Hawthorn Fly Fishing & Angling Collection

Seventy years' fishing Barrington, Charles George 1906

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Harry Hawthorn Foundation
for the
Inculcation & Propagation
of the Principles & Ethics
■**fc»«»^«esafe'>.a«>^.:.   '^fffrfrffftu SEVENTY YEABS*   I^HP
CA11   rights  reserved] ■$&?$%£'?:
(  7 m^^9^^m
[All  rights  reserved]  THESE EEMINISCENCES
It has been said that, if any man who has, for many
years, followed some favourite pursuit, would record his
past experiences, with the conclusions drawn from them,
he might render service to those who come after him.
This saying, in my opinion, is not only true generally,
but applies specially to the sport of angling. There is so
much that is unknown with respect to fish, their habits,
and the best mode of catching them, that it is only by
comparing the views of different fishermen that we may
hope to arrive at any knowledge of the subject. Even so
there will be a good deal left to guesswork.
My first trout was killed about seventy years ago, and
never having lost my love of the sport, I have, ever
since, fished for salmon, trout, and occasionally for
grayling, whenever an opportunity offered. Experience
has certainly not been wanting in my case ; whether the
inferences drawn from that experience are sound, it must
be for others to decide.
Should the following pages be of use to those of a
younger generation, or of interest to sportsmen of more
mature years, the writer of them will be amply repaid.
preliminary ,1
i.   stray remarks on habits of the salmon      ... 19
ii.   tackle  32
iii.   management of the fly  ....... 47
iv.   sport on tweed and avon  84
v.   other fishing methods  93
vi.   sea trout  103
vii.   trout  120
viii.   the ilm    . 149
ix.   in the north  166
x.   grayling and trout     ........ 199
xi.   artificial breeding  211
xii. poaching  218
xiii.   fishing clubs  236
xiv.   expeditions  246
xv.   report made by the royal commissioners  on  salmon
fisheries appointed in 1902  292
What is sport? — Perfection not attainable — Present state of affairs
affecting fishing—Decrease of salmon—Over-netting—Better prospects
as far as grayling and trout are concerned—Fly-fishing in general—
Salmon-fishing and trout-fishing contrasted — Fishing for salmon
with trout tackle—Fish lost on the Garry in consequence—Good trout
killed on the Test—Landing-net—Skilfully used—Trout landed for the
writer by Lord Spencer in full uniform as Lord-Lieutenant—Accurate
casting—Striking the fly away—Fish coming short.
What, it may well be asked, constitutes true sport ? My
answer is: A pursuit where success cannot be obtained
without observation and study of the nature and habits
of the creatures we pursue. The element of chance must
be present, and the art by which we may hope to succeed
should not be too easy of acquirement.
It is a matter of doubt if there ever existed a perfect
fisherman. I say 'of doubt/ because though such a
one there may be, it has never been my fortune to come
across him. Let us consider what becoming a past-master
of the art entails: facility in casting a long line equally
well with either hand uppermost, without reference to
adverse winds, banks or trees, both by the ordinary
method and by means of the ' Spey' throw; in trout-
fishing the ability to use the left hand as well as the
right. Yet, besides casting, there are other branches of
the art: the best method of leading the fly according to
the nature of the stream ; running a fish so as to land it
as quickly as possible, incurring, at the same time, as little
risk as may be of losing it; added to this, the knowledge
of where fish will lie, if angling in unknown waters.
The angler relies more on his own exertions and skill
than his brother sportsman who goes hunting or shooting.
It is true that when casting from a boat he must trust
a good deal to the man who rows him, but in this instance only is he obliged to depend on the help of another.
The fisherman, moreover, may, even to the end of his
days, always be learning something. In my own case—
after more than fifty years* experience—a short time back
I was compelled to devote much time and trouble to learn
the f Spey' cast, in order to do justice to the fine trout-
fishing in the river Ilm, at "Weimar.
Let us now briefly take a glance at the present state
of matters generally affecting fishing interests. Commissioners have been appointed, at intervals, to investigate
and report upon the subject of Salmon Fisheries, the last
appointment of a Eoyal Commission having been made
in 1902; the evidence then taken, with Eeport and
Appendix, being published in the shape of three Blue
Books of considerable dimensions. These volumes lead
to the conclusion that things are in anything but a satisfactory state. Most of the witnesses agree that the
supply of fish of the salmon kind has seriously decreased ;
the reasons given for such decrease are: over-netting,
want of free access to the spawning grounds, insufficiency
of funds to provide fish ladders or pay for watching, so as
to keep down poaching, differences between upper and
lower proprietors, which add to the difficulty of efficient
management by Local Boards. For instance, one gentleman, representing the lower proprietors on the river
Ythan, considers that the close time for nets, which
begins on September 10, should remain as it is, because PRELIMINARY 3
the last fortnight of the season is the most productive,
and because, if an earlier date were fixed, the fishings
would be valueless; the next witness (also connected
with the Ythan) gives it as his opinion that the time of
closure (September 10) is too late for any river.1
The Tay and the Tweed are so prolific that, even
though the supply may be diminished, many years will
pass before they cease to be of considerable value, both
from a commercial and from a sporting point of view ; but
this is not the case with regard to smaller rivers, where
the extent of spawning ground is comparatively limited.
Let us take as an example the Hampshire Avon,
a river which I fished for many years, and with which
I am well acquainted. The total number of salmon
killed yearly by net and rod during the period between
1860 and 1870 might be reckoned at 700 or 800, in some
years more. The evidence taken by the Commission
shows a woeful decrease—indeed the river seems to be
pretty well fished out. One of the upper proprietors,
who had killed as many as sixty-four fish in a season,
states that in 1902 he could not catch even a kelt. The
fish, he says, are gone. The representative of the fishermen at the mouth of the river tells the Commissioners
that there is only2 one boat at work at ' the Eun ' (the
lowest netting station), the fishing having become so bad.
Nevertheless he considers the present close time for nets
long enough, and attributes the falling off to the want of
proper passes to enable the fish to reach the spawning
beds. With reference to this statement, it should be
borne in mind that the obstructions to travelling fish
were the same as when twelve or more nets were in use
at the Eun, and when the gentleman referred to above
1 A short summary is given further on of the recommendations of the
Commissioners, with such remarks as it occurred to me to make thereon.
2 I have known twelve nets at work in the Run.
could kill fifty or sixty fish with the rod during a season
of three or four months.
Nor was it for the want of warning that the present
unfortunate state of things was arrived at. When I was a
member of the small club which had the angling in the
Eoyalty water, I went to Christchurch one year at the
beginning of the close season, and dropped down the river
in a dinghy, with the object of finding out if any clean
fish were still coming up from the sea. One clean-run gilse
I saw jump, and a few red fish were to be made out here
and there. This condition of affairs I put before the late
Lord Normanton, an extensive upper proprietor, and he
brought the matter to the notice of the Fishery Board.
Nothing was done, and the fisheries of the Avon are
ruined, or nearly so. From what has been reported
lately it is to be feared that the fate of the Avon awaits
a good many other southern rivers.
The close time should be so regulated as to allow the
late supply of fish to go free, and here was a case (not a
singular one, probably) of nets working until the run of
salmon from the sea was over.
It has been said that when things are at their worst
they begin to mend ; were it not that some hope may be
entertained of the old adage coming true, it would be in
vain to write about a sport which may before long become, in general, hardly worth pursuing. Possibly some
day we may have a Government able to find time to
attend to the salmon fisheries of the United Kingdom,
and a House of Commons inclined to pass the Acts
necessary for their improvement. Meantime, where the
necessary funds and energy are forthcoming, the best—I
would say the only efficient—step towards keeping up the
supply of fish would be to buy up the nets. On this
subject something is said in the following pages.
With respect to trout and grayling we have indeed UL.BULWk^U-H
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better prospects before us. More attention has been
given to preserving and stocking the streams. Numerous
clubs have been called into existence which lay down
rules limiting the number of fish to be taken during the
day, forbidding the use of bait, and providing for the return
of under-sized captures to the water. Weeds are trimmed,
and coarse fish netted out: for instance, the Wiley Flyfishing Club has destroyed numbers of pike, which are now
nearly extinct in their water, besides innumerable roach
which consumed food that ought to have nourished
trout, with the result that the river is well stocked. It is
true that angling clubs have taken water which in former
days might have been fished free of cost, and so may be
said to have rendered sport less easy to come at for those
who have not the means of belonging to such institutions.
On the other hand, the modern facilities of travel have
opened up places where trout-fishing costs nothing, and
which may be reached by the less wealthy angler,
without unduly taxing his purse. On the whole, I am
inclined to believe that trout and grayling fishers are
better off as regards their chance of sport than they
used to be, and that their prospects are likely to improve
rather than deteriorate.
Fishing must of necessity remain, as it has always
been, the most uncertain of sports, depending as it does so
largely upon weather and other circumstances; especially is
this the case with respect to salmon-fishing in the United
Ejngdom, where netting is carried to such perfection that
only when the close season for nets has begun can the
angler, as a rule, hope for the advent of a sufficient supply
of fish to stock the casts. Thus, as I have been lately told
by a gentleman who lives on the Tweed, the spring fishing
gets worse every year. My informant is a keen sportsman, and fishes some of the best part of the river. Gilse-
fishing on the Tweed has practically ceased to exist.    The 6
autumn is now the only season during which good sport
can be anticipated.
The rod fishing, then, may be said to depend upon propitious weather between September 15 and December 1,
a period of two months and a half. A flood early in the
autumn, followed by a second soon after, best suits the
upper and middle portions of the Tweed. The first spate
is always a dirty one, but should clean out the bottom of
the river; the second soon runs clear. How often does so
desirable a state of things occur ?
In some years there is no autumn angling worth mentioning in the Tweed, from want of water. Sometimes,
after waiting in hope, a flood does come, the water runs
in sufficiently to admit of catching one or two fish, and
as you wind up your line for the day, the boatman will
tell you ' she will be in real good ply the morn/ Before
turning in at night, the rain is heard pattering against
the windows, and more waiting has to be put up with.
Further, you cannot wait for an unlimited time, as you
might in the spring, for the close season is approaching.
To most sportsmen November salmon present no
great attraction, though in some seasons the late run
of fish from the sea is of better quality than might be
expected. (I would rather kill a spring fish of 10 lbs.
than an autumn one of 20 lbs.) The period then left
during which the angler has to reckon upon for his
amusement may be put down as about six weeks,
assuming that the water will be in order—a large assumption indeed.
Eivers which run out of lakes of considerable size
(such, for instance, as the Invernessshire Garry) remain
in order for some time, as, when the lake is once full, it
falls but slowly, certainly in the spring.
Trout-fishing is uncertain enough, but in the chalk
streams of the southern counties the water will remain, PRELIMINARY
ia general, high enough until at least the beginning of
July. Moreover, even in low water trout may be caught
late in the evening, whilst this is impossible with regard
to salmon, for the simple reason that they are not there
to catch. Still, the trout-fisher is subject to one most
serious drawback from which the salmon-fisherman rarely
suffers, the sudden destruction of the trout by pollution
of different sorts. A short time back, the trout in
the river Ilm, below Weimar, were entirely destroyed
by the sewage of the town, which, in consequence of a
long drought, poured, undiluted, into the river. The
refuse from a paper mill, if not carefully manipulated,
will destroy the fish for some distance. On one occasion
the sewage tank in a farmyard, close to a brook famous
for its excellent trout, was discharged into the stream,
every fish being killed for half a mile below.
Fly-fishing in general.—It has been said that trout-
fishing, especially with the dry fly, calls for greater skill
than salmon-fishing. Every man who has had experience
of both will draw his own conclusion on this point.
The salmon-fisherman should be strong, so as to be
able to wield a powerful rod with untiring sinews, and
cast, with accuracy, for hours, to say nothing of the
exertion of running heavy fish (if he has luck) at intervals
through the day.
The man who goes after trout has, as far as physical
work is concerned, an easier time. On the other hand,
guiding and placing the fly amongst rocks or under boughs
which overhang the stream are difficult of acquirement and
is more essential than in salmon-fishing. Eunning large
trout with fine tackle requires as much judgment as,
perhapsmore than, playing a salmon. Trout have invariably
a harbour to make for, and, failing that, a refuge amongst
the weeds which abound in the chalk streams^.^
Hampshire and other southern counties,    One loses more SEVENTY YEARS' FISHING
trout than salmon; to make up for this, one gets hold
of more.
Trout when first hooked are, if of fair size, more
difficult to keep away from dangerous places, because
probably they know the country and a salmon does not;
per contra, if balked in their attempt, they give in more
quickly, and are then nearly sure to be landed without
much difficulty. A salmon fresh up from the sea will
fight till he dies. Personally, I incline to holding salmon
hard, and trout gently. By bearing firmly, where there
is a chance of being cut, you may induce a salmon to
keep on your side of a dangerous spot. When an
attempt is made to check a trout's career, it generally
has the effect of making him more determined to dash
* into weed, or amongst roots under the bank. At least
such is my experience.
It is sometimes observed that if one had not been so
hard on a fish, it might not have been lost. This may
be true with regard to trout; but, in my opinion, certainly
is not so with salmon. At the last moment, considerable
pressure must be put on, to enable the gaff or net to be
used, and if the hook has not a firm hold, it will come
away. It is better that the fish should escape, early in
the fight, thus avoiding the waste of valuable time,
and the additional vexation of losing him after a period of
Should a salmon when first hooked remain at the
surface, splashing and shaking his head, his conduct may
proceed either from the fly having stuck in his tongue, or
having taken slight hold. In such a case, only resistance
enough to maintain a slight bend on the top should be
offered, and for this reason: if the hook is in his tongue,
he is safe enough and no harm is done; if the fish is
badly hooked, there is a chance that his struggles may
cause the fly, especially if it be a fair-sized double, to PRELIMINARY
become firmly fixed. The chance is a slight one, but it
is well not to neglect it. Should the fish, after a moment
or two, sink down and begin to run vigorously he is pretty
sure to be killed.
It is seldom that a salmon breaks a tolerable fisherman, except by cutting the line round a rock or some
such obstacle, or because the fly is struck away at the rise,
as happens sometimes, in trout-fishing. I can call to
mind but few instances in which it has been my misfortune to be broken by a salmon, and then generally
from my own fault : on one occasion, in consequence
of deliberately hanging on to prevent the fish from
running across the line of a friend, who was playing
another immediately below; another time the reel-line
had become rotten, and parted just below the middle-
piece. Here, I was to blame for not having tested it
before beginning to fish. (I have known a casting-line
go from having been touched by a lighted cigar, but the
fault was luckily discovered in time.) Trout have often
broken me—partly, may be, from mismanagement, and
partly on account of the advantage they possess in having
shelter at hand, to which they are apt to run.
During the fishing season accounts sometimes appear
in the sporting publications of the capture of salmon on
trout tackle. Now, the most skilful fisherman is powerless to stop the rush of a salmon until some time after
it has been hooked, even when equipped with an 18-ft.
rod and line to correspond. After a few minutes it
becomes possible to get the fish more or less under
control; the final process consists in drawing it, when
nearly exhausted, out of the deep into shallow water; a
heavy fish may be pulled towards the bank half a dozen
times, and each time will, by sheer weight, force his way
back into the cast. These dull efforts give but little
pleasure to the angler.   With a trout rod they are apt to 10
be repeated until they become tedious. There is no real
difficulty in killing a salmon with a trout rod provided
the line is not all run out, and that you are not obliged to
put on pressure in order to steer clear of rocks where you
may be in danger of being cut. You run also some risk
of being broke should the fish swim up stream and then
In the Costello, where the fish are not large and
the pools are of no width, we used trout rods—under
15 feet. The last week spent on the river my bag was
twenty-four salmon (besides sea trout), so I had no reason
to complain ; but one clean fish of 12 lbs. or thereabouts
was lost entirely owing to the use of what was, in fact,
trout tackle. The fish did exactly what is adverted to
above—he ran up the river and then threw himself out of
water; owing to the shortness of the rod it was impossible
to hold up enough line to obviate being ' drowned'; consequently the weight of water and the action of the
salmon combined brought about a smash.
It is common enough on the Tweed, when the water
falls in towards the middle of April, to fish the casts with
a March Brown. One thus has a chance of getting hold
of a chance salmon, and besides killing a spring fish
now and again, you are pretty certain to run a good many
kelts on trout tackle. In that way you have the opportunity of discovering the effect of using a rod, &c. not
intended for the work in hand. In such a case the delay
in landing fish is of slight importance, as there are
probably but few left in the casts; moreover, the spring
salmon in the Tweed are, generally, of no great size. The
chance of landing salmon is certainly diminished by the
use of trout tackle, and ultimate success depends more
upon luck than skill.
A laughable scene was once enacted under my eyes,
which tended to corroborate this view.    Immediately PRELIMINARY
below the falls of the Garry is a pool which holds
good trout, besides affording a resting-place for fish
waiting to ascend the river. Thither a trout-fisher had
proceeded, establishing himself on a rock, from which he
Was able to cast across the water. He had already taken
several trout when a salmon rose, which he duly hooked.
My gillie was sent down to offer his assistance, whilst I
remained on a bridge a little way above, whence a good
view of the operations was afforded. The salmon showed
no inclination to leave the pool, and when nearly exhausted
the angler succeeded in leading it towards his side of the
river. There, however, the current ran sharply over the
shallows, so that before the fish could be brought within
reach of the gaff its broadside became exposed to the
influence of the stream, and the trout-rod being unable to
hold back its weight, a flap or two of the fish's tail sent
it a few yards further from the fisherman ; rolling down
the river, the man being unable to follow, it soon ran out
the line, which its mere weight easily broke. Had it been
hooked on an 18-ft. rod this misfortune would have been
avoided—with proper tackle it need not have been allowed
at the last moment to leave the pool.
It is not my intention to detract from the skill of any
gentleman who may casually hook a salmon on fine tackle
and eventually land it, as I am aware that it requires much
care and patience (as well as good fortune) to perform the
feat, but rather to impress upon sportsmen of a younger
generation the policy of using a rod and line of proper
strength for the purpose. In a subsequent chapter is an
account of the capture of a fish in the Quoich. A walk of
six miles had to be undertaken to reach the river, and there
was no object in carrying unnecessary weight over that
distance. Though the water could have been covered with
a double-handed trout-rod, I was determined to run no
avoidable risk, and stuck to my 18-ft. weapon and heavy
^i 12
reel.   Had the lighter rod been used, the fish I killed there
would probably have escaped.
In trout-fishing the ability to cast a long line is often
of advantage, but the power to place the fly is of greater
importance.1 No better practice for this purpose can be
found than in the habit of fishing burns and small streams,
where it is necessary to cast behind rocks, under overhanging boughs, and generally in cramped places. It is
true that burn trout are apt to run small, so that, if well
hooked, there is not much fear of losing them. On the
other hand, some satisfaction is derived from overcoming
the difficulty of getting the fly into the right place.
Moreover, these small fish possess one great merit—they
make an excellent \ water souche.'
Anyone who has undergone his early training on these
narrow streams will find it easy to acquire the knack of c
using the dry fly. In order to learn how to shoot the line
under branches which reach to within a short distance of
the water, as good a plan as any is to try how far you
can cast under the arch of a low bridge, where there is no
chance of getting fast.
I once spotted a large trout in the Test, rising close to
the bank and under the boughs of a copper-beech. It
was not easy to get to him, partly on account of the
beech, partly because of sundry bushes a little below.
Two flies and a casting-line were sacrificed, but at last
my attempt to reach him succeeded. The fish took
instantly, and made off down stream; had he not been
firmly hooked he would have escaped, as the rod had to
be thrust out, the top nearly touching the water in order
to keep clear of branches. Once away from the trees, a
few minutes sufficed to bring the landing-net into play.
The trout weighed 3 lbs. 2 ozs. This case shows the
necessity of being able to cast in cramped situations.
1 See chapter on Trout-fishing. PRELIMINARY
Doubtless some of those gentlemen who win prizes for
accurate casting at fishing competitions would have hooked
the fish without the loss of a fly. I was well pleased to
get him in spite of losing some of my tackle, through the
lack of their superior skill.
The old saying ! Fine and far off' is sometimes quoted
in favour of the use of a long line. ' Fine and as near as
you can get' would be more to the purpose—though you
be compelled to creep on hands and knees, and perhaps
stand in the water. To this, however, there is an objection. Where the bank is steep, it may be difficult to land
quickly enough to follow your fish, and so have a better
chance of avoiding a smash amongst weeds, &c.
Once, on the Itchen, I should certainly have lost a
good trout that had been hooked whilst wading close to a
willow bush, which prevented my getting readily ashore,
had it not been for the presence of mind of my attendant,
who, when he saw the rod bend, ran up stream to where
a post was in the water close to the bank. The fish also
made for the post, but the lad was there first, and as it
swam round the line, checking for an instant, it was
whipped out with the landing-net. Upon asking what
made the lad think of running up to the spot, he said :
' Mr. lost a fish round that postie two years ago, and
I allowed as this one knew his way there, too.'
This lad, by name Jack White, was quite the best
hand with the landing-net I ever came across. Here is
another anecdote concerning him. The present Duke of
Leeds was fishing the Chilland water on the Itchen, close
to a waggon-bridge, above which lived two large trout. I
had been down to the spot a short time before, bent on
getting them. They lay behind some piles, and on reaching their haunt, they were both seen to be rising. Putting
a Pale Olive over the first, it took directly and bolted for
the bridge, underneath which were a good many sticks SEVENTY YEARS' FISHING
which had sunk to the bottom. Fortunately, the water
was deep, so I was able to prevent the trout from getting
fast, and after a short time he came into the net. Then
an attempt was made to get the second. This was a
failure, the fly being invariably carried away from the
pile behind which the fish was lying, by the action of the
stream on the gut casting-line. When the Duke had got
down to the place, he asked White if those trout were
still there. * Well,' said the boy, * Mr. Barrington have
killed one, but could not get the other, and I can see him
rising.' The Duke, not liking the look of the sticks under
the waggon-bridge, stationed Jack White there, telling
him to stop the trout if possible should he come that way,
he himself going up the bank to cast for him.
Probably the height of the water had slightly altered
since my visit, so that the pile no longer caused an eddy,
which prevented the fly from working properly. However that may have been, the Duke got hold of the fish
almost immediately, and down it went at its best pace to
the bridge. As it came beneath Jack White's feet, he, in
a moment, dropped on to his knees, made a scoop in the
water, and sprang to his feet with the fish in the net. As
touching my failure to get this particular trout, it is to be
noted that an Itchen fish, lying in the kind of place above
described, will not go an inch out of his way to take- the
fly, especially if, as was the case, there is a heavy rise on
at the time.
The mention of this skilful use of the landing-net
reminds me of an incident, unique of its kind, which
occurred at Panshanger, Lord Cowper's place in Hertfordshire. I happened to be on a visit there one Whitsuntide,
upon the occasion of a review of the county volunteers.
Lord Cowper had offered me a place in a carriage from
which to view the manoeuvres, but the May fly being up,
and the Panshanger trout being famous for  size and PRELIMINARY
quality, I preferred to spend the day by the waterside.
Towards evening the fish took well, and one was hooked
just as some of the party who had been to the review
came in sight on their way home. One of the carriages
stopped, and out of it sprang Lord Spencer, accoutred as
he was in the full uniform of a lord-lieutenant. By the
time he had reached me the trout was nearly beaten, so,
taking the net out of my hand, he proceeded to land him
secundum artem. I tried to persuade him to take a cast,
but this he declined to do. This trout was probably the
only one ever landed by a lord-lieutenant in all his glory.
