstly in discovering the depth at which the shoals of
whiting are swimming and feeding ; and as soon as this
has been established the word is passed round to fish
at so many fathoms below the surface and all hands
on board are busy letting down lines, drawing up and
unhooking whiting, and rebaiting hooks.
I put my rod together quickly, and the three hooks
of the single gut paternoster having been baited with
pieces of fresh herring was slowly lowered into the
water. Holding the rod in the right hand with the
fingers of the left hand close to the revolving rim of the
reel, and with quite a light lead, I could regulate the
speed at which the baits were descending by increasing
or decreasing the pressure of the fingers on the reel.
Before the baits had sunk more than three or four
fathoms I felt a good bite, struck and reeled up my
first whiting, and after a few such attempts the boatman got quite enthusiastic and was allowed to try the 22 AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
rod himself. We soon found that it was not good
policy to reel up the first whiting hooked, as a few
moments' delay would generally give the chance of a
second, and sometimes we even got three at a time.
When the fish were feeding furiously I found it a
good plan to work two paternosters, untying the one
with fish on it and tying on the other which had been
already baited in readiness, leaving the boatman to
gather up the sport. On really favourable days I
have killed as many as 200 whiting in the course
of a morning's fishing.
Later on, when the codling were plentiful among
the tangle of the seaweed, I tried ledgering with a
long pipe-shaped lead instead of the ordinary bullet.
The best bait was mussel, two of which were put on
a fairly large hook and lowered to the bottom.
Presently there would be a sensation of a fish sucking in the bait, and if only the fisherman had the
patience to wait until the codling was moving with
the luscious morsel in its mouth, and then strike, the
fish was generally well hooked. Then, as the Irish
fishwife exclaimed, "the ructions commenced." The
hooked fish fought like a demon to get into the
weeds, and the fisherman gallantly held on with rod
erect. Sometimes the fish would get into the weeds
and a smash followed. Sometimes it would come
unhooked, but generally the resolute policy of reeling
up line whenever possible brought the codling, plung
ing, on the surface within reach of the boatman's gaff.
Mackerel were very plentiful at Scarborough that '	
season, and often when there was a breeze we did
well with them by trailing the soleskin or other
baits behind the coble, sailing of course slowly, two
knots an hour for choice. If the boat travelled too
fast we found it difficult to keep the bait down low
enough in the water, but in moderate weather the
rod almost invariably beat the hand-line. When,
however, it fell dead calm the following plan was
adopted :—
We used to moor a small boat just outside the
entrance of the little harbour, among the herring boats
lying at anchor, and with an ordinary light bottom
rod, Nottingham reel, and finest twisted silk line,
with two yards of single gut, float away on or near
the surface of the water a narrow strip of herring or
other fish with the bright skin on it. The hook, a
single one, was only just passed through the bait,
and when a fish took it one had to strike at once.
Most of the fish we caught with this tackle were
small grey gurnard and mackerel. The gurnard gave
moderately good sport, but to anyone who has not
experienced it, I commend the sensation of playing a mackerel on this light gear; in fact, I am
inclined to think that for its weight a mackerel is
the gamest fish that swims in fresh or salt water.
Another good bait for this class of fishing is the soft
roe of a fresh herring, but it is very tender and easily
knocked off the hook. This is the favourite method
to this day in August and September, and the fish
are often taken within a hundred yards of the wall. 24
At Ilfracombe and many other places on the coast
I used the various forms of tackle here described
with the rod and Nottingham reel, and invariably
found that the coarse hand-line gear was left far
behind, both in the quality of the sport and the
number of fish killed.
Test below Stockbridge. ill  CHAPTER   IV.
ROM fear of being prolix, I
must once more hark back
to the river, and tear myself
away from the fascination of
the ozone-laden sea and its
finny inhabitants. Barbel,
bream, roach, dace, chub,
perch and pike are only in
season during the late sum-
mer, autumn and winter ; the spring and early
summer were therefore the slackest times of the fishing year. From April ist to June ist, according to
the law of that epoch, no fish could be killed in the
Thames except trout. We had all seen specimens of
these magnificent Salmonidae set up in glass-fronted
cases and displayed on the walls of the various riverside hostelries—deep, thick, short, brilliantly spotted,
and generally very handsome trout of from say 5
to 16 lbs.
All  had  heard  of the  breathless   excitement  of
hooking one of these monsters, of its headlong rush 26 AN ANGLERS A UTOBIOGRAPHY
for fifty or more yards down the broken water of
the weir, culminating in a leap into the air; and of
the game fight following the first check, during which
contest a considerable proportion escaped and a few
were safely steered into the capacious landing net, to
the intense gratification of the angler and his attendant.
All the larger fish were killed by spinning, generally
with natural baits—bleak, dace or gudgeon—and an
occasional smaller trout was taken on a fly. It never
was my good fortune to kill one with fly, and anything
I could write on the subject would be mere hearsay.
I knew nothing of fly fishing beyond an occasional
try for dace or chub, and was not in those days much
drawn to that form of fishing.
Spinning, from my previous experience with pike,
was comparatively easy, and later on, when live
baiting for Thames trout became popular, this too
presented no great difficulty. During the months of
April, May and June most of my week-end holidays
were devoted to trying to emulate the records of the
famous Thames trout fishermen of the day; but
although I had a most intelligent professional who
spent much of his time in marking down the feeding
places of the large fish and the hours at which they
were most given to feed, my success was nothing to
boast of. Occasionally the fisherman would hook a
fish and hand me the rod to play it; sometimes I
hooked one myself; some, as usual, got away and
others were duly consigned to the well of the punt.
Although  I   killed many,  and a few of fairly good THAMES  TROUTING 27
weight, I never secured a monster, and for many years
had not succeeded in hooking and landing one over
6 or 7 lbs.
In the year 1870 I did fairly well, but having no
written record, fear to give even approximately either
the number or the weights. At that time, as will
be shown in a subsequent chapter, my imagination
had been excited by the dry fly, and on the few days
when I could get permission on the Wandle had no
desire to try any other form of sport. The last two
Thames trout I killed, and the circumstances under
which they were taken, are so indelibly fixed in my
memory that I am tempted to give a brief history of
their capture.
At that time my headquarters for the Thames
were at Halliford, and one of the best of the local
fishermen, George Rosewell, had a standing engage-
ment to attend me with his punt. During the early
part of the season we had killed a few fish varying
from 8 to 3\ lbs., but it was a cold spring with high
water, and until the latter part of May the flow over
the weirs was too strong for Salmo farto to be much
en Evidence.
The first week in June Rosewell hooked a
splendid fish, handed me the rod as usual, and after
a very hard struggle we killed a fine trout weighing
nearly 9 lbs. During the next week he wrote me that
he had spotted two fish in Shepperton Weir, one a
large one and the other about 5 to 6 lbs. On the 10th
I journeyed down, and the early morning of the nth
found me in his punt above the weir, he spinning a
dace while I was live baiting with a moderate-sized
bleak. It was a lovely morning, with t^ie sun just
breaking through the light mist, scarcely a breath of
wind, and we were located at the part of the weir
where the larger of the two fish generally fed.
Simultaneously we both turned round and caught
sight of a fish feeding in the far corner below the
weir. Of course Shepperton old weir has long since
been removed, and the present ugly but probably
more serviceable structures have been erected in its
place. In those days there were the same or similar
guard piles above the weir, and the weir itself
stretched in one line down the Surrey bank of the
river. At the upper end the water flowed through a
square box used for washing ballast, then came a long
sloping bay, then the central part of the weir, of piles
with a beam along the top and a ledge at a slightly
lower level, and the usual arrangement of hatches
for regulating the water; and the piles were stayed
to another row of piles below, cut off below the
water level and planked over to form the apron.
At the lower end of the weir there was another
long sloping bay, swerving to an obtuse angle downstream, and a willow grew almost in the water at
the point of this angle.
The fish we had seen feeding was under the
bay close to the side of the ballast box. Cautiously
the punt was pushed across so that my live bait
could  be   slowly  let  down   to   the  spot.      Another THAMES  TROUTING
moment and the fish showed again, this time some
four or five yards nearer the centre of the weir.
Another gentle push and the punt was in position,
and as my bleak came into its view the fish
dashed at it, was hooked, and rushed across and
down the weir, throwing itself into the air two or
three times. Rosewell, at my suggestion, put the
punt ashore, while I steadied the fish, landed, and
after a few gallant runs was on terms with it. It
was a silvery handsome fish of about 5^ lbs., and was
duly appreciated by a good friend whose dinner table
it adorned the next evening.
It was not convenient for me to get away from
Town the following week-end, but the next Friday,
the 24th, found me in an afternoon train, and on
my arrival Rosewell met me at the station and
accompanied me to Halliford, where I always stayed,
to give me the latest reports of the water and the
fish. He told me that the larger of the two trout he
had seen fed regularly at about 6 a.m., and impressed
upon me the importance of being early, not only to
have the chance of killing the fish at its first morning
meal, but because a local angler had marked it down
and was most assiduous in taking up his position in
good time. I retired at an early hour full of hopes
and fears, and arranged to be called at the uncomfortable hour of 4.30 a.m.
The following morning was cold, with a northeasterly fresh wind and dull sky, altogether a most
unlikely day, and although one's spirits are more or 30 AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
less damped by such weather, yet a definite appointment having been made, I bustled up and into my
cold tub, and after a hasty breakfast jumped into my
Rob Roy canoe and paddled quickly up to Shepperton
Lock, where I knew Rosewell and his punt would be
ready and waiting for me. On my arrival we started
at once, and laid the punt against the piles, in correct
position for the fish.
Some weeks previously I had a run from a trout
when spinning on one of the ordinary three triangle
flights which simply tore the bait off the hooks
without being touched. At my suggestion some
flights had been made with four triangles, with a
single reversed hook on the tail triangle and a loose
triangle on a short length of gut, with a loop to pass
over the flight when baited and secured to the side of
the bait opposite to the other triangles. With this
tackle tied on the strongest of gut, and an equally
strong trace with plenty of swivels, and a moderately
heavy pipe-shaped lead, it seemed unlikely that a fish
taking the bait fairly could escape being hooked.
The usual feeding ground of the big trout was in
the black water between two runs, just above the lower
bay of the weir, and a bright bleak about 5 ins. in
length having been deftly arranged so as to spin
truly on the flight, I took up my place in the punt.
Rosewell, meanwhile, was mounted on the beam of
the weir prospecting about with a live dace, on the
chance of coming across another prowling fish. I
proceeded to spin steadily backwards and forwards
and up and down the two runs and the intervening <
wedge of black water, and just as a distant church
clock struck seven o'clock, as I was drawing my bait
up to the apron of the weir, a number of small fry flew
in all directions, and a rush through the water indicated the presence of the fish we were trying for. I
let my bait gently down, and was drawing it across
the stream when a faint tap made me imagine that a
perch or chub had run at it. In far less time than it
has taken to read these words I struck firmly, my reel
was flying round, and a heavy fish plunged at a great
rate right down and through the broken white water
of the run. It took about forty yards of line in this
rush, and then jumped into the air, showing us the
outline of a noble trout.
The fish then bored down deep in the water and
tore across the runs towards the upper end of the
weir. Meanwhile Rosewell, who had of course seen
what had occurred, stepped into the punt and quietly
worked it along the weir to the bay at the lower end,
and then to the bank. I got out, and steadying the
fish found it close under the piles of the weir. On the
bank there stood a tree just at the lower end of the
weir and I had to lower my rod to pass it round. As
I did this the trout made a rush towards me, and
although I gathered in the line by hand as rapidly
as possible there was a good deal of slack. To my
horror, on recovering this, I found that the line was
foul of the willow which, as described in a previous
page, grew in the angle of the bay. The position
was a desperate one, but Rosewell proved equal to the
occasion.    Landing, net in hand, he stepped into the 32 AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
water and walked down the slippery slope, over which
a strong stream was flowing. I trembled, imagining
that he intended to try and net the fish, but his judgment was too good for that. Steadying himself with
the handle of the landing net, he took out his knife,
opened it, and stooping down cut clean away the
part of willow round which the line was foul. As
it came clear I raised my rod, and obtaining a good
pull at the fish, it started across the weir, and again
flung itself into the air.
The rest was easy ; the trout kept boring down
and plunging heavily, while at every favourable opportunity I reeled in and presented the butt. At last the
plucky fish came to the surface, and just as it rolled
over on its side the sun peeped out of the clouds and
revealed to our eyes as fair a sight as ever appeared
to a fisherman. In a very few moments it was in the
net and on the bank, and both Rosewell and I fairly
fell on it for fear of its jumping back into the water.
A more perfect specimen of a Thames trout I never
saw, although I certainly have seen larger ones.
Before Rosewell extracted the hook from the
mouth we made an examination of the manner in
which the fish was hooked. It may have been purely
accidental, or it may have pointed to the efficacy of
the hanging triangle on the reverse side of the bait,
but this had embedded itself deeply in the side of
the mouth and the other triangles were all hanging
At this moment the local angler came through the
lock in his punt and joined us at the side of the weir.
He was naturally sorrowful at our being on the spot
before him, but he, in a true sportsman-like spirit,
conveyed his warmest congratulations, and insisted on
our sampling a curious home-made liqueur to drink
to the health of all good fishermen. After a brief
consultation I decided to take the trout down to
Halliford in the canoe and get it accurately weighed.
On my arrival the landlord of the Ship Hotel put it
into the scales and registered its weight as 9f lbs.
As it was the largest I had hooked and landed it
was despatched to London the same day, and the
work of setting it up in a case entrusted to and
most admirably carried out by Cooper.
This was my last Thames trout, and as the time
went on the attraction of fly fishing, and especially dry-
fly fishing, gradually impelled me to drop all other
forms of sport to follow that which may fairly be
described as more scientific and more engrossing than
any other. Of the circumstances under which my first
introduction to the use of the floating fly took place,
and the early stages of education in that art, the next
chapter will treat.
Chilland Shallow. CHAPTER V.
NE day during the winter of
1867 an old friend and connection of my father's, calling at the house, noticed the
case of large bream referred
to in a previous chapter.
He enquired whether they
had been captured by a
member of the family, and being told that I was
the fortunate one, and that I was more or~4ess mad
on the subject of fishing, suggested my giving him
a call at an early date. The invitation so cordially
given was promptly accepted, and a most pleasant
and profitable hour was passed in his company. He
told me that he was the owner of a property on the
Wandle, in which there was some good trout fishing,
and added that, if I cared to try it, he would give
me leave for self and friend for a few days during
the next season.
He explained to me that the season commenced
on the first of May and ended on the last day in
August.     He also   told me  that by the regulations THE   WANDLE
laid down by himself and the adjoining proprietors,
artificial fly only could be used, and all undersized
trout should be returned to the water unhurt. The
size limit then imposed was \ lb., and for my guidance
he suggested that to keep on the safe side it would be
well not to kill any trout under 10 ins. in length.
This kind offer opened out to my mind an entirely
fresh vista ofjjt novel form of angling, and I proceeded
promptly to find among my friends the right man to
assist me in the preliminary work of selecting rod and
tackle, and to initiate me in the mysteries of fly fishing. This was effected without much difficulty, the
more so as I was fortunately able to invite the said
friend to accompany me on my early fly fishing
expeditions and to enjoy some sport himself at the
same time.
I placed myself unreservedly in his hands, and
explained to him that I was absolutely ignorant on
the subject of fly fishing, but had every desire to
learn. Under his supervision I paid an early visit to
one of the leading London tackle shops. His advice
was to start with an 11 ft. single-handed trout rod,
and after comparing a number of them I purchased
the one he preferred and considered the most suitable.
It was a typical rod according to the ideas then
prevalent, in four joints, with double brazed ferrules ;
and the natural tendency of every fly rod to loosen at
the joints when in use was counteracted by their being
secured with waxed silk carried over the metal hitchers
provided for that purpose.    The butt and joints were 36 AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
of hickory and the tops of cane. The handle was
inordinately thick and the butt stiff, while the joints
were whippy and limp, so that the action was entirely
in the upper part of the rod. The dry-fly fisherman
of to-day would explode with laughter at the sight
of this floppy, broken-backed implement, and not improbably would hazard the prediction that to cast a
fair line with it was a sheer impossibility.
The shopman was eloquent in praise of a multiplier winch, but my mentor who, besides being a good
fly fisherman was also a bit of a mechanic, successfully contested the point and persuaded me to take
an ordinary brass reel in preference to the much
vaunted and more costly "patent" so loudly puffed
by the vendor.
This was just about the period when some of the
modern fly fishermen were adopting the dressed silk
line as an improvement on the time-honoured plaited
silk and hair. My friend had not then been converted to this new theory, and accordingly one of
the old-fashioned lines was purchased. Before many
months had elapsed we tried the dressed line, and
at once recognising its superiority, adopted it once
and for ever.
There were two grave defects in the said silk
and hair line for every fly fisherman—firstly, that it
absorbed a considerable quantity of water when in
use, so that if the line when dry was of the right
weight for the rod, after a few casts it became sodden
and   so heavy as  to  seriously handicap the   angler. .*&*
The second manifest disadvantage with this once
favourite line was that the hair continually broke and
left protruding from the surface sundry sharp particles,
which not only made the line too rough to run
freely through the rings, but even worse, made it
kink and twist into dreadful tangles. The dry-fly
fisherman suffered even more, as the line, when
wet, invariably sagged and became drowned, thereby
causing drag and increasing the difficulty of returning
the fly with the weak-backed rod of the period.
A portable form of landing net and a basket were
next selected, and as in those days nothing but the
very finest of drawn gut was used, the casts selected
were of a truly gossamer-like substance. A small
leather fly book having been added, it was then
necessary to face the crucial questions of the pattern
flies to be used.
My friend's experience had been gained on North
Country and Midland streams, and he knew nothing
whatever of the Wandle. The voluble shop assistant,
with that affectation of superior knowledge which
some of these worthies will adopt, then proceeded to
fill the book with a multitude of what he called
standard flies, all of course on the finest drawn gut.
There were March browns, blue uprights, palmers,
governors, and a host of others of different sizes,
some hackled, some winged, but all far too large for
the river in question. In fact, for years afterwards
I never had occasion to purchase flies for any of
the occasional visits paid to Scotch burns, Yorkshire
becks, or other rapid streams.   * * 38 AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Before many days of the merry month of May in
the following year had passed, my friend, L., and I
journeyed down one fine morning to prospect the river
and try our hands at beguiling the wary Wandle trout.
I could just manage to cast a moderate length of line
with a favourable breeze behind me, from having
occasionally tried for dace or chub in the Thames,
and as before said, my tutor was a fairly proficient
performer with the sunk fly. The first glance at the
stream was sufficient to convince him that this was
quite a different class of water to any he had
previously seen.
At that time the Wandle was a beautifully clear
stream in which every stone on the bottom could be
distinctly seen in four or five feet of water. Probably
even then a certain amount of sewage and possibly
other pollution found its way into the river, but the
amount was insufficient to convey the faintest trace
of opacity to the water. Since then the hand of
man and the so-called advance of civilisation have
succeeded in destroying its character.
Croydon has become a town with a population of
something like 130,000 inhabitants, and after more or
less efficient treatment its sewage is carried into the
Wandle. At Waddon, where in a large pond one of
the head-waters of the stream has its source, there is
a deposit many feet in depth of putrid mud continually
fouling the water below. At every village, at the
various mills, in fact at all possible points, some
impurities are carried into the river, until at last most, THE   WANDLE
if not all, of the riparian owners and tenants have
abandoned the attempt to keep up a stock of trout.
At the period of which I am writing there were
miles and miles of a pellucid stream holding some
of the best-conditioned, most beautiful trout of good
average weight. The rents paid by fishermen for
short lengths of water were even in those days very
high, and a few years later were almost prohibitive
to any but the wealthy. Unfortunately this process
of civilisation, which has converted country lanes into
long streets of surburban villas and fair flowing
streams into foul muddy ditches, is still developing
and will go on developing for all time, until some
future generation of fly fishermen will find it impossible to pursue their sport anywhere within a
moderate distance of the Metropolis or other great
towns or cities.
On this our first introduction to the river,
friend L. at once realised that the old haphazard
style in vogue on rapid rocky streams or mountain
torrents of casting two, three, or more sunk flies and
letting them work down with the current might be
efficacious on such rivers, but on the slow-running,
gin-clear Wandle its only effect was to scare every
feeding trout.
We had partly to think out the question and partly
to seek the advice of the other fishermen on the river.
The local anglers at once impressed upon us the
necessity of "fishing dry," and very little explanation sufficed to  teach us the  crude meaning of this 40
expression. We gradually worked out approximately
the number of false casts required to free the fly from
moisture, and were soon converted to the doctrine of
waiting for rising trout, spotting them and fishing
them ; and before the early part of the season was
passed had both killed some fair fish, and were
exceedingly keen for this form of fly fishing.
In those days the patterns used were but few in
number; in fact, our usual outfit consisted of the
(i) The old-fashioned Red Quill dressed on a No.
16 or 17 Limerick hook (about the same size as the
o or 00 eyed hooks now in use), with double-rolled
upright wings of starling, body of undyed peacock,
red hackle and whisk.
(2) Hares Ear and Yellow, dressed on the same
size hooks as the Red Quill, and also with rolled
upright starling wings. The body and legs were of
medium hare's ear, ribbed with primrose sewing
silk and the whisks of bird of Paradise, or other
pale yellow olive fibres.
(3) The a East Wind." This was another upright starling winged pattern, with body of flat
gold, and pale dun hackle and whisk, and of similar
size to the others.
The above three flies were our usual standards,
and as a rule No.  2 was used in the mornings and
No. 1 during the afternoon and evening rise. No. 3
was always considered by us to be absolutely irresistible when  the wind was  in  the east, and   hence THE   WANDLE
its name. These flies were dressed with far less
hackle or other material to imitate the legs than in
the modern patterns, and were, of course, proportionally more difficult to dry and float.
After dark we descended occasionally to a fourth
pattern called the "Hudson" after a well-known
Wandle fisherman who, I believe, invented it. It was
dressed on a long May-fly hook with wings of hen
pheasant tail, body of peacock herl ribbed with flat
silver, and a broad silver tag and ginger hackle for
legs. Altogether it somewhat resembled an exaggerated alder, and I must confess that it was not
used as a floating fly. Personally I never cared
much for this class of fishing, and seldom practised
it,  even during my first season on the Wandle.
A few of the local fishermen also carried and used
some of the so-called old standard patterns, such as
the Red Palmer, Governor, Coachman, Hofland's
Fancy, and March Brown, but' the tendency of the
younger school of dry-fly men even in those days was
to pin their faith entirely on the upright-winged
floating duns.
The river here was divided into two streams, and
on one of them only the right-hand bank belonged to
my friend's estate, and the upper boundary of it was
a road crossing the river. Under this road bridge
there was a fall of about one foot, and immediately
below it the effluent pumped from the sewage farm
flowed into the river on the opposite bank through
a brick culvert at right angles to the course of the 42
stream. The action of the water had washed out
a fairly deep hole, which always held large, well-
conditioned trout. A number of trees along our bank
rendered it almost impossible to get a fly over these
fish, and those casting from the opposite bank were
usually unsuccessful because the fly did not work
satisfactorily, excepting on the run from the culvert
—the rest of that side being either slack water or
in eddy.
Occasionally I got a fish with a short line, but
it was a most tantalising place, and during the hot
summer days I set to work to scheme out a way of
attacking the stronghold with some hope of success.
By standing down in the meadow close to the parapet
of the bridge and returning and throwing with a
horizontal cast, I soon found I could cover part of the
stream. The place, however, where the fish mostly
congregated and fed was close under the mouth of
the culvert, and the branches of trees overhead and
all round behind me rendered it impracticable to
get the fly up to this spot.
One day I interviewed the gardener of the property adjoining and just above our limit, and having
obtained his master's sanction, proceeded to study
the position of the particular boughs which interfered
with the cast, and induced him to mark them with
a brush full of white paint. His master having
inspected these was kind enough to let his man cut
away most of the offending branches during the
winter, so that at the opening of the next season I
could just manage to fish the place fairly well.   THE   WANDLE
Of course one had to take great care to keep the
hand above the parapet of the bridge and yet to throw
and return nearly parallel to the surface of the water.
The slighest raising of the hand landed the fly up a
tree, and the smallest lowering brought the hand in
violent contact with the stonework, with disastrous and
painful effect. I honestly believe that working a fly
rod in this cramped position was most effectual in
teaching me the efficacy of using the wrist and not
the length of the arm in casting.
When a fish was hooked the best' position to
assume was to move into the road in the centre of
the bridge and play it from that stand, returning to
the meadow at the last stage when the trout was
exhausted and ready for the landing net. When fishing this cast it was also most important to keep a
sharp look-out for pedestrians or traffic passing up or
down the road, so as not to bring the fly or line in
collision with them while behind the angler. Altogether it was a most fascinating spot, and one where
rising fish could always be found and frequently killed.
On the opening day of my second season on the
Wandle, May ist, 1869, I was quite early on the
scene, having slept overnight at the village Inn ; and
knowing that the friend through whose liberality and
kindness I was permitted to fish the water had a
dinner party that evening I was most anxious to get
him a dish of his own trout for his table. I had put
my rod up, and mounting a hare's ear and yellow,
located myself at the culvert, fishing it underhanded 44
in the way already described. A rise at the very
mouth of the culvert attracted my attention, and after
a few wild efforts my fly landed right and a bold
rise, followed by a good fight, enabled me to score
first blood for the season with a perfect fish 12 ins.
in length and weighing 1 lb.  2 ozs.
Within a quarter of an hour a second of precisely
the same size and weight was added to the bag; and
a third and fourth of nearly \\ lbs. each made a
pretty little dish before breakfast. These were
despatched by an early train, and I was gratified to
hear afterwards that they were much appreciated at
my friend's dinner party. I killed a few more trout
that day, but was doubly charmed to find that my
scheme of removing some of the branches had
enabled me to fish the place perfectly with a horizontal cast.
I went down occasionally during the month of
May, and on the 20th, just in the gloaming, saw a
good fish rise in the stream flowing from the culvert.
I had been changing my fly pretty frequently that
afternoon, as the trout seemed very shy, and had a
small Coachman on the cast at the moment. Judging the length of line with extra care, I managed to
cover the spot, and rose and hooked the fish. I
scrambled on to the bridge and had a long tussle
with the fish, eventually netting it, and as it was
then nearly dark, walked down to the Inn to get
a mouthful of food before starting on my homeward
journey. THE   WANDLE
Another fisherman, regaling himself at the Inn,
enquired as to my sport, and was very surprised when
he saw the trout I had just killed. I had estimated
its weight at about 2\ lbs., but he laughed at me, and
offered to bet that it would pull down the scales at
3 lbs. Sending for scales and weights, we were both
astonished at finding that it weighed 3 lbs. 2 ozs.
It was a typical Wandle fish of that period, 15 ins.
in length and 15J ins. girth—one of those short
thick, hog-backed looking female trout with tiny
head, which are very rarely seen nowr-a-days.
In those days we were all under the impression
that fish paired, and the capture of a large female
seemed therefore to indicate the presence of another
of similar or larger size of the opposite sex. Two
months later, to the very day—on July 20th—I killed
another large trout in the same place, which, strange
to say, was exactly the same weight, 3 lbs. 2 ozs.,
a moderately well made-up male of 17J ins. in
Although it must not be imagined that I did not
have my share of disappointing and blank days, yet
my sport on this water was generally very good.
There was a very fair stock of fish, and in company
with an occasional friend, I was practically the only
angler who fished that particular length of the river.
An acquaintance who did not fish himself, asked
for leave from one of his intimate friends, a miller,
on another piece of water on the Wandle, and a day
was  fixed  for  us  to  go down there together,  I to 46 AN ANGLERS A UTOBIOGRAPHY
fish and he to walk with and generally assist me.
I remember that it was a lovely warm summer day,
with light breeze, and we both looked forward to an
afternoon's sport. It was at and below one of the
many flour mills in the vicinity, and the water was
in perfect. condition.
After being welcomed by our host, a benevolent-
looking and cheery old gentleman, I was putting
up my rod and tackle when a very good fish of
apparently 2 lbs. rose and took something off the
surface. " That is one of the tame fish I feed," said
our host, and naturally I took the hint and promised
not to cast a fly over that part of his stream. We
walked down some 200 yards when another rise
of a fairly good fish under the bank was duly
observed. Crouching 'down in position, and after
some bungling attempts, I put the fly to it. A rise, *
the usual tactics, and the trout was in the net.
At this moment our host arrived on the scene
in a breathless state of alarm, and implored me not
to hurt this trout as it was one of his special pets.
Gently extracting the hook, I dropped a pretty trout
of about 1 \ lbs. back into the river, and it swam
away, to the manifest joy of the old gentleman. I
had noticed a backstream, and enquired whether the
fish there were tame fed pets, and on receiving a
reply in the negative, we all started down this part
of the water. Here again a rising fish was hooked,
netted, duly admired, and, in response to an agonising appeal from the miller, also returned unhurt.
yw   THE   WANDLE 47
Seeing that the hooking of one of his trout was
so painful to our host, and imagining that if by some
chance one should get killed he would be in the
depths of despair, I then took down my rod, deposited
it and my tackle on a bench in his garden, and we
had a long and somewhat wearisome conversation
until the time arrived for me to catch a train back
to London. Some readers may fancy that this little
anecdote is not quite accurate, and wonder, as I
did, why the miller was kind enough to give leave
at all if he had so rooted an objection to any of his
trout being captured. I can, however, assure them
that it is in every particular the exact truth, and
my friend who had obtained the permission for me
was profuse in his expressions of regret at my loss
of a good day's sport.
There were in those days a grand stock of fish
all over the Wandle, from the source of the stream
almost down to its junction with the Thames. In
1873 I had a few hours with an old friend on a length
of water close to Merton Abbey, and killed a brace
of fish 34 lbs. and if lbs. respectively. In the
Mitcham district I had occasional days down to 1881,
and generally succeeded in getting a brace of fish of
1 lb. to if lbs. during the evening rise. How sad
it is to look back at these days and feel, as one
must, that the polluted stream in which few trout,
Ephemeridce or other trout food can live, was once
so clean, so fair, and gave such sport to those who
frequented its lovely banks. •48
On the Wandle I made the acquaintance of two
brothers, Foster and Alexander Mortimore, both good
sportsmen, and as keen as possible for dry-fly or
other fishing. From the Wandle they, like myself,
migrated to the Test and other Hampshire chalk
streams, and frequent reference to them will be found
in later parts of this book. They were always good
.and true friends of mine, and often gave me leave to
fish the waters they rented. The portrait of the late
Foster Mortimore, given here, is from a snap-shot
taken by his brother Alexander, and lent to me for
the purpose of reproduction in this book.
Lower Part of Sheep Bridge Shallow.
*%t#m/ a, a7uzfcjA&£'s<!a£i
HEN invited by a friend to
join him in a short salmon-
fishing expedition to Ireland
in the summer of 1874, very
little persuasion sufficed to
induce me to make an initial
attempt, the more so as before that time it had never
fallen to my lot to cast a salmon fly. Double-handed
rod, reel, gut, and a few flies were purchased, and
we travelled as speedily as possible to Killaloe on
the Shannon.
The distinctly humorous side of Irish character,
which appealed most forcibly to both of us, has been
so often enlarged upon by pens far better able to do
justice to so entertaining a subject, that I will prudently
abstain from any such attempt. In the train, before
we arrived at our destination, the warm-hearted
hospitality of the local gentleman was brought
prominently before us by the offer of a fellow-
traveller to give us leave to try his private pools in
the neighbourhood. 5o
He told us, however, that the river was too low
for us to expect much sport, and he added that we
were only likely to kill a few grilse or peal, as they are
generally called in Ireland. His predictions were
fulfilled to the letter, as we did not kill a single fish
{i.e., salmon) during the week of our stay there. We
admired the river, the scenery, the skill of the boatman in managing the cot or boat from which we
fished, but our only captures consisted of trout
taken during the  twilight.
My friend suggested a move to Galway, and a long
day in the train was passed in discussing the prospect
of doing better there. Most of my readers probably
know this curious town, with its endless lines of quays
and large area of docks, quite empty of shipping
beyond a few weather-beaten smacks. Many perhaps,
realise the enormous and reckless waste of money in
constructing these docks before the strongest evidence
had been adduced that the great Atlantic liners would
desert Liverpool for this port in the extreme West of
Ireland. This is not the right place in which to*
enlarge upon this subject, and my trenching on it
at all may, I hope, be pardoned, or set down to my
possibly being infected by the feelings so indigenous
to the soil of Ireland, of recording one's vote as
" agin the Government."
Lough Corrib is something like 40 miles in length,
and a short distance down the river, flowing out of it,
is the i( Regulating Weir," with its effective salmon
ladder.    From below the weir to the sea is a distance SALMON FISHING 51
of perhaps one mile, and at the upper end is the so-
called Drain, then the cribs, where, excepting in the
legal space, called the Queen's Gap, every passage
is barred, and salmon attempting to ascend the river
are trapped. From 6 p.m. on each Saturday to
6 a.m. on the following Monday, all cribs and other
impediments to the passage of the salmon had, in
those days, to be removed.
Below the cribs was the Barrack Hole, almost
under the windows of the barracks, and just below
this a bridge, through which it was impossible to
follow a hooked fish. The bed of the river in the
Barrack Hole and the Drain were apparently paved
with peal. These places are referred to in the past
tense, because my last visit to Galway was in 1875,
and possibly great alterations may have been since
made. The river, from the weir to the sea, has the
appearance of being an artifically made cut, and I
believe, as a matter of fact, does not follow the
natural course of the stream.
We arrived at Galway in the evening, and the
following morning paid a visit to Nicholas Brown,
who was the water bailiff, and arranged with him for
tickets to fish the water, and then proceeded to lay in
a stock of local flies. He recommended gillies to
attend us, and before long we were hard at work
fishing the Drain.
I killed my first fish that day, a peal of about 7 lbs. ;
but the water was far too low for much sport, and
after two or three days we packed all our belongings 52 AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
in a boat and started up the lake to Oughterard. No
salmon were killed by either of us, and the local boatmen persuaded us to try cross-lining, which was then
quite legal. We soon tired of this, however, and as
there was a prospect of change of weather, returned*
to Galway and had three days there before returning
I killed a few peal with fly, and my friend did
somewhat better, partly with prawn and partly with
fly; but I did not care for shrimping, and kept to the
fly exclusively. One day I hooked a good fish about
the middle of the Drain, and it gave me fully half an
hour of hard work. It tore up to the foot of the
salmon ladder, and then down again, and I had
difficulty in preventing its getting down below the
bridge, where I could not have followed it.
This performance was repeated time after time,
until at last, as I was putting on all the pressure I
dared to turn it from the bridge, the fish gave a lurch
and rolled on the top of the water. In a moment the
smart gillie gaffed the fish, a fresh run, handsome
male of 16J lbs. Before leaving Galway I arranged
with Nicholas Brown to have a week with him the
following year, whenever the water was in condition.
The next July accordingly found me once more
at Galway, and the river being in very good order
I killed about seventeen or eighteen fish during the
week of my visit. Many of the fishermen there
practised the art of snatching when the fish were not
taking, and the gillies generally carried small pieces of
!L  ■H
lead wire, which they wTrapped round the head of the
flies so as to sink them well. The gillie would watch
the fly, and just as it was under a fish would say,
" Take another cast your Honour." The fisherman,
raising his hand to do so, would feel the resistance of
a fish, and as the rod point bent the gillie would
scream, % Hit him another shmack, your Honour,"
which generally drove the hook in over the barb, and
after a furious fight the foul-hooked fish was
frequently brought to the gaff and killed. The
practice was quite common, and those, like my friend
and myself, who refused to stoop to such procedure,
were generally rewarded by the ridicule of their
attendant gillies.
Although fully appreciating the exciting moment
of the first rush of a hooked fish, I cannot say that
salmon fishing ever possessed any great fascination for
me. The heavy rod and tackle, and the monotonous
work of fishing down a pool, too often without a rise
or any other incident, did not, to my mind, compare
favourably with the sport of finding, stalking, rising
or trying to rise, hooking or failing to hook, and
killing or losing a good trout on a South Country
chalk stream.
For many years after this, beyond a very occasional day, I had scarcely any salmon fishing. In
1894, however, one of my best friends had the Carham
water on the Tweed, and invited me to stay with
him and fish there for a week in the autumn. The
fishing party consisted of our host, the ever genial 54
" Red Spinner," and myself, and the two visitors
travelled up to Scotland together, arriving early on
the morning of October 15th. The water was down
to summer level, and only two pools were fishable,
the upper one, a short, rather rapid and only
moderately deep run, which was fished wading, and
a dub  below,  which was fished from a boat.
The arrangement was that one fished the wading
run in the morning, while the other two fished the dub
from the boat, changing about after lunch. After the
first day our host fished another pool higher up the
river, belonging to a neighbour who was away at the
moment. On the first day "Red Spinner" killed
a grilse of 4 lbs.,  and the  rest had blanks.
The next morning I was told off to fish from the
boat with the head gillie, whose name was Tammy
Sligh. My rod was a 15 ft. greenheart, made for this
visit to my order by Walbran, of Leeds. This
Tammy condemned in no unmeasured terms, and
more so as the wind was in our faces, and he
opined that I should not even be able to put a fly
into the wind with it, much less kill the big fish of
the Tweed. Sligh, who has since, unfortunately,
departed this life, was a typical Scotchman, a first-
rate fisherman, a great hand at fly dressing, and
a most entertaining companion.
A well-known Royal Academician and friend of
our host, who had been staying at Carham,. told a
number of most amusing anecdotes about Sligh.
One  of these   was  that  they   had   been   discussing SALMON FISHING 55
the question of grilse and salmon. Sligh would not
admit the possibility of a fish going down to the
sea as a grilse and returning as a salmon. The
Stormontfield experiments were related, but he would
not believe them, At last the Royal Academician
suggested that he should lend Sligh the book about
these experiments, to which the canny one replied,
" What do I want to be reading nonsense for—
saumon are saumon, and grilse are grilse, and them
as say they bee'nt,  be fules."
The same gentleman had brought down one of
Hardy's very best 16 ft. glued cane salmon rods, and
hearing that Sligh had never handled one of these
magnificent weapons, took it down to the river,
Sligh solemnly took it out- of the case, put on the
reel, threaded the line through the rings, knotted
on the gut and fly. Then he made four or five casts
with the rod, and proceeded to take off the gut cast
and fly, wound up the line, removed the reel, took
down the rod, replaced it in the case, and tying it up,
handed it back to its owner, saying, " Well, Mr. 	
it is a bonny mantelpiece ornament."
With such a man, it may well be understood that,
having once condemned my rod as too short, something extraordinary must have happened to make
him admit himself in error. Before starting he put
up a fairly fine single gut cast, with a very small
Stevenson on my little rod, and we dropped down
in the boat to the lowest part of the dub. The
method of fishing these comparatively still   dubs  is 56
Although I had ioo
at one time as if the
After several runs up
for the fisherman to throw almost at right angles to
the stream, and, to assist in working the fly, the boatman is engaged in slowly paddling the boat up-stream.
In this way the fly is working well throughout the
cast; but probably the majority of the fishermen
do not give the boatman full credit for the important
part he plays in the fishing of the cast.