It is pretty certain that Lord Spencer is the only lord-
lieutenant who landed a trout in full uniform, and that I
am the only angler who was ever so highly honoured.
(These few lines had hardly been written, when the news
appeared of his having had an attack out shooting. I,
in common with his many friends—enemies he can have
none—must hope earnestly to hear of his speedy recovery.)
It must be remembered that not only is it easier to
place the fly with a short line, but when the fish is
hooked there is a better chance of managing him successfully. A trout will almost invariably dash for shelter. It
stands to reason that the more line there may be in the
water, the greater the risk will be of getting fast. Again,
in the case of a fish running straight at you, you may, by
stepping nimbly back, keep a short line tight: with a long
one, you will probably be reduced to the expedient of
.pulling it through the rings, a proceeding to be avoided
if possible as leading to entanglement and objectionable
It has already been observed that accuracy and delicacy
in trout-fishing are much more essential than the power
of making long casts; but just as there are men who have
caught many salmon without discovering the best way of
running a fish, so plenty of trout are killed by anglers if;
Who have not acquired the art of placing a fly to a nicety.
Where large rivers or lakes are in question, this faculty is
not of so much importance, but as many of the best trout
streams are of a character which renders accuracy of the
greatest advantage, it is well worth while to bestow some
pains in the endeavour to arrive at the necessary skill.
I know of no better rule than that of taking care to point
the top of the rod in a line with the spot aimed at,
allowance being of course made for a side wind. Practice,
if this rule be attended to, will soon enable the fisherman
to drop his fly where he pleases, almost to within a few
One of the most deadly shots is achieved by casting
on to the opposite bank, or even on to a dock leaf, and by
a gentle shake causing the fly to fall in front of a feeding
trout.1 In this case it is necessary to check the motion of
the rod as the casting-line falls. Even in skilful bands
the attempt is apt to lead to the loss of the fly or cast.
Nevertheless, risks of the sort should be boldly taken,
on the principle of ' nothing venture nothing have.' For
accurate casting a man should feel as though the rod
were part of himself, and as easy of control as his hand
or his foot. He will then be conscious of the least flaw
in delivery, whether the result of a puff of wind or of
imperfect recovery, and will probably be able, by a slight
motion of the wrist, to remedy the defect before the fall
of the line.
In fishing for trout or grayling the process differs in
some degree from that adopted with respect to the larger
fish. Striking a fly away is more likely to occur, though,
except in the case of a beginner, such a mistake is seldom
made.   It arises nearly always from inattention.
1 I have seen the late Mr. C. V. Bayley, who was for long a member
of the well-known Lentwardine Fishing Club, perform this feat when
fishing in my company at Chenies many years since. PRELIMINARY
Perhaps, when casting over a feeding trout, the fish,
having moved a little higher, rises when the spot where
the rise had been noted has been passed ; the fisherman's
attention may have been diverted for a moment, and just
at that moment the trout takes. Then the angler, fearing
to be too late, may give a nervous jerk and the fly is lost.
The best chance of avoiding such a mishap is to use
a free-running reel and to keep your fingers off the
line. I avoid the use of the wrist, and, by lifting the
fore-arm gently, fix the hook by a pull, rather than by a
stroke. When this mode of proceeding is habitual, the
line, running easily, will probably save a smash, even
though the lift be given with more force than necessary.
It does not follow that in trout-fishing the pull should
be delayed, or that, in the case of experienced anglers
who may be gifted with a delicate sense of touch, it is to
be preferred to a gentle turn of the wrist.
Some men are for striking the instant they see a rise,
lest the trout should eject the fly on discovering its
character. I am not in a hurry to hook a rising
fish, and believe that it is quite easy to pull the fly
away from large trout before they have got it inside the
mouth. Nor do I think they find out the deception as
quickly as some suppose. Where the water is fine and
clear you may watch the behaviour of trout when taking
the fly; sometimes I have been apparently late in striking,
having waited till the fish turned: so much so that it
appeared as though the stroke must have failed, yet on
landing the trout it was found to be more firmly hooked
than usual.
So much depends upon the humour of the fish that we
may doubt if the question whether it is better to strike
instantaneously, or to give a trout just a moment before
doing so, will ever be settled absolutely. It is difficult to
account for ' coming short * at the fly (except where the
o 18
water has been over-fished); yet, as we know to our cost,
nothing is more common. Salmon, especially in summer
and autumn, are much given to this pernicious habit.
I well remember fishing a cast in the Floors water (the
Shot) one day in October with the then Duke of Eox-
burghe (grandfather of the present Duke). Fish after
fish did I lose, so, thinking their loss might be put down
to bungling, I asked tne man who rowed me what was
wrong on my part. ' Naething,' said he; ' the Duke is
losing them the same as yersell—it's the fish that are
wrong and winna tak' haud.' We killed, indeed, a good
many on that occasion, but all through the day we were
hardly ever more than a few minutes without having a
fish on one rod or the other. With salmon a change in
the size of the fly may make all the difference, but with
trout what can be done when they rise at almost any fly
of the right size, but come short at all, generally not
being hooked, or, if they are, escaping immediately ? All
flies are on such days the same, though exceptions will
now and then occur. Three years ago (in 1903), when the
fish were behaving in this way, in despair I put up a * Eed
Tag ' (usually considered a grayling fly), and with it killed
one trout over 2 lbs. and four others of smaller size. CHAPTEE I
' The glorious salmon which bounds and gambols in the flashing
What is a spring salmon ?—Hybrids—Yares—Rate at which fish travel—
Passes—Feeding in fresh water-rWell-mended kelts—Flies possibly
taken for shrimps—colour-blindness—Senses of fish—Decrease of
salmon—Close season for angling—Buying up the nets.
Careful investigation has afforded us much insight
into the natural history of the salmon. His progress has
been traced from the ovum, through the stages of smolt
and par, to the mature fish.1 On some points, however,
we are still in the dark.
1. How is it that, out of a number of par in a
breeding pond, it has been observed that some will
put on their silvery dress and be ready to go down to the
sea a year earlier than others, the whole of them being of
the same age ?
2. How far out to sea does the salmon go when he
leaves the fresh water ?
3. What is a ' spring salmon' ?
The first two questions, though of interest to students
of   natural history,  are probably of no very material
1 It was at one time not uncommonly supposed that salmon and j_
were not the same fish differing only in age. There are still professional
fishermen who are of that opinion. Mr. Young, however, in 1842-3 marked
many small gilse after they had spawned, and were about to return to the
sea.   He recaptured some of them as salmon weighing from 9 to 14 lbs. 20
consequence to the fisherman or the consumer; but the
last is worthy of some consideration. Theories there are
which profess to account for the presence of salmon in
our rivers, long before the spawning time. Of these, two
are, to some extent, plausible. (1) That the spring fish
are early spawners of the preceding season, and that,
having returned sooner to the sea than the majority of
their relatives, they have consequently reappeared in fresh
water in the spring instead of waiting till the summer or
autumn months. (2) That some salmon do not breed
every season, and that the heavy fish which used to come
up the Hampshire Avon, for instance, are those which
have, as it were, missed the opportunity of visiting their
spawning ground and postponed their departure from the
sea, until another year had passed over them in salt
Objections could be pointed out to both theories, but
if it were proved that the spring salmon was identical
with the early spawner of the previous autumn, a strong
reason would appear for allowing such early spawners
ready access to the upper waters, by curtailing the netting
season. It is clear enough that an increase in the
number of spring fish would be much to the advantage of
the net-men, as the price of salmon is higher at the
beginning of the season than it is later on; of the consumer,
because the fish is then in its prime ; and of the sportsman, who would prefer killing a few spring fish to many
autumn ones.
The first of these attempted explanations seems the
more reasonable, but the question is a difficult one—e.g.
how comes it that in the Hampshire Avon the fish which
come away first from the sea are all of large size and that,
as the season advances, the average weight of the Avon
fish decreases ; the reverse is the case in the Tweed—the
Tweed salmon in February or March being, as a rule, WmmwmMwmmsmsmmmmmssm
lively little fellows of 7 or 8 lbs.    The fish increase in
size as the year goes on.
It would be interesting to know the habits of the fish
when they reach the sea, and possibly of some importance
in respect of the regulation of bag-nets, &c, used along
the coast; but, like all matters as to which positive
evidence is not available, there is some difference of
opinion as to whether they remain tolerably near the coast,
or swim far out to sea. I believe the general opinion of
those who have considered the question is that they do
not go to any great distance; yet some old fishermen do
not hold this view, as the following incident will show.
It once happened to me to kill a fish in the upper part
of the Tweed which the attendant fisherman proclaimed
to be a wanderer from foreign parts, crying out when he
took it out of the landing-net, ' Mercy on us, what's yon ?
It's just a Noraway fesh.' It was a curious-looking one,
being thickly marked about the back and sides with black
spots, and in shape somewhat lacked the graceful proportions of a Tweed salmon. Having once caught a
similar creature in the Avon, I have little doubt that my
capture was a hybrid, between the real salmon and the
sea trout. I have been told since that such hybrids are
not uncommon in the lower parts of the Tweed.
No attempt has been made, as far as I know, to
account for the different ages at which the par drop down
the stream on their way to the sea.
The proceedings of the salmon when he leaves the salt
water are more or less known to us, and are of much interest as bearing on the regulations concerning close time
and net-fishing. When lying near the mouth of the river
they wish to ascend, fish will swim up with the tide for
a certain distance, and if the volume of fresh water is not
sufficient for their purpose, return with the ebb, to their
starting place.   A clean salmon is often caught in the 22
Tweed, not indeed silvery in appearance, but beginning to
turn brown, with tide lice on it—(N.B. Tide lice will not
remain on the fish in fresh water more than thirty-six
hours)—the change of colour being caused by the rocks
about Berwick, against which the fish has been lying: a
proof that it is the habit of salmon to wait at the mouth
of the river until the arrival of the flood.
On the Dee, which runs into Solway Firth, one mode
of fishing the tidal waters is by 'yares,' a contrivance
peculiar, as I believe, to the Solway rivers. The working
of these y ares is managed as follows:—Posts are driven into
the water at an angle from the shore ; between these are
hurdles, ten or twelve feet in height. The post next the
bank is not in line with the rest, but is absolutely at right
angles to the shore; between it and the bank is placed a
net somewhat narrow at the mouth, but having a long
purse or bosom attached to it; the outer circle of the net
is fitted with large rings, through which a cord is passed
and run up a pole to a platform above, on which sits the
nets-man, holding the end of the cord in his hand. The
fish, as they swim, are naturally inclined to take advantage
of the easy water inside the posts and hurdles, and are led
into the net; when inside they cause a pull upon the cord,
to which the man on the platform responds by a jerk,
closing the mouth of the net. He then hauls up the fish,
knocks it on the head, and lowers away again as quickly
as possible to await a fresh arrival. When the tide turns,
he lands his fish and, at the ebb, crosses the river to
another yare, set in the reverse way to catch the fish on
their way back to the mouth of the river. Here is direct
evidence as to the proceedings of salmon when the water
is low.
It may be as well to consider the progress of the fish
on their way up the river when no artificial impediment
offers itself.   In former days there was a good shot of JMJ^^U"
the long net, "somewhere about a mile and a half above
Coldstream Bridge, over the Tweed, and it was the habit
of the fisherman, who fished the said shot, to stand on the
bridge, from which he could see the fish at the bottom of
the river, and watch until a schule, or, as we should say,
a shoal, of salmon left the pool below and started on their
travels. He would then walk up, get his men and net
ready to row the shot above, calculating that he would be
just in time to intercept them; allowing about three-
quarters of an hour for this manoeuvre, we may put down
the rate at which a salmon travels, where there is nothing
serious to delay him, at something under two miles an
Granted that the above statements are tolerably correct,
it is not difficult to arrive at some conclusion as to the
way in which netting affects the supply of salmon above
tidal waters. If a salmon's rate of swimming is a mile
and a half an hour, how is it possible for fish which leave
the sea on the Sunday to clear the upper-netting stations
by Monday morning, in large rivers such as the Tay,
when the weekly close time ceases ? In such rivers the
only result of the present law as to weekly close time is
that the upper-netting stations have a large take on the
Monday. This is, as I have been informed, particularly
the case on the Tay.
On the way to their spawning grounds salmon have
been, on some rivers, assisted to overcome obstacles which,
unless in exceptional circumstances, would have prevented
their further progress. Fish-ladders or passes have been
made for this purpose. If these are properly constructed,
salmon should have no difficulty in getting through them ;
nor does it seem to be essential that the passes should be
placed in the strongest part of the stream; this opinion
is based upon what I saw many years ago, as to the
persevering attempts of both salmon and sea trout to 24
ascend a fall on the Costello, a famous Gal way river
noted for its white-trout-fishing. There had been a flood,
and the water was clearing fast, so that there was reason
to hope for sport before long. Meantime, I and a friend
wandered up the banks of the river, speculating, by the
way, as to whether it would fish on the morrow; on
rounding a bend of the stream we came upon a pool at
the head of which fish were seen trying to get over a fall.
The ground rose immediately beside this fall, and from
the highest point of the rise it was easy to watch the
proceedings of both sea trout and salmon. They would
collect at some little distance down stream and then come
on in a body, to just below the fall. Their next step was
to swim round the pool and finally take up their position
where the water afforded them the best chance of success :
the salmon towards the middle of the stream, where the
depth was greatest, the sea trout at the sides, where the
rush of water was less heavy.
It may then be assumed that, when fish mean to
ascend a river, they will do so if it be possible, so that it
is of small importance whether the pass or ladder is in
the centre of the main stream or not, provided there is
depth of water sufficient to carry the fish over. It has
been asserted that salmon do not feed in fresh water and
that they take a fly out of sport. Do they take minnows,
prawns and worms, for sport ? And how does a fish
after spawning turn into a well-mended kelt ? Aye, and
in a large river such as the Tweed, mend to such effect
as to present the appearance, even to a tolerably practised
hand, of a clean fish ? The following anecdote shows that
this is so. I was in the habit often of passing the shop of Mr.
Grove, the fishmonger in Parliament Street, and of sometimes stopping to order a slice of Severn salmon for dinner
at the club. On one such occasion a fish, which had been
caught a few hours before, arrived whilst I was conversing STRAY REMARKS ON HABITS OF THE SALMON     25
with Mr. Grove. The straw covering was taken off, and
Mr. Grove remarked upon its handsome appearance, and
asked me if I did not also admire it. ' No,' I replied,
11 have doubts as to its being a clean fish. See if there are
any maggots in its gills, and look at the colour of its
back, which is blue instead of brown, as it should be.
If I am right, the flesh of that fish will not be red but
fawn-coloured, nor will there be any fat, curd, roe, or
milt in it.' The fish was cut open and sliced, and Mr.
Grove was forced to admit that it was a well-mended
kelt. Is it to be supposed that this fish had so far
recovered its shape as to deceive the best fishmonger
in London, without feeding, and that greedily, after
spawning ?
It is my belief that the fly is taken by the fish for a
shrimp, whilst the silver-bodied Wilkinson's Grey Doctors,
&c, are supposed by them to be minnows or some kind of
small fish. It has been said that the ordinary salmon fly
is like nothing in nature. How do we know that this
saying is anything beyond pure assumption ? It once
happened to me to be at the Westminster Aquarium in
the days when it was an aquarium, and my attention was
drawn to a tank in which were a number of shrimps;
these were swimming about in a succession of darts,
much resembling the motion given by a fisherman to his
fly, some at the surface, some under water. Here seemed
to be an opportunity of finding out what the shrimp
would look like to a salmon, so kneeling down I cast an
eye upwards as the fish would do, and somewhat to my
surprise discovered that not only were they, when thus
seen through the medium of the water, of different sizes,
but were full of prismatic colours, sometimes brilliantly
so. May it not well be that these prismatic colours, as
displayed by a shrimp, which is not an entirely opaque
creature, are imitated with more or less success by the
1 mmmm
bright feathers, gold and silver lace, &c, used in tying a
salmon fly ? This, however, by the way; it is enough for
us to know that fish are to be caught with flies which we
have proved to be successful.
It has been stated that trout are colour-blind, and, as
I presume, such statement is meant to include salmon.
This assertion rests on the authority of Sir Herbert
Maxwell, an excellent sportsman and naturalist, and is
therefore worth attention. Sir Herbert, in order to prbve
his theory, had May flies dressed with scarlet wings, and
with them succeeded in killing trout. Certainly the
wings of a May fly are not scarlet; but trout may be
caught in the May-fly season, when feeding well, with
flies which bear no resemblance to that insect. It is not
my intention to controvert any statement of Sir Herbert
Maxwell's, even if I were capable of doing so with effect;
but let me shortly quote the proceedings of two old friends
—now, alas! no longer with us—who were members of
the small club which fished the water at Christchurch
known as 'the Eoyalty.'
At the head of ' the Eoyalty' is Knap Weir, and just
below the weir stream a large stone was put into the
water, behind which a salmon would sometimes rest. A
fish had shown himself at this spot, but had declined
the flies which were offered him. The next day was a
Saturday, when the hatches and racks of Knap Weir, as
well as those belonging to other weirs up the water, would
all be drawn, thus creating an artificial flood, during
which the abstemious salmon would assuredly pass from
' the Eoyalty l to the pools above. Sooner than lose the
chance of getting the fish, my friends procured some
prawns, one of which was threaded on a hook, and offered
to him, with no result. The river keeper remarked that
the prawns had not been cooked, and therefore still
retained their natural grey appearance; upon, which, he STRAY REMARKS ON HABITS OF THE SALMON     27
was desired to take them away and bring them back
boiled. When he returned a red prawn was tendered to
the salmon; it was instantly seized, and in due course the
fish was gaffed and knocked on the head. I would ask,
with proper submission, what could induce a salmon to
refuse a prawn in its natural state, and take it eagerly
when cooked? It certainly looks as though the only
possible answer should be—change of colour from a grey
prawn to a red one.
In ' Mental Evolution of Animals,' the author, George
John Eomanes, FtE.S., Zoological Secretary to the
Linnsean Society, states that' fish are well provided with
the organs both of hearing and smell,' but he considers it
doubtful ' whether taste, as distinct from smell, occurs in
fish.' He remarks upon 'the care with which anglers
dress their flies and select this and that combination of
tints for this and that locality, time of day, &c, as showing
that those who are practically acquainted with the habits
of salmon and other fresh-water fish regard the colour-
sense in them as axiomatic.' This gentleman stands so
high in the scientific world that when he asserts that fish
can hear, as the result of personal investigation, we are
bound to consider the question as settled in the affirmative
in spite of the old rhyme:
If fish could hear as well as see,
The devil himself might a fisherman be.
It is perfectly true that the majority of anglers are
careful in the selection of tints in fly-making, their inference being that there is no doubt as to the ability of
fish to distinguish one colour from another. My own
opinion is in absolute agreement with this view, and
(though majorities are not always right, even in matters
relating to fishing) that there should be any question on
this point never entered my mind, so that I was the more 28 SEVENTY  YEARS' FISHING
surprised upon hearing that the contrary idea had been
started or adopted by so good a sportsman and so keen an
observer of nature as Sir Herbert Maxwell. Sir Herbert
has doubtless killed trout with an artificial fly bearing
no resemblance to that on which they were feeding.
We have most of us done so. Quite recently I caught
nine trout one afternoon with a medium-sized Watford
Coachman, the fly which the fish were taking being a
rather small one of dirty brown hue. Probably Sir
Herbert has sometimes found a ' Eed Quill Gnat I answer
better than a 'Pale Olive' when the Avington water
was covered with duns of that description. If so,
how can the success of the Eed Quill be accounted for
unless the trout were unable to perceive the difference in
colour ?
Any effort to assign a reason for these varying fancies
on the part of the trout must be a mere speculation.
Nevertheless I will venture to make a guess as to their
cause, my inference being drawn from experience of the
habits of animals, and, I may say, of our own. Domestic
creatures—dogs and cats—even when not overfed, will
sometimes reject one kind of nourishment to which they
had been accustomed, and eat with avidity food unlike
that first offered them. We ourselves prefer some variety;
if confined to one article we should, most of us, make a
comparatively small dinner. Is it not possible that a
trout, after swallowing a quantity of ' Pale Olives,' may
get somewhat tired of them and welcome the offer of a
| Eed Quill Gnat' ? It is hardly necessary to remark
that the fickleness of trout is greatest where food is most
The subject, though interesting, is not of great practical
importance. We shall go on using the best imitation of
the fly the trout are taking at the time; if that fails we
shall change to a \ Wickham, or to whatever pattern we, STRAY REMARKS ON HABITS OF THE SALMON     29
according to previous experience, may think most likely
to tempt them.
It is much to be feared that the supply of salmon has
seriously diminished, and that there is no great prospect
of its increasing. In 1902 a Eoyal Commission was
appointed, and their Eeport was duly presented to Parliament, along with tables of statistics and minutes of
evidence. The evidence shows a decrease, and unless
some vigorous steps are taken, so far from expecting any
improvement, we must be prepared for further decrease,
and in many rivers extinction.
Shortly after the passing of the English Act, many
years ago, I published a letter in the ' Field ' urging the
appointment of a permanent staff by Government to
manage the salmon fisheries, instead of handing them
over to the care of Local Boards. The objections to such
bodies are many. To state them would serve no useful
purpose, as we are told in this last Eeport that the present
system should be continued. This view is, to my mind,
an unfortunate one. The fisheries in England have been
for more than thirty years in the hands of Conservancy
Boards, and their condition is worse than ever. That
alone is surely reason enough for trying a different plan.
The evidence annexed to the Eeport of 1902 is, as was
sure to be the case where different interests are concerned,
often conflicting. One witness states that salmon spawn
in the sea! Another maintains that bag-nets are not
destructive; whilst a proprietor, belonging to the north
of Scotland, points out that when these nets were taken
off, an immediate increase in the produce of the river he
fished occurred. Nevertheless, a perusal of the volume of
evidence will repay those who take an interest in the
subject. In my humble opinion, the obvious course, in
order to maintain a sufficient supply of salmon, is to
shorten the netting season;  an extension of the weekly 30
close time would be of little use (I do not say of no
In the ordinary state of a river, when the spring floods
are over, fish would not swim beyond the brackish water
if all nets were removed; and in many instances, when
there was a sufficient flood to induce them to travel, the
water would be too heavy for the nets. Angling should
be allowed to continue for some time after the close
season for netting begins. In the first place, because
unless those who reside some distance from the mouth of
the river are permitted to kill such fish as reach them in
the autumn, they will not assist in preserving the spawning beds, and without their aid it would be difficult to do
so effectually. In the second place, because the total
number of salmon killed by the rod is insignificant as
compared with the result of a few weeks' netting. In
former days, when, owing to the want of means of communication, no sale could be found for fish caught at any
distance from the market towns, there was little inducement to spend money or time in catching them. A shot
of the long net was rowed occasionally, and the captured
salmon were put into a cart and sold in the neighbourhood for what they would fetch, the rest of the fish being
left for the angler.
The extension of railways not only afforded markets at
a distance, but tended to the development of the towns
near at hand; and with the increased demand came fixed
engines, and closer attention was given to the capture of
the fish. After a time Acts of Parliament were passed,
and had these Acts been properly worked, at least in
some of the rivers, matters would not be so bad as they
are reported to be at present; but, as an old Scotch
fisherman once remarked to me: ' What is the use of
they legislative enactments if persons are not obliged to
observe them ? '   From one cause or another—in most STRAY REMARKS ON HABITS OF THE SALMON     31
instances from want of funds—the law has been too often
set at defiance, nor is there any probability that assistance
can be looked for from the State to put a stop to undue
netting, poaching, &c. It therefore behoves those who
are fond of rod fishing to act for themselves. The only
step of practical use would be to combine and buy up the
nets, not only those which may have been used in the
river itself, but those which worked its mouth, power, of
course, being retained to make use of them later on when
the fish increased. At present the nets have not only to
pay the rent of the fishery, and the wear and tear of fishing gear, but also to provide the men who work them
with a living, and to yield a profit to the tacksman.
If an association of anglers became the lessees, they
would, after a jubilee of a few years, be able to kill fish
enough with the net to pay the interest of the capital sunk
in the purchase of the fishery, and still leave a margin
sufficient to defray the expense of keepers, &c, and afford
sport to the angler. If this result could be arrived at, the
sport would cost nothing, and might even be better than
Rods—Lines—Reels—Flies: Change of, according to size and colour of
water—Lord Home—Mr. Daniel—Wading—Caution as to dangerous
The stray remarks made in the preceding chapter
upon the history of the fish lead naturally to the study,
from the angler's point of view, of how to catch them ;
and it is with much diffidence that I venture, not indeed
to tender advice to many who are doubtless better fishermen than myself, but to offer such observations as have
occurred to me during many seasons devoted, whenever
opportunity arose, to the sport, hoping that the following pages may perhaps afford some slight amusement to
brother fishermen, and even some hints useful to less
experienced disciples of the art.
Eods vary of course in weight, length and action; the
longest I have used was 22 feet, spliced in three pieces,
made for me by one Sandie Eose, a native fisherman on
the Tummel. The shortest was 17 feet. The advantage of
a long rod is not only in power of casting a long line with
comparative ease, but in cases where the fish lie on the
other side of a heavy stream in enabling the caster to
hold up a portion of the line out of the water, thus preventing the fly from coming too fast over the salmon, and
so avoiding the risk of cheating them at the rise.    Its TACKLE
disadvantage is its weight, the strain of holding out a
rod of extra length whilst working the fly being considerable. In steering a fish clear of rocks and dangerous
spots where there is a chance of having the line cut,
this extra length is, of course, in the fisherman's favour.
For all practical purposes 18 or 19 feet will probably
be found the best length and should not prove fatiguing
to a man of ordinary power. Indeed, except in cases
where the casts are numerous, but short (i.e. where the
fisherman stands on a rock which extends for twenty or
thirty yards only, and after casting from this limited
extent goes on to a similar post further on), a rod of
20 or 22 feet would try the muscles and sinews of most
men too severely.
Besides the length of the rod, its action has to be considered, whether it is to be that of the Irish or Castle-
connell type, of the old Tweed sort, stiff and well suited
to sending out a heavy line against the wind, or of the
Spey fashion, used in rivers where from one cause or
another the line cannot be stretched out behind the caster.
These different rods are, no doubt, all well adapted to
the purposes for which they are intended, and are now
made by so many painstaking manufacturers, who use
none but the best material, that it is a matter of fancy
where they are procured so long as a first-rate firm is
employed. When ordering a rod, I should go to a maker
who was himself a fisherman and who is therefore well
aware of the necessity of adjusting the weight of the line
to the action of the rod; for this reason I have for many
years bought fly-rods from Forrest of Kelso and Hardy
of Alnwick.
Lines.—Lines are now mostly made of prepared silk,
though American cotton is sometimes used. I have used
only the first, with three or four feet of strong treble gut
spliced on to the end in order to taper the cast.   Twisted
hair was often substituted for gut for this purpose, but it
is more apt to rot unless dried immediately after use.
As to casting lines, some diversity of opinion exists-
Many people prefer single gut, excepting in heavy water,
or when the river is slightly discoloured. I discarded
single gut after a few years' experience, not because
it is deficient in strength when new, but because it is
less reliable, being apt to break at the knots if it has
once been used and put away. I am further of opinion
that it shows more in the water than fine twisted
treble; let anyone stand on a high bank and watch a
fisherman who is using single gut; to him the single gut
will appear, if the sun is out, like a streak of silver
stretched across the river; twisted gut is far less visible.
In former days it may have been a matter of some
difficulty to obtain a satisfactory outfit. The old reels
were somewhat like oyster barrels in shape and must
have been inconveniently slow in taking up line when a
fish ran in towards a fisherman's feet. Scrope, in his
* Days and Nights of Salmon Fishing,' describes the reels in
use in his early days as being ill suited to deal with such
circumstances, and tells us he designed others with a
larger circumference. In the beginning of the last century
the reels Were generally attached to a broad leather belt
going round the angler's body, instead of to the rod, and
were known as 'belly pirns.' By this arrangement the
fisherman was enabled to use the butt to assist him in
crossing a deep or rapid ford. The lines were of black,
twisted horsehair. They did not, however, long remain
trustworthy without great care in drying them; this, as
well as the difficulty of procuring proper material, led to
their disuse. The rods, too, especially towards the butt,
were heavier and less finished than the modern ones.
The improvement in tackle has probably been as marked
as in other things. —
Flies.—With respect to salmon flies, it appears to me
that the number of patterns used is far greater than
necessary. Half a dozen different kinds will meet all
ordinary requirements. White Wings, Jock Scot, Silver
Grey, Silver Doctor, Blue Doctor, Black and Yellow (for
bright sunny day), Turkey Wing, the last dressed only on
large hooks. It is essential, however, that each pattern,
excepting the Turkey Wing, should be tied on hooks of
different sizes.
It often happens that a fish will rise at the fly without
taking it. In such case it is well to change to a smaller
one. Should he again come up without being hooked, a
still smaller fly should be tried. For all, except the large
sizes, I prefer double hooks; the weight of a large fly
makes it difficult to cast; there can be no object in-adding
to that difficulty by the use of a heavy double. Moreover the leverage affecting the bend of a large double
hook, should a fish turn or roll, is very considerable, and
may cause the wire, however well tempered, to break,
an accident to which the single hook is less liable.
When visiting a new river it is as well to listen to the
native fisherman's advice, and to buy a few of his flies—
at the same time not relying absolutely upon them. One
or two instances may be quoted in confirmation of this
view. Once, in Ireland, having fished a cast of promising
appearance with a fly of sober hue, tied by the local professional, without moving a fish, I suggested to him (the
water being slightly discoloured) to put on something
brighter of my own; having glanced at the fly I proposed
to use, he said, with a self-satisfied smile, * Sure, your
honour, no man would kill a salmon with that fly here in
ten years.' Nevertheless after a few casts up came a fish
at the fly he had condemned, the said fish being duly
hooked and accounted for: the fly was of a well-known
pattern, ' the Thunder and Lightning.' 36
On another occasion I was fishing a well-known pool
on the Tweed. Being somewhat of the character of a
' Dub,' it was of little or no use without a breeze, but the
wind that day was fresh, and from the right quarter,
moreover there had been floods, and the river was full of
salmon. After fishing for some time with no success,
though the fish were showing themselves at every
moment, it occurred to me that the fly was too large; but
the man rowing the boat maintained that it was small
enough, saying that when the water was over a rock which
he pointed out, one of similar size was always used. As,
however, there had been one or two heavy floods which
had thoroughly cleaned the bottom of the river, it was
clearer than it would usually have been when high enough
to cover the stone he referred to. I therefore proceeded
to change the fly I had on for a smaller one—still no
result; a still smaller was tried (probably half the size
of the one I began with) and in a few casts I was fast
in a fish, and ended by killing nine salmon out of that
one pool.
In the case just quoted the water was high but clear—
the successful change was from a large fly to a smaller
one. Here are instances where the proceeding was reversed with advantage. Fishing the Lees water one cold
frosty morning, for some time without result, the fisherman
advised me to try a larger fly, saying that in such weather
small ones were useless. I handed him the box of flies,
out of which he chose one twice the size of that hitherto
used; with it we killed two or three fish. The river was
low at the time and there were not many up.
A year after I was out on the lower water in the park
at Floors. The river was clear and fine, the wind heavy
from the east and bitterly cold. After fishing for some
time with a fly adapted to the height of the water, it
occurred to me to try the plan which succeeded at Lees. mmmrnzmsmasz*
Accordingly a good-sized Wilkinson was substituted for
the small Jock Scot hitherto used. With the Wilkinson six
salmon were landed by two o'clock. The head fisherman,
who had up to that time been in attendance on one of the
Duke's guests, who had left for the South by an afternoon
train, came to see how I was getting on. He was surprised at my success, remarking that they had done
nothing up above, and, on looking at my fly, told me they
had been fishing with flies three sizes smaller.
Two more fish fell to my lot, which took flies of the
size generally used in the then height of the river. But
the wind had dropped and the afternoon was milder.
These instances may tend to prove that the angler
should sometimes use his own discretion, and not rely
entirely on the opinion of the professional. On a river
like the Tweed, where the men have had opportunities of
seeing every sort of fly used, such cases as those last
quoted would rarely occur; but in remote districts, where
the flies are tied with such feathers and materials as can
be procured in the neighbourhood, and at little cost, the
native fishermen have perhaps never seen a Silver Doctor
or a Wilkinson. Indeed, it happened that, when I was
fishing the Garry one spring, my attendant had not seen me
put on a Silver Doctor. Shortly afterwards upon gaffing a
fish which had laid hold of this Silver Doctor, he expressed
his surprise at anyone's killing a salmon with such a fly.
The man became a convert to the use of the Silver Doctor,
and when consulted afterwards as to the expediency of a
change, would usually recommend ' that silver thing.'
After all said and written upon the subject of salmon
flies, there is probably something near the truth in the
remark of the fisherman mentioned in Scrope's work—
' some days the fish would take the thumb of your mitten,'
others they would ' na look at the Lady of Yarrow in all
her braws.'   The fisherman's saying was perhaps rather 38
highly coloured, but it is true enough that in some rivers,
at all events, hungry spring salmon may be caught with
flies having no resemblance whatever to one another. On
the Avon, near Christchurch, when I first knew it, it was
considered hardly necessary to use any fly but 'the
Bolingbroke,' which was made with wings of the long
feathers from a golden pheasant's topping, the body fiery
brown, ribbed with gold lace. I provided myself with
some of this pattern when elected a member of the small
club that rented the Eoyalty, but finding that the Tweed
flies, Jock Scots, Childers, Stevensons and Co. were
just as effective, I got no more Bolingbrokes, the wings
being too brittle for use, in the strong south-westers to
which that part of the river was exposed. Later, the
Eagle became a favourite fly on the Avon, and I remember
an old gentleman, who had killed fish on the river for
many years, and who used none but huge Eed Palmers,
wingless lures. Certainly the Eagle, the large Eed
Palmer, the Bolingbroke, and the Tweed patterns were
as unlike one another as possible.
It is probable enough that the preference shown by
fish for some particular fly is to be accounted for by the
colour of the bottom of the river. For some years I went
up to the Garry at Easter for a fortnight, and after two
or three visits I found one particular pattern so successful
that it was unnecessary to use any other except in two
of the casts; in these two pools Jock Scot and the
Silver Doctor answered well, but the fly which proved
deadly in other places was useless there. I believe the
pattern which answered so well with me thirty years ago
is still as popular with the fish as ever. The fly in question had mixed wings, blue jay at the shoulder, and lake-
coloured silk body, with golden ribs. It is difficult to
account for the failure of the favourite fly in two pools
only, unless because the bottom of the river was of quite TACKLE
a different colour to what it was anywhere else. There
alone, the rocks were light brown, the bed of the rest of
the river being dark.
Wading.—In these days an outfit would be considered
incomplete did it not include waders. Those most commonly used are made of mackintosh, over which are drawn
thick worsted socks and brogues. Shooting boots a size
larger than those usually worn are better, as affording more
support and protection to the ankle, and they also prevent
the small stones or gravel from injuring the mackintosh,
which the brogues will not do. I prefer long waterproof boots as being easily put on and off and more
comfortable to wear; these may be made of mackintosh,
or strong leather, well greased, such as is used by fishermen when netting. The soles should be furnished with
large copper nails, which will not rust as iron ones do.
Where deep wading is necessary waterproof trousers are
used : most uncomfortable garments to my mind. When
I was a young man it was my habit to take to the water in
ordinary clothes, wearing thick shoes, with holes punched
in them, and gaiters; these were less tiring to walk in,
but the practice tends no doubt to sow the seeds of
rheumatism in after life. In later years I have made it a
rule to adopt wading boots, even when the water could be
covered from the bank, as being convenient when kneeling
down in wet grass to keep out of sight in trout-fishing, or
in crossing from one side of the stream to the other.
Here it may be as well to offer a word of caution to
ardent young sportsmen who might be disposed to take
to the water without ascertaining the depth and nature of
the stream.
Two narrow escapes have I seen from the danger of
careless wading. A gentleman had arrived at a wayside
inn where I was staying to fish the Awe. There was
little prospect of killing a salmon, the river having fallen 40
in, but some chance of sea trout. The morning after his
arrival we went together to a stream much frequented by
these fish, and before my companion began I cautioned
him to return by the same way he went, as there was
deep water on both sides near the end of the cast:
further, he was advised not to go too far down stream,
as the bottom, being composed of loose gravel, he might
find it difficult to keep his footing. In went our friend,
taking the advice rather lightly; having fished the place
down, he turned to come back, and observing that he
presented a broad front to the stream, instead of walking
up sideways, I was prepared for an accident. After a
step or two, the shifting gravel affording an insecure
footing, came a stumble, and down went the angler.
My fisherman ran instantly below, where by going in
up to the middle, whilst I in less deep water held fast to
his coat-tails, he just managed to reach him and drag him
half-drowned ashore. Had he been alone the chance of
his coming to land alive would have been small.
The second instance occurred on the Solway Dee at a
cast known as 'Meg'.s Hole.' There you had to wade
along a spit of rock which ran out towards the middle of
the river, and it was essential to return exactly by the
way you had come. My fisherman was a small, rather
frail, old man, and I wished him to remain on the bank,
but he insisted on wading in to show me the place, as it
was entirely new to me. Having fished down to the tail
of the pool, I turned to come back, giving the man my
rod and taking the gaff to help me on my way. The
water ran hard over the rock on which we were, but it
never occurred to me that a professional fisherman would
be in any difficulty; however, to my dismay, he made a
half-stumble and only saved himself by jamming the butt
of my rod into the bed of the river. In vain did I shout
to him, the man seemed half-crazed.    There was nothing TACKLE
for it but to go down another yard or so and to try to
reach him with the gaff. This I was able to do ; the rocks
afforded some foothold, and firmly planting my feet, I
offered him the hooked end: clutching it eagerly, he
almost lost his footing, and for a moment it seemed likely
that we should both be washed down into ' Meg's Hole,'
where the waves and the rocks would have made an end
of us. Owing to the nature of the bottom, however, it
was possible to stand fast and drag the man up to where
I was; then, creeping sideways up stream, to pull him a
little farther on the way, so that we arrived without more
difficulty to shallow water.
Here, again, was great risk incurred owing to the folly
of a man who ought never to have trusted himself in such
a place. No doubt he had often fished ' Meg's Hole' with
safety, but he told me the water was rather high, and he
had probably not allowed for that circumstance.
It is somewhat amusing to look back to old descriptions of trout and salmon, and of tackle, affording,
as they do, a singular contrast to more modern ideas.
What would the Eev. W. B. Daniel, whose work on
Eural Sport was published in 1807, have thought of the
Durham Eangers, Silver Doctors, Wilkinsons, &c, as tied
by Forrest of Kelso, or Wright of Sprouston? The
flies he recommends for the spring season must, he says,
be framed much larger, but not so splendid as what are
used in summer. Wings, dark brown, speckled from a
bittern's wing; body, reddish brown hare's fur and
copper-coloured mohair, bittern's hackle over all. No. 2 :
Wings, mottled feather of a peacock's wing; body, light
brown hair of a bear, sable fur, gold-coloured mohair,
gold twist, black and red cock's hackle, and red head.
He also mentions other patterns, with mottled and heron
His advice upon all points I should not be inclined to 42
take ; for instance, when he says : ' the angler must strike
the moment the fish rises, because the salmon will not
take the fly under water, but when they take they
break the water fairly.' His ideas about hooks are
probably original. They ought, he thinks, in a very rapid
river or deep lough to be thick wired, otherwise ' the
violence of the current will prevent the fly keeping an
even motion and thereby the fish will fail in seizing it
when he rises; and in a deep lough, the water which the
salmon forces before him when he rises will throw it on
one side, and by that means the fish will also miss the fly.'
As to the rod, it should not be less than 15 feet;
the reel should hold fourscore yards of good running
line made of silk or hair. He refers to the advantage of
being able to give the salmon when hooked plenty of
line, ' for the fish will at first run swiftly, and afterwards
leap and plunge, so that he must be humoured and the
line slacked and wound up again with great skill, until
he is quite subdued, when he may be led to some shallow,
where, on his belly and touching the bottom, he will turn
on his side, and be so jaded that he may be taken out by
the gills.' As to the mode of taking him, the rev. gentleman published a footnote describing the capture of the
salmon in verse, which ends thus :
Quite exhausted now he grows,
And now his silver body shows;
Nor one faint effort more he tries,
But at my feet a captive lies.
His tail I grasp with eager hand,
And hurl with joy the prize on land.
The poetical angler must have been gifted with a hand
not only eager but of considerable power to enable him to
hurl a twenty-five pounder on shore!
In Scrope's day the bright patterns now used in many
rivers were almost unknown. I question if any of the
present fishing-tackle makers keep in stock a single fly
of the kind he describes, although some of them would
answer well. One he calls ' Toppy'—and two others,
' Meg with the muckle mouth' and ' Meg in her braws,'
known generally as the ' Turkey Wing.' I have often
tried them with success. Indeed, on some days these
old-fashioned flies will kill when the brighter ones are
allowed to pass unnoticed.
I was on one occasion fishing a cast named ' The
Back of the Wall,' on the Lees water, in the month of
September, the river being full of fish and in good order ;
Silver Doctors, Stevensons, and other flies of the modern
type proved of no avail. One large salmon had come up
twice without taking, and as a last chance a large Turkey
Wing of a Tay pattern was offered him. This was
instantly seized, and after a good run the fish was landed
on a bank of black mud, a little below, weight 28 lbs.
Several others were caught in the cast with the same fly.
Having no fisherman with me, valuable time was lost in
taking them down to the bank of mud aforesaid (the only
available landing place in the circumstances), and the fish
left off rising before evening or my sport might have been
even better.
Another day a large salmon had risen without being
hooked, but when I changed the fly from a bright one to
the Turkey Wing, he laid tight hold and was killed. Two
more were caught, and then a particularly headstrong
fish, which I believe to have been hooked foul, ran out
a prodigious amount of line, and cut me round a rock at
the bottom of the river. I had no other Turkey Wing
with me at the time, and, though there was no reason to
complain of the day's sport, my belief is that I should
have done better had it been possible to continue the
use of that pattern. 44
Thanks to the kindness of the present Lord Home,
I was afforded, whilst staying at the Hirsel not long since,
an opportunity of perusing notes made by his lordship's
grandfather (the Lord Home referred to in Scrope's
' Days and Nights of Salmon Fishing') upon Mr. Daniel's
remarks above referred to.
As these observations from the pen of a great sportsman of bygone times may interest anglers of the present
day, it may be worth while to refer to them here, f A
salmon rod (he says) should not exceed 15 feet in
length for fly-fishing, and should taper very gradually
from the butt to the extreme point, which should be
not less than J inch in diameter and be of whalebone,
the butt not more than 1J inch diameter, so that
in throwing the line the curve should be quite regular
from the butt to the point. Without such a spring
the line cannot be forced against the wind. The running line should be of hair, and very thick and heavy;
the casting line made gradually to taper so as to fit
properly to about six feet of line, made of three guts
twisted by the hand, to which lines bearing the hook
should be joined, so that, in fact, the whole should make
one continued taper from the butt to the hook itself.
The butt is made of good ash, seven feet in one piece;
the top, the best hickory, the same length in three or four
1A rod and fine so poised can be used with complete
effect against any wind. I never saw a London or
Edinburgh salmon rod worth a halfpenny, or that could
stand my work two days. I can pitch my fly with ease
fifty feet from the point of the rod, with tackle of the
above description, against a very rough wind.
' The best dye for gut for clear streams is made thus:
pour a little Bohea tea (pretty strong) into a basin, in
which put the gut first and a teaspoonful of ink.    It ■^
•jwi -wjuii "J >
gives the gut a beautiful bluish colour, rendering it quite
indistinguishable when in the water.'
Daniel remarks that fishes are supposed to be affected
by the approach of rain, since it is allowed that at such
times they cease to bite freely. Lord Home testifies that
this remark is strictly true in regard to salmon. ' They
rise freely, but seldom take the hook, even the day
previous to any considerable fall of rain (enough to raise
the river). Salmon bite equally well at any hour of
the day, provided the river be in proper order, and the
day cloudy with wind. The best fishing months on
the Tweed are February, March, April, part of July,
August, September, and October, the last by far the best,
May and June the worst. Every river (he considers)
must have its particular flies, according to the colour of
its waters. The most killing fly in the Welsh rivers
would not stir a Tweed salmon and vice versa. The
most killing fly used on the Tweed is the following :
body, a large black cock's hackle, with black dubbing
below ; head and tail, either orange or yellow—the former
the best and should be deep coloured; the wings, tail
feather of a dun or chestnut turkey, with white tip, and
as a change a black turkey with white tip, commonly
called by the fishermen red and black white tops. The
wing feathers of the large Scotch brown eagle make
most excellent flies for spring, the part used that near
the bottom of the quills, which is softest and most
beautifully mottled. Other flies are used, but none so
deadly as the first two. The tail feathers of the salmon-
tailed kite make also capital wings—also the speckled
turkey. The beautiful speckled or spotted purple and
white feathers under the wing of a teal make an excellent second wing.'
Lord Home has put on record a day's fishing which,
provided the catch was of clean salmon, exceeds anything IP
I have ever heard of. He says: ' The greatest number of
salmon ever caught by the rod in one day was on April 9,
1795, by Lord Home ; the wind east, attended with rain
the whole day; the number caught, 36; the weight of
the fish ran from 6 lbs. to 36 lbs.; the largest salmon his
lordship ever caught weighed 53 lbs. 14 oz. to the lb.;
from the time the fish was first hooked till it was on dry
land, fourteen minutes; the hook on single gut.'
His lordship's rod must have been a powerful one for
its size, and the thick hair line must have given him
a great advantage in casting. It would take up a good
deal of water when lifted, thus getting the spring on the
rod; the back swing would shake out most of the
moisture, and thus diminish the exertion of making the
cast. It will be observed that both Lord Home and
Mr. Daniel give the proper length of the rod at 15 feet.
Scrope, I think, puts it at 18 feet. His lordship says
he could pitch his fly a distance of fifty feet from the
point of the rod against a rough wind; probably on a
calm day a few yards further. If this was the extent of
his casting, a good deal of the water where he fished must
have been missed. It would be interesting to know when
these short weapons were superseded by those of the
length used in the present day. With due respect to his
lordship's opinion on the subject of flies, I differ from him
as to flies suited to one river being useless on others,
having killed salmon with flies not intended for the river
I happened to be fishing. E.g. I got two one day on a
stream in Lord Home's water with the Avon fly, ' Bolingbroke,' after having tried favourite Tweed patterns without avail. 47
Casting—Against a wind—Long casts—The Duke of Roxburghe's casting
power—Working the fly—The boatmen—The rise—Cheating a salmon—
Running a fish—A hard run on the Garry—Attempt to land a fish on
the Avon by holding on—My first Tweed salmon—Landing a fish without gaff or net—-Insensibility of fish—Getting hold of the kingdom of
Scotland—Landing a laurel wreath—Various moods of salmon—Castle-
connell rods-—Sir F. Grey's fish on the Avon.