In this way we had worked nearly up to the top
of the pool when I saw a flash, and in a moment felt
that I had hooked a good fish. It tore up-stream,
then turned, and Sligh had to pull as hard as he
could to follow the salmon,
yards on the reel, it looked
salmon would run it all out.
and down, the fish always keeping deep down in the
water, I got ashore and was soon on terms with the.
salmon. Sligh slipped his landing net under it (they
do not use gaffs on that part of the Tweed) and we
duly admired and registered the weight of a fresh
run male fish just over 16 lbs.
The following afternoon I had this beat, and after
fishing it over once with a Stevenson, Sligh put up
a very small Blue Jock Scott, and at about the middle
of the pool I hooked a very lively and strong fish. It
ran up-stream at a great pace, then jumped twice and
turned down-stream. We put the boat ashore and
I reeled in as quickly as I could. The fish" caught
sight of Sligh standing in the water with the landing
net in his hand and went right across the river with
one terrific rush and  nearly jumped on the opposite  I SALMON FISHING 57
bank; it then turned and came back right under my
feet, went back again, and then sulked for a few
I never saw a fish go at such a pace, and it must
be remembered that the river is at least 60 yards wide
at this place, and I was holding the salmon as hard
as I dared, seeing that it was onlv single gut, and not
very thick gut either.
At last the fish gave signs of exhaustion, and after
a few short runs was in the landing net and on the
bank, a fresh run hen fish of 19 lbs. As Sligh gave
this salmon its coup de grace he could not help
exclaiming, "Well, it is a gran little rod after all."
The week's total was as follows : Our host,
15^- lbs., 21 lbs., 5^ lbs., 8J lbs., and a bull trout of
3^ lbs. " Red Spinner," 4 lbs., 6\ lbs., 14 lbs.,
7^- lbs. ; and myself, the 16 lbs. and 19 lbs. fish
referred to before, and a 7 lbs. grilse killed in the
wading pool.
The last week of September and the first week of
October, 1899, were spent on the Spean, where friend
P. rented a beat and had invited a succession of
guests to share his sport. On my arrival the river
was just recovering from a flood, and fish were
plentiful in all the pools. With a falling barometer
and predictions of more rain it was not altogether
a matter of surprise to find that the fish were not
taking. The first day the only one killed was a
grilse of 7 lbs., which fell to our host's rod. The
next day the river was rising, and our host killed one 58
of 8 lbs., and the head gillie two more of 7 lbs. each
with worm.
During the fortnight of my visit the river was
never really in condition ; first it would fall until
nearly low enough for good sport, and then heavy
fain and a big flood would follow. We fished
whenever there was chance with a fly, but on the
impossible days our host and I set to work to dress
flies and work out new patterns. The party never
exceeded three rods on any day, and killed in the
aggregate twenty-eight fish of 277J lbs., of which four
weighing 35\ lbs. fell to my rod. The river is a
very sporting and typical Highland salmon river,
with plenty of pools and great variety of water.
The flies used generally are on the sober side,
and many of the patterns are dressed with black
bodies and black hackles. When nearly dusk the
most killing autumn pattern is a large Thunder and
Lightning dressed with a yellow hackle in | place of
the brilliant orange one used in the standard pattern.
During the winter and early spring I dressed a
great number of salmon flies, as my friend had taken
the beat for the following autumn and pressed me
to pay him another visit. On October 7th in the following year, " Red Spinner" and I found ourselves in
the night mail on our way to Spean Bridge, where we
arrived the next day, to find the river in full flood.
Our host, his wife, a friend and his wife, with " Red
Spinner" and myself comprised the fishers of the
party. Of the two ladies, our hostess was a very
good salmon fisher, and the other quite a beginner.
The day of our arrival was an impossible one,
but the next day our hostess killed a 12 lbs. fish, the
following day our host killed two, 7 lbs. and 14 lbs.
Some days later he killed on another beat a very
pretty fish of 17 lbs. Meanwhile "Red Spinner"
and I had worked on day after day, but except, an
occasional short rise and one fish which broke the
barb of a double-hooked fly, " Red Spinner " had no
sport, and I do not think I had even a rise.
At length we had an earnest consultation as to the
advisability of abandoning the attempt, but notwithstanding the bad weather, we were in such pleasant
company that we decided to hang on as long as we
could. Both of us had to be back in London by the
-18th, which necessitated our leaving Spean Bridge
on the morning of the 17th at latest. The night
of the 15th was bright and bitterly cold, and on
our way to the river on the morning of the 16th
every part of the landscape sparkled with hoar frost,
and the summits of the neighbouring mountains were
covered with snow.
The ladies and their husbands had selected the
upper pools for the morning, and " Red Spinner " and
I, accompanied by a fine young 6 ft. gillie, made our
way to one of the best of the lower pools, called the
Brae. The plan generally adopted was for one to
fish the pool over, and after giving it a rest, the other
would go over it again with a different fly.
The Brae pool, a view of which is given in a
photogravure reproduced from a photograph, is some 6o
250 yards in length, fairly deep at the head, and
gradually widening out at the tail, where a sharp
broken shallow marks its termination. The level of
the water was rather high, but we could fish the pool
very well by wading in on the shallower shelving side
and casting nearly out to the opposite bank. The bed
of the Spean is covered with very large slippery round
boulders, so that great care is necessary when wading.
" Red Spinner" was at the head of the pool
steadily working his fly, while I was huddled up in
a thick ulster sitting behind a rock to keep out of
the piercing cold wind. When nearly half-way down
the pool his rod was bent to that delightful arch
telling of a good fish, and after a hard struggle the
first fish of 11 lbs. was gaffed and safely landed. As
soon as the fish was killed he said that I was to fish
and he would look on. However, I persuaded him
to continue working down the pool while I put up
a fly and went in at the head to fish the upper part
down a second time.
The gillie selected a Black Spean on a No. 14
hook, and after testing the cast I stepped into the
water to fish the pool. In a fit of extravagance I had
ordered a new 17 ft. glued cane steel-centred rod
from Hardy, and a very beautiful rod it was. This
trip to the Spean was the first occasion on which it
had been used, and seeing that " Red Spinner" and
I had fished for seven days before this without a
salmon, there did not seem much chance of its being
thoroughly tried by a big fish.
Fishing down very steadily and when just about  i SALMON FISHING 61
the place where my companion had killed his fish I
was conscious of a flash in the water and a very heavy
pull. Striking deliberately, I steadied myself, and
was at once certain that the salmon hooked was a
very large one. It swam slowly down the pool and
I gradually retired to the bank. Then, with equal
deliberation, the salmon worked its way up, then
across, then back, and so on. It never seemed in any
hurry, kept deep down in the water, and even with
this powerful 17 ft. rod it was like trying to hold a
barge or a locomotive.
I felt absolutely powerless, and if the fish had made
one dash out of the pool it would have simply smashed
me to atoms. "Red Spinner" and the gillie had of
course joined me as soon as the fish was hooked, and
the former was of the greatest service, as he saved me
from many falls over the big round smooth boulders
with which the bank was covered. The salmon did
not seem to realise the position at all, it never made a
run of more than twenty yards, and was quite slow in
its movements. The greatest strain I could put on
seemed to be without effect, and the fish simply swam
about just as and when it liked and never showed
near the surface for a very long time.
At length it came to the top of the water and
rolled over with a heavy lurch. I felt that the time
had then arrived for me to try and bully the fish, so
I held on for dear life and kept on turning the fish
and forcing it to come up in the water. The strain
was fearful, and every now and then " Red Spinner "
would urge on me the advisability of not being too 62 AN ANGLERS A UTOBIOGRAPHY
severe. I knew the tackle was all sound and felt
that unless the hook tore out the big fish was bound
to come home.
Presently the gillie was crouching down in the
water, gaff in hand, and after two or three attempts
I managed to bring the salmon within his reach.
Calmly, and without hurry he drove the gaff home and
staggered up the bank with the assistance of " Red
Spinner," with a huge male fish, which was deposited
on the ground while we all had to rest and get a
mouthful of whiskey to recuperate. I never felt so
tired in my life, dripping with perspiration from head
to foot, my legs shaking so that I could scarcely stand,
and both arms aching with pain.
" Red Spinner," who had timed the performance,
announced that it had only taken a little more than
twenty minutes, and I am quite certain that the fish
would have beaten me if I had relaxed the pressure
after the first symptom it displayed of giving in. The
salmon, a male, was hooked in the lower jaw, and in
the roof of its mouth the open scar of a double hook
could be distinctly seen, so that it was in all probability the very fish lost in the same pool by " Red
Spinner " a few days before.
We had no spring balance weighing above 20 lbs.,
so as it was nearly one o'clock, made the best of our
way to a tent in the middle of the beat where -the
party had arranged to assemble for lunch. En route
I asked both " Red Spinner " and the gillie to estimate
the weight of the salmon. The former said 35 lbs.
and the latter thought that it was well over 30 lbs., SALMON FISHING
but not so much as 35 lbs. I am no judge of fish of
these dimensions so abstained from giving an opinion.
When the rest of the party arrived at the tent we
found the gillie was deploring their bad luck, as our
hostess had hooked a very big fish, which they all
thought was quite 30 lbs., and had lost it when nearly
within reach of the gaff. My fish was certainly not
beautiful, a huge male, with all the colours of the
rainbow, and a tusk projecting from its lower jaw. It
was 45 ins. in length and 24 ins. maximum girth, and
scaled just over 34 lbs.
After lunch and while the rest of the males of
the party were solacing themselves with tobacco, the
persevering "Red Spinner "was persuaded to try
the pool in front of the tent, called the Roy Mouth,
it being situated just where the Roy flows into the
Spean. Here he got another fish of 14J lbs., and we
both felt that we had done well after all to stay on, and
succeed in breaking the run of bad luck. Whether,
however, a journey of 1,000 miles and seven consecutive blank days are compensated by the capture of a
34 lb. salmon is a question to be answered by each
individual according to his own ideas.
Chilland. I
INETY-NINE out of every
hundred dry-fly men have
gained their early experience in the use of a fly
rod by fishing the sunk or
wet fly. My case was an
exception to this general
rule, and perhaps my observations on the difference between the two
methods may not commend themselves to all of my
readers, and be deemed heterodox by some of them.
I must confess that the sunk fly has never appealed
to me with the Same fascination as the floating fly,
and yet I am fully convinced that to be a first-rate
performer with the wet fly requires considerable
natural aptitude and prolonged study of the subject.
In Dry-Fly Fishing, chapter ii., I tried to
give a proper definition of the terms and the mode
of practising the two methods, also advancing all the
arguments  I  could adduce to show the comparative
advantage of both systems, and the conditions under
which each is likely to prove successful. I would
ask my reader to kindly peruse that chapter if he
would desire to place himself in line with me on
the question.
He who for preference would find a feeding fish,
stalk it, cast to it, and if successful rise, hook, and kill
it, is evidently intended by Nature to be a votary of
the floating fly. On the other hand, he who for
preference will wander, rod in hand, along the banks
of a mountain stream and cast his fly or flies upon
it ; in short, doing what is commonly called " fishing
the stream," on the chance of tempting the lively
little trout to their destruction, is as evidently a born
adherent of the sunk fly. Some of my friends whose
experience of fly fishing, wet and dry, is far greater
than my own, condemn my opinions. They urge, no
doubt with good foundation, the argument that in
some rivers the dry fly is impossible, and that in
many parts of the world, notably in the United States
and New Zealand, the largest fish are therefore
without exception killed on sunk flies.
We believe that we .know why the Salmonidae
take the floating fly, and are in consequence concerned
to try and imitate the natural insect in size, in shape,
in colour, and in its behaviour on the surface of the
• stream. There is, however, some room for difference
of opinion as to what the wet fly represents. It
may be taken for the active nymph of one of the
Ephemeridae, or for the more supine pupa of one of 66
the Trichoptera; it may be for one of the Corixae or
other water-bugs darting through the water ; or it may
be for one of the Crustaceae, such as the water shrimp
(Gammarus pulex), or the water wood-louse (Asellus
aquaticus). It may fairly be urged that in rivers
where natural insects and their larvae are few in
number, the ever hungry trout will try every moving
object carried down by the stream which suggests to
them the idea of living creatures fit for food.
Some readers may express surprise at the statement that the brilliant-coloured flies often used by the
wet fly fisherman could be mistaken by the fish for
these comparatively sombre-hued denizens of the
river. Let the doubting one place a few of these
larvae or Crustaceae in an ordinary aquarium and he
will be startled by the rays of many coloured lights
due to interference and refraction produced by their
movements through the water. Some authorities are
of the opinion that the motion of the fibres of hackle
and fur convey a notion of life, and that the fish are
attracted to and take the artificial fly mainly because
it appears to be embued with life.
In dressing imitations of the duns, spinners, sedges
and other insects, some votaries of the wet fly imagine
that in the rough broken water of rapid streams the
natural insects are drowned, and the feeding fish often
comes across them well below the surface. ' This
probably is a fallacy, for certainly I have never yet
succeeded in getting one of the Ephemeridae or
Trichoptera so sodden as to sink it below the surface,
although I have tried to do so and treated the
specimens with considerable violence in attempting
to effect this  object.
One of the great charms, however, of angling in
all its branches is that it gives endless opportunity
for difference of opinion and discussion among the
followers of the various schools. Every good fisherman and every sportsman will urge his own particular
view with all his might, but at the same time will be
prepared to listen to the arguments of those holding
opinions quite opposed to his own, and will ever be
ready to respect these opinions and credit his opponent in argument with being convinced that his (the
opponent's) view of the question is the right one.
It must be admitted by all students of the sunk
fly method that whatever in the movement of the
artificial flies is opposed to the natural behaviour of
the creatures they imitate is objectionable and unlikely
to prove successful, and it may be urged that the
avoidance of drag is as essential for the wet as for
the dry-fly man. The meaning here attached to the
expression drag is identical with that given in Dry-
Fly Fishing, viz., that the • artificial fly is dragging
when it travels either more rapidly or more slowly
than the natural, or when it is drifted across the run
of the stream.
There has been at times much discussion as to
whether the wet fly should be cast up-stream or downstream, but as far as my limited experience goes, I
have always found that throwing up-stream or across AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
and up has proved more efficacious than throwing
down-stream. This is not astonishing when due
regard is given to the fact that the fly worked downstream must drag, and besides, the angler from his
position is a more prominent object to the fish, and
far more likely to scare them when he is placed above
than when he is below the feeding trout. An exception may perhaps be made to this rule in the case
of a big water, where even approximately the location
of fish is most uncertain ; and under these conditions
it may be good policy to fish down-stream or across
and down, because by this method more space is
covered and searched for feeding trout.
My first experience of- this class of fly fishing-
was during the evenings while at Killaloe, on Lough
Corrib at Oughterard, at Lynmouth in North Devon,
and on the Nidd, Wharfe, and Laver in Yorkshire.
In 1879 I had a few days^ too, at Helmsley on the
Rye, and in all these rivers the trout were, to one
accustomed to the South Country stream, of very
small average size. I never found any particular
advantage in using what are called local patterns.
Imitations of duns, spinners, and sedges, dressed very
spare in wings and hackle, proved in most cases as
good killers as any, but I think that fine drawn gut
is almost a necessity when the water is low and clear.
Many North Country fishermen used to put up
a cast with three or four flies, and even now the
majority believe their chances are improved by having
two flies of different patterns on the gut collar, espe- < »>
cially at the commencement of the day, so as to
ascertain as rapidly as possible which pattern is preferred by the feeding fish. There are a few who fish
a single fly, and if it is safe to predict, I would
hazard the prophecy that the day is not far distant
when the followers of this style will constitute the
majority of the best wet fly fishermen.
I was much interested, some years since, watching
a first-rate wet fly man, a Yorkshire fisherman, on
a portion of the Upper Test. His flies were olive
quills of various shades, iron blues, red quills, and
such patterns, all of which he used on his native
streams, and were dressed with peacock quill bodies,
very meagre upright wings, and a single turn of hen
hackle for legs. He did not in any way practise the
"chuck and chance it" plan, but moved slowly
up-stream, carefully studying the set of the current
and quickly deciding where a feeding fish should be
in each run. Sometimes it would be close under the
bank, sometimes on the edge of a slack place, and
sometimes on the margin of an eddy.
Whenever he had made up his mind as to the
most likely spot there, he would make one, or at most
two light casts, placing his fly with great accuracy
and letting it drift down without drag. Now this I
take it was the best possible imitation of the work of
a dry-fly fisherman, except that he had not spotted
the fish and his fly was not floating in the dry-fly
sense. His patterns were very similar in size, colour
and form, to those of the ordinary chalk stream fisher- 70 AN ANGLERS A UTOBIOGRAPHY
man. He used very fine drawn gut, and worked
hard from morning to evening, never passing over
a likely place without putting a fly into it, and very
seldom losing a hooked fish.
It was in the early part of April, during strong
westerly and south-westerly winds, when the hatch
of duns was sparse, and when, in fact, all conditions
were favourable to the sunk and unfavourable to the
floating fly. He fished six days on a well-stocked
reach of the river, and killed in the aggregate seven
trout weighing 9 lbs. Candidly, I was somewhat
surprised at the good result, and have often wondered
■whether he could repeat the performance. Of course
the average weight of his fish, just over 1 \ lbs., was
very small for the Test, and two or three of them
would have been returned by many dry-fly fishermen.
Let it be clearly understood, however, that this
fisherman was most skilful and painstaking, and was
a past master in the art of selecting the right spot,
and in placing his fly accurately and delicately there
at the first attempt. Had he merely fished the river
up or down, or had he bungled his cast, or moved
about rapidly, or, in fact, made any mistakes, I do
not believe he would have killed a single trout,
so that his bag represents the best possible result,
under existing conditions, for a wet fly fisherman on
a stream like the Upper Test.
As it is always well to set out both sides of a
question, I should like now to give an example of the
converse,  by which I mean the result of the use of FISHING  THE SUNK FLY
dry fly on a typical Scotch burn. Some years ago
I spent a few weeks at Moffat, in Dumfries, and was
persuaded to take up a rod and tackle and to fish
some of the neighbouring waters. I tried different
parts of the Annan and the Evan with the sunk fly
after the method in vogue there, fishing up-stream
and with two flies only. Each day that I fished I
was accompanied by an enthusiastic North Country
fisherman staying at the same hydropathic establishment.
When the water was in condition we generally
got from ten to thirty little trout during the day, and
returned about twice as many samlets. Neither of us
scored appreciably better than the other, either as to
number or average weight. The fish were very small,
so small that I never troubled to weigh them, and
I should think they did not run to an average of
more than 2 ozs. each. This lasted during a spell
of dull and rainy weather, but presently it cleared up
and we had a series of bright, hot, cloudless days,
with the level of the water falling very rapidly, and
our sport was reduced to very meagre proportions.
One day I announced that as wet fly seemed
useless I intended to try dry fly in the pools. My
companion shook his head, and predicted disappointment, but added that he would not desert me, but
would fish the clear water worm while I amused
myself with the floating fly. The first day we went
together was on the Evan, which was only a walk
of perhaps one and a half hours over the hills.    On 72 AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
our arrival he left the lower pools untouched, and
walked up to a favourite spot some distance above.
I put up rod, line, and a Red Spinner on a
o hook, pulled on my waders, stepped into the
water at a shallow part, and I crept up to a big
boulder, over which I could see into the pool above,
where the water was clear and where three or four
good trout were slowly sailing about. They were
evidently on the look out for food, and one, which I
thought the largest, rose and took a fly on the surface.
My little Red Spinner was placed just above its nose
and up it came with a bold rise and was gradually
towed down to the landing net and dropped into the
basket. Stepping back into the water I waited for
a full quarter of an hour, but no fish was to be seen ;
the trout in this pool had evidently been alarmed.
At each pool this performance was repeated, every
rising trout took with the greatest confidence, and
every one was duly landed and basketed, but in no
case could a second be found. In six consecutive
pools I thus killed six trout, and on my arrival at the
seventh found my companion hard at work with the
worm. He had not seen a fish, nor felt a tug, and
when I told him that my basket contained six trout,
one out of each of the pools below, he was somewhat
astonished. We sat down to lunch, and in a few
minutes a heavy cloud came up, with thunder,
lightning, hail and rain to follow.
As the water was rising and coming down quite
thick, I took shelter while my comrade continued to FISHING THE SUNK FLY
work the worm tackle, but soon he voted for our
giving up the game and trending our way back to
Moffat. On our arrival at the hydropathic establishment the manager, who was interested in
my experiment, insisted on seeing the fish, and
declared that they were the best trout he had ever
seen out of the Evan. The six weighed 2 lbs. 8 ozs.
This experiment was repeated on various occasions,
and each time in hot bright weather and clear water
the dry fly killed more fish of greater average weight
than the wet fly.
In political controversy it is a favourite device
to set up as one of the theories advanced by
your opponent something which is, to your ideas,
evidently inaccurate and logically untenable. You
then proceed to demolish this bogey, and hug yourself with the belief that you have scored a distinct
triumph. I hope my readers will not deem me
capable of following this evil example in devoting
some part of this chapter on the sunk fly to proving,
or trying to prove, the manifest superiority over it
of my own favourite floating fly.
Under the Trees at St. Cross. CHAPTER  VIII.
HE experiences referred to
in the last two chapters
covered a considerable number of years but it must
not be imagined that during this time either my
keenness for the sport of
dry-fly fishing had waned,
or my attempts to master the intricacies of the science
had in any way been relaxed. I could not afford to
neglect opportunities for making my way in the world,
and had to take care that no part of the time required
for business was more pleasantly devoted to sport.
Even in those days it was not easy to find dry-fly
fishing within a reasonable distance of the Metropolis, and when found it was generally a rather costly
pursuit.   .
Whenever the chance presented itself of getting,
at anything like a moderate price, a rod on a trout
stream, I tried to obtain, and sometimes succeeded
in obtaining, leave to give the water a trial for a few
days, sometimes  by payment and sometimes by the HOUGHTON
courtesy of those interested in letting the fishing.
As might be expected, some of the fisheries thus tried
were practically frauds, places in which trout were
only present in very small numbers and coarse fish
were plentiful. Some were fairly good, and of these
a goodly proportion were snapped up by others
before I could get into negotiation.
At Fairford on the Coin I had a most interesting
week in the early spring, and killed a few fair fish,
but when I wrote offering to take the rod on the
terms asked, it was too late, as some one else had
already secured the opportunity. Then I heard of
a length of the Chess where a friend and I were
invited to try and rent the river if it suited. We
had a very good day on this water, but on our arrival
and before even making a start, were told by the
proprietor that a local magnate wished to purchase
the property, arid he quite expected that the sale
would be effected. Within a few days this prediction
was fulfilled.
Later, I heard of some trout fishing on the
Lambourn, and journeyed down into Berkshire one
evening. The next morning a tour of inspection,
rod in hand, was undertaken, and it was certainly
a very pretty piece of water, fairly stocked with
trout of quite respectable average. It had not been
fished with fly for many years, and in fact, the fish
were so unsophisticated that they would come a full
yard to take a floating dun when on the feed. I
had several days here in the spring, and during
the May-fly, a full week of first-rate sport. 76 AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
The water was held by the landlord of an old- |
fashioned country inn, and he wisely preferred placing
it at the disposal of his visitors at a moderate sum
per diem rather than letting the fishing outright. I
believe that this water is now rented by an Angling
Association and still gives good sport, but the fish,
I hear, are no longer silly.
With occasional days on the Wandle and a series
of vain attempts to secure water, things progressed
thus until the spring of 1877, when I heard that there
was a vacancy in the Houghton Club. An early
date for a trial of the water was arranged, and my
first visit showed me that this was quite a different
class of fishing to any I had previously seen. The
Test was only known to me by name, and the
impression left on my mind by the mere appearance
of the stream and the trout in it was such that I
took the rod without a moment's hesitation, and
from that day to this have never regretted in the
smallest degree having done so.
Until I made my earliest attempts on this historic
Hampshire stream, I was really under the impression
that I knew something of dry-fly fishing and fancied
myself rather a good hand at it. I was quickly
ddsillusionnd ; the Houghton trout were not to be
beguiled by any of my feeble attempts, and the
necessity for devoting myself to a prolonged study
of the river, the fish and their habits, and the insects
on which they fed, was soon strongly impressed
on my mind.
One of the greatest difficulties encountered was
that of identifying the numerous flies indigenous to
the stream, and I can well recall the hatch of the
Grannom during my first spring there. One fine,
warm April morning there was not a sign of flies or
rising fish on the water, when suddenly every trout
and grayling in the county seemed to have gone mad.
In all directions fish were plunging about under water,
occasionally taking some floating but not visible
object. Then from bank to bank the river was one
seething mass of struggling insects, of which the
hungry Salmonidae were taking heavy toll. The
"shucks" which may be described as the discarded
swaddling clothes of the perfect insect left on the
surface during the metamorphosis from pupa to imago,
looked like a thick scum on the surface.
After a few minutes all was still again and the
hatch of fly suddenly ceased, but the air, the rushes,
boughs of trees, and even the grass near the river
were filled by swarms of these Trichoptera. This
was repeated several times in the course of the day,
and one member of the club killed with a rough
and ready representation* of Brachycentrus subnubilus
seven and a half brace of fish, weighing 29 lbs. A
comparison of his pattern with the natural insect
convinced me that a great improvement could be
effected by any amateur who could dress a fly and
would devote some time to carrying out the work.
I found, too, that the patterns sold in shops as
imitating one and the same insect were  of infinite 7S AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
variety in   size,  form   and   colour,  and that   none of
them  were  really good imitations.
It was now that I determined to try and learn
to dress flies, and was told that it would take years
to do so, everi if I could persuade one of the best
professionals to give me lessons. However, armed
with Ronald's book, and after many failures, I at
length succeeded in turning out some monstrosities
which did occasionally kill trout or grayling.
The history of the Houghton Club must be of
interest to all dry-fly fishermen. Originally it was
started by a number of well-known sportsmen in the
year 1822. Hofland, in the edition by Jesse of "The
British Angler's Manual," published in 1848, wrote
(pages 284, 285):—
" Lower down the Test, near Stockbridge, a
" society has been formed called the r Haughton
" Club' by a party of gentlemen, and the water is
" well preserved. They meet early in the spring,
" and I believe it may be truly said, they are a band
"of brothers ; for one of the club informed me that
" he had never seen a shade of temper, or heard
" an unkind expression from one to another, since he
" had been a member."
" I have been so fortunate as to have seen their
" commonplace book* in which every member is
"expected to narrate the events of his day's fishing,
* " Mr. Perm's celebrated « Maxims and Hints for Anglers'
1 were originally inserted in this book.—Ed." HOUGHTON
"his triumphs, miseries, &c. ; and I was highly'
" delighted and amused with the gaiety and good "
"humour which I found in this witty and curious'
" miscellany. The book is also embellished with'
"original sketches by members and visitors, of
" caricatures, scenery, &c."
"In my introduction to this work I have'
" attempted a defence of the 'Art of Angling,' and '
I should I have there failed, I am quite sure the'
I following list of names forming the Stockbridge '
I Club, will alone be a sufficient answer to the'
" sneering and prejudiced caviller, or to the morbid'
" sensibility of those who condemn the gentle craft."
" The members for the year 1838 were :—
" The Earl of Hardwicke; Lord Saltoun;
" W. H. Whitbread, Esq.; Henry Warburton, Esq.;
" Edward Barnard, Esq. ; G. W. Norman, Esq. ;
" the Rev. F. Beadon ; Francis Popham, Esq.;
" Colonel Mudge; Colonel Long; John Jarrett
" Esq. ;   Richard Penn, Esq."
In the year 1874 the club lost a considerable part
of the water they had previously leased, and a new
club was formed, which* then took the name of the
" Houghton Fly Fishing Club," the old club, from
the part of the water they retained, being then generally known as the " Stockbridge Club." The headquarters of the old Houghton Club were at the
Grosvenor Hotel, Stockbridge, and a view of this
comfortable hostelry with its quaint entrance, reproduced by photogravure from a photograph, is given. m
The following history of this new " Houghton
Club " is given in the words of my old friend, " South-
West," who acted as its Honorary Secretary from the
day of its inception to the end of the year 1892, when
the old club purchased back the water they had lost.
After that date they again resumed their original title
of the " Houghton Club," which they retain to the
present day.
"It was in the year 1875 that a considerable
stretch of the River Test was formed into what was
named l The Houghton Fly Fishing Club.' "
" Some few years previously the manorial fishing rights on the above-mentioned river had been
" The new proprietor then proposed dividing the
purchase into shares of ^250 each, by which a shareholder would secure a perpetual right of fishing in the
acquired water."
" This scheme, however, did not find favour, and
it was then determined to form a club. With this
object in view an Honorary Secretary was appointed,
and Rules drawn up. The number of members was
limited to twenty, the annual subscription fixed at
,£20, whilst six day tickets were issued to each
member for the use of his friends. The proprietor
reserved to himself the right of fishing, and of taking
or sending two friends to fish daily. At first sight
this might seem a somewhat formidable reservation,
so it is only just to say that the proprietor very seldom
exercised his right, but on the other hand, if a member expended his friends' tickets somewhat lavishly,
the proprietor was always most courteous in supplying the want by giving up his rights for the day.'
" The club in its earlier days was not usually up
to its full strength, and at the most there were seldom
more than four or five rods on the water the same
day, so there was plenty of room; for in dry-fly fishing one does not require a great extent of water,
provided always that there are plenty of trout."
"Angling was entirely restricted to fly fishing, and
only one rod allowed to each member. Two were not
permitted to share a rod between them."
" Part of the fishery being only ! half water,' a very
sensible arrangement was arrived at with those who
had the other side of the river; this was that fishermen might cast the fly across as far as they could,
provided that they did not wade to do so ; in wading
it was forbidden to cast the fly beyond the centre of
the river where the opposite bank was foreign territory. The fishery extended from '' Machine Barn,'
about half a mile below Stockbridge, down to Bossing-
ton, in a straight line some two and a half miles, but
the different side streams and various turns and
twistings made the actual fishing area considerably
greater than that distance. The Club water was
known as the 'upper' and 'lower,' but in communication with each other by crossing neutral ground with
"A short distance^from the lowest point of the
fishery was another branch of the Test called ' Black
Lake,' also an appanage of the Club; not a very
prepossessing stream, sluggish, deep, and full of mud
beds, but it held some very good trout, and was one
of the last places which struggled—and with some
success—to keep up the May-fly."
"In the first days of the Houghton Club the
limit of size for trout was 12 ins., but was afterwards increased to 13 and 14 ins., according to where
they were caught, in the \ upper' or ' lower water.'
Grayling were limited to 13 ins. As has been said
before, the only lure allowable was the artificial fly,
but a further Rule made it permissible to use the
minnow in weirs and hatch holes during the months
of May and August. When the Club was first
formed, flyfishing commenced March 15th. It was
soon found that this date was far too early for the
big trout of the Test. In 1878 it was altered to
March 25th. Again this proved to be too soon to
commence, so later on the opening day was changed
to April 2nd, at which it remained until the closing of
the Club. It might with advantage have been set at
April 15th, for even at that date many of the Test
three-pounders are hardly in first-rate order, as they
have not then had their Grannom feast. Another
change in the Rules was the issue of three additional
tickets to members for their friends, but such tickets
were only available for grayling."
" The Houghton water in the early seventies was  1 HOUGHTON
very different to what it was later on. In the former
case, trout were far easier to catch, whilst of those who
fished, perhaps only half—maybe fewer—had any idea
of dry-fly fishing, and it was a common thing to see an
angler flailing away with two big flies on the thickest
of gut, down-stream, and to hear his complaint of not
catching anything, with the added belief that there
were no trout in the river to catch. In those bygone
days, too, the blow-line was in evidence, and used by
those who fished from the other side of the river,
whilst many anglers on both sides of the stream, and
the keepers as well, were quite ignorant of the names
of the smaller Ephemeridae, and classed them all as
' pickked ■ (peaked) wing. The May-fly they knew,
the alder, and perhaps the sedge, but their entomology
ceased at that."
"In those early days weeds were hardly worse
than they are at present, but a periodical cutting
took place with that destructive and abominable
engine, the chain scythe. Mud banks in places were
certainly in a terrible state, coming up to one's knees
when wading, to emit a noxious effluvium when
stirred up by the fisherman's feet. At that time there
were too many old, black, lanky trout in the river,
the majority of them being male fish, and not a few
blind, which affliction some attributed to the foul
exudations of the mud banks ; but mud or not, in
those days there was certainly a more regular heavy,
rise of duns than one sees nowadays, and the Mayfly was strongly in evidence, although even then
" No one yet has been able to account satisfactorily for the disappearance of that Ephemera from the
Houghton water. Francis Francis's theory pointed
to severe late frosts as the cause ; others alleged over-
weed shearing and mud clearing ; some affirmed that
when the railway was constructed the line was laid
along the bed of a Test branch, once the great breeding place of the May-fly ; and finally one frivolous
scoffer suggested that the blow-liners had used up all
the flies."
" So time went on. The new club flourished, and
gradually numbers joined who knew something about
flies and dry-fly tactics, and those new members came
to stay."
"It was easy enough then to get a couple of
brace of good trout in a few hours with that standard
fly for the Test, the gold-ribbed hare's ear; in fact,
for spring fishing there was no occasion to go much
beyond it, unless the day proved cold, and then the
iron blue on a ooo hook usually proved a sure killer.'
" With the yearly increase in the number of
members who had overcome the difficulties of dry-fly
fishing, came a corresponding shyness of the trout
and an evident decrease in their numbers. This can
readily be understood when it is stated that as many
as eight brace of trout had been taken by one rod
in a day's fishing, good fish, too, of the 2 lbs. and
upwards class, and not with May-fly either. It stands
to reason that no fishery of limited extent could go
on   for   long   like   that   without   heavy   restocking. HOUGHTON 85
Thousands upon thousands of trout fry were turned
in annually; but the system will never re-stock a
river, nor did it in this case. Then, however, the
imperative necessity of turning in trout when big
enough to take care of themselves—say for the Test,
12 ins.—was not realised as it is now."
" Houghton grayling fishing was hardly to be
surpassed in those days, but that fish did not find
favour with the generality of trout fishermen, who
declared that the grayling only rose when they were
not wanted — in the trout season — and when the
proper time for them arrived they did not rise at
all, at least not the big ones. There was a measure
of truth in this, as unquestionably the largest grayling—1\- and 3-pounders—were caught when they
had to be returned to the river, notably at May-fly
time, but the smaller fish of 1 lb. to \\ lbs. rose well
and gave good sport all through the winter to the
fly fisherman, when, in the short days, two to four
brace might frequently be taken ; pessimists further
averred that if the grayling were allowed to increase
they would drive the trout out of the river. That
these alarmists were wrong is clearly proved, for
during the last few years, when the stock of trout
has been so very largely increased by turning in,
grayling practically have disappeared as mysteriously
as the May-fly."
"A distinct feature on the Houghton fishery was
the very heavy rise of Grannom when late April came
round.    It rose in countless hordes to compensate in 86
a great measure for loss of the May-fly, as offering
a better chance of getting more of the extra big
trout which did not always care to rise at the smaller
'pickked' wing. The only sight to compare with
a really heavy rise of Grannom at Houghton was
the marvellous rise of May-fly at Hungerford, where,
looking up-stream, the town and bridge were quite
indistinct when seen through the heavy cloud of
Ephemerae. "
" At Houghton the Grannom afforded a rich feast
for bird life; the banks of the river were lined with
starlings, chaffinches, wag-tails, all eager for the treat;
even rooks engaged in completing their architecture
in the tall trees across the river suspended work at
times to join the ranks of the small birds in their
gorge on the luscious green-tail. In the late afternoon a wide lane of spent Grannom floated down
the river, the slight breeze now and again lifting a
mottled wing to glitter momentarily in the rays of
the setting sun."
" About the year 1882, an extra considerable
range of river was acquired by the proprietor and
added to the Houghton fishery. This necessitated
raising the subscriptions from ^20 to £25, which
the members willingly agreed to; and it was well
worth the extra £5, for in addition to giving a great
deal more room to anglers, it secured a free passage
across the river by bridge at ' Boot' island from
one end of the fishery to another, without asking
leave from anyone.     At one time in order to reach HOUGHTON
the ' upper water' it was necessary to leave the river
at top end of 'lower,' get into the Houghton road,
walk some distance, and then turn down through
a couple of small meadows to the river. This could
only be done with permission, which was grudgingly
given by a tenant farmer, who afterwards, for some
reason best known to himself, withdrew the privilege.
But he reckoned without his host. There was a
bridge over a by-stream which this farmer utilised
to bring the water-meadow crops up to the farm.
It was then proved that he had no right across the
bridge except by foot-way; this was pointed out,
but he was obstinate and refused to give way. Then
drastic measures were taken. A portion of the bridge
was cut away by the proprietor on his own side of
the stream—it was only ' half water'—leaving a footway. This compelled the recalcitrant agriculturist
to carry his crops nearly a mile round to cross the
stream.    Then he struck his flag."
"With the addition of the Marsh Court Water
a fresh prosperity accrued to the Club. Most of the
wet-fly fishermen, finding that they could not compass
the new order (to them) of dry-fly fishing, and perhaps
some of them being too advanced in life to learn,
recognised the situation and left, their places being
taken by young members of the up-to-date school, and
the Test at Houghton knew the big flies on thick gut,
fished down-stream, no more."
"In the earlier days of the Club, Francis Francis
—who was an Hon. Member—presented  1,000 Fon- I  I
tinalis fry, which were turned into a rivulet on the
' upper water.' They throve fairly well for a year, but
then mysteriously disappeared and were seen no more.
A great number of home-bred Rainbows, from i lb.
to 3 lbs., were also turned down, but this was not on
the Houghton Water, and a good many years later on.
These lovely fish also very soon vanished, and were
believed to have gone down the river, as one of the
species was caught as low down as Romsey."
" The general opinion ultimately was that Test
trout were quite good enough in themselves, without
introducing these nomadic strangers."
" Formerly on the Houghton Water there were
numbers of that incomparable fish, the Wycombe
trout. Of late years these seemed to decrease in
numbers, perhaps from interbreeding with the
aboriginal Test strain, and so losing their identity.
They were splendid fish both for sport and culinary
purposes. On some few occasions Salmo salar
managed to pass the many obstructions on the lower
reaches of the river, to ascend as high as Stockbridge,
where it is to be regretted he met with scant courtesy,
being looked upon as detrimental to the well-being of
the trout. One salmon was actually caught as high
up as Chilbolton. After some heavy water had filled
the river, one day five grilse were swimming about
like a shoal of roach, in and out the piles of the
well-known ' Sheepbridge.' They did not seem in the
least alarmed, and behaved as if they had known the
place all their lives.    They created great consternation *        v-'**^^^s?^p^«*S
v i ji
II! -
i p^^S
r :■■ ;fi
IjsS^&i '/:J
x                     4
f.    -   - I*
I**, |  1
■hi 111 ifimi
t    HI   - *''•*'
r   J%"''!"'
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1   '   „ _Jt:
ig                       :■'. ~ C^^^Kil^
life, i
amongst the small trout lying on the shallows, the
little two-year-olds flying for their lives at the
approach of the strange monsters. These grilse were
late autumn fish, and nobody interfered with them."
" Truly Houghton was a pleasant place to live
near. Words fail to express adequately the feeling of
delight those never-to-be-forgotten days and evenings at glorious Test-side created. Grim winter had
vanished, the month of April, all smiles and some
few tears, reigned. Lovely was the walk through the
Marsh Court Water meadows by the riverside.