The foregoing remarks on tackle bring under consideration the method of using it to the greatest advantage.
It is hardly necessary to observe that the best of rods,
flies, &c. are of little avail unless skilfully used, and yet
how many degrees are to be found amongst the crowd of
anglers, from the novice, or the blunderer, who seems
nearly incapable of improvement to the artist who can
send out a true straight cast, to the right spot, regardless
of wind and other difficulties! After all, that which is
of the most consequence is to be able to cast properly.
The sportsman in these days rarely goes out alone, and
his gillie or fisherman probably has a fair knowledge
as to what fly to ' put over them,' as they say, but the
angler must depend on his own resources, as far as
throwing a good line and properly covering the cast is concerned—and this indeed constitutes the charm of fishing.
To put on paper a description of the art of casting
would be a difficult matter. We all know when watching
the fisherman whether he throws a good line, and when
by his side we can appreciate the skill which  enables 48 SEVENTY  YEARS' FISHING
him to encounter difficulties successfully, or the ignorance
which increases those difficulties; but if instruction is to
be of avail, it is best given by the riverside. It is a true
maxim which says that the caster should be able to
throw with ease the length of line he lifts from the
water, and it is on this account that it is essential that
the line should be properly adjusted to the action of the
rod. If too heavy, it will be difficult to lift when the fly
comes round at the end of the cast; if too light, it will
not bring out the proper play of the rod and so will
increase the exertion of casting.
But this maxim hardly applies in the case of having
to throw against a wind, and all that can be said on this
point is that the strength used and the fall of the fly must
be gauged with the greatest accuracy. On the one hand,
the fly must on no account be allowed to hover, as it
were, in the air before it drops; on the other, it should
not be hurled into the water with undue violence. In the
first case the fly and part of the casting-line will be blown
back, not only failing to reach the right spot, but making
knots on the gut, and subjecting the angler to delay and
risk. In the second an unseemly splash will be the result.
The object must be to arrive at a happy medium between
these two extremes.
In fishing slack water, or in places where the fly sinks
in an eddy as it comes round, it is a good plan to pull a
yard or so of line through the lowest ring, hold it between
your fingers, and let it go as you make the next cast.
When throwing as much line as you can manage, a yard
or two gathered up in this fashion will be found of much
service in lengthening the cast. This is not, however,
the main advantage to be obtained. The chief object is
to relieve the strain to which the top part of the rod is
subjected in lifting the sunken line; besides, it will often
happen that a fish will follow the fly round and seize it MANAGEMENT OF THE FLY
at the moment it seems to be about to escape. Should
the angler lift his rod at that moment he will certainly
break something (the casting line only, if lucky: the rod,
if unlucky); whereas if he is merely drawing in a yard or
so before making a fresh cast, he will hook his salmon, in
all probability, well and firmly.
As to the length of line which a master of the art may
be able to throw at a casting competition, many surrounding circumstances have to be taken into consideration;
distances which seem fabulous are said to have been
covered. Doubtless the facts are correctly stated, but it
would be interesting to ascertain how the feats reported
have been performed—whether there was anything connected with them which would be incompatible with fair,
ordinary fishing. For instance, it is quite possible by
making two or three false casts, as it were (drawing the
fly back just as it would naturally alight) before delivering
the fly to send out a longer line than could be practically
worked by the fisherman. In actual practice the fly is
usually allowed to come well round towards the fisherman's side of the river, so that when lifted it would have
a strong tendency to return somewhat in the same direction, whereas it is bound to proceed towards the opposite
shore. And this tendency tells much against very long
casts. Be all this as it may, although often having heard
of men who could throw forty yards—i.e. fish with line
enough out to cover that distance—I have never seen but
one fisherman able to do so.
There is a famous cast on the Floors water (the Slap)
where the Tweed rushes through a channel forty yards wide,
and many an unsuccessful attempt has been made to cast
from one bank to the other. Upon one occasion, however, whilst I was fishing this * Slap,' the late Duke of Eox-
burghe happened to be present, and as I was using an
18-ft. 6-inch rod just out of the maker's hands, I asked him
E 111)1'
to try it. To my delight—for it was a pleasure to see such
an artist cast—he threw the fly to within an inch or two
of the opposite side (not straight across but slightly down
stream, showing that he had thrown more than the
distance in a direct line across the water), and, moreover,
he made three or four such casts, without any intermediate
recoveries to keep the line in its proper course, and indeed
fished the water fairly round as though he had been using
a short line.
The Duke was a tall and powerful man, and had
fished for salmon from his boyhood. It is not my intention to assert that other fishers could not be found who
would do as much. I can only say that, in my experience,
the Duke was the only man who succeeded in performing
the feat before my eyes; to my mind thirty yards or a
trifle over constitute a long cast, and many a good fish
has been killed by anglers incapable of covering that much
water, still less of emulating the performance above
referred to. A comparatively short line properly thrown
and worked is far more effective than a long one somewhat beyond the power of the caster to manage properly.
There is one error which a novice is not likely to make
—i.e. casting more line than necessary. It is a mistake
made mostly by men who have been accustomed only to
fish from the bank or wading, and, in such cases, it merely
results in a waste of time, unless when salmon lie on the
other side of strong running water; then the result is
likely to be a failure to hook a fish, even if it be inclined
to take, owing to the difficulty of holding enough of the
reel line out of the stream, and preventing the fly from
coming round too quickly. In fishing down from a boat
not only is time wasted, but as the boat is kept moving
water is missed.
' Casting,' as above mentioned, is meant to apply to
over-hand throwing, where trees and banks do not interfere ^u^u-wyu, - |mu^w.tiuL-.u
with the angler's comfort. As to the Spey throw, or
* switching,' as it is sometimes called, I can say nothing,
being but a poor hand at it. In order to switch properly
a rod of a different make to those used on the Tweed and
on open waters, in my time, is required. I have possessed
one or two built for trout-fishing in places where the
bushes and banks precluded the use of the ordinary rod;
they were, to my touch, rather topheavy, and useless for
casting against the wind. The proper balance for them
is well known, and there is no difficulty in procuring them
from many of our fishing-tackle makers. A good switcher,
as I have been told, can command quite as wide a cast
as that covered by the ordinary method. It is a mode of
fishing which is invaluable in cramped places or where
deep wading is necessary, and it has often been a subject
of regret to me that I did not attempt more assiduously
to acquire it.
Next in importance to casting comes the proper method
of working the fly, the object being that it should travel
fairly and easily round from where it falls to the edge of
the cast (by the * cast' is meant that part of the channel
where the salmon He); where the stream runs at a
uniform rate, or nearly so, the fly and line will fish of
itself, as it were, requiring little or no humouring on the
angler's part. On the contrary, in some rivers, especially
in Highland streams, it often happens that the fish lie
well over towards the opposite bank and beyond the main
strength of the current. In such cases it is well to throw
straight across into the easier water on the far side of the
cast, taking care to let as little of the reel line as possible
strike the water; the top should be held rather high as
the fly falls, and gradually lowered as it comes round; by
this means it is possible to avoid its being whisked away
from the fish before he has time to seize it; when this
happens, though you may raise salmon, you will seldom 52
hook them. On the Tweed the fly is usually allowed to
sink well below the surface ; but then the channel of the
river is in general of a character which does not require
any such manipulation.
As an example of the importance of working the fly
with due regard to the nature of the water, the following
illustration may be mentioned. Mr. John Bright, the
well-known Cabinet Minister, was desirous of fishing part
of the Floors water on Tweed; he was accordingly taken
charge of by the head fisherman, and proceeded to the
lower beat inside the park. He fished all day and killed
nothing. It was doubtless an unpleasant experience to
him, and a surprise to the other guests at the Castle, as
there were plenty of fish, and the water was in order;
moreover, one of the party had got eight fish below the
town of Kelso on a beat which was certainly not equal to
the \ Lower Water' at Floors.
I had the good fortune, thanks to the kindness of the
then Duke of Eoxburghe, to be sent to the piece of water
upon which the great man had been at work the next
day, and was rowed by the same fisherman. I inquired
of him how it was that my predecessor had failed. Could
he not reach the fish ? * He cast fairly enough,' said the
man, ' but he had not the right method of " working the
hook." ' Upon my remarking that perhaps he had not
explained this, he said pithily enough, ' Hoot, John Bright
is one of they folk that will not be telled.'
On another occasion the fisherman referred to was
rowing a gentleman, well known not only as an angler but
as a writer upon sport. The wind was strong and adverse.
The first effort to cover the cast was a failure, the line
being blown back in the caster's face. * That's bad,' said
the professional; ' throw again.' A second attempt
brought forth the remark, * That's waur.' ' Can you get
over them in this wind ?' replied the angler.    The fisher- fsmmmmm.
man, observing that he supposed he could, took the rod,
let out a few additional yards, and away went the line
straight as though it had been ruled, in spite of the
adverse blast. Then, returning the rod, he remarked:
1 Eh, sir, ye can write grand aboot sawmon-fishing, but
ye're just wanting the practical pairt.'
Here is an example of what may be done sometimes
by taking the advice of one thoroughly up to the business. I had fished a cast well known to Tweed men
called f the Bushes,' a little above the famous ' Sprouston
Dub/ with two flies, and not had an offer. The fisherman, knowing the river to be well stocked with fish,
desired me to sink the fly as deeply as possible, and to
work it slowly and gently, much after the fashion of
trolling for pike with a gorge bait. By this method,
which never would have been adopted but for the advice
of Kerse, the fisherman, I killed two salmon, one of
them a newly-run fish over 30 lbs. The fly used was a
In the interesting and amusing book upon fly-fishing
recently published by Sir E. Grey, he mentions that one
gentleman belonging to a party of anglers was more
successful than his friends, which success he attributes to
his casting a long line, nearly straight down stream. The
fact of his success is doubtless beyond question ; but such
a method is unusual in most rivers with which I have
been acquainted, and is adopted only where the stream
bends towards the side from which the angler is fishing ;
in such a case it is very necessary, in order to prevent the
fly from coming round too rapidly.
In connection with the proper working of the fly, it
may be worth while to say a few words upon the boatman, upon whom, in the wider and deeper parts of the
1 It is probable that these silver-bodied flies, Wilkinson's Silver Doctors,
are mistaken by the fish for minnows. 54
river, so much depends. Where the cast cannot be
reached from the bank, or by wading, the angler must
naturally have recourse to the aid of a boatman. When
possible he should wade and hold the head of the boat
whilst the sportsman stands up in the stern to cast; where
it is too deep to admit of his wading, recourse must be
had to the sculls. In some cases a man will stand on the
bank and let down the boat by means of a line. The
boatman will know if the cast should be fished in
technical parlance up or down—i.e. whether you should
begin casting at the head or tail of the stream. In the
first case the boat being dropped down gradually, in the
second rowed gently up, the stroke being given as the fly
comes round: the first when the current is heavy, the
second in slacker water ; whichever plan is adopted, the
boat must be kept at the edge of the cast, and in no
degree should it be allowed to hang over that part of the
channel where the salmon are resting. Such a proceeding would obviously tend to frighten the fish lying on the
angler's side of the cast, which are indeed those he is
most likely to take.
When the man wades and holds the boat, he can
generally put the fisherman, with accuracy, in position to
cast again over any fish which may have risen without
taking; it is difficult to do so when he has to depend
upon the oars. Eowing the boat is an art of itself, and
requires not only considerable skill, but hard work, where
the water is heavy, or the wind strong. Much depends
also on the management of the boat when the fish is
on, it being most desirable to keep as near to it as possible.
The Tweed boatmen are, as a rule, good fishermen, and
well able to judge of the capabilities of the gentlemen they
attend. Of course, some row better than others. A man
who can keep the boat travelling, parallel to the edge of «*■*■■».	
the cast, and hold a true course, regardless of a heavy
side wind and rapid water, is a good boatman, good
enough for any fair fisherman. The boatman who can
assist a novice, by a touch of the scull, which brings the
stern a yard further into the stream as the fly is delivered,
and, as it comes round, by a reverse action keep the line
right so as to ease its recovery, is an artist. Such a man
was W. Stevenson, for many years head fisherman at
Floors. Often have I watched him from the bank. He
would tell an inexperienced amateur not to move his rod
after the fall of the line, and, by dexterous management
of the sculls, humour the fly, as it came round, according
to the nature of the stream. In fact, he would himself do
half the fishing, besides often making an indifferent cast
into a good one. The men I have had with me have
invariably been civil and attentive, keen, and anxious to
promote sport. Occasionally they are perhaps more outspoken in their remarks than those who have not been
much in their company might be inclined to tolerate. But
allowance should be made for the disappointment of a
keen man, who has been doing his best, and working hard,
to assist the amateur fisherman, when he finds his trouble
thrown away, owing to the blunders of a novice too self-
sufficient to take advice.
It has been said, in my hearing, that casting from a
boat is comparatively easy. The assertion is probably
made by those who have never tried it. Let anyone fish
Sprouston Dub with an adverse wind three or four times
without a rise or a rest, except perhaps to change the fly,
and then give his opinion as to whether it is easy work;
the Dub, if I remember right, is about 400 yards long.
Possibly it may be supposed that the fisherman is rowed
out to any distance he pleases from the bank, and can
thus command the water without difficulty. If the choice
were offered of boat, or bank, or even wading, I should 56
certainly not prefer the boat. Not only is it, in my
opinion, easier and more pleasant to be on terra firma,
but it gives one the satisfaction of feeling dependent only
on one's own exertions.
The next consideration is how to treat a rising fish.
It has been said that the strike should be given when the
rise is seen. In my humble opinion, this is a mistake.
A salmon, being a large and heavy fish, requires a moment
or two to return to the bottom of the river where he has
been lying, his method of going to work when taking the
fly being divided into three movements : (1) the rise;
(2) taking the fly at or near the surface; (3) going down
again with it in his mouth.
Scrope, after giving a description of the flies used on
the Tweed in his day, \ Toppy,' the ' Lady of Merton,'
&c, says, ' If you rise a fish with the Lady, and he does
not touch her, come over him with Toppy, and you have
him to a certainty, and vice versa.1 (I am dubious as to
the certainty, rather inclining to the opinion of a south-
country fisherman, that there \ was never no certainty till
you gets them on the "bank." ')
The plan usually adopted was to change the pattern,
and if that did not succeed to try a smaller fly. I should
rely more on the change of size than of colour. Once,
on one of the lower pools of the Garry, I killed a
salmon at the third time of asking; the fly he rose at first
was of some size; he was offered one a trifle smaller, and
again he came up; the third was still less, and that he
laid fast hold of. Now and then the change from a
smaller to a larger hook answers, especially in cold wintry
weather, or where, owing to swirls in the water, you have
reason to believe that fish might not have been able to
see the fly. If a salmon has touched the fly, it is very
seldom that he will rise a second time.
I wonder if anyone who may chance to peruse these MANAGEMENT OF THE FLY
pages has ever known a fish to be killed after ' cheating
him '—i.e. deliberately baulking him, when he rises.
Once, while walking by the riverside, at Floors, I came
upon the Duke of Eoxburghe (grandfather of the present
Duke), who was wading and fishing a favourite cast known
as the ' New Stream.' As I came up to him a fish rose
without taking. The Duke, turning round, said to me,
' This is the second time; if he comes again, I shall cheat
him.' Having waited a few moments, he threw again,
and again the salmon rose. The Duke dropped the top of
the rod and let the fly down below. At the next cast the
fish was hooked. Close to where he had been lying was
a dangerous rock, so that had it run across towards the
opposite side, which it seemed much disposed to do, the
line would assuredly have been cut—a misfortune which
might easily have occurred to a less experienced and
skilful fisherman. The Duke, however, getting a little
down stream, turned his hand over, holding on in such
fashion that the powerful rod he used bent double, and
it appeared as though something must go. In this way he
managed to keep his fish on the right side of the rock;
when past it, the Duke shouted to me, ' I've got him
now! ' A short distance below, the salmon, a new one
of 28 lbs., was landed on a shelving bank of gravel. The
Duke told me he had often tried the same manoeuvre, and
sometimes with success. Often, in comparatively smooth
places a wave caused by the rise may be observed behind
the fly, before the water actually breaks, then comes the
rise itself, followed by the long drag on the line which tells
you that the fish has got the hook ; then, and only then, is
the time to fix the hold by a firm but careful pull. Some
fish are more leisurely in their movements than others, and
it requires a certain amount of self-control to resist the
inclination to shorten the moment of suspense between
the appearance of the ' wave,' or the straightening of the 58
line, and the return of the fish towards the depths of the
river; still that self-control must be exercised, or light will
be the bag.
Further, it will sometimes happen that a rise will be
seen in the middle of the stream, and that no corresponding pull will be felt by the angler; if the strike is made, no
chance is given the fish to follow the fly round and make
another effort to secure it. Occasionally a second rise will
be made during the same cast, if the fisherman goes on
working his fly as though nothing had happened, and
that second rise will generally prove fatal to the fish.
Bunning a salmon.—Let us now consider, a fish being
hooked, how to deal with him. It is hardly necessary to
observe that considerable skill, to be acquired by experience
only, is required to enable a man to run his fish properly,
and get him on shore with as little delay as possible.
Salmon rarely take uniformly well through the day, so
that, where they are plentiful, it is well to make the best
use of the time during which they do rise.
It is hardly possible to control the first rush of a
salmon ; as soon as that is over and the resistance of the
fish becomes less, pressure should be put on, and kept on,
until a second rush is made; then, again he must be
allowed to have his own way, unless he is making off to
a dangerous place, where the line will probably be cut
against a sharp rock, or is apparently bent upon going
where the angler is unable to follow. These rushes will
be gradually shorter as the fish becomes exhausted, and,
if the stream is slack, he can be landed without further
difficulty. If, on the contrary, there is no choice but to
bring him to the net in hard-running water, the rod must
be turned towards the bank next the angler and a firm
hold maintained, until the attendant is able to use the
gaff or landing-net. This operation requires some nerve,
as the broadside of the fish, being acted upon by the MANAGEMENT OF THE FLY
stream, the weight upon the rod and line is heavier than
is pleasant. It should not be attempted until the fish is
quite beat.
With reference to the contingency above mentioned—
i.e. where a fish is running towards another pool where it
is impossible to follow him, or into danger of such a
nature that it becomes necessary to take any risk in order
to stop him—some experienced fishermen maintain that
the line should be slackened, the slightest bow being
maintained on the rod, or, indeed, slackened entirely. The
experiment has been tried twice in my presence, once in
the Tweed when the fisherman deliberately and of his
own accord gave the fish his head when he was hanging
above a slap, the result being that he swam down the
stream and was seen no more; the second time on the
Inverness Garry, when the line became slack, from no
desire of the fisherman. The Garry fish was killed by
good luck after a desperate run. Perhaps, as affording
an example of how much may depend on fortune or
accident, the adventure may be related.
I happened to be fishing a pool which had just come
into order, where the river made a considerable bend, so
that the cast was somewhat of the shape of a half-circle;
below was a waterfall, further down a rock projected into
the water, on the same bank from which the angler cast;
from this rock a tree sloped towards the river in such
fashion that it was not possible for a man, single-handed,
to take the rod past. After I had fished the pool with a
large dark-coloured fly and seen nothing, the fisherman
urged me to try a different one over it; this I declined to
do, but told him, if he thought it worth while, to choose
another fly and go to work himself. He proceeded to do
so, having selected a huge Silver Doctor, whilst I retired
up the bank to watch. At the very tail of the pool up
came a fish, which was instantly hooked.    At this critical 60
moment the man stumbled and the line was in a bag;
nevertheless, down the waterfall went the fish. The
man followed as best he might, until he arrived at the
point where the tree barred his progress ; by the time he
got there I was on the rock below, holding on to the tree
with one hand on account of the slippery stone, and
stretching forth to take the rod with the other. All th,at
could be done was to grasp the middle of it until he came
round and relieved me, the line in the interval running
freely down stream; upon reeling-up the rod bent, and
the fish, which had been taking matters easily, was off as
fresh as when he started : down stream we went through
swirls, eddies, broken water and rocks, till we reached at
last a small sandy bay where the fish had stopped ; here
the trees grew close to the water's edge, so that it was
impossible to get the top of the rod up. The man who
had run the fish (he had offered me the rod, but not
having hooked the fish I naturally declined it) was rather
doubtful as to what to do. However, at my suggestion
he walked backwards into the wood with the top pointing
towards the fish, and so towed him to the side where it
was easy for me to use the gaff. The salmon was a well-
made spring fish of about 15 lbs. The run was not as
long or as desperate a one as that described by Scrope
on the occasion of his reels getting out of gear; but let
anyone who knows the Garry cast an eye over the river
for some 300 yards below the Mill Pool, and let him say
if following a salmon through such dangers as it reveals
is not a remarkable achievement. Nothing but extraordinary good fortune could have enabled the fisherman
to succeed in getting his fish.
In endeavouring to stop a fish in close proximity to
danger I know no better chance than to hold on and run
the risk of a break in doing so; it has been my habit to
throw as much strain on the line as possible and not on MANAGEMENT OF THE FLY
the rod: first, because the line will stand a far harder
pull than the rod; secondly, because if anything goes it
will be the casting-line; a broken casting line is no serious
misfortune, but a broken top, especially if it happens to
break at the ferrule, may finish the day's fishing. Should
a salmon yield, cease plunging, and show some inclination
to come towards the fisherman, let him by no means reel
up at once, but walk up stream with the rod bent hard on
the fish until out of danger, then wind up as quietly as
may be. Any strong measures in the use of the reel will
certainly set the fish off again.
As stated above, it is hardly possible to control the
rush of a salmon when first hooked. If the attempt be
made, it is certain to result in a disaster. Let me quote
an instance of such an attempt, leading to the loss of the
fish. A salmon had been seen at the tail of a stream in
the Avon known as ' The Piles,' one Friday afternoon;
it was tolerably certain that when the weirs had their
hatches opened the next day at twelve o'clock (the
hour at which weekly close time begins), such fish as
might be in the * Eoyalty fishery ■ would leave that water
for the pools higher up; the time available was therefore short, and flies of approved patterns had been
tried in vain. Prawns were to be had, but I had no
suitable tackle to use with them; accordingly, on my
way home to the King's Arms, (an excellent hotel), I went
into an ironmonger's shop and bought a sea-hook, which,
to judge by its appearance, should have been strong
enough not to break in the jaws of a shark ; this I tied on
to a cast made of the stoutest three-plied gut, attaching
some heavy shot and a coarse swivel to the tackle. So
armed I got up early on the Saturday and fished the
water down to where we had seen the fish; having put a
couple of flies over him without effect, there was nothing
for it but to let him see the prawn.   No sooner did it come 62
near him than he seized it eagerly and was fast hooked.
I looked at the Christchurch Abbey clock, which was
plainly visible from where I stood, and found that there
was only a quarter of an hour available in which I could
reach the train by which it was imperatively necessary
that I should go to town. The keeper was with me, so I
told him to take the rod and kill the fish ; this he refused
to do, whereupon the only course left was to pull the
salmon across the river to within reach of the gaff by
main force. Walking backwards from the bank with a
firm grasp of the line, I succeeded in bringing him safely
three parts of the way, when the rod straightened, the*
line flew up, and he was gone—the ironmonger's hook
had broken.
Apart from the knowledge which every fisherman of
experience may obtain, it would seem that some men
have naturally a gift of touch which enables them to
gauge the exact amount of pressure which may be safe to
put upon a running fish, much as some horsemen are
endowed by nature with good hands. This gift is more
often found amongst gentlemen than amongst professional
fishermen, probably because the former use better tackle,
which can be absolutely depended upon with fair usage,
whereas many of the latter are obliged to be content with
what their means may afford, and are therefore afraid to
' hold on ' at the proper moment.
I have little doubt that this sense of touch comes
naturally to some men, whilst others remain, in spite of
much practice, all their lives without it. It is this
sensitive touch that makes good hands in driving or
riding, enables a musician to produce a good tone, or
gives John Eoberts and a few professional billiard-players
judgment of strength and the consequent power of making
the marvellous breaks for which they are famous. So,
with regard to fishing, the advantage of feeling exactly
how much pressure it is safe to put on is of the greatest MANAGEMENT  OF  THE FLY
value. Nor do I believe that experience, though it may
do much, will make up for the want of a delicate sense of
feeling in the angler any more than I believe that without
it a man can have good hands on a horse.
Eeference is not intended to extreme cases, but to
ordinary circumstances where the object is merely to kill
the fish as quickly as possible in order to save valuable
time. Upon one occasion, having hooked a newly-run
gilse of about 10 lbs., the professional fisherman remonstrated with me for not holding harder. I therefore gave
him the rod and asked him to kill the fish. A moment
or two after he began to ease the strain by pulling line off
the reel, remarking at the same time, * It's amazing what
power they things have in the water.'
This same man (and no better ever rowed a boat) was
with me when I killed my first salmon, in the Tweed.
The water was a good size for killing fish, but beginning
to run low and clear. He, being strongly in favour of
the use of single gut, had knotted on a cast out of a hank
which happened to be in my book. Shortly after going
to work a fish came up to the fly and was hooked, foul,
as it turned out; away went the salmon, up and down
and across the stream, towards the shallows opposite,
occasionally swimming deep, now and again throwing
himself out of the water. The directions which the
fisherman shouted to me were enough to confuse even a
tolerably old hand, still more a comparative novice, as I
then was. 'Hold up your top or he'll break ye—mind
ye've only single gut—he's gaun to they stanes opposite—
feel his weight—get below him—drop your hand ' (when
he jumped &c). Fortunately, after an exciting battle,
the salmon, a clean-run one of 15 lbs., was brought to the
net, when the old man's features relaxed into a beaming
smile, and as he knocked it on the head with the doctor
he exclaimed, ' Eh, but ye managed him grand.' 64 SEVENTY  YEARS' FISHING
It is, in fact, hardly possible to judge what a fish is
doing unless one has the rod in one's own hand. In the
case above mentioned, the fisherman knew nothing of my
capacity in the way of running a fish, and his anxiety
to see it brought to book caused him to give me instructions which, as they were somewhat contradictory, it
would have been hardly possible to follow. That he
would have killed the fish in better style than mine is
probable enough. Here follows an example of how a
salmon may be lost from a want of proper resolution at
the right moment.
I had been all day on the Feale, near Listowtel, not
having had a rise or a pull; just before giving up the
fisherman said, ' Here is one more stream your honour
should try before you go home.' I, however, having lost
all hope, gave him the rod, desiring him to fish the cast
himself. To my surprise, after a few throws, the man
hooked a fish of 8 or 9 lbs., which, after jumping once or
twice, ran for some distance down stream, the fisherman
and I following along the bank. A little below, the river
widened out to a broad reach, where branches hung over
the water; the fish was showing signs of fatigue and I
urged the man to shorten the line and turn the rod over
his shoulder, knowing that if any of these branches had
fallen into the river, there would be a strong chance of
losing him. He took no notice of my advice, and the
next minute the fish got fast at the bottom and escaped.
In this case the fisherman was afraid to prtt on any
pressure, having no idea of what good tackle would stand
in that way.
It has been my habit when fishing in gloves to keep
the reel line between the second and third fingers; when a
fish makes his rush, the fingers can be opened to give free
play to the reel, and as the vigour of the dash subsides,
closed lightly or firmly according to the motions of the MANAGEMENT OF THE FLY
fish. Without gloves this plan will not do, unless the
angler chooses to risk having his fingers severely cut.
Without gloves, however, the line may safely be held
between the finger and thumb.
The quickest way of tiring a fish is to get below him
and pull him down stream, but in many rivers this course
is impossible, and you are forced to stand where you were
when the rise took place. In such cases the job is a long
one. It is essential if a fish runs up stream and passes
you to turn the rod towards the bank on which you may
be, and by no means hold it at something like a right
angle to the river: in fact, in the position it occupied
when the salmon was hooked. By thus turning the top
you keep the reel line on your own side, and as much as
may be out of the strength of the current; if this precaution be neglected and the water is heavy, the line will
make a half-circle under the surface, which, as Scrope
pithily remarks, 'would go round the ruins of another
If alone and without a gaff, a salmon may be safely
landed thus: Having found a suitable spot—i.e. a shelving bank, the fish must be gently but firmly conducted
towards the shore until he falls over on his side; you
may then lay down the rod, taking care to place it so that
the reel will run out easily should the salmon have
another plunge left in him; march into the water, take
him by the tail, and push him up the bank. It is well,
perhaps, to point out that, in so handling a salmon, the
thumb and one finger only should be used; if two are
employed, one pushes the other out of its hold on account
of the limited space between the root of the tail and the
body of the fish. The actions of a fish doubtless depend
in great measure upon the way in which he is hooked; if
the fly is fixed in the tongue or lower jaw, the power
of resistance is much diminished; if in the gills, he will
F 66
quickly bleed to death; swallowing the hook, which occasionally happens (so long as the gills are not touched)
when using the prawn, does not seem to affect his means
of locomotion. One evening it happened to me to kill
two fish with this bait in the Avon; they both ran
furiously, and when landed, the hooks, one large and two
small, were found to be lodged in their entrails. The
first of these fish, immediately after bolting the prawn,
rushed down to the tail of the pool, and I hoped that
when he came to the shallow water he might turn;
however, after hanging for a few moments, off he went
down the stream; in order to follow it was necessary to
struggle through a boggy piece of ground, so that it was
not possible to keep up with him, and by the time firm
footing was reached nearly all the line was out, the fish
being far below and near the opposite bank. Heeling up
and running down the river, I became conscious of a
sensation as though something was rasping against the
line. When able to get up to him, after one or two more
rushes, he came to the gaff; there was then but little
daylight left, so, in order to save time, I proceeded to cut
the tackle above his mouth and put on a spare hook ready
baited. The fish, a clean-run one, over 25 lbs., had cut
one of the strands of treble gut, thus accounting for the
rasping sensation referred to above. What would have
happened had the hooks been mounted on single gut?
The second fish took the prawn, gulping it down
instantly into his stomach, just as his companion had
done, but instead of pursuing a down-stream course, ran
hard some distance up the river, then, turning, came back
to the pool where he had been hooked. As there was no
bog to wade through or any impediment to prevent
following him, he was easily landed; he weighed within
a pound or two of the first.
It is apparent from the above incidents that fish can MANAGEMENT OF THE  FLY
have but little sensation of pain in their interior as compared with other creatures. What resistance could be
offered by any warm-blooded animal with a hook in its
stomach? In the course of my own experience I have
three times seen fish hooked in the eye; twice when
fishing the Tweed, once in the Garry; on each occasion
the runs which the unlucky salmon gave were of the
wildest description. Do what one may, when first hooked,
a salmon of any size is master of the situation, and if he
declines to run it will take a long time to land him. One
which was hooked in a cast named 'the Prison,' near
Sprouston, took five hours to kill; it did not actually
sulk, but kept swimming slowly round and round, resting
now and then for a short time when tired; a small fish
would not have been able to resist the pressure put upon
it, but this particular salmon weighed 25 lbs. (for it was
killed at last). By its tactics it saved the lives of several
of its relatives.
Occasionally a fish will become sulky and lie down at
the bottom without stirring; the best chance of moving
him is to row or wade across to the opposite bank, get
below him and pull him down stream. I know little
about sulking fish, my own experience being limited
to one occasion, on the Avon. The fit of ' sulks' may
have lasted ten minutes, but on getting a punt and
crossing the water, the salmon, which was a large one
(32 lbs. weight), came away directly and was killed.
Should a salmon, when apparently nearly beaten, rest
for even a few minutes, he will soon recover from his
exertions, and when he makes a fresh start will be nearly
as strong as when first hooked. Twice have I seen fish
lost in such cases. Upon the first occasion I was using
the prawn, and, after hard fighting, the salmon (a large
spring fish) had run over a shallow where there was
scarcely depth for him to swim, into a small hole, where
the water was perhaps two feet deep. The keeper had
no waders, so I gave him the rod and marched in below
with the gaff. When nearly within reach the fish made
a furious dash and succeeded in making his way over the
shallows. I shouted to the keeper to keep up the top
and run with the fish. Instead, he stood still, out went
the line, the heavy shot attached to the trace got fast at
the bottom, and the fish was away.
The second instance is as follows:—A friend had
come down to fish ' the Eoyalty ' for the first time. I
accordingly went out with him to point out the casts.
Having fished two pools blank we came to a stream at
the bottom of which a punt was waiting to take us
across, as it fished best from the opposite side. My
companion, however, threw a long line and did not see
the expediency of crossing, as he could cover the water
from where he was. Having made a few casts he was
fast in a fish, which, after a gallop up stream, subsided
into a small hole, much of the same nature as that
referred to above, only that the water was not so shallow.
A little farther down on our side was the boggy ground
referred to on page 66, which, the river being rather
high, was passable with difficulty, if at all. The angler
appealed to me as to what he should do. I advised his
crossing at once; now, the punts used on the Avon are
small and narrow, and unless one is accustomed to them it
is prudent to sit fast at the stern; so I added, ' Whatever
you do, sit still till you reach the opposite bank, and on
no account stand up before you get there.' When halfway, off went the fish, as strong as ever, and up sprang
my friend to his feet; at that moment, the stream being
somewhat heavy, the punt gave a lurch, he stumbled,
and nearly fell overboard, failed to let the reel run, and
was broken. Both these fish were lost by mismanagement ; in my case I did not give the salmon credit for m**m*
being able to get out of the tight place he was in, and
had the keeper followed my directions he would have
kept the sinkers off the bottom and killed the fish. My
friend's loss was the result of his casting from the wrong
side of the water, and neglecting my warning to sit
Besides these two cases I recollect having on, for
sometime, a salmon which ran to where the current of the
Tweed was divided by a rock ; between the two streams
was slack water, and, the fish being in good condition and
over 20 lbs., was able to resist my effort to move him for
a time. When he did move off he went as though just
hooked. Moral: Never let a salmon have a moment's
breathing time if you can help it.
It might be supposed that all men who have been in
the habit of fishing would arrive at some general method
of running a salmon. This is, however, by no means the
case. It once occurred to me to be out with a gentleman
who, when a salmon was hooked, put the butt of the rod
on the floor of the boat, held the top up and allowed the
reel to run without touching the line. When the fish got
tired of towing it about, he would wind up and bring him
ashore; it is needless to remark that besides risking the
loss of the fish, endless time was wasted by this method
of going to work; the rod was of cane and over twenty
feet, so that the friction on the rings was considerable,
otherwise no one could guess how long it might have
taken to land the fish. The boatman was in despair, and
in order to put an end to this novel mode of treating a
salmon, when another fish was hooked he, as soon as
possible, rowed the boat ashore, thinking that the gentleman would then be forced to stand up and use his rod in
the usual manner. Our friend was not to be done so
easily, for some trees near the bank having been recently
felled, he sat down on the truuk of one of them and went
on as before. On another occasion a friend was running
a fish which had turned up stream; he appealed to me
as to whether he was going to work the right way.
' No,' said I, ' turn the rod over towards the bank behind
you.' This he declined to do, though it was obvious
enough that by so doing he would have pulled the line
out of the main body of the stream and thus relieved the
pressure on his tackle. The strain was considerable, as
he had not only to contend against the power of the
fish, but the weight of the stream acting on the line.
The channel, however, was excellent, and no misfortune
Curious mistakes have now and then been made by
anglers not well up to the proceedings of a salmon when
first hooked. There is an old story of a gentleman who
was fishing where the water ran deep and strong. The
fly being well sunk a heavy pull was felt, and the reel
giving out line freely, he thought a big fish was on.
After a few moments, the line sagging round in the eddy,
it became evident on winding in that the hook had not
moved. The angler thereupon handed the rod to his
man, asking if he had not got hold of something very
weighty. ' 'Deed, have you,' he replied; ' you have just
got fast in the kingdom of Scotland.' The fly was fixed
in a rock below the surface, and the action of the stream,
a want of resolution on the part of the angler, and an easy
running reel had sufficed to produce the illusion. That
the tale is strictly true I cannot assert from my personal
knowledge. I tell it as it was told to me. Here is another
instance, however, of a somewhat similar occurrence, for
the reality of which I can vouch. An old friend of mine,
keen as all good fishers should be, happened to be on a
visit to the late Sir J. Marjoribanks on Tweedside. The
water was far too big, in fact in flood; nevertheless,
though told there was no chance of a fish, he persisted in MANAGEMENT OF THE FLY
trying his luck. His first attempt was made where, even
in low water, there was a heavy run, at the tail of which
fish would rest, just above an eddy which turned in
towards the side from which he cast. After a throw or
two a heavy drag was felt, and out went the fine; the
professional fisherman, a very old man—for he told me he
remembered rowing my grandfather—took the boat ashore
and instructed the angler to go down a step or two and
bring the fish into the eddy. Following this advice no
salmon, indeed, was landed, but instead a wreath of laurel
was dragged ashore. A short time before, one of the
Duke of Eoxburghe's daughters had been married, and
on the occasion of her first visit, after the ceremony, to
Floors Castle, the Kelso people had erected a triumphal
arch on the bridge which there crosses the river, as an
earnest of their good wishes to her and her family. The
arch having served its purpose, was pulled to pieces and
thrown into the Tweed; the fragments were carried down
by the next flood, one of which found its way to the
Lees water, where it was hooked and landed as narrated
The dash of a clean salmon when first hooked is, as
all fishermen know, most vigorous and exciting to the
angler; when nearly exhausted it will, before coming
within reach of the gaff or net, make repeated efforts to
regain deep water. Its last struggles rather try one's
patience, even when using a powerful rod. If hooked on
trout tackle, these last moments are naturally much
prolonged. When fishing for trout one spring in the
Tweed, the river being full of kelts, I hooked a large,
well-mended one; for a long time it continued to bore
out into the cast, after having been worked into shallow
water; I was using two large March Browns, one a shade
lighter than the other. The big kelt had taken the tail
fly, and to my surprise, as it hung in the stream, a second 1
kelt rose at the dropper. Ejiowing that if it took hold an
immediate smash would be the result, the line was
instantly slackened, so that the fly should fall back below
the rise. The experience would have been unique, but
hardly have made up for the loss of my flies and casting
line, possibly for a broken rod.
Salmon, as is well known to all fishermen, lie only
in certain parts of the rivers known as ' casts.' These
spots are, of course, pointed out by the attendant gillies
to the sportsman, although an experienced hand would
doubtless discover the best of them for himself, if put
down by the side of an unknown stream. Casts have all
their own names, in most instances given them by local
fishermen on account of some distinctive feature. There
is generally to be found a crooked pool, an otters' pool,
and so forth. On the Tummel one stream is named
Craigandhoulia, or the Tailor's Eock, because a tailor was
drowned there.
Two streams on the Dee (Solway) are called the Amont
and the Aval—French words signifying up-stream and
down-stream—the Amont was fished up, i.e. you cast the
eddy with your face looking up stream, the Aval was
fished in the ordinary way. Some distance below these
two streams there is ' Queen Mary's Pool,' and upon
asking my gillie why it was so named, he said ' it was
because Queen Mary crossed the water there, and when
she got to the tither side they knockit the heid off her.'
In rapid rivers which bring down gravel and soil when
in flood, casts are subject to alteration, generally for the
worse; three good streams at least do I know on the
Tweed which have been spoilt in this way. One near
Coldstream, known as • The Back of the Wall,' used in
a certain height of water to be much above the average—
in anglers' parlance it fished better off the land—and there
one September afternoon, I, fishing alone, without man MANAGEMENT OF THE FLY
or landing net, killed six salmon. I am told it has
been so silted up with gravel as to be now altogether
It has constantly occurred to me that in certain cases
something might be done to improve a cast. Where a
good deal of water runs over shallows by the side of the
channel in which the fish lie, a wall might be built out
at such an angle from the bank as to turn the water so
wasted into the main stream, thus increasing the volume
of the current. Sometimes ' a cradle' is put into the
river with the object of contracting its width immediately above the cast, which is thus made deeper and
more rapid.
Careful observation of the kind of water which salmon
rest in is often of great assistance, and may not only save
the trouble of casting over useless parts of a river unknown to the angler, when without the assistance of a
local fisherman, but prove the means of picking out a fish
from a place which a man used to depend upon a native
gillie might pass unnoticed.
Coming home after an unsuccessful day's stalking in
the forest of Glen Quoich, the stalker told me that there
was a salmon in the Quoich where that river ran past his
house. Upon further questioning he said the fish's fins
had been seen as it swam up the shallows. The next day
I took my rod and tackle up to the shallows referred to,
and proceeded to fish the likely-looking places above. At
the second pool came a wave below the fly, a head and
tail rise, and a slow heavy pull; the next moment the
fish was hooked and running down stream. After a hard
fight and several escapes from [being cut amongst the
rocks, the salmon was duly landed on a shelving bank of
gravel (weight, just under 20 lbs.).
One or two other places of promising appearance were
tried in vain.    Then fastening the head and tail together SEVENTY  YEARS' FISHING
by means of a few twisted birch twigs, I trudged slowly
home six miles along the road, with the fish in one hand
and the rod in the other. On approaching Glen Quoich
Lodge I fell in with my host, the late Mr. Edward Ellice,
who, while congratulating me on my success, expressed
his surprise, as, said he, ' You did not know the water.'
Many years afterwards, it so happened that I was
staying with the late Lord Normanton at Somerley, his
place on the Avon, whence it was easy to reach the
' Eoyalty ' which I was fishing at the time. His Lordship's river-keeper was anxious to have the Somerley
water tried, as salmon were said to visit that part of the
river occasionally. Accordingly, the keeper and I walked
up one morning to the highest stream, bent upon giving
the water a fair trial. In one of the pools, two or three
salmon had been netted at considerable intervals of time:
nothing was known as to the rest of the water. In that
pool two kelts were caught and put back. Some way
lower down the river made a considerable bend, and the
keeper suggested that, as the pool below the turn did not
appear to be of much account, we should take a short cut
across the fields in order to save time and trouble. Being
generally acquainted with the look of the river from having
often shot wild fowl out of the Gazes on its banks, this
particular pool was well known to me, and I had thought
to myself that it was just the place for a spring salmon ;
it seemed therefore a pity to leave it untouched. We
accordingly stuck to the river and fished the pool down,
with the result that there we got the first salmon ever
taken with the rod on the Somerley water (28^ lbs.
After this other casts were discovered, and in the
spring a few salmon were generally killed—a few only,
for the Avon never held many, and the Somerley water
being a long way from the sea, as the river ran, the fish ?*m
had much difficulty in escaping nets and rods on their
way up.
The last day I ever fished at Somerley produced two
fish, one of 21 lbs., another of 12 lbs. The river-keeper
was only just recovering from influenza, so that I was
alone. On my way up to the top of the water a fish
showed itself. In the bright sunshine it seemed to be
brown on the back, not blue, as a kelt would be. Beginning some way above, I got hold of the larger fish,
and after a time drew it ashore on a shelving bank of
sand. Then returning to where it had been hooked,
I fished the pool down to where the other salmon had
been seen : he declined, however, to take the fly (a double
Silver Grey) which had proved successful; so noticing
that he lay amongst boils and heavy swirls, where the
water presented almost a convex aspect, it occurred to
me that perhaps the Silver Grey was not easily visible.
I therefore substituted for it a large Bolingbroke (wings,
golden pheasant's topping; body, fiery brown, ribbed
with gold). No sooner did the big Bolingbroke come over
the fish than he took, and was soon on the bank by the
side of his big brother.
It is generally considered that, though salmon may
lie in pools where the water presents the appearance just
referred to, they will but seldom take in such places. It
might be worth trying casts of this description with a
fly a good deal larger than would be used in other parts
of the water.
Avon fish were never at the best of times numerous,
but the wild fowl were. (On one day we killed at
Somerley 173 head of eatable ducks—a record, as I believe,
in the annals of real wild birds.) When I first knew the
Avon it was the prevailing idea that in consequence of an
alteration at the mouth of the river, the number of fish
had materially decreased.    The Avon in old days was 76
said to have run directly out to sea, but that after heavy
gales from the south-west, which threw up a quantity of
gravel, its course was altered, so that it turned under
one bank and took a more circuitous direction. I was told
that salmon had consequently difficulty in finding the
mouth of the river. I was willing to believe that the
Avon had changed its course—indeed, the fact was evident
enough—but not that fish would be hindered in ascending
the river in consequence of such a change.
In two or three years the fishing improved from other
causes—the effect of the English Salmon Fisheries Law,
possibly better supervision above Christchurch, and the
return to the water of kelts, though the river was still
eating away the bank. As soon as this slight improvement became manifest, the ' Eun' below Christchurch
where the fishermen worked was covered with nets. The
result has been naturally that the last state of that river
is worse than the first. Those interested in the netting
wilfully blind themselves as to the cause of the falling off,
the Eun men attributing it to want of fish passes, those
higher up to the change at the mouth of the river.
One remedy proposed is the abolition of netting in
fresh water. No doubt such a measure would be of some
use, but the question arises as to how funds are to be
obtained to compensate the owners of the fresh-water
fisheries. Where the diminution in the number of fish
had rendered such fisheries of little or no value, the compensation would be comparatively trifling, but the prohibition would of itself not do much. Nothing short of
some years' jubilee would avail. Then, as no licences
would be taken out, the funds would disappear.
My first visit to Christchurch after joining the small
club which fished the ' Eoyalty' produced two salmon of
about 25 lbs. each. I had fished on the Thursday and
Friday with no result, beyond landing five or six kelts;' MANAGEMENT OF THE  FLY
so, putting down my want of success to the unfavourable
state of the weather (a bitter east wind and hot sun), had
decided to go to town by the early train on the Saturday;
but, as I walked home in the afternoon, the air felt less
keen and the sky had become cloudy. I therefore told the
fisherman to call me early if a change occurred. Luckily
the wind shifted during the night, and instead of a hot
sun and cold easterly breezes we had on the Saturday
morning mild weather and a drizzle from the south.
Accordingly the fisherman and I went up to Knap Weir
(our boundary) and began immediately below, where a
large stone had been put in to induce the fish to rest.
After two or three casts a wave came below the fly, and
just before the line would have been lifted a rise and a
heavy pull. After a hard fight the salmon, which was
nearly beaten, gave two or three heavy rolls, and produced a feeling as though it had suddenly doubled its
weight. It had turned once or twice over the line, which
thus had got noosed round its body, and I had not only
the weight of the salmon to contend with, but, the pull
coming from its middle, its power of resistance was the
greater from its being broadside on. However, on the
bank where we were there was no impediment, so, getting
below the salmon, he was pulled down stream. A firm
steady pressure caused him to turn over and over until
the coils of the line became free, when he was easily
landed. Weight, 25 lbs. In the afternoon, when the
artificial flood caused by letting off the water, which had
been penned for netting purposes, subsided, I killed a
second fish of the same size.