Moorhens flitted in and out the brown sedges on the
banks, jerkily flirting their little white tails. Later on
the birds would be followed by their tiny broods, which
not having as yet learned to dive, could easily be
dipped out with the landing net. Snipe far over-head,
floated rapidly down from the sky in a wide graceful
curve, bleating loudly during the descent, whilst somewhere in the distance a cuckoo now and again heralded
the birth of Spring. On the water a sleek water-vole
enjoyed a personally conducted tour, a lump of weed
being his P. and O. liner. There were martins in the
air fly-hawking, and for the matter of that picking
the duns off the water, which the Swift never does,
the latter merely opening that wide mouth of his,
and down go the unlucky Ephemeridae one after the
other, the bird never slackening his speed for a
moment. But those May-fly murderers are later in
coming to the river. One met a fisherman here
and there with whom to exchange greetings for the 90
first time since last summer. Many of these anglers
owned to names well known to dry-fly disciples, and
they assembled from all parts, one enthusiast coming
every season even from far-off India, but all drawn
together by the irresistible magnestism of the grand
river Test. Down the river somewhere would be
met the old head-keeper, H. He was quite a character, totally destitute of the smallest modicum of
suavity, but what was more to the purpose, of thorough
straightness. He was not to be "had," even by the
most insinuating member of the poaching fraternity,
whom he thoroughly hated, the more so that when
keeper on the Itchen he had received a very hard
hammering at their hands. The old man's peculiarity
was that he hated to see the trout caught. On one
occasion an angler found six trout lying at intervals
behind each other, and all feeding on the Grannom as
it floated down under the opposite bank. Of course
he began with the lowest fish, which old H. landed for
him. The next trout shared the same fate, H. again
operating with the landing net. So it continued until
five trout would never swim again. The sixth just
touched the fly, and thereafter lay low. The fisherman, knowing the old fellow's weakness, got up from
his knee saying, ' I think that's about enough. H., isn't
it?' 'I think it be, sir,' was all the poor old chap
managed to get out, but the tone of his rugged voice,
and look on his weather-worn face were quite pathetic ;
even a prompt- douceur for his assistance seemed not
to atone for the death of five of his pets." HOUGHTON
" Those who live near a river, and are constantly
on its banks, see many interesting things, and some
very strange ones. Kingsley truthfully said the
ordinary wayfarer in the country saw but the outside
of Nature, whereas the angler saw the inside as well.
Below the place, some little way, where these trout
were caught, was the charming and well-known mill,
at which one of the members had quarters and dispensed lavish hospitalities to his friends, in fact, may
be said to have kept open house. The big wastewater pool was noted for its numerous and heavy
grayling, and many a goodly trout lived there as well.
A very strange and unusual sight was witnessed in it
one day. Some thoughtless bucolic had slain a full-
sized grass snake, a most harmless and inoffensive
reptile—but to Hodge all snakes are adders—and
cast the writhing body into the pool. The current
from the hatches gave a life-like movement to the
poor thing as it lay on the surface. Suddenly from
the depths dashed up with a mighty splash a huge
trout, which, seizing the dead body commenced worrying it on the top of the water, then, catching sight of
the spectator standing above, plunged down into the
black depths again, taking the snake with it."
" But our pleasant times on the beloved river Test
were coming to an end.    Happily we did not know it."
" Eighteen halcyon seasons had flitted by all too
rapidly, and then without warning the blow fell."
"The   Houghton   Club  died  suddenly.     If   one
could, on December 31st,  1892, have seen what was 92
passing in the mind of him who, homeward bound
with the fish bag half-full of grayling, as he crossed
the bridge at Boot Island for the last time—a blended
picture of present sorrow and past pleasure would
have presented itself. Even as he stepped on the
Island and closed the wicket—from force of habit—
the destruction of the bridge had already commenced
on the far side."
" The Houghton Club died when in full vigour.
At the time of its dissolution the list was full and
four names  down  for any occuring vacancies."
" South-West."
I have been allowed to see the " common-place
book," which is still kept by the Old Stockbridge
Club. I wish it was possible to give readers the
benefit of some extracts from the most interesting
parts of it, and to reproduce some of the wonderful
original drawings and caricatures in it. The members
of the Club very naturally object to any publicity, and
in such matters their wishes must be respected by all
men of good taste.
On April 28th, 1879, I had a day with a friend
on the stream called the " Old Barge," at Winchester, and after killing a brace of fish, then went
to John Hammond's shop to buy some flies. There
I met and was introduced to George Selwyn Marryat,
and as was the case with everybody who met him,
was much impressed by his personality. I was quite
loth to leave the shop,  but  as  he   told  me that, in HOUGHTON
company with Francis Francis, he would be fishing
at Houghton on May ist, we agreed to adjourn our
conversation until that day.
The ist of May was, as too frequently happens,
a very bleak day, with snow, hail, and a north-easterly
wind. In those days we were all firmly convinced
that with wind in the north or east there was neither
hatch of fly nor rising fish. Francis Francis, after
complaining of his bad luck, suggested an adjournment to the Sheepbridge Hut, where he, " South-
West," Marryat and I foregathered.
Francis's conversation was just like his writing,
full of quaint, pithy sayings, and most amusing. A
great number of his obiter dicta I have unfortunately
forgotten, but the first one he uttered on that day is
indelibly fixed in my memory. He said that the
fish never rose well when he was at the riverside ;
and I must say from my own experience in after
years,  I think his luck was really very bad.
He said, " Whenever I go fishing, we have these
wretched down-stream winds and cold sleet, snow, or
some such unseasonable weather. Very often the
local keeper, wishing to console me, holds forth very
much in this style: ' Lor Mr. Francis, you ought'
' to ha'e been here last Toosday. Last Toosday the'
' trout was arising all over the place and a taking'
' any mortal thing you chucked to them. Why, Sir,'
' last Toosday—' when I broke in with a loud shout,
and exclaimed—' D—n last Toosday—there!' \
In  the   Field of   September  9th,   1882,   Francis 94
wrote: "Wishing to see how the grayling were"
"coming on at Houghton, I went down last week"
"to visit friend H., who has rooms there, and to"
" meet M.- and hold triangular fishing collogues."
" Now my peculiarity as regards weather is so "
" well known that at Winchester, whenever they"
" hear I am coming, they instantly look at the"
" weathercock to see if the wind is beginning to go "
"north; and on the Test my experience has been"
" even more marked. It usually blows hard from "
" the north, which is fatal at Houghton, or we get"
" a thunderstorm, or hail and rain. I never recollect "
" the time when one or the other has not enlivened"
"the sport, and this being known, my friend"
"'South-West,' when he heard I was coming, in-"
" dited the following, which he called 'The Francis"
" Barometer ':—"
"22nd: Light airs from S.W. Fish rising'5
"everywhere and river swarming with flies; F. F.'
" prevented from fishing by press of business.'
" 23rd : F. F. hears great accounts of the sport,'1
" and begins to think he must go down for a few §
"days; glass begins to fall; less fly on the river,'
" and fish slightly sulky; wind inclined to go'
" westerly. 24th : F. F. thinks he had better not'
"delay, determines he will go. Glass still falling;'
"wind west by north; accounts from the river'
"unfavourable. 25th: F. F. goes down; great'
" convulsion of Nature takes place ; wind in gales ;'
"hurricanes  and  cyclones all   round  the  compass;'  m
" ice, snow, rain, hail, earthquakes, comets and other "
"fireworks. Barometer goes so low that it can't"
"recover, and eventually blows up. F. F. flies for"
" his life, while trees, hayricks, barns and other"
" trifles fill the air. And really, allowing for a little "
"playfulness of imagination, this is very much what"
" occurred."
It is, perhaps, needless to say that M. was Marryat
and H. myself, and the " triangular fishing collogues "
were repeated at frequent intervals, until the state of
poor Francis's health was such as to prevent his being
able to stand the fatigue of fishing. His last day's
fishing was at Houghton, with Marryat and another
friend, but at the time I was, unfortunately, not well
enough to join the party. By the kind assistance
of his eldest son, I am able to give my readers a
reproduction by photogravure of an excellent portrait
of the original Francis Francis, photographed from a
miniature in the possession of his family.
At our first meeting I was most anxious to cultivate the acquaintance of both Francis and Marryat,
and it has always been a source of the greatest
satisfaction to me that I succeeded in making life-
long friends of both of them. I told Marryat about
all my difficulties in fly dressing, and he at once
volunteered to give me all the assistance he could.
The next year, 1880, a friend and I took rooms
at Houghton Mill, and there the work of learning
and of improving the method of fly dressing was
initiated. %
From the first the influence of Marryat's forcible
character not only impressed me most strenuously,
but acted on me as a strong incentive to acquiring
all available information in reference to the theory
and practice of the dry-fly. Without wishing in any
way to convey to my readers anything in the smallest
degree derogatory to the v talent of my dearest friend;
I must say what, if happily he had survived, he would
be the first to approve and corroborate.
Although even in those days far more advanced in
both knowledge and skill than any of the contemporary dry-fly fishermen, he realised that there was
much yet for him to learn, and at the earliest part
of our friendship we commenced seriously writing out
all the questions we could—questions of materials
and manipulation of fly dressing, questions of the
practical work of casting the flies, questions of the
nature and life history of the insects on the water,
questions of the best patterns of artificial flies to use
under various conditions and at various parts of the
season ; and questions of improvement of rods, reels, \
lines, landing nets, in fact, all the numerous impedimenta carried by the caalk stream fisherman.
Sometimes we were together on the Test or elsewhere, and sometimes each separately would work on
a branch of the subject. Throughout our work we
never departed from the determination we had
mutually arrived at, to reduce to writing the result
of any experiments, and consider them carefully
together, and where possible verify them by repeated HOUGHTON
experiments. From the very first I had decided to
publish in some form, later on, for the benefit of the
angling fraternity, all details we had worked out. It
was always my idea that Marryat would collaborate
with me as joint author of any book or publication,
but he was averse from such course, holding that
Such collaboration would not be practicable, and I
had reluctantly to bow to his decision on this
Test at Stockbridge. CHAPTER   IX.
EFORE the end of 1880 I
had decided to try and write
a full treatise on the theory
and practice of the dry fly,
and with Marryat's invaluable assistance the work of
collating the necessary materials was seriously taken
in hand. The first branch of the subject that
engaged our attention was that of the gear required,
and naturally the rod took precedence of all the rest.
I am able to give my readers the accompanying
speaking likeness of our well-beloved and never-
forgotten G. S. Marryat, by the kind permission of
his widow and of Mks. E. Tillyer-Blunt, who took
the admirable photograph from which the photogravure has been reproduced.
About this time the late Mr. Deller, of Eaton and
Deller, was first making glued cane rods, and he
willingly undertook to build one to suit my requirements. It was a powerful 11 ft. three-jointed rod, and
although  I   could at  once realise the superiority of THE   TEST AND FLOATING FLIES 99
split cane over any timber or whole cane as a material
for rod-making, yet it was too heavy for me to use
with comfort. After two years' use I persuaded
Marryat to accept it, as he had a wrist of steel, and
for many years he continued to fish with it and ever
considered it his favourite rod.
In 1882 Eaton and Deller made me a pair of
rods with all joints interchangeable, very much lighter
than the one referred to in the previous paragraph.
They measured fully 11 ft. in length, and I fished at
Houghton and elsewhere for many seasons with this
pair of rods. As time went on, and especially as
the heavier lines were adopted, these rods were successively shortened and thus stiffened, and now they
measure just under  10 ft.
They have never been spared either in respect
to casting against the wind or when killing fish, and
notwithstanding more than twenty years of continual
use, they are still my favourites, and for all practical
purposes are as good to-day as they were when first
delivered. No whole cane or timber rods would have
stood one-tenth of the work they have done, and I
mention this as showing what superlatively good cane
thoroughly well built up and glued together English
rods will stand in the way of wear and tear.
The gradual process of stiffening these rods has
been effected because we found that to cast lightly
and accurately against or across a strong wind the
heavy reel line, with a comparatively short taper, was
a positive necessity.    It was because the old limber rm
rods would not carry these stout lines, that successive shortening and consequent stiffening of the
rods was carried out. At the present time there is,
I think, a danger of falling into the other extreme,
and making lines too heavy and rods too stiff.
In 1887 Eaton and Deller made another rod for
me, 10 ft. 3 ins. in length, weighing 11J ozs. It
was built specially for the Test, and for use with the
modern heavy line, being at once powerful but not
fatiguing, rather slow, but requiring very little exertion when casting. Marryat admired it so much that
he at once named it " Priceless."
I used this rod for more than ten years, and then
gave it to one of my best friends, who is a first-rate
performer with the dry fly. I should fear to give
even approximately the number and weight of the
trout he has killed on it, and as lately as January,
1902, he wrote me, "The original 'Priceless' and"
" my old E. and D. are good enough for me, in fact"
" they spoil me for anything else. The ' Priceless ''
"for a small fly cannot be beaten, while the other "
" takes a May-fly or Button, which would be rather "
" too severe on the ' Priceless,' at least I have more "
"regard for it and you to try to overwork it."
Improvements in fittings and ferrules, as well
as the history of the modern lines dressed in boiled
oil under the receiver of an air pump, have been
fully described in Dry-Fly Fishing, and need not be
further referred to here. Some of my experiences
on the Test, and the lessons learnt from them about
this time, may, perhaps, be of interest to the reader.  ,^s
Marryat and I were fishing for grayling at
Houghton, on October 21st, 1881. It was a cold day
with north-east wind, and I could not get a single
sizable fish; this I duly recorded in my diary, and
asked Marryat, who was fishing another part of the
same water, to give his own experience of the day.
His entry reads thus :   " Poor duffer G. S. M. had 6"
lbs.) ; took anything chucked "
"anyhow.—Geo. S. Marryat. P.S.—Returned 9"
"besides." I give this in extenso, as eminently
characteristic of the man, and because ever after,
among ourselves we often styled him by his own
cognomen of "poor duffer."
On August 30th, 1882, Francis, Marryat and I
fished a length of the Test below Horsebridge, on
the invitation of the late Mr. T. J. Mann, who rented
the water. Mr. Mann was prevented from joining
us at the last moment, but begged of us to make no
compliments, and of course his keeper was in attendance. It was a fine warm day with W.S.W. wind,
and we started on a tour of inspection in the morning.
In the early part of the afternoon we had gradually
worked down to a bridge and hatches leading to an
eel weir, where, as told by Francis himself in the
next number of the Field, the following episode
occurred :—
" He was rising behind some stumps just above "
" the eel weir. There was a row of four of these"
"about 2 ft. apart, and a foot or so from the bank,"
"and if you covered the fish and he did not take," i
'you were pretty sure to hook one of the posts.'
' The fish was taking every fly that came to him'
'just above the second post, now outside, and now'
'inside. M. got his distance and put a fly to the'
'fish on the glide. He did not see the first fly,'
' and it took the post; there was a sharp twitch'
'and the fly came away. The hook was broken,'
' however, so a new fly was bent on and put on'
'the glide above. The fish made a lovely rise.'
' M. struck smartly, and whether the gut was dry'
' or too fine doesn't matter, but he left the fly in'
'him. The fish did not seem much dismayed or'
' agonised. The frightful tortures inflicted by the'
' cruel hook driven into that most sensitive part'
' of his anatomy—the mouth—which sentimentalists '
'are never tired of holding forth on, did not even'
' interfere with his appetite, for five minutes after'
' he was rising as hard as ever. Then M. begged'
'me to try him while he and H. criticised my per-'
' formance. I rose him the first time, but he had'
! learnt caution. The second I hooked the same'
' post and broke my% hook in it. I tried two or'
'three times with a 'new fly, but it was no go,'
' he would not come again. Then I hooked the 1
' post and left my fly in it. Then I declined to'
1 be a spectacle any longer, and as the fish still'
'rose M. was again aggravated into trying him.'
' The first time he rose again at the sedge, but'
' would not have it. Then M. hooked the post'
'and  left  half his   cast   in  it;  and   then   the fish"
" skedaddled up and we went and collected our"
"flies off the post. What would have happened if"
"either of us had hooked him, I can't conceive."
"There would have been some kind of 'larks,'"
"for below and outside the fish was some rods of"
"a primaeval forest of bulrushes and other aquatic"
" flotsam, and below there was an acre or two, more "
"or less, of very dilapidated sheathing and apron"
" to the weir, under which muggers and crocodiles"
"of the largest size might lie perdus, if so to speak,"
"'the Nile had been put to the Test,'while piles"
" and posts and old iron, galore, appeared to be the "
" natural growth and product of the water. How-"
" ever, we did not catch that whale, my boys."
In the evening we moved to a pretty shallow just
above, where, in answer to Francis's enquiries as to
" the size of the trout, the keeper replied, " Big uns—"
" I should think so. Lot*, Sir, you shall hae seen "
" Mr. Mann in the May-fly season, when .they came "
" a'roaring doun a'tween his legs."
o o
Francis killed a good fish of nearly 3 lbs., and
Marryat a brace of about the same weight. I landed
a brace with a hackle olive of 2 lbs. 10 ozs. and 1 lb.
8 ozs., and then put up a red quill, which a real big
rising trout came at with a dash, and I struck violently,
leaving the fly and half the cast in the fish. After
repairing the damage I killed a third trout of 2 lbs.
5 ozs. with a silver sedge. Francis had scored with
a yellow-bodied dun, and Marryat with an Adjutant;
and  comparing  notes  afterwards   over  our  evening IP4
pipes at Houghton Mill, Marryat said they were silly
fish in reference to pattern, and summing up the
question, gave it as his opinion that they " knew
two sorts of flies, one was a May-fly and the other
In 1883 I had my first day at Newton Stacey,
on June 9th. The green drake was well up and the
fish had acquired plenty of experience of the dry-fly
fisherman during that May-fly season, and I was
utterly beaten, only killing a single fish of 2 lb. 8 ozs. ;
the fish came short and would not fasten to me.
Marryat had a good day, killing three and a half brace
(3f lbs., 2f lbs., 2 lbs., 2 lbs., if lbs., \\ lbs. and
1 \ lb.), while another fisherman killed three, all good
fish, the best \\ lbs.
During July of that year Marryat and I were
out one day at Houghton with a moderately fresh
down-stream wind. I arrived at a corner just above
Houghton Lodge on the eastern bank, where a fish
was rising beautifully and taking every dun passing
over it. I could not for the life of me ■ manage to
put the fly into the wind, and for two solid hours
I persevered and the fish kept on rising.
At last Marryat, who had killed a good brace of
fish, came down to see how I was getting on. I
never felt so utterly disheartened in my life, hot,
tired, and of course casting with more force and more
rapidly at each failure. " Steady, go slow and do
not use so much force !" says Marryat. Then a few
moments later, when I was taking this advice, he said,  m THE  TEST AND FLOATING FLIES 105
" Now finish your chuck with the rod point on the
water!" I made a slow easy cast and dropped the
point of the rod, and to my utter astonishment the
fly landed just right. The fish came up and rose,
but I was so surprised at the success of the cast that
I never raised my hand and did not even prick the
I turned round to thank Marryat, and said that for
the first time in my life I had acquired the art, and
now felt I could cast against any reasonable wind that
blew. This was in fact the case, and any success I
have ever achieved, either in casting against the wind
myself or in teaching others to do so, I attribute
to this lesson, and the patience with which it was
Meanwhile, we had frequently discussed the want
of uniformity in the patterns of artificial flies sold in
the various shops. Not only did the sizes, the shapes
and the colours vary among different fly-dressers,
but the same fly-tyer would make considerable
variation in his flies, and at times a dozen delivered
by the same man as the same fly would contain
several varieties. The4 necessity of systematising
our artificial flies in this way impressed itself very
strongly upon us, and eventually I decided to publish
a work on the methods of dressing the flies, with a
considerable number of patterns described and illustrated in colours.
After some consideration we arrived at the conclusion that it would be well to first bring out a work
J io6
on the artificial flies and fly dressing, and include
a few hints in a final chapter on fishing the dry fly.
If this first book proved successful, the idea was to
follow it later on with a full treatise on the theory
and practice of the dry fly. Although we had
collected a vast amount of materials, made a great
number of notes, and compared our experiences on
many disputable points, we felt that it would take
some years to complete and publish the work.
Meanwhile I had written nothing for publication
beyond occasional letters to the press, and felt some
doubt as to my capacity for conveying ideas in an
acceptable and intelligible style to any who would
deign to read my writings. As a ballon d'essai I
accordingly set to work and wrote my first article
on autumn grayling fishing at Houghton, assuming
the nom-de-plume of " Detached Badger." This
was submitted to the Field, accepted by the then
Angling Editor (who had succeeded Francis Francis
•two years previously, and occupied the post till his
transfer to the Editorial chair in 1900), and published in their issue of January 21st, 1885. I reprint
it here.
"After spending August the year before last in
Dumfriesshire—a month during which the rivers were
all very low, the trout shy, scarce and small, and
the parr a decided nuisance—I looked forward with
joyous anticipation to a few days at Houghton during
October. Having successfully managed to be free
from city engagements, I took advantage of the
courteous permission of the proprietor of the Club
water, and invited a friend to join me. Without
wishing to divulge his identity, he is well known to
all good honest anglers in the county of Hants as at
once the best fly fisher, the best fly-dresser and the
cheeriest of companions—never arriving without a
new joke, a new yarn, and a new pattern fly, with a
favourable record of captures already standing to its
name. Hence I learned with regret that he could
only put in an appearance for two days."
" After dinner on the evening of my arrival,
October 22nd, I proceeded to rig up my 10 ft. 6 in.
built cane rod, to my notion the best rod I have
ever handled, light enough to fish dry fly with comfort 'from dewy morn to eve,' powerful enough to
kill a 3 lbs. trout or grayling in the weediest parts
of Test, and capable of throwing and returning an
astonishing length of line. Why is it that a moder-"
ately stiff and well-balanced glued-up cane rod will
deliver, and deliver lightly, a fly at the end of a line
so much exceeding in length what a solid greenheart
of similar dimensions and action can accomplish ?
This is a mystery to all fly fishers who have accustomed themselves to the comparatively slow action
of the built cane rod, and schooled themselves out of
the bad habit of putting too much force into the
throw. If the angler will note the appearance of the
two rods after the return of the fly, he will perceive io8
that the greenheart is in a state of quiver from
butt to point, while the glued-up cane remains perfectly rigid. Is it not possible that this tremulous
state of the greenheart is communicated in a serpentine motion, and consequent waste of power to
the line, instead of propelling it straight in the
desired direction ? "
" Next morning, at six o'clock, I drew up the blind
and looked long and anxiously -at a dull grey sky,
with S.S.W. wind, in occasional heavy squalls, and
clouds travelling very fast. After breakfast, I started
about nine o'clock, and decided to try the mill-pond,
a moderately deep and still piece of water, some five
hundred yards in length, with, on the eastern side,
a high bank, along the top of which runs a public
footpath. There is, however, a decided drop of at
least four feet from the bank to the level of the
meadow behind, so that it is by no means impossible
to keep well out of sight when fishing."
"It was altogether an unpleasant, blowy sort of
morning, without any trace of fly on the water, and
as a natural sequence, not a fish was moving. About
ten o'clock there was a heavy downpour, after which
the sky cleared for a time and the sun came out, soon
followed by a sprinkling of fly, consisting of several
autumn duns, a few olives (both dark and light), an
occasional iron blue dun of the usual October tint,
and swarms of black insects, or 'curses,' as many
anglers call them. These varieties hatched on and
off during the rare intervals of calm until well into
the afternoon. After trying several moving fish with
patterns and shades of olives, it occurred to me to
use an orange bumble, and putting it dry over a
spot where a few moments before I had noticed a
rise—or, rather, bulge—hooked a grayling, 1 lb. 2 ozs.
A few minutes later I killed a second and larger one,
1 lb. 12 ozs. Did it ever occur to a dry-fly fisherman to consider what fly or beetle this said infallible
orange bumble represents ? No insect which hatches
in any number is in any way like it, and in fact, the
only inhabitant of the river bearing the slightest
resemblance to it is one of the many shades of freshwater shrimp, which is certainly not often seen floating high and dry down the stream."
" Presently the sun came out again, and the fish
seemed to be rising in earnest at the duns sailing
down the water in considerable numbers. After turning over the leaves of the fly book I hit upon a ' little
Marryat' as a very likely-looking fly. As the pattern
is probably not much known out of Hampshire I give
the dressing : Wings quite upright, of the youngest
and palest of starling wing ; legs and tail of a pale
ginger cock hackle ; body of fur from the flank of an
opossum—cafe' au lait colour. I threw over a rising
fish of 1 lb. 2 ozs. with it, and killed it, and the very
next throw, whether from striking a trifle too hard,
or from the fine gut being frayed, left the fly in a
fish. A cinnamon quill, knotted on to anew fine
end to the cast, killed another grayling just over 1 lb.,
and then were landed and returned, as out of season, n
four trout of about ij- lbs. each, as well as several
unsizable grayling, nearly all of about 11 ins. in
length, the Club limit being 12 in. After another
heavy storm, finding the fish disinclined to take
duns, I changed back to the orange bumble, and
got another grayling of 1 lb. Seeing several fish
taking black gnats, which were then coming down
pretty thickly, I put one up, and, after a very decided
fight, landed a game grayling of 1^ lbs., besides returning undersized ones. At four o'clock, on the stroll
towards home, one more was picked up with a cinnamon quill. Total for the day, seven grayling
killed, 8 lbs. 12 ozs. ; four trout and nine grayling
" My friend arrived for dinner ths>t evening, and we
both retired full of hopes for the morrow; but, 'just
like my luck,' the two days of his visit were simply
awful—one succession of heavy showers and a continuous gale from the S.W. With all his skill and
perseverance he only got five sizable grayling for the
two days, and my bag was only three. He had,
however, prospected a place, which he pronounced
full of real big ones, and those mostly grayling.
Although I was half in doubt as to his judgment
on this particular occasion, having always thought
it more a trout than a grayling lay, fortunately, as
the sequel will show, I determined to follow his
advice and give the spot a fair trial on the next day."
" Commencing about fifty yards below the Boot
Island, there is a straight, deepish, slow-running piece
of water from twenty to twenty-five yards wide,
opening out at its lower end into a grand shallow
sixty yards across. At the tail the river takes a
somewhat sudden turn towards the N.E., and is
divided by a narrow island. The shallow continues
from the western side of this island, and on the
eastern there is a comparatively short but very swift
run, eddying into a deep, black-looking hole, 16 to
17 ft. deep. Below the island the stream continues
shallow for some distance round a blunt sort of
promonotory, called North Head, from its pointing nearly due north, and the entire shallow is
usually known as North Head Shallow."
" At the upper end, just where the straight deep
flows in, and begins opening out in the shape of
a fan into three or four runs, with smooth, oily-
looking patches between them, is the favourite feeding ground of the ' whales.' Experience shows that
it is preferable to fish it from the eastern side by
wading, and much of it being rather deep, quite
up to the fork, trousers are a necessity. Accordingly,
the following morning I started immediately after
breakfast, waded across just above North Head, and
walked straight up to the selected spot. It was
a beautiful morning, with a light breeze from the
S.S.E.—-just the right wind, and only strong enough
to raise a slight ripple on the surface of the water."
"A Wickham had been left on the cast overnight,
and in response to a good rise opposite to and
and about thirty yards above the upper point of the AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
island, with a fair wind, the fly landed about a yard
above, and came floating down right over the fish.
It rose to the fly at once, and feeling the hook,
started down the run for the deep hole. I scrambled
to the bank, and followed as quickly as possible my
trusty attendant, a sharp little boy of 13, who had
walked across by the bridge above, just arriving in
time to take the landing net. With all the strain
I dared to put on, and much more than would have
been possible with most other rods of similar dimensions, I managed to get on terms with a splendidly
conditioned grayling, close upon 3 lbs. Another
moment and the fish would have been safely secured,
but unluckily the hold of the little 00 hook gave."
" However, up to the same place again, into the
water, and a throw over a rise produced a lively gray
ling just under 1 lb. I worked my way up to the
head of the shallow, wading deep among the fan-
shaped runs, immediately behind a smooth glide in
which four or five big ones were rising in grand
style at some invisible gnat or spinner. Half a dozen
flicks in the air to thoroughly dry the Wickham,
a true cast over the place, and up came a fish with
a heavy swirl. Down stream it went like an express
train. Clambering to the bank, I raced after it with
the little glued-up rod bent double, and so down to
the upper part of the deep hole, where it was cleverly
scooped out by the boy with the landing net, a grayling of 2 lbs. 12 ozs., and a picture of what Salmo
thymallus should be when in good season." THE  TEST AND FLOATING FLIES 113
" A fish well out in the stream, about level with
the head of the island, bulged at something, probably
larva. After a moment I saw it come to the surface again, follow some minute insect a short distance,
and eventually take it. With an orange bumble I
got in position behind it, and after a few throws,
hooked and killed another fish of 1 lb. 10 ozs. Noticing a number of iron blue duns on the water, I
changed my fly for one of the best imitations, dressed
with an adjutant quill body, and walked slowly up
the bank in hopes of finding the big ones still on
the rise ; but, as they seemed to be down for the
moment, meanwhile got a brace out of the next
run further out, 1 lb. and 1 lb. 6 ozs. Then,
seeing a fish moving about and suddenly taking*
something on the surface in that provoking manner,
which almost invariably indicates feeding on "curses,"
I put up the best imitation I can make (not a very
good one, however) on a 000 hook, and soon found
myself in a most helpless position—a large fish
hooked, going up-stream, where it was too deep to
follow, keeping well down in the water, scratching
about among the weeds, and eventually, of course,
rubbing out the tiny hook. After this three more
grayling were killed in quick succession on the adjutant blue—-1 lb. 10 ozs., 1 lb. 6 ozs., and 1 lb. 10 ozs.
The usual proportion of 11 in. ones were returned
and several lost."
" Presently the sun came out, and the day was
cloudless and quite hot, the fly no longer hatching, U4
and not a fish moving. I looked at my watch—
11.30 a.m. and four brace of grayling killed, weighing
12 lbs. 4 ozs. I waited until lunch time, and finding
the rise quite over, sauntered down, eventually went
in at 2 p.m., and set to tying some more adjutant
blues, the stock of which was reduced to two, both
the worse for wear. The pattern is, to my mind, so
good that I can confidently recommend it to all dry-
fly fishermen who can manage to get a feather or two
from any of their friends in India. It is dressed thus :
On a 00 eyed hook set a pair of upright double wings,
either of darkish starling or of the lightest and
thinnest feather of coot wings; the hackle and whisk
of a good blue Andalusian cock, which would be of a
medium blue dun tint in the centre, with reddish or
ginger points. The body is formed of a single strand,
out of a tail or pinion feather of an adjutant. There
is a flue on each side, of the quill forming this strand,
that on one side being much longer than the other,
and after a little practice, it will be found quite
possible to strip the longer flue off by tearing it down.
It is, however, almost impossible to strip off the
shorter flue ; but to make the body of the fly nearly
smooth, it is only necessary to use a little care, so as to
lay each turn of the quill over the flue of the one just
previously made. The colour is so very near that
of the body of the natural fly as to stamp it, in my
humble opinion, as the best imitation extant."
"The following morning, the last day of my visit,
I got to the river side early and made the best of my THE  TEST AND FLOATING FLIES
way to the successful beat at the top of North Head
Shallow, in the vain expectation of again finding the
fish on the rise in the forenoon. The Weather seemed
everything that could be desired—slightly cloudy,
temperature moderate, and wind westerly (rather too
strong to fish comfortably from the eastern bank).
Although I persevered, why it was I cannot tell, yet
at eleven o'clock—the hour at which the day before
the hatch of fly was nearly over—not the faintest rise
had rewarded my long watching. Thinking that if
the fish did not rise in one spot, in which I knew
there were plenty of them, they would not in all
probability be in a more accommodating humour
elsewhere, and having been plentifully endowed by
Providence with that rare, but to fishermen most
necessary virtue, patience, I determined to wait on."
"At noon I ate my lunch in despair, and settled
down full length on the ground to a solacing pipe.
Presently, hearing a suspicious sound, I looked up and
caught sight of a few duns beginning to hatch very
sparsely. Here and there the dimple of a rising trout
or grayling was visible. The fly was of two sorts—
olives, very pale in colour, and a few iron blue. duns.
Putting up one of the adjutant blues, dressed the
previous afternoon, I marked what looked like a
good fish rising occasionally in the head of one of
the runs, quite two-thirds of the way across. Wading
in as far as practicable, I took a leisurely survey of
the position. The wind blowing slightly down-stream
and   towards   rny   bank was   most inconvenient  and AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
difficult to throw against.    The fish marked down was
feeding very shyly,  taking about one in six of the
passing duns,  and apparently  showing a preference
for the iron blues.    With the right length of line out
and the fly quite dry, I waited what appeared to me
like an hour for a lull in the wind, and at last found
my opportunity.    Up came the fish, and with a slight
turn  of the   wrist,   it   was  fastened.    Sulking   deep
down, it'gave me time to get on terra firma.     I got
well below it, and putting on a heavy strain, forced
its head  down-stream.    Once   started, there was   no
great difficulty in keeping it on its downward course,
and   I  fairly pulled it through the hard run   of the
shallow into the deep hole 150 yards below its home,
where it was in due course netted and weighed 2§ lbs.
Walking up again,   I  tried two or three rising fish,
and landed a brace of the usual 11 in. returnable size.
The grayling would  not look at the   adjutant blue,
and I changed to a detached india-rubber-bodied olive,
with  like  result.      Knowing there  was  no time  to
spare, I quickly put up a Wickham, and killed three
more grayling, 1 lb. 14 ozs., 2 lbs. 8 ozs., and 14 ozs.
A quiet rise in the deep water above close in under
my own bank, set me creeping up.    One throw, and
the moment the fly touched the water it was taken.
Up-stream   rushed   a   good  fish,   pursued   by   me:
suddenly  turning,   the  fish   came  back  to   my  feet
again, and threw itself into the air, showing a 3 lbs.
trout,   apparently   in  perfect   condition.    Not   caring
whether I landed it or not, I was decidedly rough on
the fish, and it soon unhooked."  -iS THE  TEST AND FLOATING FLIES
"There were no more rises, and I crossed to the
island and made the best of my way down to the
head of the mill-pond. Two feeding fish were here,
both of which I killed—one, 1 lb. 10 ozs., with a
Wickham, and the other, 1 lb. 8 ozs., with an adjutant
blue. As it was after three o'clock, I imagined that
t was all over for the day ; but was agreeably disappointed by the sight of three fish still breaking the
surface in the lowest meadow of the Club water.
With a red quill I killed the first, 1 lb. r oz., and then
the second, 1 lb. 2 ozs. The red quill was sent over
the third fish, which was rising steadily but very
quietly in mid-stream. There was no response, but
I continued changing, trying in succession every
dun I could think of, without getting an offer. At
length, as a last resource, I put up a silver sedge,
hooked a fish at the first cast, and was thoroughly
disgusted to find that it was a dace of nearly § lb.
This ended my sport, the total to my own rod for
the five days being twenty-six grayling, weighing
38 lbs. 15 ozs., besides returning twenty-four undersized grayling and four trout."
" Detached Badger."
From the date of the publication of this article the
columns of our leading sporting journal ever accorded
me a welcome, and recognised me as " Detached
Badger " of the Field.
The selection of the patterns, considerations of the
most  suitable  materials  from which they should  be u8
made, the dyeing of these materials to the requisite
shades, and the manipulation of fly dressing, with all
modern improvements, took up all our spare time.
I then had to write the book from my notes, consider
and often discuss with Marryat endless details connected with it, correct proofs, arrange all the questions
of illustration, and make rough sketches of all the
blocks showing the methods of dressing the flies, and
eventually, after a final reading with Marryat, pass
everything for press. Fortunately, I had at the
outset seen Mr. R. B. Marston, of Sampson Low,
Marston and Co., and his firm had at once undertaken
to publish the book at their own risk, and practically
left me carte blanche as to matters of detail.
Eventually, Floating Flies and How to Dress
Them was issued to the public in the early spring
of 1886. Its reception by the angling fraternity was
such as to encourage me to persevere with the work
of the larger book on dry-fly fishing.
Houghton—Boot Island. CHAPTER X.
ONGENIAL as the work
of wTiting Floating Flies
certainly was, this and attending to the endless details of dressing the pattern
flies, getting them engraved
and coloured, did certainly
to some degree interfere
with the progress of the
general treatise on the dry fly. At the same time,
whenever and wherever opportunities presented themselves for acquiring useful information at the riverside, we never failed tov avail ourselves of them. The
more we studied the subject practically the more fully
convinced we were of the paramount importance of
being able to cast delicately and accurately under all
conditions, with the wind, against the wind, or across
the wind. The results of the numerous experiments
tried were carefully noted for reproduction in the
The teacher of dry-fly fishing must ever impress
upon his pupil that the crucial questions are two in
number : Firstly, the capacity to put the fly in the
teeth of the wind, or at right angles to its direction,
and when -he gets a favourable breeze the other cast
will not present any formidable difficulty. Secondly,
the avoidance or retardation of drag. Drag is taken
as meaning any deviation on the part of the artificial
fly from the direction or pace of the natural insect
when floating down to the spot at which the fish is
My earlier opportunities for May-fly fishing had
been somewhat limited, and I was most anxious to
acquire as much knowledge and practical experience
of this form of sport as I could in a limited time.
Marryat and I accordingly sought among our friends
those who could and would give us a hearty welcome
during the Drake season, and in 1885 and 1886 we
had our full share of the May-fly.
The then tenant of Kimbridge had selected
June 22nd as likely to be the head day of the rise
in 1885. Marryat and I drove over from Houghton
Mill early in the morning, and were disappointed to
hear on our arrival'that our host had been suddenly
summoned to London on business. He had, how7-
ever, left a note asking us to be quite at home in his
absence, and above all, to kill a big bag, as he wanted
to send a considerable number away to various
friends. He knew that it was our rule on that water
to give up fishing after we had killed two  brace  of   DRY-FLY FISHING
good fish each. On that day, however, in deference
to his wishes, we decided to depart from our usual
Marryat went with the keeper, and I had a boy
to carry my basket. It was a lovely day, with a
light north-westerly wind, and the hatch of fly was
quite remarkable, more for the number of hours it
lasted than for any extraordinary show at any particular hour. Marryat's experience on that day tallied
exactly with mine. Pattern of fly was not important,
and any of the small May-flies on No. 2 hooks, or
such flies as the Welshman's Button, Hammond's
Adopted, Artful Dodger, or Kimbridge Sedge, seemed
equally tempting.
At one and all a rising trout would come slowly
and apparently take it down, the angler struck, hooked
his fish, which went away with that typical dash of a
May-fly trout. At the first check the trout would
turn and a slack line would tell the unfortunate fisherman that it was free. Striking more slowly, or more
quickly, holding the hooked fish as much as possible,
or letting it run freely, every conceivable plan was
tried and tried in vain. Throughout the day we
both agreed that at least three out of four hooked
fish got away.
Marryat had often been the victim of that trick of
trout getting away after a run at the first turn, but
never to quite such an extent as on that day, and
ever after he spoke of it as being " Kimbridged."
We had always noticed, too, that on the days when 122 AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
this bad habit was prevalent the average weight of
the fish killed was below the normal. Thus, on the
day referred to, we had a grand bag of nine brace
(four and a half brace each), and its aggregate
weight was 31} lbs. On an ordinary May-fly day at
Kimbridge the average was quite 2\ lbs.
The next day I fished at Houghton, and Marryat
walked with me and criticised. In the morning I
started from the Mill and worked up as far as the
Sheepbridge, and killed four grayling and one trout.
In the afternoon we walked over to Black Lake, a
bye-stream, which was in those days the only part of
the water where there was anything like a rise of
May-fly, and of the lower portion of which a photogravure is given. About three o'clock a fine hatch of
fly came up, and every fish in the water seemed to be
feeding madly on the fly or on the nymphs rising to
the surface.
Fishing with the greatest care, and taking pains
not to cast over fish too often, I hooked six trout in
succession on the Brown Champion, dressed on No. 2
hooks, all good fish, and of these four kimbridged me,
while a brace of 2 lbs. 6 ozs. and 2 lbs. 15 ozs. were
safely landed. After the hatch was over I killed one
other trout with red quill, and lost another with a
large Hammond's Adopted. Total for the day, four
trout, 7f lbs., and four grayling, 5 lbs. 6 ozs. Three
days later a member of the Club told me to go down
to Black Lake and try for a big one. I walked there
with him, and  the   fish was rising.    He had only a
quarter of an hour to spare to catch his train home,
and the fish would not look at his Champion. I tried
all I could to persuade him to try a Spent Gnat, but
he would not change his fly. At last he had to give
up the attempt and when he had gone I put up a
Spent Gnat, and within ten minutes killed a very
pretty fish of 3 lbs. 6 ozs.
The next season our first day at Kimbridge was
fixed for June 3rd, and I had a hot and weary
morning trying to get a fish either with May-fly or
Button, and was returning to lunch completely worn
out, when I caught sight of Marryat on the opposite
side of the river. He told me he had killed his two
brace, weighing exactly 10 lbs., and would not fish any
more that day. After a hurried meal we started off
together, as he had volunteered to yarn with me until
I had killed my two brace, when, as usual, we would
both knock off.
The first fish I saw rise up a small bye-stream
came at my fly very deliberately, and as soon as it felt
the sharp hook dashed off into one of the two main
j streams in this part of the Test. A very good fight
it made, and I could not follow it as there was no
means of crossing the mouth of the bye-stream, but
everything held and it came home and pulled down
the scale at 3 lbs. 5 ozs. We then crossed over and
worked down this branch of the main river, and I
killed, in rapid succession, three more trout of 2 lbs.
8 ozs., 2 lbs. 12 ozs., and 2 lbs. 4 ozs. ; so my four
weighed 10 lbs. 13 ozs., and the eight fish 20 lbs.
13 ozs. 124
It was then about four o'clock, and as the fly were
only just coming up, we joined our host and hostess,
who during the next three hours killed eight or ten
more good fish, but not quite up to our average.
The trout were all laid out on the lawn by the
keeper, and a more beautiful, level lot I never saw.
The 3 lbs. 5 ozs. was the largest, and the smallest
trout turned 2 lbs., and they were all in perfect
condition, short, thick, silvery specimens, with tiny
heads, and covered with spots from head to tail.
During this May-fly season, Marryat and I had
returned to Houghton Mill one evening after a
heavy and very hot day, both dead beaten, and
retired to bed as soon as we had swallowed our
evening meal. Needless to relate that under these
conditions I at once fell into a sound sleep, and after
what appeared a very short time, opened my eyes
and found Marryat, clad in his pyjamas, rousing me
from my dreamless slumber. " Get up! " he said,
" What with getting broken, and giving away flies,
we have not half a dozen decently dressed May-flies
between us."
I roused myself with difficulty, jumped into a cold
tub and dressed at top speed, and we were both down
in the little sitting room before 5 a.m. I felt cross,
and inclined to show temper, but Marryat's spirits
were always good, and fired by a spirit of contagion,
I bustled about and got out vice and all the materials
required—wings, head hackle, ribbing hackle, whisk
and tinsel were soon ready, and as in those days the
My.- X
m -^*P^M
ijbiIwmBk' *• 0
gp ^1
9HH( --
use of Ropia grass for bodies was unknown, I put
some maize straw in soak to soften for the body
We agreed on a division of labour, and Marryat
winged the flies while I finished them after this work
had been completed. I took the first winged hook,
fastened in the hackles, carried the silk down to
the tail end, working in the whisk, fastened in the
gold wire for ribbing, and then forgetting all about the
straw body, carried the ribbing hackle down on the
whipped hook, and working the wire through the
ribbing hackle, turned the head hackle and completed the fly with the usual whip finish. Then I
realised'what I had done, and called Marryat's attention to it. He expressed his admiration of the
pattern, and in his usual apt style, suggested as its
name, the ghost, from the absence of the body.
We dressed two dozen flies in all, half with the
orthodox straw bodies, while the remaining moiety
were ghosts. We found that the trout, when taking
well, seemed to rise and fasten equally well to both
patterns, and showed no marked preference for either.
We often laughed over this episode, and occasionally dressed May-flies thus, without bodies, especially
if pressed for time. He used to chaff me unmercifully about the shortness of my temper that morning,
but his badinage was never of the sort which left a
sting, and I could laugh at the memory of it with him.
My readers must remember that cutting the straw
body to shape and size, softening it by soaking, and 126
putting it on neatly, were operations requiring a
considerable amount of time. When, however, the
improvement of using Ropia grass was once adopted,
we abandoned the ghost pattern, which to a certain
degree always offended our taste.
The next day we were fishing at Mottisfont,
at the kind invitation of my old friend, the late
Mr. Foster Mortimore, one of the best sportsmen
who ever wielded a fly rod. This water adjoined,
and for some portion was concurrent with, Kimbridge, and always held very large fish. Up to
three o'clock there was no hatch of May-fly, and not
much then, and the trout rose very badly. On this
length of the Test and on Kimbridge itself, there
were eleven rods out, and of these, nine, comprising
some of the very best Test fishermen of the period,
all had blanks. One fisherman killed three brace
with red quill during the evening rise, and the other
got a single fish with May-fly.
The danger of striking fish taking May-fly to6
quickly, was forcibly brought home to me that day.
Walking with Marryat at about six o'clock in the
evening along a deep sluggish reach, I saw, just
above a railway bridge, a huge trout come to the
surface and take a spent gnat. Marryat would not
try the fish himself, so at his desire I put my spent
gnat over the place. The fish rose with the utmost
deliberation, and in the excitement of the moment,
I struck far too quickly, and probably far too
violently.     I   did not  touch   the   fish,   and   Marryat DR Y-FL Y FISHING
exclaimed " You silly old chump, you pulled the fly
away before it could take it."
I looked and felt very sheepish, but after a minute
or two the trout came on the rise again. " Your
turn now," said I. Marryat tied on a spent gnat
and laid it on the water within 6 ins, of the spot
where the fish was rising. Again it came up quite
slowly. Marryat struck and never touched it.
"Shall I repeat the 'silly old chump' sentence?"
Oh !   that trout never rose again that day.
The next day we were both at Houghton, on the
Black Lake stream, and we killed a brace each,
besides losing three or four more. Marryat's brace
weighed 4 lbs. and mine 5J lbs. We had one more
day on the Test during the May-fly, at Newton
Stacey, on the nth, but the fly was nearly over,
and we only killed three between us, and these not
very good ones for the water.
A friend who rented a length of water on the
Kennet, invited me for the 7th, 8th and 9th of June
in that year (1886). Trout were very plentiful in
the fishery, but did not run to anything like Test
average, but I was very glad to have the chance of
seeing what a rise of May-fly on the Kennet was
like. My host and I killed about the same number
of fish during the three days, and I see from my diary
that my total bag was thirty trout, weighing 39I lbs.
These days have been referred to, not to impress
upon the reader that our takes were anything out of
the common, or that any record had been made, but 128 AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
to show how and where I gained my practical experience of the May-fly. I have heard that on the
very same water that I fished on the Kennet two
rods in two days once killed and kept fifty brace of
sizable trout, besides losing and returning a lot more.
This, I believe, is a record.
On December 24th, 1886, Francis Francis passed
away after years of pain and suffering, borne with
fortitude and resignation, and not only every one of
his friends, but all anglers who had ever read a
line of his admirable writing, felt that they had sustained an irreparable loss.
The year 1887 was a very bad season at Houghton
for all the members of the Club, and up to the end
of May I had only killed six brace of trout. In
ninety-nine out of one hundred cases where the sport
falls off steadily for a succession of years, it is quite
safe to hazard the prediction that, on the one hand,
stocking has been carried out on a reduced scale, and
on the other, the killing down of pike and other
coarse fish has been neglected.
This was the case at Houghton at that time, and
although I know that the proprietor of the fishery was
haunted by the idea that he was likely to overstock
the water, I am sure that, viewed by the stern logic
of subsequent history, he would be the first to admit
himself in error. My friend " South-West," in his
interesting contribution to this work, " A Houghton
Memory," put his finger on the spot. The original
idea was to turn in thousands of fry, and for a few  ■#■ DR Y-FL Y FISHING
years this stocking was carried out on a very meagre
scale, but later on even this was dropped, and the
fishing was dependent on the natural reproduction of
the river. The usual result followed—depletion in
the river and discontent among the anglers.
Both Marryat and I devoted much time to
working out the metamorphosis of the Ephemeridae
generally found on the Test from sub-imago to imago.
I had a number of cages made in which the live duns
we collected were kept, after some had been preserved
for future reference. In process of time these duns
split open their outer skins and the spinners emerged.
We found that many of the time-honoured descriptions
of what were the successive stages of one and the
same insect were in many cases inaccurate, and we
gradually evolved a complete set, and succeeded in
time in establishing the metamorphosis beyond any
possible doubt.
I was out on June ist in this year, a broiling hot
day with a light northerly wind, and wandered about
for miles on the main river without seeing a sign
of a rise. There was a fairly wide carrier running
down from the Marsh Court stream to North Head
on the eastern side of the river, which I knew occasionally held a few good fish, and in the course of
the afternoon I started on a prospecting tour on this
The water was rather low, and for some distance
up I did not see a single fish, when near the upper
end of it I saw a quiet rise in a deep bend under my 130
own bank, and after waiting for some time the fish
rose again and settled down to feed, taking a fly
perhaps every two or three minutes. After watching
it for some time I felt sure that it was a good trout
and that it was taking the pale watery duns floating
down over it.
Putting up a hare's ear quill on a ooo hook, I
crawled up on into position, and after a trial shot,
which was designedly short of the fish, had the
satisfaction of placing the fly right. I felt quite
certain that the trout would take the fly, and as I
drove the barb of the hook home jumped up and
started down-stream at a smart speed. Before the
trout had time for deliberation its head was thus
turned down-stream, and I kept it on the move by
racing as hard as I could, while the boy with the
landing net tore along after us.
Presently, as I was going round a horse-shoe
bend, I shouted to the boy to get ahead of me, and
managed to "skull drag" the fish in towards our
bank. It rolled over with a plunge on top of the
water, was in the net and out on the bank in a
moment. Of course the hook fell out when it was
netted, and my readers do not, I hope, require to be
told that this is no proof of the fish having been
insecurely hooked. I was rather proud of the performance, as it was a lovely female fish of 4 lbs.
2 ozs., and trout of such size are not killed on 000
hooks every day in the week.
During these years we had fully worked out the
various casts, but at an early date were quite convinced that the principles laid down by the early
writers on the subject were based on a fallacy. The
old text-books always said, " Before commencing to
make the cast, wait until the line is fully extended
behind the rod." Marryat and I tried every possible
means in our power, but could not succeed in making
a cast at all 'if we waited until the line was fully
extended behind the rod. We broke several rods in
the attempt, and I think both our tempers suffered
from a sense of self-ridicule at having spoilt good
rods in trying to prove an untenable theory.
The difficulty that occurred to us was how to
demonstrate conclusively that the advice in question
was based on a misconception. After much consultation, it was decided that we would try and get instantaneous photographs of the casting. In those days
lenses were not as good, and plates not as rapid,
and shutters were not made for such infinitesimally
short exposures as now-a-days.
Messrs. Sampson Low, Marston and Co., the publishers of the first and second editions of " Dry-Fly
Fishing," were consulted, and at once determined to
run the risk of the photographic work being a complete failure. They consulted Messrs. Elliot and Fry,
who selected their very best operator, and sent him
down to Houghton Mill with all necessary plates,
camera, and other appliances, where we all assembled.
A full week was devoted to the work, and the result
was, I think, most gratifying. Ik
The party consisted of the late Mr. J. A. Day,
the late Mr. Adolphe Levy, a cousin of mine, a very
accomplished amateur photographer, Messrs. Elliot
and Fry's able representative, Marryat and myself.
The arrangement made was that Marryat should
cast while I officiated at the india-rubber ball
which worked the shutter. The exposure given was
approximately ^ of a second.
Marryat would take up his position,, and the
camera would be fixed, focussed, and stopped down.
Marryat would then commence drying his fly backwards and forwards, while the operator would make a
careful examination to see that everything was in order
and the line all in the field of the plate. The plate
having been placed in the camera, my share of the
work commenced. Marryat had a great aptitude
for throwing quite easily and without any perceptible
variation in the time or style of a number of consecutive casts, so that it was not difficult for me to expose
the plate at the exact point required for illustration.
When the plates were developed wTe were relieved
to find that they fully bore out our preconceived
notions, and that in no case was the line extended
behind the angler before the rod itself was coming
forward. The moment the question is calmly
reasoned out this is self evident.
The fisherman is picking his fly off the water with
the backward motion of the rod, and as the weight of
line is lifted the rod point is deflected forward. As
the weight of line is gradually carried back behind the DRY-FLY FISHING
fisherman the forward deflection decreases, until at
some point the rod is in a straight line, and this is the
point at which the forward motion of the cast should
be commenced. It is evident that for the rod to be
straight the weight of line pulling it forwards must be
exactly balanced by the weight of line pulling backwards. When the line is extended behind the fisherman all its weight must be pulling the rod backwards,
and it is not surprising that an effort to force the rod
forward at this point should break the rod. A
reference to the plates in Dry-Fly Fishing will show
this rule holds good with every style of casting.
The importance of autopsy was a matter which
gave us a great quantity of work, and led us on to
study the life-history of the insects on which the trout
and grayling feed. We had both for years devoted
all spare time in the winter to working with lenses,
mounting specimens and examining them exhaustively
under the microscope. A detailed account of this
branch of our study would be out of place here, the
more so as it is fully treated in Dry-Fly Fishing,
another volume of this series.
Fishing at Houghton was depreciated still more
in 1888, and although I was most reluctant to break
up such pleasant associations, I decided to give up my
rod there. The proprietor of the fishery did not at
all agree with me that the stock of trout in the river
was insufficient. It is, however, only an act of justice
to him to add that this was not due to any desire to
save his pocket.    John Day and I offered to guarantee 134
a considerable sum annually for a term of years from
ourselves and the other members of the club to be
expended on stocking, but he declined our offer, and
said he thought the stock in the water was as much
as it could carry.
I took a rod for the next season on the Itchen a
few miles above Winchester, and in April of ,that
year (1889) Dry-Fly Fishing in Theory and Practice
was published.
Sheepbridge Shallow from the Hut.  mm
IVING up my membership
of the Houghton Club
after so many years was
a serious step which had
not been taken without
long deliberation. The
sole reason for it was that
the stock of trout in that part of the Test had been
reduced to a very low ebb, and there was at that
time no prospect of work being undertaken on an
adequate scale to replenish that stock. My relations
with the amiable proprietor of the fishery, with
" South-West," the capable and indefatigable Hon.
Secretary, and with ajl the other members of the
Club, were of the most pleasant and friendly description, and it was not without many pangs that I
decided to sever my connection with them and migrate
to the Itchen.
, I took a rod on the Worthy water, and the
holders of these rods had the right of being accompanied at all times by a friend, also fishing his own 136
rod. The fishery extended from the hatches at the
head of Martyr Worthy Shallow down to and a
short distance below the saw mills at Kingsworthy,
with only one break of a few hundreds of yards,
and on the greater part of the water comprised both
There are plenty of spawning shallows on the
water, and in some parts by-streams containing fish
and every possible variety of dry-fly water, deep,
medium, shallow, some very rapid, some quite slow,
some in the full glare of the sun, and some well
protected by willows and other trees on the banks.
The Itchen is a typical chalk stream in which
the water, at any rate in the upper reaches and down
to Winchester, is beautifully clear, and with that blue
transparency only seen on chalk streams. Below the
city of Winchester it is not so bright, and is liable to
be quite thickly coloured after heavy or continuous
rain. Even in the upper part of the stream the water
is not quite as pellucid as that of the Test, nor do
the trout reach quite as good an average weight as
those to be found at Houghton.
In 1889 there was a moderate stock of trout in
the Worthy water, running from f lb. to 2 lbs., with
occasional larger ones, and there were no grayling
in that part of the stream. All the Hampshire rivers
contain a considerable number of pike, and although
the work of keeping them down in this part of the
Itchen was carried out fairly well, yet like many other
pests, they are always more or less with us. THE ITCHEN
The vegetation in the river and on the bank was
very similar to that found on the Test, and the
insects, whether Ephemeridae, Trichoptera, or Diptera,
were of the same genera and species, and the same
coloration as those found at Houghton. Of the
Ephemeridae, in those days the iron-blue (Ba'etis
pumilus) was not very plentiful at Worthy, and those
extraordinary hatches on the Test, when these dark
slaty blue-winged duns could be collected in thousands
out of every eddy, were not seen at Worthy.
The May-fly was plentiful in one part of the lower
reaches of the fishery, and during the two years I
fished that water showed a tendency to extend
upwards. Since then, as far as I can gather from
local sportsmen, the May-fly has decreased very
much, and the imitations of it are not often used to
any great advantage. The sedge fishing in the
summer evenings was very good, and the caddis or
larval form of the various sedges or Trichoptera were
found in every ditch or irrigation-cut in countless
There was a pretty little hatchery in the middle
of the fishery, with a beautiful horse-chestnut just
below it hanging over the stream, and making a
grateful, and cool and shady retreat, even on the
hottest of days. The hatchery was used for the
purpose of rearing young trout from the ova of fish
taken out of the stream for that purpose, and the
water to supply it was pumped up from the river
into a large galvanised iron cistern in the roof of
the hatchery. , \V 138
The keeper (John Lock by name) was assisted
by two sons, and I firmly believe that they owe their
health and strength in a great degree to the labour
of working that pump. Twice a day, for as long as
two hours at a stretch, this splendid athletic exercise
had to be taken, and as all concerned, the lessee, the
fishermen, John Lock and both his sons were
equally keen on doing their best, there was no such
thing as shirking. On slack days even the anglers
and their friends would take a short spell at the
pump to help the good work.
I was fortunate in finding a vacant cottage at
Headbourne Worthy, within ten minutes' walk of the
lower end of the fishing. It was an old farmhouse
covered with ivy, and contained just sufficient accommodation for two or three men, with a little flower
garden, and a fairly good kitchen garden. Being
only distant about two miles from Winchester, there
was no difficulty in getting provisions or stores, and
the train service to and from the Metropolis was
most convenient. ,:T.
Marryat, who resided at Salisbury, was my constant companion, and a considerable proportion of
the serious work of studying the life-history of the
insects serving as food for the Salmonidae was
carried out at Headbourne Worthy. As stated in
a former chapter, the work of verifying the changes
of the Ephemeridae from dun to spinner, or sub-imago
to imago, had been already satisfactorily accomplished
at  Houghton, and we had both acquired some  skill THE ITCHEN
in the mounting of specimens and their examination
under the microscope.
The early mounts of Ephemeridae which we had
made in Hantzsch's medium or in Canada balsam,
supplemented by specimens preserved in methylated
spirit, were sufficient for the mere determination of
genus and species, and when any doubt arose we
could always dissect out and mount separately in
Canada balsam any part of the anatomy requiring
study under a higher power.
The mounted Ephemeridae did not satisfy either of
us, as the killing with spirit always seemed to distort
the setae, legs, antennae, and sometimes even the wings,
and the insects killed by that method were hard and
so brittle that any attempt to arrange the parts
invariably resulted in their being broken off, and then
many of the specimens were useless, as we generally
abstained from mounting mutilated or imperfect
With Trichoptera and most other insects the
mounter usually softens the specimens by immersion
for a shorter or longer period in liquor potassae ; they
are then further treated with glacial acetic acid,
washed, arranged, hardened in alcohol, cleared in
oil of cloves, and mounted in Canada balsam.
Immersion in liquor potassae, even for a short period,
invariably disintegrated the Ephemeridae, and we
tried a number of other reagents without success.
At length one day it occurred to me that it might
be possible to arrange the   parts of  these duns and 140 AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
spinners while they were still soft, and that the subsequent hardening would only serve to fix them permanently in position. After a number of experiments
I found it possible to lay a live dun or spinner on
a glass slip and drop on to it a small quantity of
methylated spirit only just sufficient to form a film
on the surface of the slip. The wings were then
floated out, the setae, legs, and other parts, arranged,
and two narrow strips of glass just the depth of the
insect's thorax placed one at each end of the slip.
A second slip laid on these strips prevented the
specimen being crushed. The two slips and the
strips with the insect were securely clipped together
with metal clips, and all immersed in a jar of spirit
for twenty-four hours to thoroughly harden the specimen. Then the clearing in oil of cloves and mounting in Canada balsam was carried out as usual.
The Ephemeridae mounted by this process were
the best we had seen, and except that the colours
were lost, there is no fault to be found with the result.
There are still numbers of mounts in my cabinets
made by this manipulation, and they are as useful
for examination and as perfect to-day as when they
were first covered with the Canada balsam. In
Dry-Fly Entomology, p. n, it will be seen that
long after poor Marryat's death I had the good fortune to be able through a hint from a friend to hit
upon a much improved method of killing Ephemeridae
and preserving them in formalin.
I have  been  tempted to stay and hold forth at mmS'
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some length on this subject, which, after all, does
not seem to bear much analogy with the title of
this chapter. My reason for doing so is that most
of this work was debated, discussed and carried out
in that pretty little cottage at Headbourne Worthy,
with specimens taken from the Itchen.
• The first spring I fished there I realised that the
Itchen is a later river than the Test, and that, especially during the spring, the Worthy trout were not
in as good condition as those we used to catch at
Houghton. We debated whether possibly the presence in very great numbers of a fly like the
Grannom, which the Test trout took with such
avidity, and which was unknown in that part of
the Itchen, might in part account for this. We even
tried to introduce it, getting the egg masses from
Stockbridge and hatching the larvae in the little
hatchery, which had at that time of the year been
cleared of the trout fry. It was a most interesting
experiment, but like many other attempts at acclimatisation,  failed.
Sir William G. Pearce, Bart, at a later date tried
to introduce Grannom into his water on the Kennet,
and he has himself given me permission to use his
notes on the experiment, which are here given in
his own words :—
"The first Grannom eggs were placed in the
Kennet at Chilton Lodge, Hungerford, in 1893.
They were obtained from Stockbridge, and a river-
keeper  who   came from  the  Test,  then   in   my em- 1
ploy, looked after the operation. Nothing was seen
of the fly in 1894, Dut m x^9^ more eggs (or egg
' sacs) were obtained from the principal Test Angling
Club in exchange for May-fly larvae. This exchange
continued between the club and myself until 1901.
Now for the results (?)."
"In 1895 tne river-keeper and head-keeper both
said they saw the fly. I did not. In 1898 the fly
came up well, but I was in Scotland at the time.
I had numbers of witnesses, however, and felt myself
justified in writing to the Field (May 14th, 1898) :
It appears to have gone somewhat lower down the
river than where the eggs were located, the best
rise being at Leverton, half a mile from here. I hear
also that the fly was seen as far down as Hofland's
Mill, where the Hungerford Common water begins.
From what I can discover, it was on more or less
for over a week.' This was the first and last real
rise, and I think it proves that the fly never bred
here. As the experiment was so unsuccessful I
ceased, in  1901, to continue working at it."
I have referred to this attempt at acclimatisation
of the Grannom because it, unfortunately, confirms
my own experience. I fear it points to there being
considerable, if not insuperable, difficulty in the way
of fishermen desirous of increasing the food supply
in the spring by the introduction of this fly, which,
in the words of McLachlan, the first authority in this
country on the Trichoptera, " is a true spring insect,
and almost invariably swarms in immense multitudes
where it occurs." THE  ITCHEN
John Lock, the head-keeper at Worthy, was quite
a character. He never took a liberty, but at the
same time was most excellent company. He would
carry one's basket, and keep up an endless flow of
conversation about the river, the fish, and the sport.
No day was too long for him, and he was never
so happy as when the angler he was attending was
killing fish.
He was quite an exception to the general run of
Hampshire keepers, as he not only appreciated all the
niceties of fishing dry-fly, but was even a first-rate
performer himself. The olive dun, generally called
after him (Lock's Fancy), is as good a pattern as any
dressed with a silk body can be, and I fancy that the
skein of floss silk of which the body of his original
pattern was dressed came out of my collection.
He was generally followed by a splendid black
retriever, known as " Tiger," and he always called the
attention of the fisherman to the excellent training and
consequently perfect manners of this dog. One day
I got my fly hung up in a bough across the river at a
place where the only available bridge for crossing was
quite a half-mile away. * When he suggested that
Tiger should clear it I took it as a joke and assented.
However, at a word the dog swam across the river,
Lock took up the rod and swayed the bough with it,
Tiger at once broke off the end of the bough with
the fly in it and swam back to its master with the
twig and fly in its mouth.
Lock had a number of quaint expressions.     If a i44
fish seemed particularly difficult to rise he would call
it " werry careful," and his advice when getting into
position to cast to a shy fish always was, " keep werry
priwate like ! " If a fish wTas rising in a draggy place,
and you had to put your fly into the teeth of a strong-
head wind, the essay did not always come off at the
first attempt. Perhaps at the third or fourth cast
the fly would be right and Lock would wait patiently
until it had passed the fish and failed to rise it. Then,
just when you expected a word or two of commendation and praise, the scornful tone in which he would
ejaculate " pity it warn't the first chuck " would make
one feel very small.
Sometimes I scored off him. At first he would
deride my suggestion of fishing a gold-ribbed hare's
ear, and announce in sententious tone that it was
"only them silly Test trout as would take such a
thing as that." When cast after cast would rise, and
sometimes hook and kill the fish, each time as he
netted the fish I would say, " another of them silly
Test trout."
The best score of all, however, was in the hot
weather, when one day we could not get a rise in some
deep stillish water, although there were several good
trout feeding. I suggested as a change a red ant.
" Not a mossel of good here," said Lock: however I
killed two or three brace of trout with it, and Lock
" lay low." The next day he was carrying the basket
of another fisherman, and suddenly his son came
running up to me to ask if I could give Mr. C. a red  1
y££*t^*4c>i&. e& THE  ITCHEN
ant. I told young Lock that I would do so on the
condition that he went back and said at first to his
father, that as I understood from him that the red ant
was " not a mossel of good here" I had left mine at
home. I should like to have seen Mr. C. and John
Lock's faces at this message.
During the early part of the spring of 1889 I had
fairly good sport, with fish averaging say \\ lbs.,
killing most of them with the gold-ribbed hare's ear
and medium olive quill. The wind kept all through
that part of the year in the north or north-east, and
while in that quarter the olives hatched well almost
daily. At the end of April there was a succession of
southerly winds, dull weather and rain, and very little
fly hatching the bags were all very light.
I mention this as it so fully confirms the impression derived from previous seasons on the Test, that
contrary to the time-honoured theories laid down in
text-books, the best sport on the chalk streams is
usually obtained during a spell of northerly winds.
During the winter of 1888 I had been invited by
Mr. Thomas Andrews, of Guildford, to pay him a
visit during the spawning season, and had several
most interesting and instructive days both at his ponds
at Critchmere and at the Guildford hatchery. Every
fisherman who has visited his hatchery and ponds
must have admired the systematic method in which
pisciculture w7as carried on under his able superintendence. Personally, he was one of the most amusing
and companionable men I ever met, and we were
always the best of friends to the day of his death. 146 AN ANGLERS  AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Soon after I was settled in the cottage at Headbourne Worthy he came and spent a few days there
with Marryat and myself. He was not at all a " dry-
fly purist," and his general practice was to fish a dun
on the "chuck and chance it" principle as long as
there were no fish rising. As soon as there was anything like a rise he fished in the more orthodox way.
He could cast a very fair line, and was quite able to
put a fly against a moderate breeze.
There was very little fly and not much chance
during this visit, but he managed to kill a few fish,
and was altogether charmed with the water. Marryat
and I were very busy working at the Alder at that
period and took many patches of eggs on the sedges,
hatched them out, and after preserving a few specimen^
for future mounting, Marryat took a number back to
Salisbury to try and rear them in his greenhouse.
He fitted up a small aquarium for them and took
away soil from the river, and weeds, so as to produce
as nearly as possible their natural surroundings while
in captivity. He kept these larvae until they were full
grown, and even succeeded in getting two or three
specimens to pupate on a little piece of turf, and thus
bred the imago. This enabled us to fix the life of the
species, from egg to the perfect insect, at one year.
We could get plenty of specimens of the eggs, the
larvae of all sizes, and the mature insect, but had great
difficulty in getting any of the pupae. Andrews, who
was interested in every phase of fish, fishing and
m fishes' food, at once volunteered to assist us, telling us
that there were always plenty of Alders at Critchmere. m^M
During the following May, Marryat and I spent a
day at the ponds and Andrews put his entire staff at
our disposal for the work. Armed with spades, they
dug up turf all round the ponds while Marryat and
I searched for and secured not only a considerable
number of pupae,* but also larvae ready to pupate,
pupal exuviae, and some of the cavities in the ground
which the insects had made and in which they had
passed through the pupal stage.
The May-fly at Worthy was a complete failure in
1889, and Marryat and I were very pleased to receive
a wire from our mutual friend P., the tenant of Kimbridge, asking us to come to him on June ist. We
had another of those extraordinary days when the
fish seem to have discovered an infallible method of
getting away after they had been apparently well
hooked. Marryat rose, hooked and lost fish after
fish, and killed two brace in all of about 2ilbs. average.
Another friend of P.'s killed one and a half brace and
lost a number of good fish. I killed one and a half
brace and also lost a great number, and P. himself
only secured a single trout, a beautiful fish of 3 lbs.
9 ozs- i^i0
The upper part of the back stream at Kimbridge
joined the Mottisfont water then rented by our old
friends, Foster and Alexander Mortimore. We met
them there during the day and their experience had
exactly tallied with ours. They asked us to fix a date
to come over and have a turn in their water, and the
only available day was June 7th.    Foster Mortimore m******
wrote us in a day or two that he was afraid we
should be full late, as there were few fresh flies
hatching.    However, we decided to go and chance it.
The rods at Mottisfont that day were the two
brothers Mortimore, John Day, Marryat and myself.
On our arrival we found the meadows, and even the
railway line, covered with spent gnat, and clouds of
males were dancing in the air. There had been very
few sub-imagines hatching on the 6th, and at our
host's suggestion we decided to try all the wide
carriers that held fish.
I do not think we saw a single green drake, and
these big fish were as shy as possible, having been
fished hard for many days, and a large proportion
of them hooked and lost. Occasionally the female
imagines would be seen laying their eggs, and at
intervals a fall of spent gnat on the water would
bring every fish on the rise.
Presently we had a terrific thunderstorm, and we
all took shelter in the station booking office. As soon
as it cleared off we separated, the two Mortimores
going down-stream, Marryat walking up, and John
Day and I having the central part of the water. Day
would not fish ; he had been at it hard all through
the May-fly, and with his usual unselfishness wanted
to see me get a big one.
In one of the carriers we saw the head of a huge
trout come up and take a spent gnat. I was on my
knees in a moment, crawled up in position and waited
for the next rise.    This is always a good policy when THE ITCHEN
trout are on spent gnat, as they invariably travel and
are dreadfully shy. Up it came again four or five
yards higher up, a good under-handed cast landed the
fly right at the first attempt, and the fish came with a
flop which set my heart beating.
I struck, and up-stream went the fish at a great
pace. The carrier was full of thick weed beds, and
for a time I managed to keep on terms with the trout.
At last it pi nged into the thickest of the vegetation,
and worked itself round the weeds until at length it
In those days we knew nothing of the wonders
wrought by slacking a hooked fish, and working it
out of the weeds by hand, so I held on and did all
I could to move the brute. It was of no avail; Day
started off, got hold of a pole, and went over to the
far side of the carrier and tried to move the weeds
apart so that we could get at the trout. The usual
result ensued—the trout started and in a moment
broke the gut and was free.
Feeling very down-hearted, I tried to persuade
Day to have a turn at the next rising fish, but he
declined and did his best to console me and held out
all sorts of alluring prospects of another bigger fish
higher up the same carrier and just below a brick
bridge. On our arrival at this place, sure enough the
fish was on the rise, and after another ineffectual
attempt to get Day to fish it, I repaired the damage,
and put up another spent gnat.
The trout was rising in a small open space below 150
the bridge, and above another fearful tangle of weed.
Using all care, and keeping well out of sight, another
horizontal cast put the fly on the spot, another bold
rise, and I found myself again fast in another big fish.
I then did what I ought to have done with the first
one, jumped up, and without a moment's consideration skull-dragged the trout over the weed bed and
started at full pace down the stream.
After about thirty yards of this the fish shook its
head with a savage jerk and tried to turn up-stream.
I simply stopped it by brute force, and once more
started dragging it down as fast as I could go. This
was repeated several times, and at last, when we
were quite 150 yards below the bridge, the fish made
a roll on the water and * was netted by John Day
before it could recover. It was a splendid female
fish and weighed 4 lbs. 2 ozs.
There we had another heavy storm, and we all
foregathered once more in a signalman's hut. The
Mortimores had seen few fish, and killed none, and
Marryat had killed another beauty, a female like mine,
of 3 lbs. 12 ozs. A cold, cheerless evening followed,
and so ended our May-fly fishing for that season.
During the remainder of the summer the sport
on the Worthy water was fairly good, and there
was no reason to regret the change I had made.
The trout were not quite as good an average in
weight, but the number taken was certainly in excess
of what we had killed at Houghton during the
previous   few   years.     Still  I   must  confess   that   I
remained clearly of opinion that the Test at and
about Houghton could be made the most sporting
water in the' county, if only the proprietors or lessees
could be induced to put their hands in their pockets
and stock on an adequate scale. I must not anticipate, but events since those days have amply proved
the soundness of my views.
The lessee of Winnall, a length of the Itchen
between Worthy and Winchester, was kind enough
to ask me to have a few days on his water. I fished
it for a few days at the end of August and part of
September, and killed eleven brace of trout, weighing
24\ lbs. It was a great treat to go over this historic
water and cast over rising fish in the places so often
and so graphically described by Francis Francis ; but
the average weight, judging from the above figures,
must have declined very much since his days.
Many of the Itchen proprietors, realising that
their stream was a very late one, were in the habit
of fishing until October 15th, but made it a proviso
that every female trout taken during the month of
September and the fortnight in October should be
returned. This is probably a very good regulation,
and might be adopted elsewhere with advantage, but
the difficulty is to be quite sure that a fisherman in
doubt as to the sex of a fish should give the fishery
the benefit of the doubt and return the trout.
A somewhat curious episode occurred in connection with this regulation, which was in force at
Worthy.     A  friend  who  did   not  fish  himself was ■—■
staying for a single day at the cottage, and told me
that he was very partial to a grilled trout for his
breakfast. I promised to keep one if I could only
manage to get a male. It was a- perfect September
day, but there were very few flies and scarcely any
fish rising, and my friend's chance of sampling his
favourite dish did not look very favourable.
We had arrived at the upper part of the Martyr
Worthy Shallow, of which a photogravure is given
at Plate XXVII. My friend was on the little footbridge, and I wading and spotting a feeding trout.
The fish rose to a ooo ginger quill, and young Lock
netted out a pretty little trout of i lb. 5 ozs. in
perfect condition. I said at once it was a female, and
young Lock agreed with me, and just then John
Lock and Mr. C, the lessee of the water, came
over the foot-bridge.
I explained the position to Mr. C, who at once
said, " By all means kill the trout for your friend's
breakfast, but it is an undoubted female." John
Lock added, " And full of ova too." When we
arrived home I opened and cleaned the fish myself,
and, mirabile dictu, it was a male with milt sacs fully
developed. I sent Mr. C. those milt sacs from the
fish we had all pronounced to be an undoubted
The late Dr. Wiblin, who rented the water lower
down at Highbridge, invited me for two days'
grayling fishing, and suggested October 14th and
15th.    Both of these days were beautifully fine, with I1M MiL THE ITCHEN 153
light southerly wind, and what with the charm of a
good sportsman as host, and the never-failing pleasure
of trying a new fishery, they were two of the most
pleasant days I ever passed at the riverside.
On the 14th I started with a macaw tag and
landed two trout in succession, 1 lb. 6 ozs. and
1 lb. 4 ozs., and then with an orange tag another
trout of 1 lb. 2 ozs. I then hooked a big trout and
persuaded Dr. Wiblin to play the fish handing my
landing net to his coachman. They had a fine run,
and the Doctor handled the fish splendidly but
somehow the coachman blundered with the net and
knocked off the fish, which was not far short of 3 lbs.
1 then got two more trout, 1 lb. 10 ozs. and 1 lb.
12 oz., and returned three undersized grayling.
On the 15th my kind host was not well, but
sent me a note by his coachman, and a very liberally
supplied hamper to satisfy the inner man. I landed
first a trout 1^ lbs., then a grayling \\ lbs., next
four trout,  2 lbs. 8 ozs.,   1 lb. 4 ozs., 1 lb. 6 ozs., and
2 lbs. Thus in the two days I only succeeded in
killing one sizable grayling and landed five brace of
good trout. All the trout, except the largest, and
one other, which were undoubtedly males, were
returned to that river.
During the winter of 1889 Marryat and I were
continually together, working at mounting and
examining the insects. All the Ephemeridae, which
had been arranged on the plan described in the
earlier  part of the chapter,  were cleaned in  oil  of i
cloves, mounted in Canada balsam, and finished and
labelled. In fact, all the best of these mounts now
in my cabinets were completed during the short
days of that year.
The spring fishing in the Itchen in 1890 was
very poor indeed, and most discouraging to those
who, like the lessee of the Worthy water, had for
years hatched and turned in trout in great numbers.
From my old diary, I see that on thirteen days in
the month of April and the first three weeks of May,
I was at the riverside and only killed six trout in all.
It cannot be said with truth that every day passed
by me on the banks of a stream is devoted to fishing.
It has always been my practice, even when carrying
a rod, to devote my time, when there is no hatch of
fly, to collecting and examining the insect larvae in
the weeds or mud at the bottom, or to studying the
growth of the various water weeds, and noting which
are and which are not the habitats of the Ephemeridae,
Trichoptera, Perlidae, or other larvae. On many
days, too, I leave my rod at home and only carry
a butterfly or other insect collecting net.