On my return journey to London, whilst waiting at
Eingwood for the up train, my rods were on the platform,
and from their length attracted the attention of a schoolboy, who was, with his father, on his way to town.
' Father,' he said, ' what long rods ;' on which the father 78
inquired if I went bobbing] for whales with those rods.
'Yes,'said I; 'that is what they are meant for.' 'Ah,'
he replied, ' I dare say with all your long rods you have
not taken two such fish as I have,' and with that he
opened a rush basket and displayed two pike of about
3 lbs. apiece in wretched condition, being at that season
(month of April) full of spawn. Having no wish, so to
speak, to take the gilt off the man's gingerbread, and
sympathising with a brother angler's pride, I forbore to
mention my own performance.
Allusion has been already made to the fact that
salmon in the spring, when fresh up from the sea, are,
when in a taking humour, by no means particular as to
what fly they may rise at. Here is a case in point.
It sometimes happened that only one member of our
small club would be on the water, and in such cases we
were at liberty to invite a friend. On such an occasion
I took down to Christchurch my uncle, the late Admiral
Sir Frederick Grey. The river was, though clear enough,
very high, and he was advised to try a large fly. The
Admiral, however, chose one of the old Bolingbroke
pattern, two or three sizes smaller than that recommended,
and being, like most of his profession, a man of decided
opinions, stuck to his choice. The wind was strong and
foul, and the Castleconnell rod he used seemed useless
against the adverse blasts. After some two hours or so
it lulled for a few minutes, and during the calm interval
he for the first time succeeded in getting his line out
properly; the immediate result was a rise, the rod bent
up to the reel, and away went a 30-lb. salmon up stream
at his best pace.    In a wonderfully short time the Admiral
1 For angling rod he took a sturdy oak,
For line a cable that in storm ne'er broke,
His hook was baited with a dragon's tail,
And then on rock he stood to bob for whale. MANAGEMENT  OF THE  FLY
steered his fish to within reach of the gaff, and on landing
him exclaimed: ' You see, my fly was the right one
after all.'
I have little doubt that the fish killed by Sir Frederick
would have taken a larger fly, but am not certain that the
smaller one would have answered excepting at the spot
where it proved successful; the river was a big fishing
size, but the fish killed was lying in an eddy at the tail of
a heavy stream where there was no depth of water. This
was the first time a Castleconnell rod had been used in
my presence where large fish were to be met with, and I
was surprised at the short time in which a 30-lb. salmon
was killed with it. This is to be accounted for by the fact
that, with a fish on, the upper part of the rod is pulled
down towards the water far more than the old Tweed rod
of stiffer make would be, the strain being thus thrown
more on the line and the lower part of the middle piece.
I have only once killed a salmon with one of these
Castleconnell rods, and that was in a cast called the Black
Stone in the upper Floors water. One of the other guests
at the Castle was fishing, and asked me to take a few casts
with his rod whilst he had a smoke on the bank. A fish
was soon hooked, but, being unacquainted with the spring
of this kind of rod, I was at a loss what to do, and afraid
to hold on, until urged to do so by its owner. My
objection to the Castleconnell type is that I have never
seen anyone able to cast against a wind with a rod of this
build. It may be done, but never has been done by anyone in my presence, though I have often seen the attempt
Another relation of mine, brother to the Admiral, the
Honble. Harry Grey, was for many years a member of the
small club which fished the Avon, and a fishing adventure
of his (I should think) is unique. He had hooked a large
fish in a part of the river where the bank had been piled, 80
At one place two or three of these piles had given way,
and the bank had become undermined. The fish having
been on some short time came close inshore, where the
bank was in this state. The keeper struck the fish fairly
with the gaff, but when he endeavoured to lift it out, the
bank gave way under his feet, and in he went into six or
seven feet of water, losing his hold of the gaff and breaking the casting line. Mr. Grey went on fishing until just
before dark, and as he was reeling up caught sight of the
top of the gaff handle in a hole a few feet deep, a short
distance above where the fish had been lost. A punt was
launched and an attempt made to recover the gaff and the
salmon, but without success. The next day the top of
the gaff was seen again. A net was then drawn through
the hole, and the fish, with the gaff still sticking in its
side, captured.
Twice have I known the gaff to fail; once in the
Garry, where the gillie tried to hoist the fish up a steep
bank, and the hook straightened so that it fell back into
the river. The casting line, however, was not touched,
the hold was good, and a few minutes sufficed to bring
the salmon (which weighed 23 lbs.) on to a shelving bank,
where it was easily tailed and pushed ashore. This gaff
was purchased at the shop of a London tradesman of
high repute, yet it had been carelessly tempered.
On another occasion I had hold of the second largest
fish which fell to my share on the Avon (weight 34 lbs.).
When the fish came within reach, the same man who had
fallen into the river when trying to land Mr. Grey's
salmon, attempted to strike the gaff into it and bring it
ashore at one stroke, with the result that the hook came
off the handle and that the fish swam away with it in his
side. Here, again, the casting line was not touched, and
after another ten minutes the fish was tailed and landed.
The gaff was still in its side, and was soon fastened to MANAGEMENT OF THE FLY
another stick. It is now along with other tackle in a
cupboard in my sitting-room.
A blind salmon.—One bright hot afternoon in the
month of May, whilst waiting till towards evening before
trying for a fish, I was watching the shoals of roach as
they ran up a gentle fall immediately below a pool known
as ' Brewhouse Hole,' when a salmon appeared leisurely
ascending the stream close to my feet. It took no notice
of my presence, and remained almost stationary within a
yard or two of the bank before it disappeared. The next
morning before leaving for town I told the fisherman of
the curious behaviour of the fish, and remarked, ' If you
get a salmon of 18 lbs. or so when netting Brewhouse
Hole, it will in all probability be the one I saw.'
At my next visit I was informed that whilst the net
was coming in, a fish of that size was seen swimming
behind it, whereupon a second shot was rowed and resulted
in its capture. Upon examination it proved to be blind,
a thick film having grown over both eyes; the fish was
said to be in good condition. There was no reason to
doubt the truth of the man's story, and the strange behaviour of the fish is thus explained.
I wonder if any similar instance of a blind salmon is
known to any of my brother anglers ? Blind trout I have
seen, and once scooped one out of the Itchen with the
landing-net. It was an ugly black brute, and in very bad
condition. But this blind salmon was said to be a well-
shaped, healthy fish.
It has been my good fortune to spend many pleasant
days on the banks of the Avon—fishing for salmon in
the spring, and shooting wild fowl in winter. The
friends who were my companions in these pursuits have
nearly all passed away, and it is certain that my line
will never again be cast upon its waters. Nevertheless,
I still take an interest in the river, and it is with much
G 82
regret that I have read the evidence given before the
Commissioners of 1902 of its decay, if not ruin, as a
salmon stream—a regret heightened by the conviction
that under proper management its product might have
been increased, not diminished until the vanishing point
seems to have been reached.
Considerations as to the caprice of the fish we attempt
to capture with the artificial fly have been already stated.
Spring salmon are less uncertain as to their habits in
feeding than autumn fish, sea trout, or brown 'trout.
Indeed, when clean run from the sea both in the Tweed
and the Hampshire Avon, it is my belief that by far the
majority of them take.
I once asked an old fisherman on the Tweed whether
many were found in the streams when, in former days,
they ' burnt' the water. ' No, indeed,' he said, ' if the
casts had been properly fished previously.' On the Avon
if a salmon showed itself, before the warm weather, in
one of the pools, it was almost certain to be hooked, provided of course that it was not a swimming fish. In the
autumn it is, as a rule, only one out of many that will
There is a pool immediately below Coldstream Bridge
in which the fish may be seen by looking over the parapet.
Upon one occasion I chanced in the month of September
to be on the spot; the bottom of the river was, without
exaggeration, covered with fish. A man was trailing a fly
off the bridge, and as it came over them one salmon,
out of the number congregated there, rose. The fisherman turned to me saying his fly was too large. As it
happened, two or three smaller ones were sticking in my
hat, and I bade him try one of them. The salmon moved
towards it, but did not break the surface—the fisherman
then expressed his hope that he might get him at the
gloaming.    Sure enough he did kill a fish that evening,
I pjwjp^s:
probably the one he rose. How can we account for the
fact that this one salmon only, out of perhaps fifty or a
hundred, was ready to take ?
The fickleness of salmon and trout with respect to the
fly they may prefer at the moment is well known. Why
this is so we know not, but all fishermen are aware that
such is the case. It is still more remarkable that, with
salmon, they should vary, not only as to the eagerness
with which they may take, but in their behaviour, when
inside the circle of the net. I have seen fish after fish
drawn out with the seine, offering no resistance as it came
ashore ; perhaps the next day they would dash violently
at the net in their efforts to escape, so much so that the
hauling lines would have to be slackened—and what is
still more singular, possibly one fish only, out of several,
would behave in this manner. If they all acted in the
same fashion, their conduct might be set down to the
condition of the weather, or to some cause which affected
the mood of salmon in general at the time. But this
theory would not account for the violence of one fish and
the sluggishness of another; the fact stated rather goes
to prove that fish vary as much as other creatures in
Avon—Sport on the Tweed—Dubs—Mr. Liddell's day on Bergham Dub—
Curious Casts on Tummel and Makerston—Rob of the Trows—Big and
small salmon.
The best sport which has fallen to my lot has been on
the Tweed, and after that on the Hampshire Avon.1 On
that river I once killed four spring salmon of large
size in the day. More than once three. Whilst it was
only on one or two occasions that my trip from London
to Christchurch failed altogether. It was not only on
account of the weight of the fish, but owing to their
condition, that the sport on the Avon is thus rated.
They showed extraordinary game, running hard, leaping
out of the water at one moment, swimming at the bottom
the next, and producing, what an old Tweed fisherman
described to me as ' music in the Pirn.'
Along the silver streams of Tweed
'Tis blithe the mimic fly to lead
When to the hook the salmon springs
And the line whistles through the rings ;
The boiling eddy, see him try,
Then dashing from the current high,
Till watchful eye and cautious hand
Have led his wasted strength to land.
1 The first six fish taken by rod in the ' Royalty Vat the beginning of
my last season on that river weighed altogether 150 lbs.—largest 30 lbs., mujCl-JPifinKflBfl
In the Tweed, the ' dubs' or long deep pools, where
there is but little current, hold a large proportion of
salmon, especially in the autumn, and it is generally on
these dubs that the heaviest bags are made. (It was on
Bergham Dub that the late Honourable and Eev. Eobert
Liddell killed eighteen fish in one day.)
These places are useless unless the wind strikes them,
and it frequently happens that they remain unfished for
days; thus, the fish they contain may probably never have
seen a fly. On the other hand, the streams may have
been well threshed, without a rest, for some time. It
cannot be supposed that salmon take better in dead water
than where there is a good run.; the inference, therefore, is
undeniable, that it is in consequence of the large number
of fish collected in the dubs, and to the fact that they are
not so constantly cast over, that they provide the large
takes so often recorded in the ' Field.'
They do not afford as pleasant fishing as the streams;
the line being less easy to lift, moreover, as they are in
general more exposed to the full power of the wind, the
casting is not only laborious, but difficult. For all that,
it is well to fish the deep water whenever a breeze gives
a chance of success, the streams being always available so
long as the river is in order.
According to my experience the dubs fish best in low
rather than in high water, provided there is a strong
ripple on them. When the river is full, the shallow side
of the channel is the best; as it falls in, fish are inclined
to draw in to the deep side. In the same way, when the
streams, though clear enough for fishing, are still heavy,
the tails of the casts and eddies at the edge afford the
best chance. When there is a doubt as to whether a cast
is too big, it is well to watch the fly.    If it makes a streak
smallest 20 lbs.    I killed four of them, the other two were caught by a
friend ; they were all weighed in my presence. 86
in the water, resembling, on a small scale, the wake of
a light boat, it is a waste of time and trouble to go on
fishing there.
It is to be observed, however, that where the stream
runs hard, between its banks, the water being, for the
most part, tossed about and disturbed, smooth places may
be seen here and there, extending perhaps only a few
yards; these may be fished with success before the cast
itself can be said to be in order.
There is a cast in the upper Floors water which just
answers the above description. It fishes off the bank, and
there I was landed one afternoon, whilst the fisherman
took a friend, who was with me, higher up to fish from
the boat. The cast was too heavy, but throwing only
where streaks of smooth water were to be seen, it was my
good fortune to land four salmon before dark. It is a
sound rule to keep as short a line as possible on your fish,
yet there are places where this maxim must be disregarded. Such a place I have seen on the Tummel.
There you throw from a rock which runs out into the
river at an obtuse angle from the bank. Should a fish be
hooked and run down, it is necessary to stand still until a
good deal of line has been taken out, then to follow
quickly, and after passing the rock wind up rapidly, holding
the top well up at the same time. Were you to start
directly the fish was hooked, you would certainly cut the
Farther down, the river runs, for some distance, at a
great rate, and here three buttresses have, at one time or
another, been put up in order to protect the bank; behind
these are small holes where, though the water is broken,
a resting-place is afforded to the fish on their ways up the
rapids. These holes may be tried at any time, as, though
fish will not remain long in them, yet, while there, they
are likely enough to take.    It is probable that in rapid SPORT ON TWEED AND AVON
streams of this kind there may be similar resting-places,
here and there, which escape notice altogether.
Any man who has had experience on various rivers
would have little difficulty in finding out the casts on water
to which he is a stranger. The only case in which he
might easily be mistaken is where the pool is of such
depth that salmon lying at the bottom of it would not be
able to see the fly. Such places there are on many rivers.
For instance, in the 'Eoyalty' on the Avon is a pool
known as ' Brewhouse Hole,' which is said to be twenty-
two or twenty-three feet deep. Two fish only were, at
the time I fished the water, known to have been killed
there with fly, though they have on several occasions been
taken with a prawn.
The river, just above, makes a considerable bend and
immediately below runs with just enough strength to carry
this bait round the pool. One evening late in the month
of May, just as the day was over, a salmon showed itself
at the head of the place. I put on a ' White Wings,'
threw over it, and killed it. On another occasion the late
Mr. Pepys Cockerell was standing on the bank a little
below where my fish was caught, when a salmon came up
only a few yards from his feet. He instantly cast where
the rise had been and hooked his fish, which certainly
must have been still some distance from the bottom.
That fish will occasionally take in such circumstances
the following anecdote will show. As mentioned above,
Brewhouse Hole was occasionally fished with a prawn—
a boat being held at its head close to piles which had been
there driven in to preserve the bank. The line was then
payed out, and allowed to travel down with the stream.
At the tail of the pool were some rough stones and a
slight fall, so, in order to see where the prawn went, I
had put a large pike float on the line. No offer having
been made, the first time the bait was let down, the line SEVENTY YEARS' FISHING
was pulled through the rings and allowed to fall in coils f
at the bottom of the boat, whilst I lifted the prawn from
the water to see if it was all right. In the very act of
lifting, a salmon rose as though at a fly, and provoked at
the idea that in another moment he would have taken, I
dabbed the bait violently into the pool. To my surprise
the fish seized it instantly, and darted off down stream,
dragging the huge float under. After he had gone a few
yards a firm pull on my part hooked him. The fish, which
weighed 19 lbs., was eventually killed, but not without
anxiety of mind: the line at the bottom of the boat having got into somewhat of a mess, and the fish having
shown a strong inclination to leave the pool. Luckily,
the keeper was able to put the line to rights in time.
Probably but few salmon have been killed with a float on
the line! I have been told that the fly is not visible
to the fish at a greater depth than eighteen feet (in clear
One of the most sporting waters on the Tweed is
Makerston. Here, hard by' the Trows,' where the stream
rushes furiously between the rocks, dwelt for many years
a fisher well known throughout the border, Eob Kerse.
Eob was tacksman of the water, which at that time belonged to the Misses Macdougal. Many of his sayings and
doings have been handed down to memory, so that there
would be no advantage in repeating them here.
The following anecdote may, however, be related, as
showing a different state of things with regard to Tweed
fishings from that existing in later days. In Eob's time
cairn nets were lawful; the cairns themselves—perhaps,
to speak more correctly, the remains of them—are still
to be seen. The nets, which are fully described by Scrope,
were set so as to intercept the fish as they swam up the
river. There had been a good flood one month of July,
1 A foolish proceeding. SPORT ON TWEED AND AVON
bringing up numbers of fish, gilse especially; when the
water was of a suitable height for the purpose, Kerse set
his cairn nets. Upon being asked what his catch had
been, he said that he did not rightly know, but that a cart
was going all night to take the fish to Kelso and that it
took him three days to drink ' the lave.'*
As a proof, if any were required, of how things had
altered, even more than twenty years ago, it may be well
to relate what happened in my own case. I had been
shooting grouse for a week with the late Duke of Eox-
burghe; there had been a good deal of rain during that
week where we were, and more up in the west, so that on
returning to Floors we found the river too big to fish.
The Duke was going on the next day to join a grouse-
driving party, but most kindly left me at the Castle with
the water at my disposal.
For three days I fished most diligently. The weather
was favourable—breezy and cool. The casts in good
order. My bag was one clean gilse. On consulting the
fisherman he gave it as his opinion that it was useless to
persevere. ' We have seen no fish,' he said,' and unless the
flood had been bank high they could not get by the nets.'
It is not too much to say that gilse-fishing in the Tweed
has ceased practically to exist. Eob Kerse was a man of
liberal disposition, more so perhaps than many of his class.
As tacksman all fish caught in his water were his property, but gentlemen who fished with him have told me
that after a good day he would nearly always offer them
a fish to take home with them.
His death came about in a remarkable manner. One
very hard winter the Tweed near his house was frozen
over, and coming home late at night he went on to the
ice, probably remained there too long, caught a chill, and
died after a few days' illness.
1 The rest. M-.i.
On the stretch of the river belonging to Makerston is
a most singular cast named the ' Side Strake.' In order
to fish it the boat is pushed up by a man wading who
holds it fast on a rock at the edge of the river; this can
only be done when the water is low. Beginning with a
line no longer than the rod, the fly is cast across and
slightly up stream, and allowed to come round until it
almost touches the gunwale of the boat. The line, after
a throw or two, is gradually lengthened until some twenty-
five yards have been covered. Should a salmon rise at
the top of the cast, may be within six feet of where you
are fishing, it will be as plainly in view as though it were
on the slab of Mr. Grove's shop in Bond Street. You
must kill the fish from where you stand, as following it
would be impossible. Above the Trows is a piece of
water, promising indeed to the eye, but useless to the
angler on account of its great depth.
One of the best places at Makerston is known as the
' Orchard Head.' Here the man who rows you has to
wade sometimes from one rock to another to land the fish,
having shoved the head of the boat on to a big stone towards che head of the cast.
One day, when fishing at Makerston, through the
kindness of Lord Wimborne, I had hooked a fish over
20 lbs. in the Orchard Head ; a long time elapsed before
it was sufficiently exhausted to think of using the net.
Never having killed a salmon in the cast, I began to
wonder how it was to be landed, when the boatman, getting
over the side, worked his way towards the end of the pool,
stepping from one rock to another. These rocks were
covered and looked very slippery.
After one or two attempts the fish was safely brought
into the net, considerably to my relief, as the fisherman's
proceedings were, as far as I could judge, attended with
considerable risk—a false step and in he would have gone, SPORT ON TWEED  AND AVON
waders' heavy boots and all. My anxiety was increased,
needlessly most likely, by unpleasant recollections of
having myself to run about on rocks covered with water.
There is a cast on the lower part of the Awe where,
should a fish run down, it can be followed only by
stepping from one flat stone to another, the stones in
question being under water. A salmon had shown itself
in the cast referred to, and I had tried in vain to reach
him, being much hampered by rocks and trees. One day,
however, a gentle breeze slightly favouring me, I did get
over him. He took instantly, and the next moment was
off down stream at a terrible rate, I following as best I
could. On arriving at the flat stones already mentioned,
it became necessary to take to the water, and my progress
became accordingly much retarded: once or twice I nearly
slipped off into deep water.' My chance would indeed
have been better than that of the Makerston fisherman,
as in those early days I was without the encumbrance of
waders or heavy boots ; but it was unpleasant travelling.
The salmon, then going faster, pulled out a prodigious
length of line, but the reel running gaily saved me from
being broken, and coming at last to easier water, hope
of killing the fish arose : but no such luck. A few yards
were wound up then came a plunge followed by a jump,
and the hold gave way.
Probably the largest salmon I ever had hold of was
hooked in a cast at Floors called 'the Slates.' It took
under water, and after a moment or so ran down to the
stream below, ' the Black Stone'; there it turned and
came up to where it had been hooked. No strain seemed
to have the smallest effect, nor did I ever get the top of
the treble gut casting line out of the water. The head
fisherman, when the salmon set out on his course, shouted
to me : ' Keep up your rod or he'll break ye!' Shortly
after getting back to ' the Slates ' after another short run, the fly came away. ' See,' said Stevenson, the fisherman,
' if there is a scale on the hook.' No scale being there, he
gave his opinion that 'it was just one of theyLevathians.'
The smallest salmon I have ever killed was in a cast
on the Lees water (on Tweed), named the Slap, and was
3| lbs. in weight. It was, according to the fisherman,
who was a man of life-long experience, undoubtedly a
true spring salmon, not an early gilse. Indeed, as it was
tolerably early in spring no gilse had as yet come up from
the sea. 93
Burning the water—The Leister—Sometimes thrown by hand—Minnow
fishing—Worm fishing—The prawn—Heavy sinkers required in strong
Besides fly-fishing there are, as is well known, many
other ways of capturing salmon. The most ancient mode
of killing fish is doubtless by the use of the spear; the
American Indians and savage nations in general have
probably practised the art for time out of mind. The red
men of North America are, by all accounts, capital hands
at the game.
In the Tweed the leister was brought into play
whenever the low state of the river afforded an opportunity,
until the last Act (1859) prohibited its use. In Scrope's
work, ' burning the water,' as it was called, is graphically
described; but as his work may not be found in every
library, a few words giving a short account of the sport
may not be out of place here. The leister was a four-
pronged spear, each prong having one barb, the shaft
being about 16 feet in length. A boat having been
brought up to the top of the stream, one man took his
place in the bow and another in the stern. These two
struck the fish whilst a third sat in the middle of the boat
to look after the torches, which were composed of old tar
barrels or dry wood and rags made inflammable. The
lights being duly started, the boat was pushed out from
the shore and allowed to drift down stream, broadside on, 94
being kept in that position with the leisters, the ' taes '
or points of which must have been of wonderful temper
to stand the work without being blunted. In striking,
the shaft was not grasped too firmly, but darted through
the hand. When a successful shot was made the hold was
shortened so as to bring the fish to the surface, and it was
then lifted into the boat. The sport was keenly enjoyed ;
indeed, the late Duke of Eoxburghe and his father have
told me that they would give up a month's autumn
fishing for a couple of nights' ' sticking.' It could only
be pursued in low water and on a calm night. The
following anecdote shows that the professional fishermen
were as eager as their employers to take part in a night's
spearing. Upon one occasion, everything looking propitious, arrangements had been made for ' burning' the
Floors water; the Duke, however, knew that the head
fisherman's mother was very ill, and being a kind and
considerate man told him that, in these circumstances,
he need not be present unless he liked. After dinner the
Duke and his friends being still in the dining-room, one
of the river keepers came up to the Castle and delivered
the following message in these very words : ' Stevenson's :
compliments to your Grace, and Stevenson's mither's
deid, but if she disna swell we'll burn her the nicht.'2
In old days the leister or waster, as it was called by the-
older men, was sometimes cast by hand, being attached
by a stout line to the caster's arm. The' clodding' leister
was shorter in the handle and the prongs were graduated in
length, that furthest from the fisherman being the longest.