The May-fly was very early, in fact, on May 23rd
there was a fair hatch. The Worthy trout commenced taking it on the 28th, and we all had good
sport while it lasted. As usual, Marryat was with
me, and we paid a number of visits to friends who
were good enough to invite us year after year. On
the 29th we were at Kimbridge, and Marryat had a
very good day, killing four and a half brace, weighing THE ITCHEN
19 J lbs.    I only killed a single fish of 2 lbs. on that
During the previous winter we had worked out
a new pattern of May-fly with the wings of Gallina
dyed a blue-green. The history of this is rather
instructive. We were dying some Gallina feathers
olive for whisks of olive duns, and one feather which
although distinctly olive looked too brown, was at
my suggestion immersed for a few minutes in a strong
blue dye. When we took it out we both thought it
a failure, but washed it out with the others and left
it to dry.
Every observant fisherman will have noticed that
Rouen drake or other dyed wings of artificial Mayflies floating on the stream look white when viewed
from a distance, while the wings of the natural insect
from a similar point of view appear quite dark. It
had always seemed to me that if we could only find
a feather which looked dark on the water, we could
dye any tint of May-fly wings on it and produce an
imitation which should prove more attractive to the
fish than any of the patterns dressed heretofore.
The Gallina feather had just the appearance we
had so long looked for, and we found that the colour
to which it was dyed made little, if any, difference in
this respect. We therefore set to work and dressed
a considerable number of May-flies on No. 2 hooks
(the size we both preferred) with Gallina wings dyed
to various shades, and determined to give them a
thorough trial on the Itchen and Test. i56
Marryat had killed most of his fish on the 29th
with this pattern, and on June 2nd, when we paid a
second visit to Kimbridge, we decided both to fish
it to the exclusion of any other pattern. It was a
dull, cold day, with light north-westerly wind, and we
separated as soon as we had put our rods up, Marryat
going to the back-stream, while I wended my way
to the lower end of the fishery on the main river.
When we met at lunch, Marryat had killed three
trout, 3 lbs.
9 ozs., and 2 lbs.   15 ozs.;
while I had secured four, 2 lbs. 12 ozs., 2 lbs. 9 ozs.,
2 lbs. 15 ozs., and 1 lb. 10 ozs., and I had also lost
two, one of which had broken me and gone away with
the fly and two yards of the cast. Mr. and Mrs. P.,
our host and hostess, had neither killed a fish, and
were very pleased to accept some of our Gallina
winged pattern with which every one #of the fish
had been killed.
We decided not to fish more that day, a rule which
Marryat was never tired of impressing on all of us
when we had killed, say, two brace of good fish on
a friend's water, and he went off with our host, while
I volunteered to try and assist our hostess and net
her fish for her. P. hooked a big fish at once, and
it tore about all over the shallow in front of the house,
and eventually broke him, and he was so disconsolate
that he retired to the house, gave up fishing for the
day, and started writing letters.
Mrs. P. always fished with a light double-handed
13 ft. rod, one of Eaton and Deller's glued cane, and THE ITCHEN
she could cast a wonderfully true and long line with
this her favourite rod. She told me that her desire
was to kill a brace of fish that day and no more.
There was not much of a hatch of fly, and it took us
some time to find a trout taking well. At last, however, I spotted one under our own bank busily at
work in very slack water with a strong run just
Such a place is always difficult to fish without drag,
but Mrs. P. hardly required the gentle hint I
whispered of " plenty of slack line, please." At
the second or third attempt the little Gallina winged
fly landed eighteen inches above the fish's nose with
plenty of slack, and was taken slowly and without a
sound. She raised her hand gently and the next
moment the screech of her reel was heard and the
fish jumped into the air half-way across the river.
She played the fish to perfection, and in a few
minutes a perfect three-pounder was in the landing
After wandering about for a considerable time
in search of another rising trout, Marryat, who was
walking down towards us on the same bank, suddenly
stopped and called our attention to a fish rising in the
river close to the mouth of a carrier, from which a
little trickle was running into the stream. It was
quite close to the bank and made so little disturbance
that it would have been quite excusable if we had
failed to see it and walked over the spot.
Again the fly was placed accurately, and another i58
fish of 2 j lbs. was killed to make up the brace desired
by our hostess. We tried all in our power to persuade P. to go on fishing and kill some more, but he
felt out of sorts and depressed, and Mrs. P. would
not even make one more cast that day.
On the 6th we both went over to the Upper Test,
Marryat fishing at Wherwell Priory and I at Newton
Stacey. I killed two and a half brace of comparatively small trout, weighing 6J lbs., and Marryat got
a bag of seven brace weighing 22 lbs. 14 ozs., all
with the new Gallina pattern. His total for eight
days' May-fly in various parts of the Test and
Itchen that season was thirty-seven fish, weighing.
69 lbs. 10 ozs.
Since then the Gallina winged pattern dyed to a
number of shades has become a standard, and many
of the most experienced Hampshire fishermen prefer
it to any other. It has, as far as I know, one and
only one disadvantage, that the fibres of the Gallina
seem to absorb water more rapidly than either Rouen
drake, summer duck, or Egyptian goose, and hence
the labour of drying the fly is somewhat increased.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons of its success, as
we are all prone to cast far too frequently over fish
taking May-fly, and perhaps the extra exertion of
drying the fly tends to correct this fault.
During the summer of 1890 the Worthy water
fished very well, and my plan usually was to devote
the early part of the day to work either on the natural
or the artificial flies.     In those days I dressed most THE ITCHEN
of the flies with which I fished, and found it a constant
source of pleasure to sally out perhaps at five or
six o'clock in the evening with half a dozen flies I had
just tied, and try to kill a brace of fish on one of the
many favourable reaches of the river.
In reference to the study of the entomology of the
dry fly, I had found that no statement made by angling
writers could be taken as accurate without confirmation by practical experiment. As an example, let us
refer to Ronalds, an observer and a writer whose work
we all admire, and whose specimens are kept and
revered to this day.
On page 71 of the first edition the following
description of the iron blue dun occurs :—
" After emerging from its water nympha this fly
remains about two days in the state shown, and then
changes to the Jenny spinner. It is one of the
smallest flies worth the angler's notice, but not the
least useful. The male has a brownish-red crown or
cap on his head. The female is also crowned, but her
cap is too small to be easily seen."
There is a degree of accuracy in this description
which tempts one to hope that the writer had examined
his specimens thoroughly and had verified the metamorphosis from sub-imago to imago. His observations
have evidently not been complete, or else he could not
have fallen into the mistake here made. He had, no
doubt, kept some individuals in captivity until the dun
had shed its outer skin and the Jenny spinner had
By some extraordinary blunder all the  iron blue i6o
duns on which he experimented in this way were
males, and we can only infer that he could not dis-
tingush the sexes, and was ignorant of the fact that
the males of any Ephemeridae can be identified by the
presence of a pair of claspers, shaped like forceps, on
the ventral side of the abdomen at the hinder end, and
that these forceps are not present in the females.
Had he known this, which had been laid down in
the text-books written before he was born, he must
have realised that the Jenny spinner is the imago of
the male iron blue, and the female becomes a small
claret - bodied spinner. He would, with a hand
magnifier of the very lowest power, if not with the
naked eye, have seen the fallacy of his statement—
" The female is also crowned, but her cap-is too small
to be easily seen." The female iron blue, both in
the sub-imago and imago stages, has no cap, or to
be more accurate, turban-shaped compound eyes on its
In the same way he would have avoided the
blunder of saying that the blue dun (which is evidently
the olive dun of the present day) changed to a red
spinner, and discovered that the female imago is of
a brownish tint somewhat resembling the so-called
red spinner, while the male has a similar cap to that
of the male iron blue, and changed to a spinner resembling the Jenny spinner, but larger, and with the
central segments of the abdomen a pale but distinct
olive colour.
Is it to be wondered at that, while a man of the
acquirements   of   Ronalds  has   fallen   into   these   in- >
accuracies, the great number of angling writers who
have followed him, and simply copied his statements
without troubling to verify them, should have repeated
the same inaccuracies, and each in turn added a few
on his own account ?
Warned by these experiences, Marryat and I were
always impressing upon one another the necessity of
taking nothing for granted, and not even relying upon
our own observations until we had tried each experiment time after time with the same result.
As long ago as 1888, when I was trying my first
experiments in reference to the metamorphosis from
dun to spinner, Francis Francis, in an article entitled
" Considerations on Flies in Fishing," published in
the Field, said : " Teste ! a friend of mine, who kept
some flies in a bottle; his belief was that they were
all iron blues, but in time one of these flies changed
to a red spinner, while the others became Jenny
spinners ; Pompey and Caesar must have been very
much alike for the mistake to have occurred, yet
one was clearly a blue dun." .
The friend referred to was myself, and of course
Francis was in error. They were all iron blues, and
the males as usual changed to Jenny spinners, while
the solitary female became a red, or rather claret,
spinner. It took Marryat and myself years of experiment to feel quite certain that we were right, while
authorities like Ronald and Francis had blundered.
In fact, had it not been for the happy inspiration of
going to the first authority of the day on Ephemeridae,
the  Rev. A. E. Eaton, and had he not devoted an
Jt"* 162
inordinate amount of his invaluable time to assisting
us in the work, and referred us to Pictet and many
other thoroughly reliable writers on the subject, I do
not think we should have dared even now to speak
with confidence and contradict the positive statements
of the old school of angling authors.
At the end of the 1890 season I gave up the rod
at Worthy, not from any dislike to the water or to
those who fished it with me, but because the tenancy
of the Headbourne Cottage came to an end. I could
not find any other suitable accommodation in the
neighbourhood, and did not relish the idea of putting
up at a Winchester hotel or at a roadside inn near
the fishing.
For years I had tried to find a stretch of a good
stream which I could rent for myself, and possibly a
few friends, with a cottage or small house in which we
could stay and make our home while away on our
fishing expeditions. Such fishing is never easy to find,
especially when, as in my case, we had to consider
ways and means. All through that winter I redoubled
my efforts, but could not hear of anything suitable, and
altogether the prospect of sport for the coming season
did not seem very promising.
Martyr Worthy Hatches. CHAPTER  XII.
NLUCKILY, the search for
suitable water having produced no satisfactory result,
the opening of the 1891
season found me for the
first time during many years
without dry-fly fishing and
entirely dependent on the
kindness and courtesy of
friends. . It is, I know, the fashion in the present age
to cultivate a spirit of pessimism, and declare that
modern friendships only last as long as they entail
no trouble, no sacrifice, and no expense on those
indulging in such luxuries.
Either the world is not so foul as it has been
painted, or it has been my exceptionally good fortune
to be on terms of affection and intimacy with a class
of men who are vastly superior to most of our fellow-
creatures ; but my experience generally, and specifically in the year referred to, does not bear out the
views enunciated in the last paragraph. All true
sportsmen   are   staunch   friends   and   pre-eminently «.
unselfish, and certainly the dry-fly fisherman is in no
way worse than his brother .sportsmen in respect to
these admirable qualities of mind and temperament.
As soon as it was known to a few fishing companions that I was, so to say, a wanderer on the face
of the earth in search of places where the dry-fly
could be practised occasionally, one and all came
forward and spontaneously offered me of their best.
The lessee of Winnall begged of me to select my
own dates, and not to be sparing in availing myself
of his offer as frequently as I could on his portion of
the Itchen.
An old friend, Dr. C, who had rented fishing on
the lower part of the Anton for many years, and to
whose kindness I was already indebted for a number
of pleasant days in his congenial society, pressed me
to be his guest whenever the claims of an extensive
practice left him free. Andrews welcomed me to a
little stream in his neighbourhood, and gave me besides
many opportunities of acquiring further knowledge of
pisciculture at his rearing ponds. The Honourable
A. Holland-Hibbert, as soon as the May-fly put in
an appearance, selected what he considered would
be the height of the hatch for me to try his water
on the Colne, and two old Hampshire friends,
Major Turle and Foster Mortimore, also gave me
leave during June on the Test.
Mr. F. M. Walbran invited me to fish the Wharfe,
and introduced me to a member of the Driffield Club
who made me free of that fishery for some days     I THE  END   OF  OUR   HOUGHTON  CLUB
visited the Costa, and during the grayling season had
three memorable days at Houghton. Altogether, it
was one of the most enjoyable seasons I ever had,
and the sport was far better than I anticipated. A
reference to my diary shows that my total for 1891
amounted to 103 trout, weighing 123 lbs. 5 ozs., and
ten grayling of 11 lbs. 14 ozs. At times I felt
acutely the want of a stretch of water which I could
fish without asking leave, but I think that the result
was most salutary, and the experience gained quite
out-balanced any fancied or real inconvenience.
The first fishing of the season was at Winnall,
where in the middle of May I had four consecutive-
days of cold north or north-westerly wind, with
occasional heavy showers of rain and hail. There
were generally short gleams of sunshine in the
mornings, but the afternoons and evenings were all
dull and cheerless. On the first of these days there
was very little fly hatching, and the fish generally
were bulging; on the second and third there was no
hatch whatever before 3 p.m., and then for about an
hour a grand show of Ephemeridae ; while on the
fourth day, olive, iron blue and pale watery duns kept
hatching out in small numbers from 10.30 in the
morning to 2 p.m., and after this no fly and no fish
On the first day I killed three and lost four; on
the second rose a great number, hooked nine, of
which no less than six got away; on the third day
I only killed a single fish; and on the fourth killed i66
five and lost five. On the first three days every fish
was killed with the gold-ribbed hare's ear, and on the
fourth honours were divided between the ginger quill
and a pale olive. They were all good-looking fish
of the usual Itchen stamp, i.e., rather dark and longer
in proportion to their depth than Test trout, and
averaged about  \\ lbs.
These days are thus referred to in detail because
the wind was throughout very much in the same
quarter, all were decidedly chilly and uncomfortable,
and cold rain and hail fell on each. According to
the theories which are sometimes broached by writers
in the sporting press, the hatch ought to have been
late every day, and should also have been sparse.
Late, because we are assured that after a cold night
the fly is invariably late, and some even say that a
reference in the morning to the minimum side of
a registering thermometer enables them to fix the
hour of the hatch accurately. Sparse, because notwithstanding the incontestable evidence of every
observant angler, we are still solemnly assured that
with cold and northerly winds the Ephemeridae do
not show up.
Here, as a matter of fact, there were in these four
days three unaccountable phases in the time of the
hatch and of its volume. The first day when the fly
was scarce, and seven trout were hooked. The
second and third, two precisely similar days, when
there was no hatch before 3 p.m., and then for an
hour a great number of duns showing ; on the former
of these, nine fish were killed and lost, and on the
latter only a single one. On the fourth day the fly
began to dribble up at 10.30 a.m., and kept on in
insignificant numbers until two o'clock, and the result
was that no less than ten fish were hooked.
The conclusions to be drawn from these records
are those which I have been trying to inculcate for
many years, viz., that the north wind is not an
unfavourable one for the Hampshire dry-fly fisherman ; that temperature is not the all-important factor
regulating the hour of the hatch on a particular day ;
and that the most successful days for the form of
sport we pursue are often those on which a scanty
hatch continues for many hours, and there are nearly
always more or less fish rising moderately well.
My Anton fishing was comprised in two visits,
one of three days and the other of two. During the
earlier visit at the end of May the wind was southeasterly, with very scanty rises of fly during the day,
and cold evenings, when, as might be expected, there
was no rise whatever. By dint of hard work, both
Dr. C. (my host) and I contrived to get odd fish
during the day, and were only too glad to get indoors
before dusk, as the nights were distinctly chilly and
uncomfortable. My total was only eleven trout of
13 lbs.
The two days in July were a great contrast, as
they were both fine and hot, with northerly wind,
sparse hatches during the day, and some little rise
each evening.    The flies that scored on those days AN ANGLERS A UTOBIOGRAPHY
were the detached badger, red quill, and silver
sedge, and Dr. C. killed six and a half brace, while
my bag contained nine brace, weighing 2oJ lbs.
My host might have killed many more fish, but his
anxiety to insure me good sport largely diminished
his own chances.
The day selected for me to fish the Honourable
A. Holland-Hibbert's water on the Colne was June
6th, and the weather was very rough, culminating
in a cold evening. This, my first visit to the water,
was a most interesting one, and served to impress
upon me more strongly than before what possibilities
there are for a man willing to go to some expense
to improve his water by liberal stocking and judicious
alterations in the flow of the stream.
A large proportion of this part of the Colne is
naturally slow-running, and almost stagnant in some
of the pools. The felling of trees at intervals and
securely fixing them across the stream, has. made
a series of miniature falls, damming up the water
above and making excellent lies for big fish below
these obstructions. My host's rules for the fishery
were, and I believe still remain, a marvel of simplicity, and should commend themselves to all good
He said, " I ask my friends fishing to make their
own size limit, to kill as many fish as they really want
either for themselves or their friends, and to return
the rest uninjured to the river," and he. added, "I do
not want any to-day, either for the house or to send THE   END   OF   OUR   HOUGHTON  CLUB
away." I dare say a pot-hunter might have taken
advantage of these elastic rules, but I venture to
predict that he would never receive a second invitation to fish that stretch.
There was a fair hatch of May-fly that day, and
a few spent gnat in the afternoon, but by six o'clock
it was all over. I worked very steadily and landed
three brace, weighing respectively 1 lb. 3 ozs., 1 lb. 4
ozs., 2 lbs., 1 lb. 13 ozs., 1 lb. 14 ozs. and 2 lbs. 10
ozs.    Of these, all but the two largest were returned.
I had a novel experience with the 2 lbs. fish. It
was rising just below and on the far side of a heavy
bank of water crowfoot, and every now and then
would take a fly quite close to the tail of the weed
patch. My cast was placed too far above and landed
on the water quite a foot above the lower end of it.
The trout came up and impelled itself on to the
weeds until at the moment of taking my fly it was
more than half out of the water.
In reply to a letter addressed by me to my friend
Holland-Hibbert, with the view of obtaining his
assent to referring in this book to his water and the
pleasant days I have had on it by his kind permission,
he wrote me on April * 18th, 1903, in very doleful
terms, saying: " But this river is simply done for by
the lowness of the water and the mills. One day last
year we pulled out 100 to 150 dead trout of over i-|
lbs. each, and several 4 lbs. fish. Simply terrible, but
this year it may, from the good rainfall, be a little
better, although the stock of fish is sorely diminished." SI
I hear that there are many of the Hertfordshire
and neighbouring streams in the same parlous condition. What with pollution, abstraction of water
for supply to towns or villages in the vicinity, the
demands of millers and others requiring water power,
the level of these rivers has been permanently lowered
to such an extent as to cause the greatest alarm on
the part of owners of fisheries.
The day I had on the Wharfe in July as the guest
of Mr. Walbran was described in an article published
in the Field of August 15th, 1891, entitled "Clear
Water Worm Fishing," and it is reprinted here for
the benefit of my readers..
" The majority of fly fishermen, and especially those
affecting the dry fly, are in the habit of looking down
upon the worm-fisher for trout with something nearly
akin to contempt. They are apt to class him with
the bottom-fishers, on whom they affect to look down,
although these said humble bottom-fishers are as true
sportsmen, and as deserving of every sympathy, as the
most severe purist in fly fishing, so long as they keep
themselves aloof from the category of pot-hunters.
It is urged by some that worming for trout is an
unscientific mode of angling, under the notion that
any sort of worm hurled anyhow and anywhere will
be successful. Possibly, in times of heavy flood, with
water much discoloured, a huge lob on a large hook
with coarse gut can and does make a record, but a THE  END   OF OUR HOUGHTON CLUB
visit to the North with one of the adepts in the art
indicated by the title of this article will, beyond doubt,
convince the sceptic of the great difference between
his preconceived ideas and the reality of clear water
worm fishing."
"It was my privilege lately to accompany one of
the most experienced worm-fishermen, my good friend
W., to the upper reaches of the WTharfe, and a brief
description of a day there will, I believe, interest
many readers of the Field. For the information
of those unacquainted with the locality, the Upper
Wharfe is a rapid stream flowing down one of the
most picturesque valleys in the country, and is
throughout its length broken up into sharp, rough
stickles, alternating with smooth deep reaches. It is
fully stocked with the gamest of trout, averaging, say,
three to the pound, with occasional fish of much
greater weight, and contains besides, a great number
of grayling of somewhat larger average than the trout.
The river was very low and bright, the runs being
covered only by a few inches, the large boulders
standing well out of the water, and the banks rather
high,, as necessary to withstand the heavy floods
which prevail in winter, and occur even in summer
after heavy rain. When we started at the lowest
shallow the fish were rising fairly well, and both
wading, W. fishing his own particular style (of
which more anon) and I with dry fly. In a few
minutes each killed one and a half brace, and predictions of a very close result were freely exchanged. 172
The early morning was fair, with a north-westerly
wind and drifting clouds, but about eleven o'clock a
sharp shower came on ; after this the weather cleared,
and a warm afternoon, with a pleasant breeze, set in.
To sum up my poor contribution to the bag, the fish
ceased rising with the rain, and after some time,
finding it impossible to add anything to the take,
I gave up fishing, and set myself to study the
performance of my friend W."
" He uses a 12 ft., somewhat- stiff wooden rod—
one which in the hands of a Hampshire fisherman
would be considered rather too heavy for fishing
single-handed with comfort. In his left hand a
landing-net, with long, stout handle, armed with a
double iron prong—this being needed to -Steady himself when wading in the sharp runs over the slippery
stones. A two-hook Pennell tackle on a cast of about
two yards fastened to the reel line—the gut, however,
both of the cast and tackle, of the very finest drawn
(far finer, indeed, than any I had previously seen),
and the hooks quite small—about No. 1 I should
think—with a line about one and a half times the
length of the rod, a small, well-scoured worm is
thrown slowly and without the slightest jerk. The
style of casting is somewhat peculiar, the worm being
returned gently, and more time given behind than
is usual with the fly; sometimes even the worm is
thrown directly from the water behind the angler,
and the action is a sort of compromise between the
ordinary overhanded and underhanded cast.    Wading THE   END   OF  OUR  HOUGHTON CLUB 173
invariably, and casting up-stream, the very thinnest
places in the run are usually selected in hot, calm
weather and clear water—places where the depth of
water seems barely enough to cover the fish. As the
worm comes down with the stream, the hand is raised
very slowly, the greatest care being taken to let it
swim at the same pace as the current, the slightest
drag being absolutely fatal to any chance of success.
The dry-fly fisherman will fully appreciate both the
difficulty of avoiding drag in some positions and the
confirmation of his own experience as to the paramount necessity of the trout or grayling's suspicions
not being roused by the sight of the worm travelling
at either a greater or a lesser pace than it would if
free and unattached to the tackle. It is necessary to
watch intently both the line and the run down which
the worm is drifting, and at the slightest check to the
line, or the smallest suspicion of a gleam or turn in
the water, to strike instantly—to wait until the pluck
is felt is, in the majority of cases, to make sure of
being too late. Fly fishermen know how difficult it
is to strike dace or small grayling instantly, and when
in addition to this, as in the case of friend W., the
very finest of fine gut is used, the additional danger
of a break at the least excess of power' in the act of
striking is only too obvious. Of course, when once
hooked, the killing of the trout or grayling, however
game they may be, is not a difficult problem in rivers
where there are few, if any, weeds."
" On the day in question, when I first gave  up *
fishing myself, W. had killed perhaps six or seven
trout by carefully trying every likely spot in the
long stretches of sharp stickles. His attitude when
fishing was generally a stooping one, and in some of
the very thinnest places he even knelt in the water
to keep out of sight. My own position was usually
abreast of or a trifle below him, and from this position
I had a better view of the water between my bank
and the fisherman than he had himself. Whilst he
was fishing the runs beyond where he was wading I
carefully looked over the portion nearer to me, and
frequently could indicate the position of a fish quite
invisible to him. In this way, gradually working upstream, and killing or pricking fish after fish, many
miles of water were covered, and at six o'clock, when
we had to reel up and drive some eight miles to the
station, he had killed twenty-seven trout and one
grayling, weighing in the aggregate 13 lbs."
" The points which impressed me most were the
strong resemblance between the clear water worm
and dry-fly fishing in respect to the importance of
throwing up-stream and that of preventing or avoiding drag as the worm sinks down. Such features as
the keeping out of sight, the more or less horizontal
position of the rod when casting or returning, the
care taken not to splash or even move unnecessarily
when wading, are equally essential in any style of
9 trout fishing. The necessity of the extremely fine gut
and small hooks used may perhaps be open to discussion,   but  looking   at   the   low,   clear   water,   the THE  END  OF  OUR  HOUGHTON  CLUB
bright sun, and the small depth of water in the
successful places, coupled with the fact that probably
fish can distinguish an object immersed more easily
than one floating, I am of opinion that it is of decided
advantage. Of course, even with fish averaging
something under \ lb., with such tackle the most
skilful of anglers must expect an occasional mishap."
" Detached Badger."
By the kindness of Mr. Edward Middleton I had
the opportunity of trying the water of the celebrated
Driffield Club, in Yorkshire. The beck is a true
chalk stream, containing weeds, insects, Crustacea
and Mollusca of the same genera and species as
those found in the Test, Itchen, and the majority
of smaller streams in the South. The May-fly
formerly was very plentiful, but when I fished it
in 1891 the members generally deplored its disappearance. The length of the fishery is very great,
and at the time of my visit was moderately well
stocked with trout averaging a little over 1 lb.
Some members of the Club fished sunk fly and
others dry fly only, and on rough days it was not
an uncommon circumstance for a bag of five brace
(which I believe was the limit at that time) to be
killed with such flies as the partridge hackle or
grouse hackle fished wet. Personally I found plenty
of occupation during the eight days in July and
August of my visit in spotting and casting over
rising   fish,   and   had   very   good   sport   with    the 176 AN ANGLERS  AUTOBIOGRAPHY
ordinary Hampshire patterns, comprising the gold-
ribbed hare's ear, pale watery dun, red and ginger
quills, detached badger, red ant, silver sedge, &c,
and I killed in the aggregate thirty-seven trout
weighing 39 lbs. 11 ozs.
Four more days at Winnall in September wound
up the trout season, and although everything seemed
propitious, except that the wind was in the south,
fly was scarce, and few fish were killed. At the end
of the month I paid a visit to the Costa Club water,
near Pickering, as I was desirous of seeing another
Yorkshire chalk stream. The weather was very
unpleasant, as we had a continuous south-westerly
gale while there, and although the stream is a very
pretty one and holds a good head of medium-sized
trout, and many grayling of a somewhat high average,
the bags were poor, both as to number and weight.
During the three years of my absence from
Houghton a great change had occurred. The proprietor had gradually become converted to the doctrines which Marryat, Day and others, besides myself,
had tried to teach. He was convinced that stocking
was necessary, and had made ponds in a series of
carriers, fitted up hatching troughs, and generally
embarked in the. work of pisciculture on the spot, but
on a comparatively small scale.
A new regulation had been made permitting bait
fishing in hatch-holes, and I was invited to have
three days there, accompanied by Walbran, who was
asked to try his method of swimming a worm over THE   END   OF  OUR  HOUGHTON   CLUB
the big grayling in Houghton Mill pool. Candidly,
I think such a regulation was a decided mistake,
as from many years' experience I can testify that
both trout and grayling in these hatch-holes rose
to the fly and occasionally gave grand sport.
November 5th, 6th and 7th were the days fixed,
and early on the morning of the first day, having
driven down from Stockbridge, we arrived at Houghton Mill, and Walbran set to work to rig up his
tackle. He used a glued cane rod of about 11 ft.
6 ins., and with two yards of the very finest drawn
gut and a small hook baited with a bright little worm
on similar gut and a tiny cork float, proceeded to
fish the pool.
He stood near the head of the pool, made a short
cast to the far side, and let the bait work down with
the stream, round the eddy, and nearly back to his
feet. The effect was magical, as during the day,
without reckoning the various occasions on which he
was broken or the undersized fish returned, he landed
no less than five trout, which were, of course, at
once put back. The largest of these trout was quite
3 lbs. and the smallest fully 1J lbs.
He killed twelve large grayling, weighing, according to my diary, 1 lb. 11 ozs., 1 lb. 15 ozs., 2 lbs. 3 ozs.,
1 lb. 11 ozs., 1 lb. 11 ozs., 2 lbs. 4 ozs., 1 lb. 11 ozs.,
1 lb. 11 ozs., 1 lb. 12 ozs., 2 lbs. 6 ozs., 1 lb. 8 ozs.,
1 lb. 10 ozs. ; total, 22 lbs. 10 ozs. On the next day
he only succeeded in killing.one grayling in this pool,
1 lb. 13 ozs., and on the third day he also only killed AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
a single one, but it weighed, according to my spring
balance, just over 3 lbs. 9 ozs., and according to my
friend -" Red Spinner," by his scales and weights,
3 lbs. 10 ozs. This, I think, was the largest grayling
killed at Houghton during the life of what I must,
for want of a better term, call our Club.
On the same day after the monster had been killed
I found a grayling rising just above the Boot Island,
and succeeded in putting a gold-ribbed hare's ear over
it, and hooked and landed one of 3 lbs., and so ended
the season of 1891. After seeing the ponds, and
the stocking work which was projected, I decided to
rejoin the Houghton Club, and all my friends there
were good enough to express their satisfaction at this
step. Another friend, Mr. N. Lloyd, also joined the
Club, and we arranged to fish as much as possible
together and put up at a comfortable little inn at
Stockbridge, driving thence to and from the water.
At the commencement of April, 1892, the members
of the Houghton Club and their friends foregathered
again as usual and discussed all the problems of the
fly, natural and artificial, and of the fish and their
fickleness, and all the usual pet theories were advanced
and combated, with the invariable result that all of us
still held our own theories and had only a qualified
admiration for those of others. John Day was there
for the months of April, May, and the first half of
June ; Lloyd came as often as his business engagements would allow him ; and a new member of the
Club, Mr. J. H. Leech, was very much with us.  * THE  END   OF  OUR  HOUGHTON  CLUB 179
At the first introduction we all took to Leech, and
the more we knew him the better we liked him. He
was a true sportsman, and had joined the Club for the
purpose of learning all he could about the dry fly, dry-
fly fishing, and the vagaries of the Test trout and
grayling. All of us, including Marryat, were only too
pleased to help him. and before long the great master
himself said that Leech was as good a dry-fly fisherman as any member of the Club. Seeing that he
had lost his left hand, it was a marvel how well he
manipulated his rod,  line and fly.
"Red Spinner" was often down in the spring, and
the evenings at that little Stockbridge inn will never
be effaced from the memories of those of us who still
survive.     Day  had  rooms within  a  few yards,  and
would look  in   almost every evening,  and over our
post-prandial tobacco not only fishing with the floating fly, but all manners of sport would be discussed.
Day was a very fine shot, and had great knowledge of
game rearing, &c.    Marryat, also a very useful gun,
had quite a reputation for arranging partridge drives.
Leech was also a good shot and had travelled all over
parts of China and Japan, which were scarcely known
in those days to Europeans.     "Red Spinner" had, of
course, all his Australian and New Zealand experiences  !
to  guide  him.    From  this  brief rdsutnd it  may be
readily imagined that the  hours   kept at that  quiet
country inn would not commend   themselves to the
Early Closing Association.
April  and  May were not   favourable months for 11
any of us, and excepting John Day, who on April 29th
killed a splendid bag of two and a half brace, weighing
within a few ounces of 15 lbs., no one else had any
very great sport. I only fished six days in April and
three days in May at Houghton, and of those in April,
three were blanks, and one in May was also a blank.
On April 4th " Red Spinner" and I were at North
Head, and he killed a brace, while I got three fish,
2 lbs. 1 oz., 2 lbs. 6 ozs., and. 1 lb. 14 ozs. On the
5 th his bag was one and mine a brace of 3 lbs. and
1 lb. 2 ozs. ; and on the 29th, when John Day scored
so heavily on the upper part of the water, I killed
a brace, 2 lbs. 1 oz. and 1 lb. 5 ozs. On May 14th I
had the pleasure of introducing the Honourable A.
Holland-Hibbert to Houghton, and he was very
charmed with it, and killed two brace of good fish,
while I secured a brace, 1 lb. 2 ozs. and 3 lbs. 10 ozs.
My fish at Houghton that spring were all killed
with gold-ribbed hare's ear, excepting one that took
a medium olive quill.
The May-fly came up during the last days of May,
and Marryat and I had a day at Newton Stacey with
our old friend, Major Turle. It was June 2nd, and
the fly was fully up, and while driving over there
Marryat and I had a discussion on the question of
fishing small fly during the May-fly rise, and as an
experiment we determined that neither of us would
put up a May-fly or Button before lunch, but fish
duns exclusively.
The  party   consisted   of   Major  Turle,   his  son,
Marryat and myself, and Marryat was told off to the
Osier Bed, which was his favourite beat, and the
lower part of the right-hand stream, as it is called,
was to be my happy hunting ground. The Major and
his son took one the lower and the other the upper
part of the Main, or what is called the May-fly stream.
At that time there was an idea that the river was
over-stocked about here and we were ordered to kill
every good-conditioned fish of f lb. or over.
The stream which I fished until lunch time is not
the Test proper but a tributary flowing down from
Sutton Scotney and joining the Test in the lowest
meadow of the Newton Stacey fishing. It is a pretty
little winding stream, rather overgrown with trees on
one bank at the lower part, and it always has been
considered one of the very earliest places for May-fly
in that fishery.
It is perfectly clear, like the Test itself, contains
very heavy weed beds, is difficult to fish without drag,
unless one wades, and the fish are rather shy.. Personally I never wade these narrow streams, excepting
where absolutely necessary, as I am sure it tends to
disturb the feeding fish and adds to their shyness.
This I know is quite contrary to the local idea at
Newton Stacey and Wherwell, where the lower part
of the fisherman's costume almost always consists of
a pair of wading trousers up to the arm-pits, and he
is in the middle of the water all day long.
The May-fly was fully up, and occasionally green
rakes and spent gnats were on the  stream ;   there 182 AN ANGLERS  AUTOBIOGRAPHY
were also plenty of smaller Ephemeridae, olive, iron
blue, pale watery duns, and their respective spinners.
After a little consideration I selected a red quill with
body dyed rather a dark shade   of red-brown on   a
0 hook, and finding that the first rising fish came to
it and was killed, did not change during the  morning.
Working up slowly and fishing underhanded, and
with great care, I picked up fish after fish, until I
arrived at an iron hatch which marked the upper limit
of the  beat assigned to me.    Looking at the time,
1 found it was 1.30 p.m., and according to the arrangement made before we started, I sauntered across to
the hut to join the rest of the party at lunch.
Major Turle and his son had not killed a single
fish, and Marryat who, strange to say, had fished the
same pattern and size fly as myself, had three brace,
while the contents of my bag numbered seven trout.
The fish were all in good condition, but distinctly
small for the Test, and both Marryat and I would
have returned most of them except for the orders
we had received from our host.
After lunch we had a long yarn until the fly came
up, and then putting up May-flies instead of the red
quills, we all started again and changed our beats,
so that I was at the Osier Bed, the Major and his son
on the right-hand stream, and Marryat at the lower
part of the main river. There was a fair rise badly
taken, and when we took down our rods at dusk the
Major had killed only a brace, his son one and a half
brace, and Marryat and I five brace each.    Of course THE  END   OF  OUR   HOUGHTON  CLUB
our bags were larger than the others because we
had fished small fly all the morning. The fish
averaged as nearly as possible  1   lb.   5  ozs.
On the 4th, Day, Leech and most of our friends
decided to go down to Black Lake, the .by-stream at
the lower end of the Houghton water, and the only
part where in those days the hatch of fylay-fly was
sufficient to bring the trout to the rise at that insect.
Lloyd, Marryat and I drove down to the Sheepbridge
and steadily walked up thence. Marryat was not
fishing, but devoted himself to giving Lloyd hints,
hints from which Lloyd has so well profited that he
is now perhaps the best dry-fly fisherman of the day.
The weather was perfect, with sun tempered by a
gentle southerly breeze, and at that time of the year
all the natural beauties of the river, the banks and the
distant background of rounded downs, are at their
best. Until noon we saw very few flies, and we
returned a few grayling and an undersized trout
or two before lunch. At about three o'clock there
was a small hatch of duns, iron-blue and pale-watery,
and I left Marryat and Lloyd at the upper end of the
Sheepbridge Shallow over a rising fish, and walking
up to North Head, found a trout rising there a considerable distance from the bank and in the run of
the stream.
The opposite bank was not. ours, and according
to the rule laid down in the Club, and one which
should be recognised everywhere, we could not wade
to fish beyond the middle of the river.    This is one AN ANGLERS  AUTOBIOGRAPHY
of the few places where a really long cast is required,
and probably a length of 26 or 27 yards was necessary
to land a slack fly over the fish. Many will perhaps
scoff at this being referred to as a long cast, but this
was not casting in competition with rod and line made
especially for the purpose, but with an ordinary fly
rod over a very shy and well-educated Houghton
' trout.
An iron-blue was knotted on to the collar, and
after two or three attempts was placed right,
came over the fish, which rose, took it, was hooked,
gave a grand run in the hard stream, and weighed
exactly 2 J lbs.
Meanwhile Lloyd had killed one of about the
same weight, and coming up, we were within sight of
one another while he hooked and lost two, and I had
the same ill-luck with four in succession. Presently
Marryat spotted a fish rising in a dead place which
always holds a big one and is very difficult to fish.
A feeding trout there invariably shifts its position,
and although there is no positive back eddy, the
stream outside is fairly rapid, and without plenty of
slack the fly is sure to drag. Leaving them to study
this little bit of scientific fishing I walked up, and
when about 100 yards above saw a fish rise under the
bank at the upper end of a deep bay.
Kneeling down and getting out the length of the
line did not take many seconds, but as often occurs, I
hesitated before making the cast. It was well I did,
for close under the bank and perhaps five yards lower THE   END   OF   OUR   HOUGHTON  CLUB 185
down I caught sight of a rise which made my heart
beat for a second. A slow, steady head and tail rise,
which displayed every inch of a good fish as it came
to and sucked in a floating dun.
Crawling back and drying my fly thoroughly, I
put the iron blue right over its nose, and it made just
such a deliberate rise at my fly as it had the moment
before at the natural insect. When hooked it went *
up-stream with a dash, and drove out the other trout
I had first seen and almost cast to, and which was
a fish of perhaps ij lbs. at the outside.
My hooked fish made a start and went off downstream at a great pace and I after it, nor could I
stop it until we had arrived at the dead place where
Lloyd's fish was rising. The fish rolled over two or
three times there and Marryat put the net under it
and lifted it out. It was a true Wycombe trout, a
female, weighing 3 lbs. 3 ozs., bright as silver from
head to tail, with a tiny head and very short and
thick. The spots on it were black; in fact, I do not
think there was a single red spot on it.
Probably this was the offspring of some of the
Wycombe trout which had been introduced into that
part of the Test. Some of these were put in many
years before by the proprietor of the fishery, and from
time to time we killed fish showing unmistakable
marks of being of that strain. I rented at one time,
too, a short stretch of a tributary of the Test called
the Park Stream, which ran out of the Test proper
at North  Head, and I had also stocked this length AN ANGLERS  AUTOBIOGRAPHY
of water exclusively with Wycombe fish, and it is
quite probable that these had interbred, and their
offspring finding suitable water above, had taken
up their quarters there.
On June 6th Marryat and I were invited by
Foster Mortimore to fish at Mottisfont and went
down there from Stockbridge by an early train, and
so found ourselves on the water by a few minutes
after ten o'clock. It was a sweltering hot day, with
very little wind, and not much fresh May-fly hatching.