When the fish was struck the handle fell over in the
direction of the opposite bank, thus enabling the man
to draw his victim ashore with tolerable certainty. The
casting  leister was   of   greater   weight   than   that   in
1 The head-fisherman.
2 The Tweed is always spoken of as ' she.' OTHER FISHING  METHODS
ordinary use, and was effective only where the water was
of no great depth. It was probably used chiefly on the
spawning beds, where it must have been most destructive.
Though 'burning the water' was still in vogue, when
my first visits were paid to the Tweed, it so happened that
I was never present at the proceedings ; but I have so
often heard descriptions of it from those who took part in
it, that the above account may be taken as sufficiently
When the river is too low for fly-fishing the minnow
comes into play. The tackle is much the same as that
used for trout, only stronger. It consists of a trace made
up with swivels, and large shot enough to sink the bait to
a proper depth, to which two hooks of different sizes are
attached, the smaller being passed through the lips and
the larger inserted in the body so that the tail of the
minnow may be curved round the bend in order to cause
it to spin. The Tweedside fishermen use the same rod
alike for fly and minnow. Before casting, a few yards of
line are gathered in and held in the hand; when the cast
is made, the sinkers used being tolerably heavy, the spare
line flies through the rings. In this way a fair extent of
water is covered without spoiling the bait. The use of
the same rod for both modes of fishing is not to be
commended, chiefly because it spoils the top. The Tweed
men probably continue the practice for the sake of being
able to change from minnow to fly, or vice versa, without
being obliged to carry two rods (even when the river is
low you may still get a fish out of the deep water with
fly should there be a good curl on it). Having no wish
to spoil my Forrest rods, by which I set great store, and
thinking that, with some implements rather approaching the form of a pike-rod, casting would be easier, I had
a stiff cane one made. It was about 17 feet in length
and provided with large upright rings. 96
When trying the prawn in the Avon I found that,
using it as though trolling for pike, any cast of fair width
could easily be covered. There was some doubt in my
mind as to the length chosen being the best. The fishing-
tackle maker pointed out that casting would be easier if
it were shorter, and this was no doubt true. On the other
hand, the disadvantage of running Avon salmon with a
short rod and heavy shot on the trace would have been
increased. One season a skilful minnow fisher took some
water on the Tweed. He had only one side of the river,
and was in the habit of wading and throwing off the reel
in the Nottingham fashion, and thus was able to command
such an extent of water that the fisherman opposite complained that he fished all the water where the fish lay.
His reply was that he fished fairly, and that if any more
remarks of an unpleasant nature were made he should no
longer confine himself to his own side of the cast. To
show that this was no idle threat, he proceeded to throw
the bait right across, nearly to the opposite bank. The
minnow answers best in cold weather, especially if a
breeze ruffles the surface of the river.
The last resource, when the water has become too low
even for minnows, is the worm, or rather, two large lobworms threaded on the hook. I have never fished with
worm for salmon myself, although I have seen it used by
others, so there is little to be written here on the subject.
By all accounts, it is a deadly method of going to work.
Scrope ,says that ' When the water is in right order—that
is, low and clear—and the weather fresh, a clever fisherman
may glean the river of almost all the fish that are left in the
streams.' The grandfather of the present Duke of Eox-
burghe told me that he once got seven fish one morning in
May with worm, having begun to fish at daybreak. He then
sent home for his breakfast, thinking there was a chance
of a heavy bag.    Only one more, however, was captured OTHER FISHING METHODS
during the day: this the Duke put down to the warmth
of the water when the sun came out. It would naturally have been cooled by the lower temperature at night.
Perhaps in corroboration of Scrope's statement, quoted
above, I may mention that one of my relatives, the
Hon. H. Grey, had for some time been trying the worm
without an offer, when he arrived at a cast which, according to the fisherman, had not up to that time ' seen a
hook.' Here he quickly killed two salmon. The man
then observed that the casts above had been ' sair fished '
the day before.
When pike or trout take a bait it is seized by the
middle, being swallowed, after a few moments, head downwards. The action of a salmon with respect to a prawn
is exactly the same. When really hungry, this action is
so rapid that perhaps the first intimation the angler has
of what is going on is given by the rush of the hooked
fish. At other times, when less keen, short jerks of the
line will be felt. In that case, if you strike at once, the
chances are that, in spite of fly hooks, the bait will be
pulled away from the fish without getting hold of him.
It is well, therefore, to wait till a steady draw is felt, then,
after a moment, respond by lifting your hand, and you will
have him. Any rod will do for the purpose, but one such
as that described in treating of fishing with minnow
seems to answer best, a stiff cane rod about 17 feet
in length, with large upright rings. The trace used is
generally of strong twisted gut, fitted with sinkers and
swivels. At first only one large single hook was used,
afterwards two fly hooks were added, in case a fish should
come short. To bait the prawn, the loop of the tippet on
which the hooks were tied is fastened to a trolling needle,
which is then inserted in its head and brought out at its
tail. The tail somewhat resembles in shape the propeller
of a steamer,  and so causes the bait to  spin rapidly.
Some fishermen do not consider it essential that the bait
should spin, and, indeed, they catch fish without swivels on
the trace. I always used them, being of opinion that, even
if they do not make the bait more attractive, they can do no
harm, and have, at all events, the advantage of preventing
the kinking of the line. The prawn is worked in much
the same way as the minnow, being, of course, cast
under-handed. It possesses the advantage of requiring
very little current to make it effective; indeed, it is hard
to say under what conditions a fish which means business
will refuse to take. In almost still pools it answers. In
such places it is best to allow it to sink deep, and then
draw it gently towards the surface, as a pike fisherman
does when using the gorge hook.
I once saw a clean salmon of 15 lbs., or thereabouts,
show himself in a hole about six feet deep, just above where
I was fishing. It was impossible to get up stream of the
place, or even opposite to it, and, more as an experiment
than in hopes of tempting the fish, I cast the prawn from
below into the upper part of this small pool. The sinkers
happened to catch in the bottom, as it seemed, and to free
them a smart jerk was given, when, to my surprise, it
turned out that the salmon had taken the bait. This fish,
after one or two violent jumps, went off at his best pace
up the water, running out nearly all the line, it being
impossible to follow him owing to the swampy nature of
the ground. I was alone, no punt or boat was at hand,
and it looked at one moment as though a smash was
inevitable; fortunately the salmon turned of his own
accord, and was then quickly killed. I look upon the
prawn as the most killing method of salmon fishing. ; I
have seen fish taken with it in all states of the water,
not only in low and clear water, such as suits the minnow
or the worm. Upon one occasion I remember a fish being
caught, in a heavy downpour, with the river rising and off OTHER FISHING METHODS
the colour. Two of us had been fishing the Avon all the
morning in the rain, and were just about to give up, the
water having waxed, when my friend recollected havin
seen a fish, the day before, at the tail of a cast called
Holly Hole. Eemarking that perhaps the salmon was still
there, he took up a rod baited with prawn; and marched
off to the spot. The water was a bad colour, and, even had
it been clear, the chances were that the rise would have
moved the fish. Nevertheless, at the second or third cast,
it was hooked and duly accounted for.
As further proof of the effective nature of this bait
(were any required), it may be mentioned that one of my
uncles, the late General Grey,x before going on duty to
Balmoral, provided himself, one spring, with a set of
suitable tackle, and arranged for a supply of prawns.
During his stay on Deeside, he killed twenty-one fish,
eighteen of which fell victims to the prawn. Moreover,
he never used it until the cast had been fished with fly
or minnow, sometimes with both. The prawn doubtless
has its advantages, but it is, to my mind, a tedious mode
of going to work, and cannot be compared with the
fly; it requires nothing like the same skill, nor does it
afford the same pleasure to the angler. Furthermore, as
it is desirable to sink it well below the surface, a good
many large shot must be attached to the trace where the
stream is heavy, and these are apt to get fast round stones,
rocks, or pieces of bank which may have fallen into the
river. Experience teaches that it is essential to cause the
bait to go pretty near the fish. When down at Christchurch, on one of my numerous trips to the Avon, I
happened to see a fish move in a cast named the Piles (for
here the bank had been piled to prevent its falling into
the river).    The stream having been tried with the fly
1 General Grey was at the time secretary to her late Majesty. He was
a skilful fisherman, and a good shot and horseman as well. 100
without a rise, recourse was had to the prawn. Still no.
success. Having observed, however, that the bait was
continually forced up to the top of the water by the
strength of the current, it seemed as well to use heavier
sinkers. Fishing the place down a second time with
additional shot on the line, I killed two fish. The prawn
must possess some -extraordinary attraction, as I have
known salmon to be killed after tearing off the back of
the bait. In the cast referred to, just above, a fish was
killed after coming twice at my prawn.
There are still other ways of catching salmon besides
those already described. Harling, for instance—which is
in use where the casts are of great width, as they are on
the lower waters of the Tay, and in some of the Norwegian
rivers. Two rods are placed on „ the floor of the boat, the
butts fitting into a piece of wood slightly hollowed out for
the purpose, the tops hanging over the stern. Flies are
attached to each rod, or sometimes a fly on one and a
minnow (real or artificial) on the other. Beginning at the
head of the stream, the boat is dropped down in zigzag
fashion, its pace being controlled by the boatman. If a
salmon takes, it hooks itself, the other line being wound
up and the rod to which it belongs being put out of the
way, whilst the fish is played. Scrope considers this same
harling stupid work, and little better than setting night
lines. He says, ' it is generally practised by fishermen who have been working the previous night, and like
it because they have not the fatigue of holding or throwing
the rod.' This may be so, but where I have seen this
mode of fishing the portions of'the river in which salmon
would lie were so wide that to cast one stream would
take up half a day, and I doubt if, in such waters, the
boat could be so managed as to admit of their being
properly fished. This is the only excuse for resorting to
That fish run hard, and, owing to the weight of water,
take out a great deal of fine in these big rivers, is true
enough; but the real enjoyment of the sport, rising a
salmon by your own casting, hooking him, and feeling his
first rush, is lost. Scrope believes that harling drives the
salmon away from the casts where it is used. This, with
due respect to so great an authority, I venture to doubt.
Fish have been caught with the fly, before my eyes, after
a boat had been rowed over them, not once only, but
several times. To a fish or a diver at a depth of say
ten feet, the passing of an angling boat overhead would
appear, I should suppose, only as an unusually heavy
cloud, obscuring the light for a moment. In the Tweed,
when crossing from one side of the cast to the other, a
fish is every now and then taken by letting out a few
yards of line and allowing the fly to travel behind the
boat, as you make your way towards the opposite bank.
In this case the fly passes over the part of the water just
below the Course of the boat.
Much akin to harling is the practice of trailing a bait
from the stern of a boat, which is sometimes resorted to in
lochs, as though trying for ferox. In lochs through which
the salmon pass to ascend the rivers which fall into them,
they are often caught in this manner. Two rods, with
phantom minnows attached to spinning traces, are hung
over the side ; twenty-five yards or more, according to the
depth of water, are let out, and the boat follows the course
of the river. It should be rowed just fast enough to make
the phantoms spin properly. The late Mr. Charles Balfour,
of Newton Don, and I, one day took a turn at this work
on Loch Oich, into which the Garry falls. We each killed
three fish in the course of our journey down the loch. We
were half-starved with the cold, and being both of opinion
that the sport, if it could be so called, was very poor,
landed at the far end of the water, and walked back to 102
Invergarry. A singular accident once happened in this
loch to the late General Sir C. Ellice. The gallant officer
had been wounded at the time of the Indian Mutiny, so
that he had the full use of only one arm, and consequently
was unable to cast a fly. He was therefore trailing a
phantom in Loch Oich, and, when near the end of it,
hooked a large salmon, which ran out a great extent of
line. Just then a small vessel issued from the locks
(which are situated at the extremity of Loch Oich), and
the fish, swimming under the keel of the ship, cut the
general's line and escaped. Trailing is much used on
Loch Tay, but there are no other means of taking with the
rod the fish which have reached the loch. The salmon
are clean spring fish of the largest kind. An old fisherman once remarked to me, it would be perfect sin not to
try for them in the only way by which they can be
caught. In trailing, the tackle must be strong, for as the
boat is travelling in the opposite direction to the fish, the
strain when it takes must be heavy. 103
Known by different names White trout of Ireland—Whitling—Phinock, &c,
—Silver-white—Tackle to be used—Flies in general too gaudy—Sport
near Conan Ferry—Costello—Fishing with two flies—Consequent loss of
two salmon—Mischief done by herons—Remarks as to the people in the
district—' Mutiny' on board a sailing-boat—Makers of * poteen '—' The
The term sea trout is intended to embrace all migratory
fish of the salmon tribe, other than the real Salmo salar.
They are known as bull trout (Salmo eriox) and salmon
trout (Salmo trutta). The bull trout weighs from 2 or
3 lbs. up to 20 lbs. It is rarely caught by the angler
when in a clean state, but occasionally rises in autumn
shortly before spawning time, and again in the spring
when in the kelt stage. If fresh from the sea, it is good
eating; practically, it is of no value to the sportsman.
The salmon trout is, says Scrope, called by different
names in various localities—white trout, phinock, sea
trout, whitling, hirling. Besides these there are bouge
(pronounced 'budge' in Hampshire), trough and peel
(Devonshire), rnorts and sprods (Lancashire). The
whitling is, as some think, the young of the bull trout;
but both Scrope and Lord Home, the ancestor of the
present lord, are of opinion that they are the true salmon
trout. They run from 1 to 3 lbs. and are often killed
with the fly or bait, taking best when the water begins to
clear after a flood. The phinock, Spey trout, the Lancashire morts and sprods are to my eye identical.    The 1
white trout of the west coast of Ireland differ in some
respects from these, being red in flesh and more rich to
eat than most salmon, whereas the whitling are paler in
colour when cut open, and not of such flavour.    They
rise well, are extremely vigorous, and show great sport
when hooked.    The bouge or budge of Hampshire, and
the trough and peel of Devonshire, I take to be without
question the same fish; they are excellent eating, but, excepting the peel, as a rule, refuse the fly.    The budge
attain occasionally to a large size.    I have seen one
stuffed in the shop of Mr. Hart, the Christchurch bird-
stuffer, which was said to have been 17 lbs. in weight.
I have frequently seen budge, trough, and peel caught
with the net; the peel would weigh f lb., the trough
and budge about 3 lbs.    Whether the fish described by
these different names are all the real salmon trout, I am
unable to give an opinion.   We may, however, leave on
one side the non-rising budge,  trough, and Co., as not
worth further consideration from the angler's point of view.
Besides these varieties of sea trout, there is a small
fish which I have only seen twice; once in the Tweed and
once in its tributary, the Glen.    The local name is the
silver-white.    It has the appearance of a  small gilse.
Scrope   mentions   having   occasionally caught a small
silvery fish in the Tweed ' between £ and J lb.,  which
seems of the salmon tribe, the flesh pale pink and good
eating.'   He  adds  that he   has taken many of them
in the river Isla with a net; possibly these are the same
fish as the silver-white.    Those I saw,  as far   as   my
memory serves me, had forked tails, and were larger than
those described by Scrope, being between 1 lb. and f lb.
in weight.    Can they be very early small gilse ?   I have
never heard of or seen trout with forked tails in this
country.   Once at Aix-les-Bains, in the south of France,
we had for dinner some fish which exactly answered the SEA TROUT
description given above of the silver-white, except that
they were a good deal larger. On inquiring where they
came from, I was told that they were ' Truites du Mont
Cenis.' They were caught with the net in some lakes
high up in the mountains ; perhaps land-locked fish, if
such fish really exist. What they really may be is a
puzzle, at least to me; perhaps some fisherman who is
also a naturalist may be able to solve the question. They
may be set aside, as far as fly-fishing is concerned, not
because they are disinclined to rise—those mentioned
above took eagerly—but because they are apparently so
few in number that it is not worth while to lay oneself
out to catch them.
For sea-trout fishing a rod of 14 feet or so answers
best. It should not be too stiff, as these fish, especially
when clean run, are rather tender in the mouth and apt,
when first hooked, to jump vigorously. A single-handed
rod, from its want of length, has the disadvantage of
allowing the line to sink too deep, so that when the trout
throws itself out of water, too heavy a pull comes
upon the hold, and although there is no great danger of
being broken, as might well happen with a salmon in such
circumstances, the hook is likely enough to come away.
Some writers on fishing recommend flies of the same
patterns as those used for salmon, only of smaller size.
Those of the present day are, in my opinion, too gaudy,
and I should prefer something less showy, i.e. teal or
drake wing with red heckle body; speckled wings of
sober hue ; body pig's wool; silver-twist over all; heron
wings, black heckle body, silver-twist. Pig's wool has
one great advantage, that when it begins to look shabby,
it may be picked out with the point of a knife, or a pin,
and will then show as well as ever.
Sea trout take best when the water first clears after a
flood.    In hot weather the time to try for them is the 106 SEVENTY YEARS' FISHING
evening, for an hour or so before dark ; when it is cool
they will rise through the day. In the Awe and in rivers
where the streams are deep and strong, the tail of a
salmon cast a little way above shallow water seems to be
their favourite haunt. The sea trout in Lewis, as I
have been told, run to a large size and afford excellent
sport; the best turn I have ever had at a Scotch sea
trout was near Conan Ferry, about opposite Fort
On my way back from the north I once paid a visit,
early in September, to Lord and Lady Morton. They
were then living in a shooting-lodge at Inverskadl, about
five miles from Conan Ferry. In order to reach the
lodge I embarked in the Fort William steamer which
touched at the ferry. On board I met the late Lord
Claud Hamilton, Lady Claud and her two daughters,
who were also on their way to Lord Morton's. It was
a miserable afternoon, cold, and raining hard. On reaching Conan Pier only one pair-horse fly, of the description
usually to be met with in the Highlands, was to be found;
this, of course, was barely sufficient for the ladies, so,
leaving the servants to procure a cart from the nearest
farm for the conveyance of the luggage, Lord Claud and
I set off on foot. It was still raining, but not so
heavily, and after following the road, which in one or two
places was under water, we arrived at a foot bridge over
the Conan. It was then dark, the bridge itself slippery
from the wet, and provided with a hand rail of most frail
aspect. To venture upon it was by no means a pleasant
task; however, we got safely across and so reached
Inverskadl Lodge. Our luggage had not arrived, consequently we had to depend on our host for dry clothes.
He, good man, whilst expressing his regret at the discomfort we had undergone, observed that, though the
rain had made our walk unpleasant, it would have put a SEA TROUT
neighbouring loch and small stream which issued from it
in capital order for the next day.
The following morning we drove over to the loch in
question in two small pony-carts. Lord Claud and I got
into a boat to fish, casting one from the bow and
one from the stern. The loch was full of sea trout which
rose well; so much so, that we had more than once two fish,
on at the same moment. This proving inconvenient, and
the man who rowed us having previously pointed out
part of the loch where, for some fifty yards, the trout could
be reached from the shore, I left Lord Claud in possession
of the boat and proceeded to fish there. Having landed
several fish, I determined to try the stream which ran
down from the loch to the sea—nothing more than a large
burn in its usual state; it was then very full, though
not much discoloured, and clearing rapidly. Here I had
excellent sport, killing one small gilse between 4 and
5 lbs. and many sea trout.
The next day found us again at the waterside; the
river had fallen greatly ; only here and there were pools
which held a few fish, and these, as a rule, refused the fly.
The loch appeared to be even more amply stocked than
it was before. What the total bag came to is no longer
in my recollection—it was a heavy one, however. The
trout weighed from f lb. to 1^ lb. I do not think either
of us killed a two-pounder.
The skill required to make the most of the opportunity
which this loch and small river afforded was certainly not
great. In fishing the river, previous experience, so as to
know where to cast without missing likely water, was an
advantage, and it was well to kill the trout quickly, so
that no time should be wasted. Small lochs and streams
in hilly countries rise quickly after heavy rain, and fall as
rapidly. It is, therefore, long odds against success in
the case of those who visit the neighbourhood only for ff
a few days, as Lord Claud Hamilton and I did. It is to
be noted that the river especially was, by the afternoon
of the first day, in the best possible condition for killing
sea trout—just clearing after a flood.
Many years have passed since, through the kindness
of a friend, I spent nearly two months in Connemara,
fishing for white trout and salmon. It so happened that
one of the gentlemen belonging to the Costello Club, not
intending to fish in the summer of 1858, transferred his
membership for that year to one of my best and oldest
friends, the Hon. Henry Coke. That excellent man
invited me to go with him to try my luck in Connemara;
the invitation was gladly accepted, and the beginning
of June saw us on our way thither. At the Galway
railway station we found two outside cars waiting to
convey us to the lodge belonging to the club, which we
reached in due course after a drive of twenty Irish
miles. The Costello runs out of a lake four miles from
Cashla Bay, not counting the bends and turns of the
river. Above this lake we did not fish. The water was
strictly (preserved by an arrangement under which a
number of the natives undertook to look after it, some
half-dozen of them being told off to accompany the
members of the club as gillies or fishermen. On reaching the river we found it was extremely low; moreover
the head-keeper told us no trout had as yet been seen.
Nevertheless, whilst our baggage was being unpacked
by a servant who had been engaged in Galway, we put
up our rods and proceeded to endeavour to get a fish for
dinner. Mr. Coke came home with a beauty of 4 lbs. in
perfect condition, whilst my attempts met with no success.
This was the first white trout I ever tasted, and no
more delicious fish ever was put on the table ; it was of
a deeper red than most salmon and full of curd.
Although the weather was very hot for some time after SEA TROUT
our arrival, causing the river to remain small, some trout
swam up with every tide, so that there was soon a sufficient
stock for sport, particularly as the fish which put in an
appearance were all of good size, running from 3 lbs. up
to 4 lbs. with here and there a five-pounder. The larger
trout (those of 4 lbs. weight or more) seemed to remain in
the river, but the rest appeared mostly to run through to the
lake. Our usual course of proceeding after breakfast was
to fish lightly up the river, taking alternate pools, then
embarking to try the casts, or stands, as the men call
them, on the lake. In the afternoon we would fish the
river down again, and so home. Towards one or two
o'clock we met for luncheon. Our men would make a fire
of drift wood collected from the shore, and, when burnt
down to glowing charcoal, some freshly caught trout,
which had been cleaned and split open, were laid flesh
downwards on the embers ; when the skin began to contract the fish were turned, and as soon as sufficiently
cooked transferred to a large flat stone in lieu of a plate.
A few potatoes baked under the fire, some bread and
butter, pepper and salt, brought from the Lodge, furnished us with an excellent repast. Cold whisky and
water and a pipe to finish up with, and what more could
one wish for ?
Days passed without rain ; the heat became greater ;
even when sitting in the shade out of doors, without
coats or waistcoats, we were unable to keep cool, so that
fishing, except in the evening, was abandoned. The Club
possessed a Tialf-decked boat, which was discovered in a
shed near the sea, but our men told us there were no sails
or mast, and that they had no means of putting her into
the water. After some searching we found the sails,
mast, and tackle ; then, getting some rollers cut, we succeeded in launching the craft; the mast having been
stepped, the fishermen professed to be unable to hoist the ■Ill fill
sprit. Here again they were beaten, for Mr. Coke, having
been some years in the Navy, shinned up the mast and
put things to rights.