There was, however, a good show of spent gnat,
which the fish did not take well at any time during
the day or evening. In fact, the best of the drake
season was over, and the fish generally were stale and
disinclined to rise.
We started prospecting up a length of typical big
fish water, deep, sluggish, and probably holding great
numbers of pike. Here and there the trout and
grayling would be seen lazily breaking the surface
and taking sometimes a May-fly, sometimes a spent
gnat, and sometimes a Welshman's Button or other
Caddis fly. Marryat was casting, and I wras more
inclined to yarn and wait for the rise, which we vainly
anticipated later on in the day.
Presently we both saw a trout come slowly to the
surface and take some insect, and as we set it down
as a good one we waited and watched. It seemed to
be cruising about in a space of perhaps five yards by
three yards, and moved so deliberately that we could
follow  its   every movement in  the   water.    Marryat THE  END   OF  OUR  HOUGHTON  CLUB
put a Gallina winged May-fly over it, and we could
see the wave of the fish close to the place, but it
never moved at the fly. A second perfect cast was
made, also with no result.
I begged Marryat to try a Welshman's Button,
but he jeered at the notion, put up one of his very
best spent gnats, and after two or three throws
decided that it was not the medicine it wanted. A
hackle May-fly and a summer duck winged one were
tried, but Marryat would not be persuaded by me
to trying anything but one of the May-flies.
At last he said, "It is no go ; this brute has, I
suppose, been hooked half-a-dozen times this Mayfly " ; and he would not persevere, and turned and
walked away down-stream, suggesting that as I was
so keen for the Button I had better try it myself. I
sat down on the ground and soaked my cast, and then
put on a fly of the pattern and gave the fish a rest
of perhaps ten minutes.
It went on feeding just in the same way, cruising
about quite slowly, and often showing its head and
back fin above the surface as it gently sucked in some
almOvSt invisible insects. The first cast was purposely
made short of the fish so as to enable me to judge
quite accurately the length, for I felt that the first
time the fly came over the fish would be my only
chance. All went well, and the trout rose at my
Welshman's Button and started off at a merry pace
up-stream as soon as it felt the hook.
At the first check  I   got it on a short line and 188 AN ANGLERS  AUTOBIOGRAPHY
started it down-stream and took it along for quite one
hundred yards, when Marryat, who saw my bent rod,
doubled up to assist me with the landing net. After
a few heavy plunges we got it out, and although a
huge fish of 4 lbs.
it was no beauty.    It was
a dark-coloured male fish with a curious scar on its
back just in front of the adipose fin, probably made
by a scythe.
I tried all I could to persuade Marryat to put up
the same pattern, but he was obstinate, so we walked
down together and I killed another pretty fish of
i lbs. 6 ozs. with the Welshman's Button. We then
joined Foster Mortimore and his brother for lunch.
They had done nothing, and determined to walk
down to a stretch they rented some two miles
lower down and fish the spent gnat there. As we
were returning to Stockbridge by rail we decided to
keep nearer the railway station.
In the afternoon Marryat and I went together
and fished alternate fish, a plan we frequently adopted
when there was not much doing. There were
occasionally a few spent gnats on the water, and
fish rose at long intervals, but were very shy and
difficult to stalk. We each killed one, his weighing
i lb. io ozs., and mine 2§ lbs., and both of us had
rolled over, hooked, and lost a number of other good
fish. The evening came over dull and cold, and as
there was not much prospect of further sport we took
an earlier train and were back at Stockbridge in time
for dinner at a reasonable hour.
When we all assembled for our usual evening
colloquy we received rather a shock. A strange
rumour had reached John Day's ears, but knowing
the chattering and too often mischief-making propensities of the village cronies, he did not give much
credence to the report, but believed they had as usual
embellished or even manufactured the news. The
account was that the old Stockbridge Club had
purchased the freehold of the Houghton fishery at
a figure which at first seemed to us quite out of all
Most of us already knew that one of the members
of our Club had a year or so earlier entered into
negotiations to buy the property for the Club, or for
so many of the members as would care to go into
the scheme. -Some few members, including myself,
had expressed their assent, and the purchase would
no doubt have been carried through and completed
but for the sudden death from a driving accident of
the member who had originated it.
For some time nothing more was heard of the
matter; but too soon, alas! there was no doubt
about it. The fishing right had been sold, and after
the end of the current year our pleasant associations
would be broken up and Houghton would know us
no more. These were sad tidings for all of us, and
the summer and autumn were full of misery for the
members. We journeyed down and fished occasionally,
but we had no heart for it.
We killed a few more trout each of fair size, and 190
some really good grayling, and among others I had
the luck to land one of 3 lbs. 3 ozs. The approaching
dissolution seemed to weigh on our minds, and I never
remember so dreary an autumn as that of 1892. In
November we met again for our final effort, and the
accompanying view was our farewell to our Houghton
Club. The scene is the old Sheepbridge, and the
figures on it were Marryat, David Wilson, one of
our friends, and for many years the Honorary Secretary of the Fly-fishers' Club, Lloyd and myself. I
really think that when the end came it was in many
respects a positive relief to most of us.
Meanwhile Marryat had heard of a considerable
length of water on the Upper Kennet which was
to let, and with three friends I entered into negotiations for this fishing, and the results will be treated
in the next chapter.
Now, in reference to the sale of the Houghton
fishery, I wish to be clearly understood, the more
so as there were among the members of the
Stockbridge Club many for whom all sportsmen
must feel the highest respect, and a few of those
constituting the Club at that time were acquaintances, nay, even friends of some of us. All
I have written in reference to this transaction has
been considered only from the point of view of the
members of the Houghton Club, overcome by grief
at the idea of losing the chance of revisiting our
favourite reaches in the best stream of the United
As far as the members of the Stockbridge Club
were concerned it was a simple business proposition.
Here on the one side was the proprietor willing to
sell his fishing rights for a fixed sum which at that
time no one else was prepared to pay. On the
other hand, the Stockbridge Club was willing to
purchase these rights at the price asked and take
over the property with all its amenities and all its
At the time every one opined that the sale was
effected at a price far and away beyond its real
value. After all, however, the value of a sporting
or other property is what it will fetch in the open
market. Not only did the property fetch this price,
but I believe that if it had remained in the same
condition and were for sale to-day, it would command
a far higher price and be snapped up at once.
All this is conjecture, the more so as the present
Houghton Club, as the Stockbridge Club is now
once more called, have no intention of dealing with
it, and no sum of money would tempt an association
of wealthy sportsmen like these to sell so unique a
fishing right as they now possess. They were wise
in their generation, and the members of our Club
were much wanting in foresight. Many of them had
heard of the scheme before referred to, and on the
regrettable accident which prematurely determined
the life of the only member who seemed able to
tackle so momentous a question, some one or more
of them should have made a strenuous effort to keep
the negotiations open. 192
On October 15th, 1892, there appeared in the
Field an article written by me, entitled, " Houghton :
a Retrospect."    This is given here in extenso.
"On December 31st, 1892, as we stated last week,
the Houghton Fly-fishing Club will cease to exist,
and, as one of the oldest members, having joined
more than fifteen years ago, I am taking on myself
the painful privilege of a retrospect. Looking back
for fifteen years is to most men a source of sadness
and regret—sadness at the relentless march of time,
and regret for the loss of dear friends departed. In
this latter category one name stands out pre-eminently,
that of the late Francis Francis. How he loved the
beautiful Test, with all its disappointments, and how
he appreciated the Houghton water, was expressed
in far more eloquent words than mine in his own
writings on the subject. My first introduction to him,
on May ist, 1879, was during a snowstorm, in the
hut on the Sheepbridge Shallow, and the last time
I saw him was on the Sheepbridge itself, when
he could scarcely articulate a word. During our
acquaintance how many happy days we spent together
on the banks of the river, and evenings by the fireside at Houghton Mill. Always full of anecdote on
sporting matters, always cheerful, even during the
latter years of a painful illness, of the fatal termination of which he was fully aware, always ready to
instruct or assist a brother angler, always hopeful for THE END OF OUR HOUGHTON CLUB
to-morrow, no matter how hopeless to-day had been,
and withal, never speaking ill of anyone, he was in
his conversation as in his writings, the most charming
of companions. Many other friends have been taken
away, but none so sorely missed as he."
"It was at Houghton, too, that I made the
acquaintance of M., and learnt from him all I know
of dry-fly fishing. Of those departed it is permissible
to sing the praises; but of him, the most unselfish of
men, all good and honest fishermen should wish that
he may long be spared to give the benefit of his
varied experience to another generation of dry-fly
fishermen. 'South-West/ 'Red-Spinner/ and 'Bally-
gunge,' were members of the Club, and many more
whose noms de plume are familiar to readers of the
Field had opportunities of finding out for themselves,
as guests of members, or by permission of the amiable.
proprietor of the water, that the difficulties of circumventing the wily trout and timid grayling of the Test
at Houghton were not unduly exaggerated in the
columns of the sporting press. As a school for those
who aspired to be scientific fishermen Houghton was
invaluable. As a rule, the water being fairly stocked
as to numbers of trout, and of an average weight
seldom equalled, and, as far as is known, nowhere
excelled in the south of England, and, the fish being
well educated to a sense of danger, and ever suspicious of the smallest degree of drag in even the
best of imitations floating over them, it was no place
for bunglers,  and none but an artist could hope to 194
achieve anything like success. Nowhere was the
conceited angler who fancied the sunk fly, fished on
the so-called ' chuck and chance it' principle which
had succeeded elsewhere, more thoroughly ddsillu-
siond, and he ever returned to his native stream
a sadder and often a wiser man. At some later date
I hope to write of the gradual development of shyness
in the fish, owing to the increasing popularity of the
spot, and to give some data of the numbers and
weight of trout and grayling killed during successive
seasons. Unfortunately, the keeping of a methodical
diary of the doings of members and their friends was
only commenced, at the suggestion of ' South-West'
at a comparatively recent date."
" One reflection must occur to any thinking man
on the subject. • Here are twenty members of the
Club, all good sportsmen, all passionately devoted to
the pursuit, all willing to pay a fair, or even somewhat
more than fair, price for good dry-fly fishing, all
making inquiries for and scanning with eager eyes the
advertisements in the Field and other sporting papers.
How are their wants to be supplied ? Where is there
a length of water to be rented which can give in the
present, or be improved so as to give in the future,
the same amusement and the same sport ? Is there
anywhere within ioo miles of the great metropolis
another river of equal charms, equal capacity for
rearing fish, and containing a supply of food calculated
to produce trout and grayling as well conditioned and
as game  as  those  of the   Test ?    Every  length  of <
available water on the Test itself is, I fear, already
taken up, and where to find another stream comparable to it is a task beyond any of us. It is an
open secret that the Floughton fishing rights have
been purchased at a figure which would seem incredibly high to anyone who has not watched the growing
demand in later years. Those who have acquired it,
however, have been wise in their generation, and it
is to be hoped will be equally wise in devoting time
and money to keeping it up to. its present high
standard, or even improving it. On one point they
can rest assured—they will have possession of the
best and most promising length of the most beautiful
trout stream in England, from which the members
of the Houghton Club can but one and all part with
sorrow and lament."
" Detached Badger."
North Head Shallow. CHAPTER XIII.
OLLOWING out the offer
of fishing on the upper
part of the Kennet, in respect to which Marryat had
been approached by one
of his friends, he inspected
the water thoroughly, and
reported that it extended to a considerable length,
and was all in the hands of one freeholder, who
was desirious of letting it on lease. He described
it as a typical stretch of dry-fly water requiring
only liberal expenditure and judicious management
to make it one of the best fisheries in the South
of England.
Mr. Basil Field, Mr. W. Q. Orchardson, R.A.,
Mr. N. Lloyd and myself having all viewed the
water and endorsing Marryat's opinion, we decided
to negotiate with the view of renting this promising
length of the Kennet. For once in a way there
was not much delay in arriving at a decision, and
with the freeholder desirous of letting, and ourselves
willing to take it, the lease was soon completed. THE KENNET AND "MAKING A  FISHERY"
We were rather at a loss to find a proper
appellation for this little partnership. Marryat first
suggested that it should be styled a " Syndicate," but
those among us who had business experience were
not greatly impressed by this title, which we had too
often found synonymous writh " Swindle." At last
Marryat in a happy vein proposed to call it the
Altogether there were about five miles in the
length of the river, and both banks throughout were
on the same estate. Following the terms of the lease,
it is convenient to divide the fishery into three parts,
the upper, the middle and the lower water. The
upper water .measured approximately two miles, and
contained a very great number of spawning shallows.
The middle, or as we generally called it the reserved,
water was a by-stream running nearly parallel to the
main river for about one mile, and the fishing on one
side only was let to us with a concurrent right of
fishing for guests of the freeholder. The main stream
in this part of the fishery ran through the park
attached to the house, and the fishing in the park was
not included in the lease.
The lower water, which was rather over two miles
in length, consisted of a series of mill-ponds (locally
called pounds), which were sluggish, deep, and somewhat muddy, alternating with pretty shallows. Excepting the length before mentioned in the park, and
the by-stream parallel to it, both banks throughout
were comprised in the letting.    There were also two ■^m
cottages for keepers, one in the upper and the other
in the lower length, and a roomy old mill house,
which, after some extensive alterations, made a convenient fishing box for the members of the quadrilateral and their friends.
Not included in the approximate measurements
of the lengths given in a previous paragraph there
were numerous tributaries, some large carriers containing fish, and many shallow little tributary streams
which were excellent natural spawning grounds.
There were plenty of weeds in the river, and an
examination of them gave indications of the presence
of great numbers of Ephemeridae larvae, Caddis,
Corixae, larvae of small Diptera, freshwater shrimps,
snails, Asellus aquaticus, &c, &c, and the mud in
parts was full of the nympha of the May-fly.
There was a convenient stew on the water, and
this was put into thorough repair, fitted with new
hatches where required, perforated zinc screens were
made and placed at the ends of the stew, and everything put into good working order so' as to be able
to raise a considerable number of yearling trout to
two-year-olds for the purpose of increasing the stock
and introducing new blood into the river.
We were warned at the very outset that the most
deadly enemy we should have to contend with would
be the pike. We quite anticipated that they were
plentiful, and that during the first few years of our
tenancy, at any rate, one of the most serious items of
expenditure was likely to be the cost of exterminating,
or at least seriously diminishing, the number of these
pests in the stream.
As soon as the conditions of the draft lease were,
agreed a full complement of nets was ordered, and all
things as far as possible arranged so that the work of
netting out the pike should be seriously undertaken
at the earliest possible date. Possession was given
at Lady Day, and the programme as arranged was
to commence netting within a few days of that date.
Unfortunately, having an attack of influenza, I
had to lay up, so could not personally superintend
the spring netting in 1893. Marryat, as usual, came
to the rescue and volunteered with Orchardson and
Lloyd to be present and assist the keepers and
labourers engaged for the work. The middle and
lower lengths of the fishery were netted, and 295
pike were taken out and distributed among the
villagers on the spot. Very few of the pike taken
were large, and the majority weighed an average of
something like f lb.
The figures conveyed to Marryat, Orchardson,
Lloyd, Field and myself the impression that the
local wiseacres had exaggerated notions of the
numbers, and of the average weight of the voracious
Esox lucius in the river, and we had even hazarded
the opinion that there was no very tangible reason
to hesitate as to the soundness of the policy of
turning all, or at least a great majority, of our
yearling trout directly into the river.
On   further  consideration,   however,   we   thought AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
it well to proceed with caution, and having ordered
2,000 large yearlings from Andrews, turned the first
, batch of 1,000 into the stream, and the remainder
were kept in the stew. Of this second batch 400
were at a somewhat later date liberated in the upper
part of the stream where there were few pike, and
the remaining 600 were kept in the stewT and fed up
so as to grow them into large two-year-olds.
We all set to work to explore and fish the stream,
and during the spring we killed a few good trout.
Before the May-fly I had captured five and a half
brace of trout, weighing 16 lbs 2 ozs., and the other
members of the quadrilateral had also done fairly
well. During the third week in May the May-fly
commenced hatching out, but we abstained from
fishing it until the trout had come freely on to the
winged fly, knowing that our chances of sport during
the rise would be m.uch augmented by a little forbearance at the earliest stage.
When the May-fly was well on, it was a sight
such as Test, Itchen, nor any other river I had
fished, had ever presented to my notice. When
once the trout were taking each individual's bag
was limited by his perseverance and aspirations ; one
could kill any number of fish on a good day, and
the bag was literally dependent in each case on the
length of time during which the fly was hatching out
and on our exertions when fishing, tempered to some
extent by the skill or luck of the fisherman.
On May  26th the trout just came on to the fly,  n
but those who were down only fished lightly from a
desire to let the fish get well set before fishing hard,
and also to give the other members of the quadrilateral the chance of starting too. On the first four
days of the fly the number killed was not large and
my own bag amounted to four and a half brace,
weighing 12 lbs. 1 oz.
On the 30th Andrews arrived as our guest, and
after lunch he and I started together from our fishing
box, a view of which, reproduced by photogravure
from a photo by Marryat, is given at Plate XXXII.
Immediately above the house in the deep sluggish
and somewhat muddy mill-pound the fly was just
coming up and the fish were feeding ravenously, many
on the nymphae rising to the surface and a few on the
winged sub-imago. I walked with my friend, carrying
his net, and in a few minutes he landed five trout in
succession, of 1 lb. 5 ozs., 2 lbs. 5 ozs., 2 lbs., 1 lb. 5 ozs.
and 1 lb. 12 ozs. He was very tired and not in good
health at the time, so decided not to fish any more
that day.
The rise of fly was very great and the water as
far as one could see was simply covered with the flies
floating down, and every trout in the river was madly
on the feed. I then made a start, and in less than an
hour had landed six brace, weighing 20 lbs. 10 ozs.
My limit during the May-fly was ij lbs., so that each
day more than half the trout landed were returned
to the river. It was fast and furious while it lasted
and  as soon   as a rising fish was  spotted   the  first AN ANGLERS A UTOBIOGRAPHY
accurate cast made over the feeding place of the
trout produced a bold rise. Some few came short, and
in accordance with the rule I had always laid down
I never cast again to one that had come short.
Coming short to May-fly in the early stage invariably
means that the particular trout is not well on to the
fly, and to go on casting is to get more short rises
and make the fish shy.
The moment a trout was hooked it went off with
a dash such as is only made by them during the Mayfly season, and unless the fisherman's nerves were in
good order and he held them as hard as he dared they
generally ran out with twenty or thirty yards of line,
and took a lot of killing. The rise of May-fly and
fall of spent gnat continued until June 14-th, and
although, of course, some days were better than others,
yet there were very few on which we did not land a
great number of fish.
Up to the end of the May-fly I had secured in the
aggregate eighty-four trout, weighing 134J lbs., but,
as before remarked, all under the 1^ lbs. limit were
returned during the May-fly. We had the pleasure
of entertaining a considerable number of guests, and
all of them without exception were enchanted with
the water, and we congratulated ourselves on having
secured fishing showing such great promise for the
During July there were many good hatches of
duns, and several evenings when the surface of the
water was covered with the dying spinners, but the
trout never seemed to care much for these little
Ephemeridae. On a favourable evening we could
always make a fair bag with the sedges ; in fact, such
sedge fishing I have never seen elsewhere. Most of
the deep reaches running from west to east we
could fish up-stream, see our flies floating down, and
detect the rise of the trout at them and at the
natural Caddis flies up to a very late hour or until
it was literally pitch dark. The number of these
Trichoptera in the river, too, was very great, so that
it was altogether an ideal water for this class of
fishing. By the end of the month my total bag
reached  ioo trout of 155^ lbs.
The only drawback was that the trout so seldom
took duns and spinners, although there were many
grand hatches of them. True, if fish were seen in
position anywhere near the surface they could hardly
ever resist a red quill or similar fly floated over them,
so that a fair number were killed with small flies
during the season ; yet this was not what the purist
would describe as typical dry-fly fishing.
We were, however, determined to reduce the
number of pike by all and every means in our power,
and to increase the stock of trout. Some of us built
great hopes of making the fish rise better by the
augmentation of their number, some thought that
the introduction of a new strain would improve the
Kennet in this respect, some opined that, the combination of both of these plans must work a revolution in
the habits of the trout.    There was, in fact, consider- 204
able difference of opinion as to the future, but we were
all in accord on one point, i.e., that we would persevere
and await results.
All through the fishing season the cry of pike was
always ringing in our ears. One day the head-keeper
would wire a few, and the under-keeper, who was very
keen on wiring, kept on bringing them in. We saw
them at all times and in all parts of the reserved and
lower waters ; all my friends helped, and the number
secured gradually but surely increased, until at length
the mischief quite got on my nerves. Feeling grave
doubts as to the efficacy of the netting in the previous
spring, I persuaded the other members to hold a
solemn conclave on the question. At my earnest
solicitation it was decided that as soon as we were
all contented to stop fishing for the season the weeds
should be cut as closely as possible and one supreme
effort made to net the entire fishery.
At the end of the first week in September a full
complement of men set to work to cut every weed in
the water and to take out all the cut weeds. It
will be noted that this was a voluntary act on our
part, but the next season it would in any case have
been compulsory, as the Thames Conservancy had
in their then new Act obtained powers over every
tributary of the Thames.
The adoption of this eminently sensible regulation
would immensely improve the Test, Itchen, and many
other chalk streams, and the expense is not so great
as might be imagined.    As these matters are arranged THE KENNET AND "MAKING A FISHERY"
now, the best rise of the season on a Hampshire stream
is too often irretrievably and utterly spoilt by some
inconsiderate neighbour turning adrift tons of cut
vegetation. Not only is the fishing disturbed by these
masses of cut weeds floating with the stream, but,
in addition, these same weeds, as they gradually
decompose, fill the air with a foul stench, and, settling
down, form filthy mud banks in the deeper and more
sluggish stretches of the stream.
When the weeds were cut we started netting and
commenced by dragging over again the middle and
lower lengths which had been previously netted in the
spring. Of course all our preparations had been well
thought out and everything carefully arranged beforehand. Plenty of men had been engaged and there
was an ample number of nets available so that all
carriers, by-streams, and ditches, could be netted and
stop nets set at their junctions with the main river.
In the four days' dragging of this portion of the river
no less than 699 pike were secured, and I at once
decided to go over it once more with the nets in the
same thorough manner.
The nets were once more carried up to the starting point, and with the same staff of labourers we
netted the river down a second time, and killed 366
more pike. Thus, in all, 1,065 were killed in this
stretch of a little more than three miles during the
autumn netting of 1893. The upper water was then
netted twice and 50 pike were killed the first time, and
^j the second time of dragging it.    During the entire 2o6
year, including those wired, snatched by the fisherman,
as well as those netted, no less than 2,087 pike were
taken out of the fishery. There were very few large
fish among them, in fact, only 20 reached 4 lbs., and
the largest weighed 10 lbs., 7\ lbs., and 7 lbs.
Meanwhile the yearling trout in the stew had been
liberally fed and grown to a remarkably good average.
Some as two-year-olds measured 11 ins. in length,
and the majority were from 9 to 10 ins. long, with very
few undersized ones. They were gradually drafted
into the river, the earliest at the end of November
and the remainder in the January of the following
In 1894 the fishing before the May-fly was again
very poor, and up to and including June ist I only
killed four and a half brace, weighing 13J lbs. The
May-fly was not taken before June 7th, and was a
very poor hatch altogether, and although it lasted up
to June 25th, the diary shows that my sport during
these eighteen days only amounted to twenty-two
brace, of 71 lbs. 1 oz.
Andrews was our guest during the whole of this
May-fly, and as I have before remarked, he was very
fond of casting over likely places, even if no fish
were rising or seen in position. On June 18th, a hot
day, with light westerly wind, he had pursued these
tactics from eleven o'clock until about 4 p.m. I had
been assisting another guest, H., and there had been
a very sparse hatch and few feeding fish. H. started
to prospect a favourite by-stream, and I   walked up L 'Ml
to the Upper Mill, of which a view reproduced by
photogravure, from a photograph by Marryat, is
I suddenly became aware of the presence of a
cloud of spent gnat in the air, and made my way as
rapidly as possible to the deep water above the mill.
The placid stream was covered with the dying
imagines of the May-fly, and every trout in it was
on the surface. All were taking in the manner
typical of feeding on the fly at this last stage. I sent
the boy who was carrying my basket to tell H. that
the fish were taking spent gnat, while I worked up
the mill-pond towards the upper part of it to give
Lloyd and Andrews a hint if they were in doubt as
to the killing pattern at the moment.
A big fish feeding about 16 to 18 yards from my
bank was first spotted ; two casts, a quiet rise, and
a loud screech of the reel as it went up-stream at a
great pace. All my tackle being sound, the greatest
possible * strain was put on and a perfect trout of
3 lbs. 6 ozs. was netted out. A few paces higher up
another big fish was rising, but although I rested it
occasionally and covered it accurately, it would not
take, and after three or four casts it ceased rising.
On to another and killed that, 2 lbs. 2 ozs., and
then a third, 1 lb. 13 ozs. I then walked up to my
friends, fearing that they might not have realised
what was up.
A strange sight met my eyes. Andrews was
sitting   on a stile  nursing  his  right  hand   with his 208
left, and explained that his long day's work had so
tired him that he literally could not hold his rod.
Meanwhile, Lloyd had killed a fish of i lb. 7 ozs.,
and while we were talking he hooked and landed
another of 3 lbs. 1 oz. I saw H. and the boy coming
up the bank and turned to meet them. A fish put
up in mid-stream, and this I also secured, a very
good fish of 2 lbs.   12 ozs.
H. was full of sorrow—he never had experienced
such bad luck. He had killed one trout of 1 lb.
15 ozs., and hooked nine fish in the by-stream, every
one of which had broken him. He opined, with a
strong North Country accent, that " these troot were
joost divils." The fall of spent gnat and rise of fish
at them must have been far better than in the mill-
pond where I had killed the two brace. Probably
the rise altogether did not last more than a quarter
of an hour, and although for quite an hour afterwards
the surface of the water was a seething mass of dying
May-flies, we did not see a fish move.
I had only a few days more on the Kennet that
season in September, and killed some fish with
sedges. Again we all had the same experience in
reference to the small fly fishing—frequent hatches
of duns and many falls of spinner, but seldom was
there anything like a good rise at them. The water
had been netted in the spring of 1894, and 233 pike
had been killed in the whole length of it.
In the autumn of 1894, after the weeds had been
cut   down as closely as   possible,   again   a  thorough THE KENNET AND "MAKING A  FISHERY"
netting of the water was undertaken. In the middle
and lower stretches the first time of dragging produced 397 pike, and going over the same ground
again we killed only fifty-seven. On the upper water
the first netting resulted in twenty-four, and the
second in five pike being taken, which, including all
the pike wired, &c, during the year, the aggregate
destroyed amounted to 8^6. This, compared with the
2,087 in 1893, made us think that we had made a
serious • onslaught, and that we were getting near the
end of our trouble with Esox lucius. Among the
pike killed in 1894 there were only two of 4 lbs.
and upward.
I have made no reference to the introduction of
grayling into this portion of the Kennet in the year
1893, because, as will be subsequently noted, our
tenure of the water did not last long enough to
enable me to ascertain by personal observation the
effect on the fishery. Whether those grayling and
their descendants are now giving sport to the dry-
fly fishermen on that water, or whether they are
the subject of all the bad wishes which have been
heaped upon grayling by some of the Test anglers,
is altogether beyond my ken. I know that they
spawned, because at the last netting of the lower
water in 1895, no less than seventy-eight were found
in the net of about 3J ins. in length, and safely
returned to the river. These presumably were
natural-bred yearlings from ova deposited in the
The stocking during the year 1894 nao^ been
carried out on the same liberal lines as before.
Andrews presented the fishery with 250 of his largest
yearlings, which were turned into the river direct,
and another friend had given us 1,000 yearlings,
which were kept in the stew, and the experiment of
giving them a much greater quantity of food than
we had done in the previous year was tried. The
result was most gratifying, and the largest of these
fish were turned out as two-year-olds weighing fully
1 lb. 2 ozs., and many more were quite 1 lb. in
In 1895 I haicl only a single day's fishing on the
Kennet before the May-fly, and killed three trout
of 3 lbs. 13 ozs. ; the rise of the green drake commenced on May 31st and lasted up to June 13th.
It was a very moderate hatch,  and  sport was   not
at all up to the standard of   li
was one
those seasons when the trout do not seem to come
properly on to the sub-imago, but as soon as the
imago appears will take it moderately.
Nearly all our fish were killed by Marryat's
pattern of the spent gnat, and I see that according
to my diary I secured forty-four trout of 66^ lbs.
During August and September I had a few days on
the water, and again found that these Kennet trout
would not,, as a rule, look at the natural duns or
spinners floating down. As before, we all had good
sport, killing plenty of sizable fish with sedges just
before dark; and also, as before, we found that floating THE KENNET AND "MAKING A  FISHERY"      211
a dun over a trout poised near the surface almost
invariably proved fatal. To Marryat, as well as to
me, this peculiarity of the trout was, and to me still
is, quite unaccountable. On no other chalk stream
had we seen grand hatches of the smaller Ephemeridae
neglected by the trout day after day. On Test or
Itchen one might certainly chance on a day when
for some occult reason the fish would not look at the
host of flies floating over them, but such days were
quite exceptional, while on the Upper Kennet I
cannot remember having seen a really good rise of
fish at duns or spinners.
During the spring* and summer of 1895 tne wn*e
and occasional netting of hatch holes, and deeps, had
accounted for forty-three pike, and at the end of the
trout season weeds were cut as usual and the fishery
netted again. In the middle and lower lengths the
dragging of the nets produced 148 pike, and we did
not think it necessary to drag these lengths over a
second time. The upper water was also netted, but
we found only seven pike in all, and these at the
lowest portion of this water. The total of pike killed
during the year amounted to 211, and the comparison
of these figures with 2,087 in 1893 and 8^6 in 1894,
was certainly most encouraging.
In the autumn netting of 1894 and 1895 I kept
an accurate account of the number of trout returned
in the middle and lower lengths of the water, and
the figures are to my mind most instructive. I
must  ask   my  readers   for  a   moment   to   consider AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
with me that the number of trout taken in the
nets, even with the most careful working, is only
a small proportion of those in the river. This is
noted to save any possible misapprehension of my
meaning, because when it is remembered that these
two lengths measure over three miles, I do not
for a moment suggest that the figures which follow
would indicate anything like an adequate stock of
trout  in   the  fishery.
In the autumn of 1894 the trout returned in
these lengths numbered 458, while under precisely
similar conditions in the -same water in 1895 no less
than 1,601 were taken in the* nets and put back into
the river. Of course due regard must be given to
the fact that no less than 3,134 pike had been
destroyed, and 3,250 trout, some two-year-olds, and
the remainder of the finest yearlings procurable, had
been planted in different parts of the fishery. Even
then there were nearly 1,500 of the best two-year-
olds we ever had reared left in the stew, and these
were turned out in November, 1895, and January,
Dace were also very plentiful in this part of the
Kennet, but I am doubtful whether they did much
harm beyond competing with the Salmonidae for the
insect food in the river. We netted all we could;
in 1893 we killed 1,141, 1,501 in 1894, and 759 in
1895 ; or 3,401 in all—the largest 1 lb. 1 oz., and
many up to and exceeding f lb. in weight. A friend
killed a dace of 1 lb. 3 ozs. with fly.
I made it an invariable rule to return the trout
taken from the nets with my own hands, and it was
a source of perhaps pardonable conceit on my part
that to this rule I have always imputed the fact that
we never had a single loss of a trout while netting
the coarse fish. This continual handling of the trout
rendered me very critical as to the condition and
strength of the fish. The first year, when nothing but
the indigenous trout of the Kennet were present, I
noticed that they felt slimy and flabby, and many
were in appearance dusky yellow, with few spots.
Gradually, as the new strains of fish introduced
into the river increased, I found that a certain proportion of the trout did not handle in the same way—
their scales were distinctly felt in the hands, they
were quite devoid of the soft and slippery slime, and
were very hard and strong. These were invariably
bright, silvery fish, with plenty of spots, and quite
distinct from the native breed. I firmly believed that,
as many of these silvery trout were from \\ lbs. to
2^ lbs. in weight, the next season would prove that
the Guildford, High Wycombe and other pedigree
strains introduced into, the stream would rise far
better to the small flies than the old degenerated
Kennet trout.
I have only given these brief references to the
work of Making a Fishery, on the upper Kennet,
because the subject has been treated at length, and I
hope almost exhaustively, in the book with this title
which was originally issued in 1895, and republished 214
as volume iii. of this series in 1902. If any point is
not clearly set out here, the reader is invited to
consult the work on the subject.
On February 14th, 1896, we all had to deplore
the death of George Selwyn Marryat. Even now
I cannot write about this sad event, and to all of
us at the old mill house it was a dreadful blow.
He had become the dear friend of all there,
whether the members of the quadrilateral, their
children, their guests, the keepers, every labourer ;
even, I think, every one of the numerous poachers
in the village.
I had to pass a considerable part of the early
spring at the seaside, because once more that dreadful
scourge the influenza had marked down other members of my family besides myself as victims. Hence
my first appearance at the riverside was in the third
week of May. I found that the other members and
guests had obtained poor sport, and once more
noticed that these Kennet trout would not rise freely
at the natural duns.
The May-fly hatch commenced on June ist, and
from that date to the 16th it dragged along in a very
poor and spiritless fashion. In the early part a large
proportion of the fish killed were taken with such
flies as the Welshman's Button and Kimbridge
sedge; while, as soon as the first imagines were on
water, we all found the spent gnat the most killing
pattern in daytime or in the evening.
Altogether it was a very scanty hatch, and for the X!
first time we were inclined to grumble at the poor
sport obtained. It was not really so very bad, but
we all remembered 1893 when, with so poor a stock
in the river, and with great numbers of pike to render
them shy, the trout were killed in great numbers and
we all had a surfeit of the May-fly. After all, in
twelve days' fishing I find that I killed forty-four trout
weighing 6if lbs. ; and certainly I did not fish hard
that year, as my health was not very good and the
remembrance of poor Marryat was ever before me.
Realising that there was a growing feeling of
discontent amongst us, I took the bold course of
requesting the other members to have a formal
meeting and debate matters. At that meeting I
found that we were all of one mind, and that we felt
grave doubts as to the possibility of making this part
of the Kennet into a first-rate dry-fly water. What
impressed us all was the strange and hitherto
unrecorded propensity of the trout in this stream to
abstain from rising even during the great hatches
of duns or falls of spinners.
We had fished the water for four consecutive
springs and summers, and excepting during the
May-fly or quite late in the summer evenings at the
sedge-flies, we had never seen a really good rise of
trout such as were so frequent on other chalk streams.
Killing down the pike and dace by thousands, introducing new strains and increasing the stock of trojt
also by thousands, did not seem to have effected any
i mprovement.    Whether in the future there might be 2l6
hope of a change in the habits of these fish was a
matter on which we may have been mistaken, but our
opinions were decidedly opposed to the probability of
such a consummation.
Thus there only remained the May-fly and the
sedge fishing. One season out of four had given
us a really good hatch of May-fly, and the sport was
commensurate with the abundance of the fly. Sedge
fishing was after all only sport for a few evenings
in the hot weather, and not according to our notions
at all typical dry-fly fishing. Was it worth our while
to go on and maintain the water with two keepers and
a fishing-box with a housekeeper for the sake of a
fortnight's fishing in the season ?
Our unanimous vote was to try and put an end
to it. There was no great difficulty about this, as
no doubt the freeholder was advised that with the
manifold improvements of the old house, the development of the fishery, the slaughter of pike and other
coarse fish, and the liberal stocking with trout, his
property had been vastly improved, and would let
without the smallest difficulty at the same or possibly
a higher rent than we were paying.
We were, however, all very sad in terminating the
pleasant associations where we had spent so many
happy days and evenings together. During the four
seasons there had never been a cross word between
us, there had never been a dispute or even a difference
of opinion on a crucial question. We had worked
in   unison,   and   one   and   all   had   done   their   very THE KENNET AND "MAKING A  FISHERY'
best to make the fishery superior to any other in the
South of England.
We had perhaps been extravagant in our expenditure and also over-sanguine as to the probable result.
The river when we took possession swarmed with
pike and dace, and had a few trout in the lower part
and in the upper was fairly stocked. When we gave
it up the pike had been practically exterminated, and
every yard of the river was fully stocked with trout
of strains far superior to the indigenous slimy, yellow
Salmo fario of the Kennet.
Itchen Stoke. CHAPTER  XIV.
Y old Houghton friend, the
late Mr. J. A. Day, and
the late Mr. J. H. Leech,
whose acquaintance I made
on the same water in 1892,
in conjunction with Lieut.-
Col. Freiherr von und zu Egloffstein and Herr Stern
of Berlin, rented a long stretch of the river Ilm in
and near the fine city of Weimar. Very little persuasion was needed to induce me to accept an invitation to join them in a week's fishing during the
month of April,   1895.
Leaving London on the evening of the 16th, and
travelling via Flushing, a long and somewhat tiring
journey of twenty-four hours landed John Day and
myself at Weimar, and here we were welcomed by
Leech and the other members of the Syndicate
leasing the water. Their news of the sport was not
altogether cheering, as they reported the presence of
snow-water in the river, which was high and somewhat
discoloured,  and   their   catches   during  the previous WEIMAR
week had been much below the average. A most
interesting account of this fishing was written by
Leech, and published in December, 1898, in the
Badminton Magazine, under the title of " Story of
a German Trout River."
In considering the peculiarities of Salmo fario in
this river, it must not be imagined that it was the
case of a stream on which the fly fisher's presence
was comparatively unknown. At the time of my visit
it had been steadily flogged with fly, sunk and dry,
for more than twenty years, and the number of fish
taken out of it would shame the records of any trout
fishery in the United Kingdom. No such sport would
have been possible, even in so prolific a river as
the Ilm, but for the system of stocking enforced
in Germany.
The following extract from Leech's article in the
Badminton Magazine expresses most admirably the
views of the majority of sportsmen : " To anyone
"experienced in stocking a river, it will be obvious
"that turning down fry is not as efficient a method
as putting in a far smaller percentage of yearlings
or two-year-olds, but it is the system enforced by
'the Government. It must be remembered that in
" Germany fishing is   only regarded as   a sport by
1 a very small minority. Owing to the difficulty of
"getting fairly fresh sea-fish in most parts of the
"country, trout have a very high value, from is. 6d.
" to 5s. per pound and more. The rivers are let to
" professionals, who catch trout by all possible means AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
"and have to live on their profits. So the Govern-
"ment make the occupier turn down about 1,000
" fry per annum for every mile of water, in order to
"prevent extermination. If this is not sufficient
" in the case of professionals, it is amply so for
"sportsmen, who also limit the size of fish retained.
" The principle adopted at Weimar has always been
" to buy ova from different hatcheries all over
"Germany, besides those taken from the native
At the present time it is, I know, the fashion to
decry any German legislation, and call it, in a sneering
tone, grandmotherly, but if such a law had existed and
had been enforced in this country, the number of
trout in many of our streams would never have been
reduced to their present meagre proportions. Contrast this, too, with that extraordinary report of the
Salmon Commission, which in effect says that as we
do not know much of the benefits of artificial propagation, it is not advisable to make any expenditure
on hatcheries. The result in all probability will be
that the number of salmon in many rivers will continue decreasing until some practical step is taken,
or possibly until too late, when Salmo salar will be
practically extinct in British waters.
However, to return to our fishing. The morning of
the 18th found us all assembled on the Sternbrucke
putting up our rods and tackle. The Sternbrucke is
in the centre of the town opposite to the palace, and
a stream of traffic is continually passing over it from  PLATE XXXV.
the town to the Park. As soon as I had all in order
Day made me go and look over the bridge, and
pointed out to me a fish in the dead water just below
one of the stone piers.
The fish was perhaps two feet under the surface,;
and owing to the colour of the water had a vague,
shadowy appearance. " Give it a fly," said he. I
did not think the chance a very good one, and suggested that he had better try himself. He tied on a
big sedge and standing close to the parapet, let out
line, lifted the fly straight up in the air and banged
it down on the water. It was impossible to return
the fly behind him because of a network of telegraph
and telephone wires over the bridge and of the
pedestrians, carriages, carts, &c, going backwards
and forwards.
To my utter astonishment the trout came slowly
to the surface, sucked in the big fly and went off with
a dash when it felt the point of the hook. These
Ilm trout are very game and give grand sport, and
this one of about ij lbs. was carefully lifted out in
the landing net. The hook was gently extracted
and the fish put into a curious shaped wooden
receptacle full of water, carried on the keeper's back.
It is. no doubt well known to my readers that the
German ladies will only purchase live fish at the
market price, and give a much lower one for any that
are by accident killed. All sizable trout are, when
caught, placed in these portable tubs and from them
transferred  to  fixed boxes  which are  placed at in- <m
tervals down the river. The trout are often sent by
rail to Berlin, Leipsic, or other large towns, and are
generally delivered alive even in the hottest weather.
For the first two days we fished the water flowing
through the Park which extends for a considerable
distance on both sides of the Ilm. It has been laid
out very much on the lines of an English park and
is the favourite promenade of the inhabitants of
Weimar. The turf swards, trim gravel walks,
specimen trees dotted about the banks of the river,
in fact, all the surroundings must appeal to any dweller
in a town. The presence of all the infant population
with their nurses, and elder brothers and sisters,
romping about in all directions, seems to have
rendered the trout quite unsuspicious of fishermen
on   the  bank.
The water during my visit was never very bright,
and after heavy rains gets quite thick and takes many
days to clear. We were, however, fortunate in not
getting any downpour sufficient to render the river
unfishable. Wandering along the bank, the keeper
would promptly stop you and draw your attention to
a good fish under the trees on the opposite side of
the river. " Dort steht er" (there he stands), which
means that the trout is just visible to his sharp eyes,
and after some little effort one can generally manage
to discern its outline.
You must try and get a fly to that fish, and after
some study of the surroundings, you may discover an
open space where there is room to return the fly and
make an ordinary cast. More frequently, however,
this is impracticable, and if the underhanded cast up
and down the stream does not assist you, the only
resource is to switch. What a treat it was to watch
the genial Egloffstein manipulate his fly into the most
impossible and impenetrable places by means of this
cast. He told me that he preferred this method of
throwing to any other, and even practised it in the
At Weimar, it may be taken for granted that if a
fly is presented properly to such a fish a rise is a
dead certainty and a kill most probable. There are
none of the immense hatches of duns in the spring
such as we see on English south country chalk-
streams, and the trout are not often rising freely, but
whenever one is in position at a depth of a foot or so
below the surface it is a likely fish. Pattern or size
of fly does not seem important, and whether fished
dry or sunk, up-stream, across, or down-stream, the
result is about the same. John Day preferred fishing
his fly down-stream, and Leech was a wonderful hand
at dibbling the fly just over a trout's nose.
Sometimes, and especially on some of the shallows,
the trout rise fairly for a time, and then dry fly certainly
scored. I killed two and a half brace-one day in this
way at the lower end of the Park, and Leech, who
was with me, got one and a half brace, all good fish,
of something like || lb. average. Day had spent
his time higher up in the deep water among the trees
and had not seen a fish all day long.    The rising fish
JF 224
are just as particular and as prone to come short as
the best educated Hampshire trout.
Carriage hire is very moderate in Weimar, and
our plan was generally to take an open carriage and
pair for the day. In this we drove down to the river
from the hotel in the morning, and the three rods, two
keepers, with their curious tubs and all the rest of the
paraphernalia, would clamber into the carriage, and be
conveyed from point to point, the carriage waiting
for us while we fished various stretches, and either
succeeded in catching or failed to catch the trout.
In this way the whole of the water from Mellingen
through Taubach to the Park was fished from day
to day without great fatigue. Wherever there was a
bridge we would leave the carriage and scan the water
above and below, either for the unusual sight of a
rising fish, or for any of what our German friends
called standing trout, i.e., visible and in position for
feeding. We did not have a single blank fishing day,
and although compared with the usual bag our take
was contemptible, yet between the three of us we
accounted for forty-three good fish in five days.
One day we abandoned the river and went over to
the small town of Apolda, some ten miles off. The
object of our visit was to try and purchase from a local
hatchery as many yearling or larger trout as could be
spared. The hatchery was on quite a small scale,
with a number of perforated trays arranged very
much on the plan adopted by Andrews, of Guildford.
The proprietor of this little piscicultural establishment WEIMAR
assured me that similar trays had been used for many
years in different parts of Germany, while in our own
land they were even then considered quite an up-to-
date invention.
On the 24th, after a rather disappointing morning,
when we only killed two brace of fish for the three
rods, the afternoon was devoted to an inspection of
the lower water. Leech told me the history of the
calamity which had visited Weimar in 1892, and the
disastrous effect on this portion of the fishing. This
lower water had for years been considered the best
part of the fishery, and in the above-named year there
wTas a visitation of cholera during the hottest of a hot
The public body controlling the sanitation of the
city was visited by qualms of conscience, or worked
upon by the consensus of local opinion to such an
extent that they lost their heads. Orders were given
for large quantities of carbolic acid and other disinfectants, which were poured wholesale into the drains
for the purpose of preventing the spread of this dire
disease. The river was at a low level, and therefore
insufficient to dilute the quantity of these poisons
carried down sufficiently to render it innocuous.
As a result the trout »in the stream from the lower
end of the Park down to Tiefurt were all poisoned,
and, according to Mr. Leech's statement in the
Badminton article, " 50,000 lbs. of trout are said "
"to have been killed: of these about 17 cwt. were"
"bought by natives, packed in baskets and sent off"
0 —
" to Jena, where there was a Bismarck festival going"
"on, and a menagerie that happened to be at"
"Weimar took 4 cwt. to feed the beasts. An"
"attempt was made to transport fish still living to"
\ the unpolluted water above, but was of no avail,"
" as they could not stand the moving."
As soon as the Syndicate, of which Leech was
the moving spirit, had possession of the water,
he made an exhaustive examination of this part of
the river. Of trout he found very few, but strange
to say, wherever there were weeds he established
the presence of quantities of freshwater shrimps,
snails, water wood-lice (Asellus), and other Crustaceae
and Molluscae. From this he sagely opined that
although the Salmonidae had been reduced to an
insignificant number, yet sufficient natural food was
left to fatten them and feed any quantity of trout
that might be introduced into the river.
At once he decided to set to work to stock this
portion of the fishery, and fry, yearlings and larger
fish were turned in from year to year.    Rainbow trout
[Salmo irideus) were also put both  in  this and the
upper water,  and the results  of this  most judicious
work are best set forth in hfs own words, respecting
the month of August, 1898.    "A certain number of
"fish were caught on the shallows, with a sea trout
"fly  fished  down-stream;   among these   were nine
"" Rainbow trout.    The largest weighed 7 lbs. 5 ozs.,
"after being kept alive in a fish-box for forty-five
■"hours ; it measured 25 ins. by 14I- ins.    It had all
-£&gS*^S£x£r. &L.J&. J—
" its own way on my 10 ft. rod for a time. Two
"others weighed 5 lbs. 10 ozs. each, and the smallest
" was over 2\ lbs. A good many of the brown trout
"weighed from 4 lbs. to 5i lbs. Fish must grow
"at a great rate in this lower water, which is only
" about 1^ miles in extent, and was poisoned in
"July, 1892. It produced 132 trout, averaging a
" good 3 lbs. each, in ten days."
One of the members of the new Syndicate, who
took the water after the decease of poor Leech, has
kindly given me some figures. In June, 1901, two
rods on one day, thirty-six fish, 80 lbs. ; the next
day, thirty-five fish, 71^ lbs. ; and in the autumn of
the same year three rods got thirty-nine fish, 75 lbs.
14 ozs., in one day. A rainbow7 trout of 4J lbs.
was killed the same year. Can there be a better
argument in favour of liberal stocking than the
records just given ?
On the question of the absence of shyness or fear
of either man or his line, I confess I am puzzled.
The presence of a certain degree of opacity in the
water very possibly accounts for some of it, and the
comparative dearth of natural insects floating on the
stream may impel a fish desiring this form of food to
locate itself near the surface and to seize with avidity
the imitation, whether large or small, whether floating
or sunk. Yet one cannot fail to realise that the
distinction between these trout and those of our
native streams is that not only do these Ilm fish
apparently breed more freely and grow more rapidly, 228
but they take the artificial fly better, do not so
frequently come short, and are landed in far greater
numbers, and in a far larger proportion than our own
breeds of Salmo fario.
I cannot conclude this chapter without some reference to my two English hosts, both, alas, since
deceased. John Day I had known for many years as
a fellow-member of the Houghton Club, but I only
met J. H. Leech, also at Houghton, in 1892, the last
year of the existence of the Club.
J. A. Day was at once one of the most successful
as well as one of the most scientific dry-fly fishermen
I ever met. He had an intuitive knowledge, almost
amounting to genius, for selecting the precise spot
from which a rising trout could be attacked with the
maximum chance of effecting its capture. Every cast
he made was clean, and his fly landed lightly on the
water at the first attempt just where he intended to
place it. He fished a wonderfully slack line, and his
fly would float down without a suspicion of drag in
positions where ninety-nine out of a hundred dry-fly
men would have been nonplussed.
In figure he. was tall, slim, active, a mass of sinew
and muscle, without an ounce of flesh, and could walk
faster than any one of his age that I ever met. He
had piercing, cold blue eyes and an aquiline nose, and
was altogether one of the handsomest men of his day.
The portrait given here, which is reproduced from
the best photograph in the possession of the members
of his family, does not half do him justice. WEIMAR
He was a very fine all-round sportsman, and higher
praise than that cannot be bestowed on any one.
Like all of the right sort, he was most unselfish, and
ever ready to stand aside and let another fisherman
get sport. Often and often he has found a rising fish,
persuaded me to cast to it. kept at my elbow advising
or criticising, and praising when the cast came off, and
if I killed the fish his joy was quite equal to my own
as the trout was put out of pain and packed away in
the basket.
J. H. Leech was another all-round sportsman, and
was, as is probably known to many of my readers, a
great student of entomology. His book on the
Lepidoptera of Northern China and Japan is, and will
long remain, the standard authority on the subject.
He had travelled over a considerable part of the
world in the search of the Lepidoptera, and for sport
and instruction. He was the cheeriest of mortals,
never downcast, and ever full of interest in every
movement connected with his favourite pursuits.
When quite a young man he had the misfortune
to lose his left hand by a gun accident, and the
dexterous way in which he could do almost anything
with one hand was quite surprising. He often told
me in jest that the only thing he could not do for
himself was to cut his finger-nails, but I daresay if
needful he would have schemed out a method of
accomplishing this.
The Weimar people were astonished at the easy
way in which he manipulated his rod, tied on his own 230 AN ANGLERS  AUTOBIOGRAPHY
flies, and played his fish ; in fact, it was a general
saying that the number of fish killed by this one-
handed Englishman were so great that it was a mercy
for the trout that he had not both hands, otherwise
there would have been none left in the river. I am
able to reproduce his portrait by the permission of
his widow, who kindly presented it to me.
At the present time the Weimar fishing is rented
by a few good sportsmen who preserve it very strictly
for themselves and their personal friends. It is
necessary to give my readers this piece of information,
because a portion of the water was at one time let to
the proprietor of the leading hotel in the town, and
visitors to his house could obtain leave on payment
of a small sum per diem.
Itchen—the Canal.
ERY kindly my old friend
Major Turle gave me the
opportunity of taking a rod
on his meadows at Newton Stacey and one of a
certain number of rights
on Bransbury Common. I
had fished the water in the
spring and during the May-fly on many occasions at
his invitation during the preceding sixteen years, and
hence fully appreciated the offer of spending the
season of 1897 on this part of the Upper Test.
A brief description of the fishery will not be out of
place. The lower boundary is about 300 yards above
Butcher's Corner, of which a view, reproduced . from
a photograph by Marryat, is given. Major Turle's
right extends for about three-quarters of a mile along
the eastern bank of one of the streams into which
this part of the Test is divided, and this length is
called the left-hand or May-fly stream. It contains
a  great   variety   of   water,   some   deep,   some  very n
shallow, and all fast running and abounding in twists
and turns.
A short distance above the lower end it is joined
by another stream, generally known as the right-hand
river. This said right-hand river is a tributary of the
Test rising in the vicinity of Sutton Scotney, flowing
through Bullington, and on one side of Bransbury
Common down to the Newton Stacey meadows.
Near the upper end of the Newton Stacey fishing
a somewhat wide cross carrier runs from the right-
hand nearly across to the left-hand river. This
carrier is sometimes bank full and at other times
almost dry, according to the requirements of the
farmers leasing the water meadows. It is generally
full during the May-fly and contains some good
fish, which rise, well at the May-fly, either in the
sub-imago or imago stage.
A narrow stream called the Hay Rick River flows
from this cross carrier into the lower part of the right-
hand river, and the celebrated Black Ditch rises from
springs near this cross carrier, and joins the right-
hand river a short distance above its junction with
the left-hand stream.
All the Newton Stacey streams contain trout,
and the May-fly in favourable seasons hatches out
fairly well, not, of course, in numbers comparable to
the Kennet, but yet quite sufficient to give good
sport. The Hay Rick River and Black Ditch are
generally fished successfully only during the Mayfly,
and in the latter stream many of the record trout of «
«*WI                 >«B^^^^J62t?*PK
«1                                                       _/iiiiiiJH
'Ii c;v^ |L
the Upper Test have been killed in olden times with
the spent gnat.
Poor Marryat loved the Black Ditch, which owed
its appellation to the dark colour of the bottom. The
water in it is just as clear and pellucid as any other
part of the Test, and the banks of weed are very
thick and strong all through its length. Marryat's
predilection for this stream was not due to his having
ever scored very heavily in it, but because it was the
scene of many battles.
The only chance of killing the Black Ditch trout
was to happen to be there on a calm warm evening
when the spent gnat were falling on the surface of
the water. The fish always wander, and in this slow-
running water the smallest mistake with the first cast
is invariably fatal. Marryat often showed me a short
length of it, where many years ago he was on the
spot at the " psychological moment." He hooked
nine Sockdollagers in succession and was smashed
nine times in succession, and this, notwithstanding the
fact that he was using stout grilse gut and held
the hooked fish for all he was worth.
On both the right- and left-hand rivers the hatch
of duns, fall of spinners^ and show of Caddis flies
during their respective seasons were very plentiful,
and in the olden times the trout in these streams ran
to a very large size. In later years, for some unexplained reason, the fish were smaller; but still, a
careful and good fisherman could often secure
bags of one, two,  or under exceptionally favourable 234
circumstances, as many as three brace of perfect
trout, not far short of the ij lbs. average.
The same two streams flow through the water
covered by the Bransbury Common rights. The
main river, on which the right extends to the eastern
bank only through a considerable portion of the
fishery, is not far short of a mile in length. At the
top end there is a fine wide shallow from which a
stream known as Ham Carrier leaves the main river,
flows nearly parallel to it for about a quarter of a
mile, and then rejoins it after falling through a set
of hatches.
Thence the main stream flows down to Dodmoor
Hatch, where the left-hand river branches out of it,
and after about a quarter of a mile reaches the upper
boundary of the Newton Stacey water. Formerly
the upper part of these streams was not considered
good May-fly water, but it always contained plenty of
fish, and the hatches of duns and other small flies were
generally very good. Now-a-days, as the result of
the eminently successful work of Major Turle, ably
seconded by a most efficient keeper, the May-fly has
been introduced, is present in great numbers, and the
show of the small Ephemeridae and Trichoptera is
also most satisfactory.
The top of the right-hand stream is in the village
of Bransbury, and flowing in a succession of perfect shallows with some deep parts, after a winding
course of a little more than a mile it reaches the
upper   boundary   of   Major   Turk's   fishery.     The
lower part of this stream is good May-fly water,
and throughout it is one of the very best lengths of
the Upper Test for duns and spinners.
The trout are fairly plentiful and of moderately
good average, but the right-hand river is certainly
the most difficult part of the fishery. With banks
generally bare and without trees or bushes, and as
a rule on a level appreciably above that of the river,
and fish which have received an education quite
up to the average of chalk stream trout, it takes a
first-class performer with a fly rod to succeed in
circumventing them.
I also took a right on Chilbolton Common, which
extends for about a quarter of a mile on one side of
the main river and a somewhat similar length of a
back stream. In former times the Chilbolton Common rights covered more than two miles from
Testcombe Bridge to Butcher's Corner, but as the
result of a long and bitter controversy, culminating
in a costly lawsuit, all but this short length of fishing
was lost to the Commoners.
One is apt to feel and sometimes express regret
at the loss to anglers of the chance of fishing such
a grand piece of the Test at comparatively insignificant cost. Common rights let at a low rental may
be attractive to many of us who are not blessed with
superabundant means, but in such a case it is no
one's business to preserve strictly, and no one has a
sufficiently large pecuniary interest to impel them
to watch,  stock, and otherwise improve the fishery. 236
Common waters are therefore generally neglected and
soon show signs of deterioration.
Take as an example the case of the remaining
quarter of a mile open to the Commoners. The
rental per rod is very small, and there are something
like thirty or forty such rights. The result, as might
be anticipated, is that the weeds are not cut, the pike
are not killed down, and it is no one's duty to see
that those fishing either have or rent rights.
The Chilbolton water would long since have been
utterly worthless if it had depended on the exertions
of the interested parties. It so happens, however,
that this portion of the Test possesses such paramount
natural advantages that no neglect could absolutely
ruin it. So long as there are trout below, a fair
proportion of the largest and best conditioned ones
will work up and take their stations in these favourable grounds, and a certain number of typical Test
trout will always be found in position on these shallows
and deeps.
From the commencement of April to the end of
May the sport was fairly good at Newton Stacey, and
on Bransbury and Chilbolton Commons. As usual,
the great hatches of olive and iron-blue duns took
place on days when the wind was north, north-east, or
north-west. The May-fly was a comparative failure,
and by the middle of June my total of trout killed
only reached thirty trout of 42 lbs 1 oz.
Reference has already been made to the study of
the insects commenced   many  years   before in  con- THE  UPPER  TEST AND DRY-FLY ENTOMOLOGY 237
junction with my friend Marryat. As long as he
lived we never relaxed our efforts to collect, examine,
and check the classification from published works of
all the specimens we could find. Some were taken
from the surface of the water, some caught in the
air or on boughs of trees or sedges, some in the
larval, pupal, or nymphal stages dredged from the mud,
and others from the weeds. What we could see with
the ordinary hand magnifier was noted on the spot,
and when mounted, these specimens, or part of them,
dissected out, were thoroughly examined under the
Even after his death I continued the work and
never forgot the sound advice he had so often
impressed upon me that the only admissible proof of
a particular insect serving as an article of food for the
Salmonidae was finding them in the autopsy. Often
and often I have been chaffed, and at times even
ridiculed, by fellow sportsmen for my insatiable desire
to open fish when captured and examine the contents
of their gullets and stomachs.
At an early date I had, as previously noted, consulted the Rev. A. E. Eaton in reference to the
Ephemeridae, and he had rendered me invaluable
assistance; Even in the month of December, 1886,
he had prepared for my guidance what he styled
" An unscientific analytical Synopsis of the Genera
of British Ephemeridae based on the adult flies," and
for many years this manuscript work of his was my
continual guide for identification of the duns, spinners
and May-fly. 1
Subsequently my friend Major W. Cooke Daniels
saw this manuscript, and was most anxious that it
should be kept. He had copies of it taken and the
original bound in full morocco, and with my concurrence presented it to the library of the Fly Fishers'
Club, where it remains and is available for the use of
any member or friends of members desiring to refer
to   it.
After poor Marryat's death I often consulted Mr.
Eaton .on difficult points or moot questions, and his
assistance was indeed of the greatest use. Later on,
when I determined to try and compile all the information derived in a book on the subject he again
volunteered to give me his aid. " Dry-Fly Entomology " was issued in June, 1897, and if this work has
been of any service to my brother anglers, they must
one and all bear in mind the fact that it would have
been an impossibility for me to complete the work
without being able to refer to some leading authority
on the subject.
The Rev. A. E. Eaton read every word of the
first part of this book in manuscript, and made a
number of alterations and amendments. He read
it a second time in proof, and even up to the
latest possible moment before publication kept me
au courant of any new data worked out by modern
entomologists on the families, genera and species
represented in the book.
My first book, " Floating Flies and how to Dress
Them," had  run through two editions and was out of   THE  UPPER  TEST AND DRY-FLY ENTOMOLOGY 239
print before the first part of " Dry-Fly Entomology "
was completed. After some deliberation, and with
the concurrence of Messrs. Vinton and Co., who had
purchased the copyrights of "Floating Flies" and
" Dry-Fly Fishing," I decided not to bring out a new
edition of the former book, but to prepare a revised
set of patterns and incorporate those patterns and the
fly dressing part of " Floating Flies " with the new
book. This will explain how it is that " Floating-
Flies " has disappeared and that the second and
third parts of " Dry-Fly Entomology" cover this
branch of the subject.
In 1898 I was again on the Upper Test and fishing
the same waters. During the early part of the spring
I had a bit of a tumble on Chilbolton Common and
sprained the left ankle, resulting in my being very lame
and unable to walk great distances without consider-
able pain. The May-fly was a dismal failure, but the
duns and spinners as usual were more or less
Evidence throughout the season, and notwithstanding
my lameness I find that by the middle of June I had
killed twenty-five trout of 37 lbs. 3 ozs.—of course
returning as usual very many more approaching
limit and just reaching or exceeding it.
I would urge most strenuously on all true sportsmen the manifest advantage of not only abstaining
from killing palpably undersized fish, but also of
putting back all that just reach the 12 ins. limit, and
many slightly in excess of that size. The stock of
Salmonidae in all the chalk streams is at the present AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
time far too scanty, and the desire to boast of the
number of brace of trout killed is one of the surest
signs of decay of the true sporting instinct so prevalent in some circles at the present time.
These trout of or just over 12 ins. in length are
simply invaluable from the stocking point of view.
They have probably passed four years in the river,
have learnt how to avoid many of their enemies, are
thoroughly alive to the danger of the dragging fly, and
regard the appearance of man on the bank as a
danger signal, and no action will more tend to improve
a fishery than their safe return to their native element.
Of the so-called sportsman who habitually kills trout
under the recognised limit of size there is only one
possible opinion, and that I leave the reader to supply
During July of that year my friend Mr. W. H.
Pope invited me to pay a visit to the Dorchester
Frome. I was much impressed by the capabilities
of the Club water, and thought the upper portion
one of the prettiest stretches of a chalk stream I
had ever seen. Of the lower part, by which all the
water below the inlet of the town sewage is meant,
it is well not to say much.
True, it holds huge trout wallowing in the filth and
fattening on the garbage carried down by the sewer.
Periodically the introduction of chemical disinfectants
kills a vast quantity of these trout, and for miles
below the outfall there is probably not an inch of
shallow  on   which    trout   ova   ever   could   by  any THE  UPPER  TEST AND DRY-FLY ENTOMOLOGY 241
possibility hatch out. It is said that a serious movement is on foot to put an end to this dreadful pollution, and I can only add that it is not a moment too
soon. If an epidemic of typhoid or similar disease
should break out in Dorchester under present sanitary
conditions, the loss of life would be too terrible to
While in the Dorchester district I had a most
interesting day on a length of water many miles
lower down the Frome, where Marryat frequently
fished in olden days, and had often described it to
me. The water flows through a park under trees
meeting overhead for some distance, and then in a
long series of open shallows with many turns and
twists, and occasional deeper pieces down to the
lower limit of the fishery.
Pope, who is one of the best of modern dry-fly
men, worked hard and killed ^ive brace of pretty
trout weighing 14J lbs., while I lounged about mostly
under the trees, and was quite contented with my
modest five fish of 8 lbs. 1 oz. They were all in
perfect condition and fought like demons. Of course
there were a number of fish returned by both of us
just under or just over the 12 ins. limit.
1899 was a poor spring, and during that and the
two previous seasons I frequently had a day on Chilbolton Common. It is one of the most fascinating
lengths of the Test, and on one of the shallows at
the lower end of it there are always a few very good
fish.    An article written by me and published in the 242 AN ANGLERS A UTOBIOGRAPHY
Field of May 27th, 1899, entitled " Playing Trout by
Hand," is a description of two days on this water,
and is republished here.
" Considerable diversity of opinion prevails among
modern dry-fly fishermen as to the new method of
playing fish in weedy places, first suggested by Mr.
N. Lloyd, and described in detail in the revised
edition of ' Dry-Fly Fishing in Theory and Practice.'
A comparison of two days on the same length of
wTater, on one of which the old plan was adopted,
and on the other the hand playing, gave results so
typical of my former experience, that I think it will
be of interest to the readers of the Field."
" The length of one of the best chalk streams on
which the experiment was tried is what is usually
styled half water, i.e., each bank is rented and fished
by different sets of tenants. No weed-cutting or
other operation entailing expense is carried on by
the lessees of the side from which I fished, and on
the opposite side the weeds are regularly cut, with
the result that the main run of water is under that
bank, while ours is choked up by large masses of
heavy weed with occasional narrow runs through
them. Most of the trout, as might be expected, rise
under the far bank, which cannot be fished across
with much prospect of success, owing to the width
of the river and the general tendency of the fly to
drag.      Here  and  there  a   good  fish  takes   up its THE  UPPER  TEST AND DRY-FLY ENTOMOLOGY 243
position in one of these narrow runs under our bank,
and a hooked fish generally plunges headlong into
the nearest thicket of weed, too often effecting its
escape by these tactics."
" The wind was blowing freshly from the northeast on both days, this being nearly straight downstream, and the hatch of fly (olive and iron blue duns)
was sparse on both occasions. On May 4th, at
about 1 p.m., a few fish were bulging at nymphs,
but after some careful watching I found a trout taking
the winged sub-imago in the head of one of the runs.
The sun was shining brightly, and although the
surface of the water was ruffled by the strong gusts,
every movement of the fish could be distinctly seen."
" The only difficulty was to put the fly into the
wind, and the use of the downward cut, as usual,
effected this. The trout rose boldly, took the gold-
ribbed hare's ear, was hooked, and plunged up-stream
through a heavy weed bed. Slacking at once and
lowering the rod point, the line was taken in the
hand and a little persuasion coaxed it out of the
weeds. Once more taking the rod in hand, the trout
ran up-stream at a great pace, turned and jumped,
showing its proportions^ and just as it seemed to be
giving in, and the prospect of netting it was imminent,
suddenly the fish was across the current, its tail out
of the water, and back came the cast minus the fly
and the last two links of gut."
"It has been said that fish occasionally break the
cast with a blow of the tail, and although generally 244
sceptical of this, it really appeared to have happened
in this instance. Shortly after a second fish was
hooked on a rapid shallow, went to weed at once,
was handed out, played by the rod, and killed—
weight, exactly 2 lbs. A third fish took the fly, the
same tactics once again pursued, and this one came
unhooked. Every one of these fish played very hard
and gave good sport, but the loss of two out of three
so dispirited me that I decided to have another day
on the same length, and if -fortunate enough to hook
any fish, to play them entirely by hand."
" Accordingly on the 7th I strolled down to the
river, and seating myself on a tussock at the lower
end of the wTater, waited developments. A good fish
rose in the dead wedge behind a weed patch and the
first throw landed right and tempted the fish. A
plunge into the weed patch, through it, and some
fifteen yards above into a second weed bed, with
line slack, followed. Taking the line in the left hand,
and spearing the rod, the trout was gently worked
down until it caught sight of the angler, and started
down at such a pace as to necessitate letting go the
line altogether, and pulling off some ten yards more
from the reel. Taking the line once more in the
hand, the trout was gradually brought up-stream, and
by alternate ' give and take ' was at length in reach
of the net, where it lay quite still on the surface and
was lifted out, a perfect specimen of a chalk stream
trout, 2 lbs. 13 ozs."
"A second fish, rising in a run under the bank, THE  UPPER  TEST AND DRY-FLY ENTOMOLOGY 245
was then spotted. It was one of those ideal runs
which no weed cutting by the hands of man can
produce. The force of the stream had rooted up
the vegetation for a length of perhaps 5 yards and
a width of 18 inches, and the fish wras rising about
half-way up the run. The first throw fortunately
landed the fly in the right place, the fish took, and
at once rushed up the stream with plenty of slack
line. It then turned, and forcing its way through
a heavy mass of weeds, nearly reached the opposite
bank. It then jumped and tore up-stream again.
All this time the line was lightly held in the hand,
and the rod speared. After a number of similar
movements this trout was worked down to the net,
and turned the scale at 2 lbs. 9 ozs."
"A third fish took the gold-ribbed hare's ear on
the edge of a rough run, and at once started directly
across the stream at so great a pace that it was quite
impossible to slack the line. After a time it stopped,
and the line was taken in the hand. The fish then
turned and ran into a heavy weed bed on my side
of the river. Judicious handling coaxed it out of
this, and again it started across, taking out all the
slack and more line off the reel, until at length I
fancied it would exhaust the whole of the 35 yards.
Again it stopped, ran in towards me, and when
I got in the line gave a curious shake and broke
away. I firmly believe that, had it been possible
to slack this trout the moment it was hooked, it
would also  have been  killed, the  experience  being »*
that a slack line throughout is usually effective, whilst
slacking the line after having had a pull on the fish
renders the result a matter of uncertainty."
" Detached Badger."
This experience has been thus given in detail
for two reasons. Firstly, to once more call attention
to the efficacy of slacking and hand-playing trout
in places overgrown with weeds. Secondly, to show
the nature of the Chilbolton Common water and
the sport to be obtained on it occasionally, notwithstanding the fact that for years and years it has been
systematically neglected, little if any stocking carried
out, and the pike allowed to increase and multiply
and prey on the few trout in that part of the Test.
Again the rise of May-fly was a poor one, and
again I had no fishing on the Test after the middle
of June, and my diary shows that twenty-five trout
of 44J lbs. constituted the season's take. On the
Newton Stacey and Bransbury Common waters I
killed a few good trout during the season—notably
three of 2 lbs. 6 ozs. each, and one of 2\ lbs., in addition to the three referred to in the preceding article, of
2 lbs., 2 lbs. 13 ozs., and 2 lbs. 9 ozs., besides another
of 2 lbs. 1 oz., killed on Chilbolton Common.
The seasons of 1900 and 1901 were in most
respects similar to the two proceeding ones. I was
still fishing the Upper Test, on the same water, and
in company with many of the same companions.
April and May of both years were months of unsettled   THE  UPPER   TEST AND DRY-FLY ENTOMOLOGY 247
and continually changing weather. Fine, warm genial
days, with pleasant southerly breezes, were alternated
with other days of biting northerly and easterly winds
and cold grey sky. South-westerly gales with heavy
rain would be followed by bright cold mornings, and
then perhaps a sharp hailstorm would rattle down
in the afternoon.
The usual diatribes were poured out, and we
were treated in the press to more of that inane
chatter about mild weather being favourable and
cold weather unfavourable to hatch of duns. Once
more we were sagely informed that the time of the
appearance of the winged Ephemeridae emerging from
the nymphal shucks is entirely dependent on the
temperature of the preceding night. We were again
assured that for this reason, after a mild evening the
rise of fly would be early, and after a frost would be
late in the afternoon of the following day.
These theories are based on fallacies. No golden
rule can be laid down, and there is no man living
who can predict from any known data either the
hour of the rise, or even whether there will be any
rise at all, on a particular day. The longer and
the more carefully one observes these phenomena
the more convinced one is of the danger of indulging
in any forecast.
The fishing generally was not equal to that of the
previous springs, and the feeling became general that
extensive stocking was required if the river was to be
restored to anything like its former condition.    A few 248
two-year-old Salmo fario had been turned in each
season, and two of the fishermen on the water set
the good example of presenting 500 12 in. trout
to the fishery. These were planted in the early
months of 1901, and if only the stocking is continued
on a sufficiently liberal scale, and if, at the same time,
the killing down of the pike is seriously undertaken,
there is no reason why the Upper Test should not
give as good sport and trout of the same average
weight as in olden times.
Personally I was not discontented with my own
sport, the more so as my health was not good, and
the fatigue of a long day's tramp in waders through
the heavy water meadows was more than I could
stand. I killed a few good fish with the gold-ribbed
hare's ear, including two of 2 lbs. 13 ozs. and
2 lbs. 2 ozs., on Chilbolton Common. When I first
took the rod and fished these waters it came as a
surprise to me to hear that this said gold-ribbed
hare's ear was seldom successful on this part of the
Upper Test. From a natural spirit of contradiction
I suppose I tried it, and strange to say, it proved the
most deadly pattern during the five springs I fished
in those parts.
The May-fly of 1900 came up about the usual
date, and there was a long and patchy hatch up to
June 17th. I do not remember any abnormal show of
fly on any one particular day, but the trout were fairly
on to the sub-imago, and during the latter part of the
season took the imago moderately well for a few days.
1 killed three fish in the May-fly stream one day, of
2 lbs., 1 lb. 12 ozs., and 2\ lbs., and on the left-hand
stream of Bransbury Common, on another day, four
of 1 lb. 15 ozs., 1 lb. 8 ozs., 1 lb. 6 ozs., and 1 lb.
14 ozs., all with the Gallina winged pattern dressed
on No. 2 hooks.
June 13th was my last day of that season, and I
drove up to the top of Bransbury Common and started
there in the morning. There were no fish rising on
the shallow, but a short distance down Ham Carrier I
found one taking some invisible insect. After trying
claret smut, red quill, detached badger and Wickham
in succession, and finding I could not get a rise, I
waited and began to consider the position.
There were a few male imagines of the May-fly
dancing in the air, and although very few May-flies
had been seen in this part of the fishery during the
hatch, it appeared worth while trying one.
The first cast rose and hooked the trout, and it
was a pretty, silvery black-spotted fish of 1 lb. 6 ozs.
I autoposed it carefully at once, but did not find a
single May-fly in any stage among the heterogeneous
contents of its stomach, but there were plenty of
Caddis, snails, Ephemeridae nymphs, freshwater
shrimps, and a few "curses."
As no more rising fish were visible, I made my way
down to Newton Stacey meadows, and found a friend
of Major Turle's fishing there. The Major had to
attend to some public duties and had asked me to
pilot   his   friend,  Mr. W.     There were   a  few fresh L
hatched May-flies floating down and quite a respectable show of spent gnats, so I persuaded Mr. W. to
try one of this pattern over a feeding trout. Unfortunately the gut of his cast was not sound and he broke
in the act of striking a good fish.
Walking together up the May-fly river we came to
a place where one of our guests had hooked and lost
a big trout on the 10th. He had played the fish out
and was just bringing it down to the net when somehow his feet slipped, he fell into the stream, and the
trout got away. While I was telling Mr. W. about
this we saw the fish commence rising and I urged him
to put on a stronger cast and have a try for it.
He wanted me to fish, but at first I declined'.
However, as I could not persuade him to cast, I got
into position and waited patiently to let the fish come
well on to the rise, and to study generally the run
of the water.
On the opposite side of the river there was a
heavy weed bed immediately above the open space in
which the trout was feeding. Abreast of the fish, and
under our bank, there was another large weed patch,
and close to the opposite side there was a sharp run.
The fish was rising sometimes in this run and at
other times in the comparatively dead water in the
clear space between the weeds. The first cast landed
on the edge of the run, and at the same moment the
trout plunged into the dead water and took a spent
I returned my fly immediately, dried it thoroughly, THE   UPPER  TEST AND DRY-FLY ENTOMOLOGY 251
and letting out another yard of line, so as to leave
plenty of slack, made my cast and placed the spent
gnat about two feet above the fish. It rushed at the
fly like a dog and tore up-stream into the weed patch
above. I pulled it down by sheer force and at once
the trout jumped, and as it fell into the water I told
Mr. W. that it was not hooked in the mouth.
This I knew, because when a trout hooked in the
orthodox fashion jumps it invariably falls with its
head towards the fisherman, because the pull of the
line forces it into this position while in the air. This
trout, however, when descending towards the water
after its leap had its tail towards me.
I held on as hard as I dared, and at length fairly
dragged it down to the net, and when it was landed,
sure enough the hook was just under the root of the
tail, just through the skin. It was a dark-coloured
male fish, and weighed 2 lbs. 14 ozs. It was long
and going off in condition, and had it been lost we
should probably have estimated its weight at 3^ lbs.
The 1901 May-fly was a complete failure, so much
so that I only killed two fish with it, each weighing
2 lbs., I .was more successful with the Welshman's
Button, but the season generally was most unfavourable, and the stocking did not seem to have effected
any increase in the number of rising fish. In July,
1899, I wrote an article in the Field with the title of
the " Decadence of the Test." It was with feelings
of deep pain that I felt it my duty to use such a
title, and as the experience of 1900 and  1901   only 252
confirmed the views therein expressed, I row append
some extracts from it.
" Accounts of sport on the Test during the present
season have been so conflicting as to fairly puzzle all
those interested in the future of what the late Mr.
Marryat aptly styled 'the queen of chalk streams.'
The hatches of olive, iron blue and pale watery duns
have been described as the very best on record in
some lengths, while in others in the immediate vicinity
it has been deemed abnormally sparse. Where these
smaller Ephemeridae have been plentiful, in some
instances abundance of fly has, as might be expected,
proved the accompaniment of heavy bags of large
fish ; while in others, grumbling and lament at the
trout ignoring the presence of floating food in large
quantities have been rife among the fishermen."
" Much of the scarcity of small fly can be directly
traced to the modern mania for mowing down the
weeds wholesale. The excuse generally advanced
is that anglers generally complain of losing an undue
proportion of hooked fish in the dense growth of
vegetation. It may be remarked that in many
instances the loss of trout in the weeds is due to
fishermen being imbued with the fallacious notion
that a weeded trout is a lost trout."
" Of course, a lightly hooked fish is under any
condition likely to escape, but judicious handling will
result in the landing of a great majority of those well
hooked. Granted, however, for the sake of argu-
ment,   that  the   presence  of  heavy   weed   beds will THE  UPPER  TEST AND DRY-FLY ENTOMOLOGY 253
enable a few more trout to get away, is this to be
weighed for a moment in the balance against the
suicidal policy of cutting away all, or nearly all, the
natural growth of the stream ? When it is remem-
bered that these weeds are not only the home of the
dun larvae, but either constitute in themselves, or
contain the whole of the food on which these larvae
subsist, it is obvious that the number of the smaller
Ephemeridae present in the river must vary directly
in proportion to the quantity of suitable vegetation,
such as the water celery, water crowfoot, star-
wort, &c."
" Twenty years ago, when Test fishermen were
not numerous and did not fish hard, it is possible that
the so-called natural increase of the trout in the river
was sufficient to prevent any marked diminution in
the stock. Now-a-days every sportsmen who has the
means rents a length of chalk stream on the Test if
procurable, or, if not, on some other river approximating more or less to it in character. The majority
of them are adepts with the dry-fly, and spend every
moment they can spare from their profession or
business on the banks of the stream."
" The result naturally is that a very large proportion of the feeding fish are killed; in fact, but for the
inherent shyness of Salmo fario they would be
actually exterminated. Thus from season to season
there is a serious decrease in the number of naturally
bred fish in the water. Those who have gone to the
expense of turning in yearlings, two-year-olds, or even 254
larger fish in liberal numbers, have been rewarded by
an increase of sport. Unfortunately, however, the
rule is to let fishing from year to year, with the
intention of raising the rent at each successive letting.
Up to the present time proprietors have succeeded
in effecting this, but whether the value of Test fishing
is likely to be maintained at its present exorbitant
figure is a moot point."
" For the river itself the result is most disastrous.
The proprietor receives his rent and does nothing
whatever in the way of stocking. The tenant kills
all the fish he can, never being sure whether the
figure asked for the water the next year will not be
beyond what he cares to pay. He has no interest
in improving the river, or in stocking, or in killing
down coarse fish ; any improvements he effects in the
condition of the fishing is, in fact, only a means of
getting his rent raised, or making way for a new and
possibly wealthier sportsman."
"This state of things has gone on in some parts
until the stock has become so reduced that the angler
knows the habitat of every sizable trout, and takes
the shortest line from one to another until he finds
a feeding fish. Even with the greatest hatch of fly it
is manifestly impossible for such reaches to show fair
sport, not only because the trout in them are few
in number, but also because it is almost a daily
occurrence for every one of them to see a floating fly
coming over it accurately and without a drag. The
result of a rise is either death, or the sharp prick of nvMi
«P '
$jg&          ' *"^B
&    - '). ;JE{          yfefl
«   J^|
Bite- ■ im^ji^^^^&f^^^r.Cf
jE^r^i ^S^^wSfep,r|-- .-■
3*    ^XV^^^%>3
the hook to add to its already advanced education,
and produce increased disinclination for floating food."
"The question of sewage pollution although not
yet serious, is one demanding the attention alike of
riparian owners and the fishermen renting from them.
Because the water is clear and the volume of sewage
at no place sufficient to produce any very disagreeable stench, we do not realise that the Test is already
the receptacle for the drainage of many villages. It
is not safe to argue that it is of no great concern to
anglers so long as it does not increase, nor is it wise
to cherish the delusion that long before it assumes
important dimensions the local authorities will persevere and prohibit the nuisance."
" The local authorities will do nothing of the
kind until complaints are made by the inhabitants,
and pressure brought to bear on them. They seldom,
if ever, move spontaneously, not caring to initiate
sanitary reforms which are costly and increase the
rates. I have heard of a case on the Test where,
I am told, the drainage of a large mansion is being
thoroughly reorganised, and the entire effluents
carried directly into the river. The local authorities
cannot be quite ignorant of this."
" From the foregoing it will be noticed that the
gradual deterioration of the stream is entirely due
to preventable causes. It is still the same 'queen
of chalk streams' that poor Marryat so dearly loved.
It is still capable of carrying an enormous head of
trout of great size, if only the hand of man is stayed 256
from recklessly removing the weeds which contain
the food necessary for their sustenance. This, however, and the stocking question, must be taken in
hand resolutely and at once, if the old reputation of
the river is to be restored."
"It is open secret that only six years ago the
most important club on the Test purchased a large
fishery which was almost denuded of trout. They
set to work at once to convert a number of carriers
into stews. They bought thousands of yearlings and
two-year-olds, which were fed up in these stews until
they were sizable fish. These trout were put into
the river at various points, and more store fish put
into the stews for future stocking, these operations
being continued from year to year. Attention was
also directed to the river itself, weed cutting was
carried out with discretion, shallows were cleaned,
and in some instances loads of gravel laid down to
form new spawning beds. The sport has improved
ever since, and this season is already a record one
for number, and the average size of the trout
(approximately 2 lbs.) has been maintained. Surely
this example is worthy of imitation."
These words were written in 1899, and now in
1903 I can add very little to them. It is obvious
to any one knowing the Test that the last paragraph
refers to Houghton, and the present Houghton Club
is reaping as it has sown. Every member is charmed
with the fishing; whenever, unfortunately, a vacancy
occurs by the  death of a  member there  are  many THE  UPPER TEST AND DRY-FLY ENTOMOLOGY 257
anxious  to  take his place, and a man once elected
remains a member of the Club during his life.
I think there is in some parts of the Test a little
more sign of the proprietors and lessees waking up
to the serious aspect of this question, but certainly
the work done so far has been on a very limited
scale, and can only benefit the sport-giving capacities
of the river to a small extent. Unless, however, the
stocking and killing down of pike and other coarse
fish is carried on all over the river, it is to be feared
that within a measurable space of time the glory of
the Test as a trout stream will have departed.
On Upper Houghton Water. 1
rented in the spring of
1895 Dy Mr., now Major,
W. Cooke Daniels, an
American gentleman who
had the intention of settling
in this country and devoting himself to sport. He
gradually acquired under lease or agreement the
fishing of a number of stretches of the Itchen, until
at length he was the tenant of more than four miles
of the river, besides the portions belonging to the
Shawford House estate. From the upper boundary
of the St. Cross property down to Shawford on one
branch, and to Twyford on the other branch of the
river, he thus had the right of fishing from both
banks in addition to the water within the grounds
of the house he was inhabiting.
His enthusiasm for dry-fly fishing, and for the
eminently useful work of improving sport by killing
down the enemies of the Salmonidae, and increasing*
their  numbers  by  stocking  on  a  liberal   scale  was WINCHESTER AND DISTRICT
literally without bounds. Great numbers of pike
were killed by netting, wiring, trimmering and every
other known method, many reaching the weight of
14 to 15 lbs., and when in 1896 he thought that a
serious diminution in their numbers had been wrought
he started stocking. There was no desire on his part
to arrive at the smallest possible number he could
turn in to make a show, and he never deluded himself with the notion that having once introduced store
fish his work was completed. He did not, like many
proprietors or lessees of chalk stream fishing, imagine
that a few hundred yearlings spread over tens of
miles of water would adequately stock it and double
or quadruple the value of the fishery.
Just as an initial experiment five thousand of the
largest yearlings procurable were planted in different
parts of the water, and Daniels was looking forward
to reaping some of the benefit of his work in the
form of sport for himself and his numerous friends.
At this epoch it was my good fortune to be introduced
to him, and I congratulated myself that for the first
time in my life I had met a man possessing at once
the means, the will and the intelligence required to
make a fishery on a proper scale.
Everything looked couleur de rose, when one of
those unforeseen and melancholy incidents occurred
which too often supervene to dash from our lips the
cup at the moment we are preparing to taste its
contents. A trusted business representative died
suddenly,    and   Daniels   had   to   hurry   across   the 260
Atlantic to safeguard his interests in the Western
Hemisphere. Two years later the war with Spain
broke out, and he, of course, volunteered to fight for
his country and served on the staff during the Cuban
Campaign, retiring after peace was declared with the
rank of Major.
Mr. Edgar Williamson, another enthusiastic dry-fly
man took over all the Daniels agreements excepting
those appertaining to Shawford House, and from that
date continued the work on the same scale. My
first visit to the water was in the month of July,
1898, when at the kind invitation of the lessee I
had two days on this part of the Itchen. The varied
nature of the stream, the scientific method of weed
cutting, and the stock of fish all impressed me very
favourably, and it was evident that not only did this
water possess great capabilities of future improvement
but it was in the hands of a man who was resolved to
do all in his power to make it one of the best chalk
stream fisheries in the county of Hampshire.
While fishing the Newton Stacey and Bransbury
waters especially during the last two years I found
that the fatigue of having to walk so great a distance
was too much for my strength. On my return in
the evening to the comfortable and homely inn at
Wherwell I was frequently so knocked up as to be fit
for nothing. Unfortunately, the course of the Test
in this part of the country is far away from the road,
so that driving to and from the river was not of much
Fearing that my health would break down, I felt
that it was necessary for me to make a change and
find water within easy reach of some town or village.
I consulted various friends, among others addressing
myself on the subject to Williamson. He most kindly
offered me a rod on his fishery on most exceptional
terms, and at a figure which I felt was within my
means. I accepted his offer gratefully and have
enjoyed a season in his company so well that I
sincerely trust it is the forerunner of many more.
Winchester is an ideal spot for a dry-fly fisherman
when getting into years. The train service from the
Metropolis is very good, the distance to the water is
not great, and the main road cuts or crosses the
river at many points, so that one can drive to any
part of the fishery. The climate although not very
bracing suits me, and the inhabitants are generally
sportsmen and have welcomed the stranger sojourning
within their gates.
Williamson has always been a firm believer in the
importance of colour in artificial flies, and although I
cannot go to the length of the adherents of his school,
yet the colour-blind theory has never attracted me.
Merely from the artistic point of view every fly
dresser must admire patterns which match accurately
the tints and shades of the natural insects they are
intended to counterfeit. I devoted a considerable
portion of the season to the work of bringing out new
patterns of the Ephemeridae which are as nearly as I
can distinguish the precise colour, size and shape of
the living sub-imagines and imagines. AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
My friend, too, has for many years been of the
opinion that where trout are feeding on some invisible
floating insects they are not as a matter of course
smutting or taking little Diptera. He advances the
theory that under such conditions trout are often
feeding on Spinners or imagines of the smaller Ephemeridae. He here again insists on the paramount importance of the natural colour being reproduced in the
artificial flies. No doubt he is to some extent right,
but I confess to doubting whether in some cases the
trout are not feeding on those aggravating little curses.
With the assistance of George Holland, the
Winchester fly dresser, to dye the materials, and his
eldest son, F. H. Holland, to dress the flies, I
designed a series of patterns which are certainly
better imitations than any I had previously seen.
Most of these patterns were successful in the season
of 1902, and with the view of testing them thoroughly
I have decided to use no other imitations of Ephemeridae during 1903.
* The Itchen is certainly a later river than the
Test, and the month of April is too early to find
the trout generally in good order. Perhaps this is
not altogether a misfortune, as during July, August,
and possibly the first half of September, sport on
the Itchen is good and the fish in the pink of condition, while the majority of the Test fishermen have,
as a rule, finished their season with or soon after the
end of June.
Early in May, my friend Corrie gave me a day on  It WINCHESTER AND DISTRICT 263
the water adjoining his well-known hatchery and
rearing ponds. It was a most interesting experience,
because when a member of the Worthy Club I had
often fished the Chilland Shallows. It was a cold
morning, with occasional hailstorms and biting northeasterly wind, and although I killed a brace of good
fish with gold-ribbed hare's ear and medium olive
quill, there was no very great hatch of fly, and few
rising trout. I had my first experience of Rainbows
on this day, and expressed in no measured terms my
admiration of their sporting qualities. Corrie told
me of a lake where later on he predicted some good
sport, and promised to give me a day there in the
Writing of this day at Chilland, in the Field of
May 17th, I said: "In the years 1889, 1890 and
1891, I fished that portion of the Itchen, and since
then have had no opportunity of seeing the Chilland
Shallows. They were always most charming water,
but holding only a moderate number of trout of something like 1J lbs. average. Now they are as fully
stocked as any water in the South of England, and
neither the size nor the condition of these trout has
deteriorated. The fish rise better than they did, and
every one concerned is gratified by the'appearance of
the stream as well as the sport it affords. What a
triumphant confirmation of the policy that many of
us have for years been trying in vain to inculcate in
the minds of proprietors and lessees of chalk stream
fisheries.     Here at Chilland trout have been artifi- 264
daily hatched, reared in ponds, and fed on the various
forms of food in vogue among pisciculturists. They
have been turned into the river in great numbers, of
all sizes and all ages, and naturally too, every fish
that has by any accident escaped from a pond or
by-stream has found its way to and added to the
stock in the stream. Notwithstanding all the gloomy
forebodings of the wiseacres, these artificially bred,
artificially reared, and artificially fed trout, are just as
hardy and just as free risers as the wild ones bred in
the Itchin. They have not in any way deteriorated
either in size, in stamina, in appearance, or in sporting
propensities when hooked, and for every sizable trout
in that part of the river in 1891, there are at present
at least ten, and the innumerable store fish to be seen
in the shallows hold forth the promise of even better
results in the future."
On June 3rd Williamson and I had a day on the
Test at Kimbridge, at the kind invitation of the
owner of that charming water. The May-fly was
well up, but the trout were not fully on to the fly.
The fish were plunging and rushing about in all
directions chasing the nymphae, and of course
occasionally taking the winged insect. We could
rise fish and a few of them were pricked, but by far
the great majority came short. Williamson killed
three of about 8J lbs., and I only secured a single
one of 3 lbs. 3 ozs.
We spent the 7th at the lower end of the Itchen
water, where few  fish are  killed except during  the BBjJT
May-fly. It is part of the old disused canal, and
holds some of the best educated and shyest trout of
the Itchen. High banks, shallow, slow-running water
and little cover, with a sparse hatch of May-flies and
a strong down-stream wind and heavy rain, did not
add much to the chances of the fishermen. Careful
and somewhat fortunate casting favoured me, and I
secured a brace of 2 lbs. 1 oz. and 2 lbs,, while my
friend also killed a brace of 2f lbs. Two days later,
on the same stretch, Williamson unfortunately lost
three good trout, and I killed a brace weighing 2 lbs.
13 ozs. on a length adjoining, and nearly parallel, to
this part of the canal. We all noticed a singular
paucity of spent gnat on the Itchen throughout the
May-fly season.
During the summer I had numerous opportunities
of trying the new patterns, and of making some
progress in trying to elucidate the degree to which
the exact matching of colour affects the day's sport.
One evening I found two fish rising, one about fifteen
to twenty yards above the other under the bank in
a bend of the river. This particular bay is always
considered a specially difficult place, and trout feeding
in it are credited with being preternaturally shy.
With a collecting net I gathered a number of
the Ephemeridae floating down, and found they were
almost all spinners of the olive of both sexes. The
body of the female imago is brown olive with the
posterior segments pale yellowish olive, and the body
of the male is similar to that of the jenny spinner, but. 266
with the middle segments of a very pale green olive
colour in place of the transparent white of the jenny
spinner. The difference between these two sexes of
this insect are thus very marked.
I put up the imitation of the female, and after a
trial cast put it over the lower one of the twTo feeding
trout and was rewarded by a bold rise and killed the
fish. I crept up to the upper fish and placed the
fly accurately over it, but no movement of the trout
followed. After giving it a long rest I tried again,
and later a third time with the same result.    A change
of fly was then effected and the male spinner substituted for the female. Meanwhile the trout kept on
rising and at the first attempt it was fairly covered
and I rose, hooked and lost the fish. Here evidently
the trout preferred the male to the female insect and
could differentiate the one from the other.
It must not be imagined that this was a solitary
example, as with imagines of the iron blue, and pale
watery duns and the Sherry Spinner I found that
individual fish would rise at patterns imitating the
one sex and would not look at those counterfeiting
the other sex. Certainly these experiences go a
considerable distance towards establishing the theory
of what I have styled the "exact shade of colour"
school. Yet on other occasions I have found that
in precisely similar or the same places rising trout
have taken duns and spinners of either sex indiscriminately. Evidently experiments on a much more
extended scale must be carried out before anyone can WINCHESTER AND DISTRICT 267
feel assured that the trout are fully able to discriminate the most delicate gradations of colour.
The colour-blind theory has, I believe, even been
abandoned by its talented author, Sir Herbert
Maxwell, and it is unnecessary for me to allude to
it further here.
I am reminded of an amusing episode in reference
to a very favourable critique which appeared in 1886
on my first book, " Floating Flies and How to Dress
Them." After devoting some considerable space to
praise generally of the work, it continued in the
following terms :—
"If the question be asked, however, whether the
colouring be in all cases adequate to the natural flies
of which these are imitations, it seems to us that in a
few cases the tints are not sufficiently bright. Thus
the duns are suitably subdued in tone, but the red
spinner is hardly red enough. At all events, those
artificial red spinners which we prefer (tied by Farlow)
are of many shades more vivid scarlet, and fish seem
to run after scarlet, especially a pronounced scarlet,
with some avidity."
When Marryat read this he fairly exploded with
mirth, and summed it up in a few fitting words, saying,
" Oh! I see, your critic prefers Farlow's colours to
Nature's colours." It is quite possible that there are
among the numerous followers of the dry-fly some
like my captious critic who may express a similar
opinion when looking at these new patterns. To
such I would offer the suggestion that these flies were AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
designed for the use only of those who attach paramount importance to the colours of the artificial being
as similar as possible to those of the natural insects.
I had a very interesting day at Winnall on
July 14th. It was, to quote my own words in the
Field of July 26th, 1902, "one of the hottest of the
tropical days we experienced last week, and some
time during the morning was devoted to trying to
overcome the difficulties inseparable from such
weather. In the majority of instances the first cast
set the fish down, and it was with little hope of
success that I settled down to a trout feeding in midstream. The surface of the water was like a mirror
and the bank far too high to keep out of sight in any
but a recumbent position. Evidently Salmo fario was
either smutting or taking spinners, and a prolonged
scrutiny through the field-glasses failed to discover
any of those aggravating little Diptera on the stream.
A hackle-winged imitation of the female pale watery
spinner on a 00 hook, delivered with the horizontal
cast, fortunately landed on the spot at the first attempt.
A slow rise, an equally deliberate strike, and a good
run brought to the net a silvery black-spotted fish of
1 lb. 1 oz."
Later on Major Cooke Daniels "joined me, and
kindly volunteered to burden himself with the landing
net and the remainder of the bulky impedimenta of
the craft, and act as gillie during the evening rise.
Under the opposite bank a fish showed five or six
times rapidly  in succession,  and by the time I was   WINCHESTER AND DISTRICT
within casting distance seemed to have ceased feeding.
A couple of accurate throws with no result, and no
further indication of the trout taking natural insects,
gave the impression that some blunder, splash, or
other circumstance had roused its suspicions and set
it down. This happened time after time, until at
length we began to despair of the prospects of getting
any sport that evening.. We then did what we ought
to have done long before, i.e., put our heads together
to consider the situation."
"My friend suggested that the trout were taking
a series of flies and then resting, possibly while enjoying the palatable flavour of their food. His idea was
that the artificial should be offered while the fish was
taking the series, or, if too late, that I should wait
until the trout had resumed its meal. Subsequent
events certainly seemed to prove the truth of his
theory. The pattern on the cast was dressed on a
o hook with whisk, body and hackle like the red
quill, but instead of the opaque starling wings of that
excellent fly, they consisted of palish blue dun hackle
points, set on flat and at right angles to the hook
shank." This pattern is generally known as the
Williamson Red Spinner, as being suggested by my
friend of that name, and one of his favourites.
"The trout had risen twice in rapid succession
just against a weed bed on the opposite bank of the
stream, and the second cast being accurately placed,
was rewarded by a fair rise, and a beautiful specimen
of 1 lb. 10 ozs. was duly added to the bag.    A false 270
rise or two and another was hooked, which tore about
on the surface and seemed quite out of control.
Naturally this raised the suspicion of its being hooked
foul, and at length we could see the trout with the
hook imbedded in the root of the dorsal fin. Just
before it was fairly within reach of the amateur gillie
the severe strain tore out the hold of the hook, and
almost simultaneously a supreme effort of my friend
effected the landing of another trout of i lb. i oz.
It was altogether one of the smartest bits of work
with the landing net I have ever seen."
" Finding that the rising fish did not seem to care
for the red spinner, and noticing a number of medium-
sized sedge-flies on the water, the change to a hare's
ear sedge on a 2 hook was promptly made. A series
of rises under my own bank, then a long pause, and
the commencement of the next series ensued. A cast
or two, and another good fish of 1 lb. 12 ozs. was duly
netted.    After this a few more short rises and a good
fish was hooked, which managed to get off while it
was madly careering about in the river."
" A fish also indulging in this • spasmodic rising '
just outside a heavy bed of water crowfoot then
claimed my attention. Again the sedge fly proved
efficacious, and after a prolonged tussle, during which
the trout's efforts to entangle the line in the weeds
was frustrated by prompt and severe treatment,
another was duly weighed in and scaled 1 lb. 12 ozs.
After this, it being impossible for me to see the fly,
and in accordance with my invariable custom under
such conditions, the rod was taken down, and we
wended our way homewards with feelings of supreme
contentment, and two and a half brace of trout in the
creel, scaling 7J lbs."
Mr. E. Valentine Corrie had several pleasant days
with Williamson and myself with varying results,
but generally had fair sport. He invited me to have
a turn on a by-stream which flowed out of the lake
in Grange Park and runs into the Itchen, just above
Itchen Stoke. This by-stream is known as the
Candover Brook, and several views of it, reproduced
from Major Cooke Daniels' photographs, are given
as illustrations in this volume.
The Candover Brook is narrow and generally
deep, flowing at a moderate pace, with high banks
much overgrown with sedges and flags. It holds a
good head of trout of large average size, and usually
in prime condition. The fish would not remain in
this stream if the weeds were cut closely, and therefore
heavy patches of water celery, water crowfoot, star-
wort, ribbon weeds, and such aquatic plants, prevail.
This description should suffice to indicate that the
trout are shy, although they rise freely, and are also
fully alive to the efficacy of the policy of going to
weed when hooked. All this, coupled with the
presence of high banks, stamp it as an eminently
sporting water, but one on which the inferior performer has little chance of success.
It was a dull day, with light south-westerly wind
and little  fly on the stream, and   the chance of an 272
evening rise was quite spoilt by heavy rain, which
lasted for some hours after dark. Corrie, with the
true instinct of an unselfish sportsman, walked with
me and pointed out likely places, advising, criticising,
and often praising my attempts. The fish came very
short, and a considerable number were only pricked,
or got away at their first rush.
One fish, about 2 lbs., was. travelling slowly up
and down a run of perhaps 15 yards, taking an
occasional dun, and after many changes of fly a hare's
ear quill on a 00 hook tempted it at last. It tore
up-stream, then turned down, and I had difficulty in
getting below it. Suddenly it twisted itself into a
bunch of weeds, and taking the line in my hand, I
tried to work it out. A fish, about the same size,
suddenly plunged up-stream out of the weed patch,
and I imagined it was my trout, and that it had
broken away. A slightly more vigorous pull and I
felt my fish, which at once swam out of the weeds
and broke the gut close to the hook.
A little higher up I hooked and killed in rapid
succession two trout of 1 lb. 8 ozs. and 1 lb. 5 ozs.,
with 00 red quill, when the rain came on, and the fish
ceased to rise and our day's sport was over. I have
treated this day somewhat in detail because so many
of one's non-fishing friends are under the impression
that one's sport varies directly as the. number of sizable fish killed. Except the brace killed literally in
the last few minutes of my fishing not a single trout
came to the net, and yet I should describe the day as  H
AflL*: I    •• "    ~^-x k
one of the most enjoyable and instructive I have ever
experienced, to be marked in my diary as a red-letter
Even during the fishing season the work of killing
down the ever destructive pike must not be neglected,
and the plate entitled " Jack," which was a snap-shot
by Daniels of one of the keepers pointing out to me
one of these pests, which he promptly wired, illustrates an episode which unfortunately occurs only too
often on the Hampshire chalk streams.
Up to the end of August we fished the water
steadily, and during the latter part of the season by
far the great majority of the trout were killed with
some of the new patterns dressed to match the colours
of the natural insects. The season was not as good
as some of the previous ones, but many enjoyable
days were spent on the river's bank, and Williamson
and I, as well as many of our mutual friends, were
pleased to express their approval of the fishery. I
see from my diary that I killed sixty-five trout, weighing 90J lbs., in an average of a trifle above 1 lb. 6 ozs.
My friend, E. Valentine Corrie, and his family
have been connected for so many years with the
vicinity of Winchester and Itchen Abbas, that I have
asked him to give me his ideas as to the state of the
Itchen, and to compare it with olden times. His first
reply was brief and to the point as he wrote : "I will
give you latter-day Itchen history in two words ;
'Over-fished,   Under-stocked.'"    This  is  at  once  a 274
most graphic and accurate description,  but  I  urged
him to give me some detailed information.
The following is his reply : " From testimony
given to me many years ago by old men who had
fished the Itchen previous to 1840, the river then
swarmed with trout of one pound and under that
" Jack were few, and the numerous tributary
springs were not constantly being planted, replanted
and generally disturbed by water-cress growers."
" The river was freely netted by millers and
riparian owners, the mesh of the net used being too
wide to retain trout of less than 1 lb."
" Fishermen seldom attempted to kill trout except
in wild weather, and indeed so little was the value of
trout fishing that a certain length of the river, now
bringing in a yearly rental of several hundred pounds,
was on offer at the cost of weed cutting and keepering only."
" In the old-time days referred to the volume of
water in the Itchen was one-third larger than that of
to-day. Millers, therefore, had no need to pen up the
water in their mill dams to a great height to gain the
power needed for driving under-shot and breast
wheels, and the mill-ponds did not, as now-a-days,
block the current far away up-stream above the mill
heads, forming long settling tanks for mud and slime.
With the old-time body of water the shallow mill
dams were quickly filled, quickly emptied, and seldom
" Bridges were comparatively few and fords many,
the wheeled traffic thus brightening numerous
shallows and attracting shoals of trout. Water weeds
were more regularly and closely cut, and previous to
the introduction of the American weed were more
easily dealt with."
" Water meadows were more systematically
worked up for irrigation, main carriers and smaller
water channels were kept clean and well-cut. The
grass, when not put up for hay, was fed off by sheep,
whose small feet rather hardened the surface of the
meadow land, which was a pleasure to walk on."
When my friend sent me these notes it was with
the idea that I should use the matter contained in
them as a foundation for a description of the contrast
between the Itchen of olden times and the same river
in the year 1902. No doubt it would have been easy
to expand these brief sentences so as to cover four or
five times the space they occupy here, but I venture
to hazard the opinion that my readers will prefer
them in the crisp, pithy form in which they were
written to any edited or expurgated matter I could
write to convey the same or similar ideas.
It certainly does seem strange that when the value
of chalk stream fishing was less than the mere cost
of weed cutting and keepering, and when the millers
and riparian owners netted out the trout they required
for their own consumption, every one could get sport.
At the present time every mile of the river is let
at an enormous rental and there are ever fresh sports- 276
men anxious to take the place of lessees who either
die off, or, if they can, will not pay the rents asked.
Every one alike finds that unless stocking on a
large scale is persistently carried out the bag is a
continually decreasing quantity, and the landlord will
not go to the expense of stocking, because he finds
that no matter how poor the stock, he can always
let at his old or an enhanced rental. If the tenant
is liberal and stocks, the result is that at the end
of the year, or longer term of his tenure, the rent
is increased because the fishing has been improved,
and the landlord thus reaps the benefit of the tenant's
liberality and sportsmanlike spirit.
In an earlier part of this chapter reference is
made to the Rainbow trout, and the promised invitation to fish a lake stocked with these beautiful
Salmonidae during the autumn. September 5th was
fixed for the date of my visit, and two days later a
friend, who writes occasionally in the Field under
the pseudonym of " Rambler " (it is indeed an open
secret that it is " Red Spinner " himself), also had a
day on this lake.
The following are extracts from his article which
appeared on September 13th: "The entire scheme
in its conception and execution was undertaken in
1900 by Mr. Valentine Corrie, whose Itchen River
Trout Breeding Establishment is one of the best of
our English trout hatcheries. There were two lakes
for him to work upon, each, roughly speaking, being
three-quarters of a mile in length,  with  an average WINCHESTER AND DISTRICT 277
width of 200 yards. The deepest part was 15 feet,
but for all practical purposes the average depth might
be put down at 3 feet, for there were vast expanses of
shallow. The lakes were supplied by a small brook
and springs, and were notorious for the quantity of
small pike which had swarmed in them for years;
there were also roach, large eels, and a fair quantity
of perch. It was the discovery that the water
abounded with freshwater shrimps, duns of all kinds,
Caddis flies, small Perlidae, alders, &c, that led Mr.
Corrie to believe that his opportunity was great."
"The water was first lowered sufficiently to put in
the necessary screens ; a catchpool was then made,
for which there was a convenient drop below the
lower end of the first lake. Through this the water
was drained and tons of coarse fish were taken out.
The lakes were then partly refilled, and the catchpool
clearance repeated a second time. There were still
cartloads of coarse fish taken out, but not, of course,
in quantities equal to the first hauls. The lakes were
then lowered until there was nothing but a trickling
channel in the middle."
"To deal with this'Mr. Corrie resolved upon a
drastic method; he, in fact, dumped in a couple of
waggon loads of lime at the head of the upper lake,
and this operation was favoured by the fact that at
one place a pool of water remained 100 by 80 yards,
with a depth of 4 feet. A couple of punt loads of
lime were manoeuvred to this pool and shovelled in.
The next step was to shut down all the exit hatches,
1 278
whereupon the lakes slowly filled. Two days passed,
and the operations above described were repeated in
the lower lake. As the water levelled up it was
evident that the lime was so diluted as to be quite
harmless, and this became a certainty when the overflow made its way into the trout stream below. The
lakes were again run off, and all the dead fish—no
very large quantity—were taken out. The drainage
had been done before Christmas, and the lakes were
bare of fish and filled with clean water by New Year's
Day, 1900."
" At the end of March and beginning of April,
Mr. Corrie played the last trick of conveying in his
carriers 10,000 rainbow yearlings of the average
quality maintained in his hatchery, viz., fish of 5^ ins.
to 6 ins. The yearlings were seen rising merrily at
once all over the water. During the first year they
attained an average weight of nearly \ lb., in the
second year the average was } lb., and at the present
time it is between 14 ozs. and 16 ozs. Perhaps the
most cheerful news of all is that the fish are undoubtedly breeding. Yearlings have been seen and
caught, and I myself, in the visit I am describing,
saw at least half a dozen, in different parts, on the
cleared patches."
On the day of my visit the wind was northerly, it
was a bright morning, and on our arrival we started
fishing from the bank. I put up a Lock's olive on
a 1 hook by Corrie's advice, and the fish were rising
and  moving  about  in  a  way  which  at  first   quite WINCHESTER AND DISTRICT 279
puzzled me. At the outset I could do nothing beyond
getting an occasional short rise, and although I fished
quite dry and could see the fly disappear and even
distinguish the outline of the fish taking it, the time
of striking was invariably misjudged.
After a little cogitation I decided that it must be
because I struck too-soon. This is, I know, contrary
to the recognised theories of many experts, but all
my experiences of fly-fishing have fully convinced me
that the besetting fault is in being too quick and not
too slow in striking the trout. As soon as I put this
theory in practice I could see some improvement and
hooked two or three fish, but they all got away. At
last I schooled myself into even more deliberate
striking, and as nearly as I could judge gave these
rainbows about the same time as I give Salmo fario
when taking spent gnat.
The first time I carried out this plan the fish was
firmly hooked and gave such sport that I quite
imagined that the trout must be hooked foul. I could
see it was not a monster, and yet it was impossible
to stop its impetuous dashes for liberty. At last I got
it into the landing net, and a perfect picture it was—
spotted from head to tail, even on the tail and fins,
silvery white on the belly and a pale sandy colour on
the back, with that wonderful broad opalescent purple
band running down the medial line and " the splashes
of a deeper colour on the gill covers." Its weight
was exactly f lb.
At lunch time I had killed five brace, of which the 28o
largest weighed i lb. and the smallest only a trifle
under f lb. Corrie had meanwhile killed about the
same number and of similar weight. While regaling
the inner man a heavy storm gathered, and for more
than an hour we were glad to get what shelter we
could. He decided that as soon as it cleared off we
should go in the boat, and he manipulate the sculls
while I fished. At first I tried to persuade him to
alternate the sport, but finding he would not consent
to this, and realising that, as he said, he would have
plenty of opportunities later on in the season, I gave
way and we settled down in accordance with his
After killing four brace more, for some reason the
fish would not look at Lock's olive, and seeing a
number of sedge flies on the water, I selected a hackle
sedge on a 4 hook. This may appear a large size fly
to use, but I am quite clear that hackle patterns should
be dressed on larger hooks than winged ones. I
ought to add that it is my invariable custom to paraffin
all my flies before putting them in the boxes in which
they are carried, so that my flies are all waterproofed
for life and will not sink.
The change of fly proved most successful, and
whenever I could see a feeding fish and put the sedge
within half a yard of the trout it would come at the
floating fly with a rush. If I kept my nerves and did
not strike too soon it was a certainty to hook the fish.
Of course a fair proportion got away, and seeing the
wonderfully lively manners of Salmo irideus it is not
altogether surprising. However, I kept on rising,
hooking and landing the fish until another very heavy
cloud came over the lake and another terrific hailstorm set every fish dowm.
After a few minutes the rain decreased to a thin
drizzle, which continued without intermission until we
were obliged to take down our rods and meet the
trap sent to convey us back to Chilland. I killed
eighteen with the Lock's olive, and seventeen with
the hackle sedge, and the total bag of thirty-five rainbows weighed 31 lbs. 11 ozs. They were a wonderfully level lot, the largest scaling 1 lb. 2 ozs., and the
smallest nearly | lb.
The following description of "Rambler's" sport
is given in his own words : "I was not able to get
to the lake until 10.30 a.m., and for an hour or so my
host and I tried our best from the bank. There was
an intense glare of sunshine, which made the surface
of the water a thing of glass, and the only promise of
a zephyr was in banking up of some clouds in the
west. A more unlikely day for lake trout could not
be, and the unfavourable conditions were intensified
by the shallowness of the water and the closely
growing weeds, which had risen to within three or
four inches of the surface. Wherever there was a
clearing revealing the sand below a fish could be
"In one corner they were rising and it was necessary to fish very fine and far. I was not long in hooking and landing three brace, and then  in succession 282
I lost three; this quite spoiled the game for that
particular portion, and my friend, who had had some
sport a little lower down, suggested that we should
take to the boat, and sacrificed himself to his guest by
putting aside his rod and sticking to the oars as long*
as we were afloat. Having to catch a train I had to
give up fishing at three o'clock. Once a patch of
water was ruffled by a passing breeze, inspiring a
fleeting hope of wind in that gentle measure which
under ordinary circumstances is essential to successful
lake fishing, but it never came, and the water was a
burnished mirror in the end."
" The fish as they were caught were dropped into
the well, and to make short what I could spin into a
very long story, I brought to that well, fairly caught
with fly, twenty-two brace of rainbow trout, weighing
2,y lbs. 9 ozs. The lake was dimpled all over with rises
when we left off, and I doubt not that if my friend
had fished instead of rowed, or if I could have continued till dusk, fifty brace would have been caught."
He finished his article with the following most
pertinent sentences, which every lover of fly fishing
must admire, and sentiments with which we must all
be in accord : "It has always been a puzzle to me
that owners of lakes and ponds in this country have
not been more eager to clear out their coarse fish and
convert them into sporting preserves like these. The
whole scheme seems so simple. Sometimes, of
course, the difficulties would be greater than at
others, but fish culture is now well understood, and WINCHESTER AND DISTRICT
the carriage of fish reduced to a certainty. Two
things, however, are essential. In the first place, the
cleaning out must be thoroughly done once for all;
and secondly, the stocking must be thorough."
I trust that my readers will not be bored if I
conclude this book with some reflections of a somewhat personal nature.. The early years of my life as
an angler have been set forth from memory and the
later portions from notes in my diaries. I am now
in my sixtieth year, and from the age of six have
striven to learn something of fishing in all its branches.
At the age of twenty-four my introduction to the
Wandle first brought prominently to my mind the art
of fishing the dry-fly. At the outset it fascinated me,
and since those days I have never for a moment
wavered in the opinion that it is the highest conceivable form of sport.
Like most men I have had joys and troubles,
prosperity and adversity, pleasure and disappointment ; some few of my aspirations have been attained,
and more have proved to be beyond my reach ; but in
all phases, and at alP times, the so-called "fishing
fever," or incentive to lead an active, healthy life in
the open air at the riverside has been an infallible
tonic. Lonely we must all be at times, but the most
lonely of all men is the one who has devoted the best
years of his life to a profession or business, and when
weary and worn he retires from his work, to find that
he has no other resource or interest in life to follow. 284 ^-N ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Many of us have been told by our parents and
guardians that it was a mistake and waste of time for
a youth to cultivate a hobby, but looking back to my
own life, I cannot but feel that this advice—which, by
the way, was never tendered to me—although well
meant, is ill-advised.
Circumstances occurred which tempted me to
retire from business at the comparatively early age of
forty-five, and I can honestly aver that since then my
time has never for a single day hung heavily on my
hands. On the contrary, the one source of anxiety
has been that within the span of an ordinary life-time
it seems impossible to master the details which in
various ways bear on the education of a dry-fly
The method of casting the fly, and the numerous
conditions requiring to be studied, so that the action
of the artificial does not to any great degree differ
from that of the natural insect, alone present difficulties which are almost insuperable. Fly dressing
is a class of work in which the student must, as long
as he lives, see possibilities of further advancement
towards perfection. Then comes the study of the
natural insects, their life-history, habits, habitat, &c,
and an even higher branch, the identification, differentiation, and classification of orders, families, genera
and species. Collecting, preserving, preparing, mounting, and exhaustive microscopical examination of the
specimens are alone sufficient to occupy one during
all the hours of the working days of many years. WINCHESTER AND DISTRICT
Pisciculture comprises an ever advancing science
of which each stage, from the taking of the ova from
the gravid female, to the sizable trout fit to turn into
any stream, requires deep study, and tends to develop
all the powers of observation in the student. The
treatment of the rivers, the prevention of pollution,
the cultivation and cutting of the weeds, killing down
pike and other pests in the trout stream, dealing with
poachers, and the enormous number of other matters
appertaining to the work of making a fishery, make
one despair of finding time to do full justice to the
subject. Then, too, each and every one of these
studies is being further pursued, fresh discoveries
made, and methods of improvement suggested daily.
During the long series of years I have met many
fellow enthusiasts on the banks of the chalk streams;
some of these have only been casual acquaintances,
many, however, have been intimate, and a chosen few
have been numbered among my best and dearest
friends. Of those named in this book, too many,
alas! have passed away, but it is a consolation to
me to be able to say that in no case do I remember
having made an enerny, or having had cause to
regret the instinct that has guided me to foregather
with a brother angler. I can sum up my conclusions as to the commendation of angling in the
words of Isaak Walton, in the first chapter of his
" Complete Angler," where in the colloquy between
Venator, Auceps, and Piscator, the last-named says :
" The question is rather whether you be capable of 286 AN ANGLERS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
learning it ? for angling is somewhat like poetry—
men are to be born so ; I mean with inclinations
to it, though both may. be heightened by discourse
and practice; but he that hopes to be a good angler
must not only bring an inquiring, searching, observing wit, but he must bring a large measure of hope
and patience, and a love and propensity to the art
itself; but having once got and practised it, then
doubt not but angling will prove to be so pleasant
that it will prove to be, like virtue, a reward to itself."
kit "i4 '
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-10M-5-54-V.S. WOODWARD


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