It seems difficult to account for the conduct of our
men, the more so as my gillie had been accustomed to
sail from the mouth of the Costello to Galway with
cargoes of turf. Possibly they wished to keep us more
constantly at work on the river, our custom being to give
away our spare fish to them and their families. We now,
when the tide suited, took to sailing in Cashla Bay, sometimes running across to the neighbouring villages and
buying lobsters; now and then catching a few gurnets
and mackerel on the way, relying on the flood tide to
bring us home in time for the evening's fishing.
The Costello is the only white-trout river of which I
have any knowledge. There may be other streams as
good, but the sport we enjoyed was by far the best trout-
fishing we either of us ever experienced, before or since.
After some three weeks of scorching heat the rain came,
and lasted for twenty-four hours. The river rose rapidly,
and fishing was stopped, but not for long, as it soon
cleared. Both salmon and white trout came up from the
sea in hundreds, and on the first day that the water was
fit I killed six salmon, besides trout. Before the rain we
had nearly always done well with the trout, but when the
flood came, with tolerably cool weather, our sport still
improved. Upon two or three days we each had baskets
of over 60 lbs. weight, and, when the weather was at all
propitious, expected to catch about 40 lbs.
The men we had with us were accustomed to see two
flies used, and after much persuasion we yielded to their
wish and put on 'bobbers.' We both had to pay the
penalty for doing so. In Mr. Coke's case he hooked a salmon
at the head of a cast appropriately named the Crooked
Pool, the bend being on the side from which the angler SEA TROUT
fished. The fish running straight down stream, and the
fishermen having to run round the curve, a good deal of
line was out, and, when an attempt to shorten it was
made, the fish threw itself out of the water with such
violence that the last jump landed it a little way up
the opposite bank; the fly used as a dropper caught
either a bramble or the long grass, and the casting line
broke, the fish falling back into the water. In my case a
salmon had been hooked in one of the largest pools in the
river. After a fair run, it was coming nicely into the
bank when suddenly it stopped. It could be still felt
plunging, and I was unable to make out what had
happened; therefore, giving the rod to the gillie, and
climbing the bank behind me, I peered into the water.
The fish was plainly to be seen, and the cause of my
being unable to move him was apparent enough. The
drop fly had caught the end of a branch at the bottom,
and when the salmon, which was exhausted by his previous exertions, attempted to get away, the sunken bough
gave to him, in fact played him, as the top of a rod would
have done; there was nothing for it but to pull at the
line in the hope of its breaking close to the fly, which had
got fast. Unfortunately, the break took place above
where it was looped on, and the fish had to be left where
it was. I was somewhat consoled for its loss by the
capture of two salmon and ten trout the same day; the
trout weighed 30 lbs., being all as nearly as possible 3 lbs.
The largest trout which was taken weighed over 7 lbs.,
and was killed by Mr. Coke. I happened to be passing by
on my way to some pools higher up, and witnessed the
early part of the struggle. Up and down, across and
across, the river, went the trout with perfect ease to himself, sometimes running out a length of line, at the next
moment rushing in towards the fisherman's feet, who was 112 SEVENTY  YEARS' FISHING
compelled to move swiftly back from the bank to keep a
bow on the rod. After a time the fish set off to where
the river divided, and seemed bent upon swimming down
the opposite fork; luckily two men were engaged in
cutting turf on the other side of the stream. Our gillies
shouted to them- something in Irish, and they headed the
trout back by throwing stones in front of him. As the
contest seemed likely to last, and was no longer carried on
in proximity to the dangerous fork, I pursued my journey,
feeling confident that victory would incline to the angler.
It may be well to mention that, as it was unnecessary to
cast to any distance, we did not use salmon rods, but
double-handed trout rods ; the casting lines were, however, of strong single gut. The fish referred to was
hooked foul between the back fin and the tail.
Upon one occasion my fisherman contrived to jigger
a trout which was lying in shallow water, and which
evidently had something wrong the matter with it. It
made no resistance, and was quickly dragged ashore. It
had a huge half-healed wound in the back, and was in;
wretched condition, and, being unfit for food, was returned
to the water. Had it been all right it would have weighed
12 lbs. at least. The man told me he had never seen a
trout of that size, nor did we rise or hook one at all
approaching the weight. About half-way between the
lake and the sea the river ran amongst a number of large
flat stones so close together that it could be crossed dry-
shod by stepping from one to the other. One day when
eating my luncheon, a little way below, two trout were to
be seen swimming slowly down the stream, partly on their
sides, apparently in a dying condition. One of them was
scooped out just alive, and a small round hole was discovered at the back of its neck. Upon asking the fisherman if he could account for the injury, he said, ' It is thim
cranes ' (the natives so called the herons).    We found that SEA TROUT
it was the habit of these mischievous birds to stand upon
the flat stones above mentioned and strike at the trout as
they passed up the narrow runs between ; they certainly
could not have got a fish of the size found mortally
wounded out of the water. So destructive were the
herons,, that we kept a boy constantly on the spot to drive
them away. The flies which were most successful with
the trout were dressed with mottled wings, body red,
blue, or green, and ribbed with gold or silver twist; size
large lake flies.
Before closing the account of our expedition to the
Costello, perhaps a few remarks upon the place and its
inhabitants might be useful to anyone who thought of
visiting that part of Ireland in search of sport. Where
the river falls into Cashla Bay the coast is rocky and
picturesque. Inland the country is bleak and hilly, presenting no attractive feature, though the lake through
which the Costello runs is prettily situated. The people
amongst whom we lived were of the poorest; the wages
were 7s. a week, or lOd. a day, and employment was not
always to be had even at that rate. The cottages were
hardly worthy of the name, many of them having no
regular door, but instead, two entrances made of movable
planks, that to windward being kept shut to keep out bad
weather. A pig, potatoes, and here and there a patch of
oats, afforded a scanty supply of food. Now and then a
small coasting vessel would sail for Galway with a few
loads of turf, the cutting of which gave the natives something to do, and put a few shillings into their pockets.
Sea-fishing, except for lobsters, was apparently not
attempted. Nevertheless, in spite of such unfortunate
conditions of life, the men who attended us were cheerful,
civil, keen in their endeavours to promote our sport, and
inclined to make the best of things. If a fish rose without being hooked, instead of finding fault with the angler,
i 114
the gillie would say: ' Glory be to God, your honour
made him lave that.' There were, however, one or two
occasions when in dealing with the men it was found
necessary to put one's foot down. For the first few days
of our stay we had only one boat on the lake. Upon
inquiring if another could be obtained, the head-keeper
said he would send a second one up, but that it required
two men to row it. This was done, and when it was used
a second boatman was employed. However, unless we
both went up to the lake this second man was not wanted,
and we proposed to pay him only for the days on which
we required him. This arrangement he declined, saying
that, unless he was engaged for the whole period of our
stay, he would not come at all. For our part, we should
probably not have insisted upon the point; ;but in the
sitting-room of the lodge was a book of records and rules
of the club, and one of these rules distinctly provided
that when any member hired a second man, that man
should be paid only for the days on which he was
As we were admitted to the privilege of fishing for
that year only, we felt the more bound to abide by the
regulations, and were consequently obliged to stick to our
offer. No other gillie was to be obtained, but luckily we
discovered another boat hidden away in a ditch; upon
being examined, it turned out to be fit for service, and was
of the right size for a single sculler. The difficulty was
thus overcome; but the head-keeper, who apparently
would have had us give way to the man's demand, told
us that our proceeding in the matter would be much disliked and would possibly entail risk, remarking that some
of the men had guns—this remark merely provoked a
smile on our part. It is hardly necessary to say that we
stuck to our determination, and that nothing occurred to
justify the veiled threat conveyed to us by the keeper. SEA TROUT
On another occasion my fisherman began, without
orders, to lower the halyards of the boat in which we
were sailing, just as we ran alongside one of the fishing
piers in Cashla Bay. My friend, who was steering,
shouted to me to prevent him, saying we should not have
way enough to reach the landing place. I therefore told
the man to leave the halyards alone, and went forward to
lay hold of them myself. As he showed no sign of obeying the order, it became necessary to forcibly remove him.
The man thereupon lost his temper, snatched up one
of the large stones which served as ballast, and threatened
me with it; being deprived of his stone and told that if
he did not behave properly he might shortly find himself
in the sea, he at once gave in and begged for mercy.
Upon leaving the Costello, this same man, grateful for
a few shillings beyond his pay, ran by the side of the
jaunting car wishing me God speed, and lamenting that
he should see me no more.
On the day of my departure I left late in the afternoon
to meet the train which was due at Galway between ten
and eleven o'clock at night. When a few miles from
Galway, a man was seen by the light of the moon lying
in the middle of the road. I told the driver to get down
and see what was the matter. Instead of doing so, he
whipped his horse, whereupon, leaning over, I got hold of
the reins and stopped the car.
' Now,' said I, ' if you won't go to help the man, I will.'
' Ah thin, your honour, don't sure; it's unlucky to meddle
with anyone lying like that,' said he.
The man was insensibly drunk and reeked of whisky,
so, pulling him off the road and finding that he had really
nothing the matter with him, we proceeded on our way.
Whilst waiting for the train I inquired of a sergeant of
Constabulary if he could account for the conduct of my
driver.    The sergeant smiled and said, ' There have been
i 2 116
ructions in these parts, and one or two of the boys have
been hurt. Your carman was afraid that this was a
case of that sort, and that some of the party who, he
supposed, had beaten the man, were watching to see that
no one came to his assistance.' How is it possible to
account for such conduct on any rational basis ?
During our stay at Costello Lodge, the making of
illicit whisky was much indulged in. One day, on my
way up to the lake, we spied a girl in a red petticoat,
apparently tending two or three cows on the hillside.
Upon catching sight of us she vanished, whilst a little
further on smoke was seen rising from the ground.
Upon inquiry my fisherman told me the girl was watching
for the gaugers and the smoke was made by the boys,
who were brewing ' poteen.'
Never having seen the operation of illicit whisky-
making, I, accompanied by my man, marched straight for
the smoke. Upon drawing near we came upon a man
and two women, who stared at us out of a hole in the
moor, whilst a second man could be seen making off at
his best pace. When we arrived close to the party they
shouted to him to come back, which he did immediately,
bringing with him the copper worm used in distilling (the
only valuable part of the apparatus). When the makers
of poteen discovered that we were not excisemen, but
fishers, they soon got to work again and insisted on our
having a glass of the stuff for luck. Fiery it was indeed,
and sweet.
The poteen when made was mostly sold at the
patterns (or village fairs), being brought in under their
gowns by the women. It was generally disposed of when
it had been brewed three weeks or a month.
Some years after our trip to the Costello, the Hon.
H. Coke and I went again to Ireland with the object
of securing some fishing in another river, the Feale, the SEA TROUT
owner of which had offered us a lease, at a nominal rent,
on condition that we would preserve it. The water was
in some respects desirable. No trees impeded casting,
there was a fair extent of streams and pools; moreover,
there appeared to be a better supply of fish than might
have been expected. The nets were off when we arrived,
and the few fish we caught were bright and in fair order.
The river was, however, tainted with flax water.1 The
tacksman, a gentleman farmer, appeared anxious that
we should take the fishing, thinking, doubtless, that the
preservation of the spawning fish would be of general
benefit. Upon inquiring as to whether there would be
any difficulty in preventing poaching, he told us that the
magistrates would not convict in poaching cases, or if
they did impose a fine, the amount would be so trifling as
to be of little avail. The only way of putting a stop to
the practice would be, he added, to hire ten faithful men
who would take the law into their own hands and
administer a good ' bating' to anyone caught fishing on
' preserved waters. He said that if we or either of us were
to reside on the spot, it would be quite possible to put
down illegal fishing, and probably stop it entirely, but
when he heard that our idea was to remain in England
except in the fishing season, he said he could not honestly
advise us to take the river. The result was that we gave
up all idea of the kind, and went back to England, with
the determination, as far as I was concerned, to have
nothing more to do with Irish fishings.
The Feale, especially the pools below the town of
Listowel, might, with fair play, afford good sport. When
we visited the river it was much poached, and not only
would there have been some difficulty in preserving it,
but it would have been hardly possible to prevent the
flax water from coming into it. The men we had with us
1 It is illegal to turn flax water into a salmon river. r 1
were civil and pleasant, as Irishmen are when nothing
happens to upset them. When excited they are not
absolutely to be relied on. One of our gillies told me
that at a bend of the river, which he pointed out, there
lived a big salmon, over 40 lbs. weight, and that whenever
a fly came near him he snapped it off the line and spat it
out. Whilst relating this fable the man became so much
in earnest that his eyes were almost starting out of his
head, and in all probability he had told this outrageous
tale so often that he at last believed it himself. 'Well,'
said I, ' the pool looks likely; let us go and try it, and
hope to get hold of this large fish.' Curiously enough, I
did kill a salmon in the place, not indeed of 40 lbs., but
of fair size for the river, being rather over 10 lbs. weight.
Besides salmon the river held sea trout; two we saw
in the possession of a native, of good size and fresh up
from the sea. The landlord of the inn at Listowel
bought them, and served them' up to us at dinner;
excellent eating they were.
Whilst fishing the Feale we were most hospitably
entertained by Mr. and Lady Emily Beecher. When
leaving he told us that he had not expected us to take
the river, but that if we would return in the winter we
should be provided with excellent snipe-shooting. The
shooting is, I believe, as good as any in Ireland. The
late General Owen Williams on more than one occasion
killed over fifty couple in the day on the bogs below
Listowel, as I have heard. It was with regret that I left
Listowel, and moreover was prevented by other engagements from availing myself of Mr. Beecher's offer of shooting in the winter.
I was told on the occasion of a visit to the north of
Ireland two or three years ago that there were many
rivers of moderate size in Donegal which would afford
good sport, both with salmon and sea trout, if properly SEA TROUT
cared for; but that, owing to the difficulty of enforcing
the law, no one thought the attempt to preserve them
worth making. It is an anomalous state of things when,
as regards offences against the Fishery Acts only, there
should be such difficulty in maintaining the law. Surely
it is high time that the Government stepped in to put a
stop to such lawless proceedings as we constantly hear of,
and if necessary provided part at least of the funds
required to pay an efficient staff of water bailiffs. There
would be no difficulty in getting the men if the money
were forthcoming. I think it is Sydney Smith who says,
if you wish to roast an Irishman, you can always get
another Irishman to turn the spit. The laws and bylaws stand in great need of amendment with regard to
netting, close time, and so forth; but such as they are
, should have been strictly enforced by the local authorities.
With some exceptions nothing of real use has been done
by these gentlemen in this direction, in many instances
from want of money. Nor is it to be expected that
matters will improve; the revenue of a fishery depends on
the supply of fish being derived from rates levied on
riparian proprietors, according to the value of their
fishings, or from licences. If the river deteriorates fewer
people will take out licences, and the rates on the fisheries
will fall. Legislation is required also in a direction which
has apparently been little noticed. It may easily happen
that where the proprietors have 'agreed to buy up the
nets, some one owner will insist upon going on using
them, either refusing absolutely to cease netting, or
demanding an unreasonable amount of compensation.
In such a case compulsory clauses, such as those which
enable a railway company to purchase land for the purpose of their undertaking, should be enacted. 120
Early recollections—Lord Grey's joke—My first trout—The old keeper'
instructions—Tempore mutantur—Modern floods against fishing—Fly
—Sunk—Floating—A good day on the Itchen—Choose trout near the
bank—Down stream with dry fly—Weeds—Killing fish where they are
thick—Mostly luck—My largest trout at Avington—Weeded fish—
Treatment of—Evening rise—Lord Barrington's lost trout killed by
the writer—Noosed fish—Irrigation—Bad day on the Itchen—Smut—
Now when the first foul torrent of the Brooks
Swelled with the vernal rains is ebbed away;
And whitening down the mossy tinctured stream
Descends the billowy foam; now is the time,
While yet the dark brown water aids the guile,
To tempt the Trout.   The well-dissembled Fly,
The Rod, fine tapering, with elastic spring,
Snatched from the hoary steed the floating Line,
And all thy slender wat'ry stores prepare.—
When, with his lively ray, the potent Sun
Has pierced the Streams and roused the finny Race,
Then issuing cheerful to thy Sport repair ;
Chief, should the western breezes curling play,
And lights o'er ether bear the shadowy clouds
High to their fount, this day amid the Hills,
And woodlands warbling round trace up the Brooks,
The next pursue their rocky, channel'd maze
Down to the River, in whose ample wave
Their little Naiads love to sport at large
Just in the dubious point, where with the Pool
Is mixed the trembling stream, or where it boils
Around the Stone, or from the hollow'd Bank
Reverted plays in undulating flow,
There throw, nice judging, the delusive Fly, TKOITT
And as you lead it round, in artful curve,
With eye attentive, mark the springing game,
Straight as above the surface of the Flood
They wanton rise, or, urged by hunger leap,
Then fix, with gentle twitch, the barbed hook,
Some lightly tossing to the grassy Bank,
And to the shelving shore, slow dragging some,
With various hand proportioned to their force.
If yet too young and easily deceived,
A worthless prey scarce bends your pliant Rod,
Him, piteous of his youth and the short space
He has enjoyed the vital light of Heaven,
Soft disengage and back into the stream
The speckled captive throw.   But should you lure
From his dark haunt beneath the tangled roots
Of pendant trees, the Monarch of the Brook,
Behoves you then to ply your finest art.
Long time he, following cautious, scans the Fly ;
And oft attempts to seize it, but as oft
The dimpled water speaks his jealous fear.
At last, while haply o'er the shaded Sun
Passes a cloud, he desperate takes the death
With sullen plunge.   At once, he darts along
Deep struck and runs out all the lengthen'd line,
Then seeks the farthest ooze, the sheltering weed,
The caverned Bank, his old secure abode;
And flies aloft and flounces round the Pool,
Indignant of the guile.   With yielding hand
That feels him still, yet to his furious course
Gives way, you, now retiring, following now
Across the stream, exhaust his idle rage
Till, floating broad, upon his breathless side,
And to his fate abandoned, to the Shore,
You gaily drag your unresisting prize.
Thomson's Seasons.
My earliest recollection of trout-fishing is seeing my
father, Captain Barrington, catch some with fly at Cassio-
bury, where he and my mother were staying on a visit to
old Lord Essex. The fish were being landed by a servant
named Shannon, who had been steward on board the last
vessel commanded by the Captain. I could not imagine
how they were caught,    f Shannon,' said I, ' how does 122
father get hold of these pretty fish with red spots ?' The
old sailor, like many of his profession, was fond of a joke,
and replied, ' Why, you see, Master Charles, the Captain
waits till the trout put up their heads, and then he
throws a running knot over 'em, and hauls taut.'
This tale I firmly believed, and when I went to school
it cost me dear; for one day, hearing others'talk of fishing,
I remarked that the best way to catch trout was to throw
a noose over them when they came to the top of the
water, as I had seen my father do. At that moment one
of the upper-school boys  happened to be passing,  and
heard my speech; he promptly called me a d d young
liar, and gave me a severe thrashing with a cricket stump
he had in his hand.
A propos of practical jokes having relation to fishing,
there is a record of one played by my grandfather, Lord
Grey, at the expense of his eldest son, Lord Howick,
then a small boy in a skeleton dress.
The father and son were fishing together, the father
with fly, the son with worm. The son had hooked a trout
and was carefully playing it, leaning forward in his eagerness and watching the fine intently. Just then Lord
Grey caught a small trout, which, instead of returning to
the water, he slipped between Lord Howick's jacket and
his neck, the boy's attitude giving him the opportunity
of doing so. The little trout glided down as far as the
seat of the trousers, flapping about there much to the
young fisherman's inconvenience. Whether he held on
to his own fish in spite of the discomfort is not stated.
From what I know of the last Lord Grey's character in
later years, I should say that he did.
My first trout was captured when I was a small
schoolboy eight years old. For some years my holidays
were spent at Howick, in Northumberland, the country
residence of my grandfather, the Lord Grey of Beform TROUT
Bill memory. Lord Grey, like most country gentlemen,
much preferred the pure air of his own place to the dust
and confined atmosphere of London, and seldom remained
in town, unless detained by duty, long after the beginning
of summer. After what would be considered in these
days an early dinner, he would often stroll about the
pleasure grounds, sometimes catching a few trout in a
large pond, which was at no great distance from the
house. I generally accompanied him, and one evening,
after trying the pond for half an hour, he took me to a
burn, which, flowing past the place itself, ran through a
beautiful glen for a mile and a half on its way to the sea.
There he handed me over to an old gamekeeper, who,
though no longer on the active list, was always available
when his services could be of use to the younger members
of the family. The ancient retainer put a rod, duly
baited, into my hand, and cautioning me to keep out of
sight, directed me to drop the worm into a likely part of
the stream. It had scarcely reached the bottom when it
was seized, and, after a few moments' law, I was told to
strike very gently. A few more moments and a beauty,
covered with red spots, was drawn ashore. From that
moment I determined to be a fisherman.
The capture was, it must be admitted, of no size, but
it afforded me more real pleasure than I have often derived
in after years from killing fish twenty times its weight.
I cannot, in common gratitude to the memory of the
kind old man referred to, who assisted me in my early
sporting days, refrain from recording my recollection of
him; trusting to be forgiven for what may be put down
by some to egotism, especially as he afforded a type of
the class of keeper of bygone days. With strongly marked,
handsome features, he was well over six feet in height,
and powerfully built, and although at the time referred
to advanced in years, and somewhat bent with age, no 124
poacher would have had much chance of escape had old
David Moffat got his hand upon him. He became my
tutor in all matters relating to sport; taught me to use
gun and rod, and, as his instructions with regard to learning to throw a fly are to the purpose, they may as well be
put down here. Having taken me out in a boat, and put
a rod in my hand, he would say,' Do not let out too much
line, and make as if you were going to touch up one of
my lord's coach horses, but stop your hand when the cast
is two or three feet from the water.' As my lessons progressed he would tell me to lengthen the line and check
the throw, just before it fell. If the fly touched the
water behind me he at once pointed out the fault, remarking, truly enough, that, had I been on the bank, and
caught the long grass, or any other obstacle, the fly would
have gone.
After a short course of such instruction we together
made many pleasant excursions to the neighbouring
streams, riding over to the Am, or the Coquet, and once
driving as far as the Glen; proud indeed I was when I
came home from the last-named river, with three dozen
small trout in the basket. The old man seldom fished
with fly unless after a flood, but used the worm, especially
in clear water, and many times did he urge me to give up
the fly for this most deadly bait; to me, however, the
touch of the worm and the act of impaling it on the hook
were alike distasteful, and in after years when trout were
difficult to get with the fly, it was my habit to use the
drop minnow or, if I could get them, wasp grubs.
It is common enough to cry out against such methods
of fishing—unjustly indeed. To my mind the successful
use of worm, minnow or wasp grubs, in low, clear water,
is one of the most difficult arts to acquire, far more so than
ordinary fly-fishing, and however desirable it may be to
forbid the use of bait in streams which contain fewer and TROUT 125
larger trout, it must be borne in mind that fifty or sixty
years ago the number of fish in rivers like the Glen was
so great that the sport was probably improved by the
process of thinning them out. Trout were there of good
size, but it was only now and then that one exceeding
1 lb. would take the fly, except when the river was
clearing after a flood, and even then the best fish were to
be killed with minnow. I once killed, after one o'clock
in the afternoon, twenty-one trout, which weighed 20 lbs.,
all caught with this bait.
Times have naturally much changed since old Moffat's
day. A considerable part of the Howick property lies
near the Border, at a distance of some twenty-five miles
from the place itself. The land being good partridge
ground, he, when, keeper, was sent up, in the autumn, as
soon as the corn was cut, to get birds for the house and to
send away. When on these missions he would often get
a day's fishing and bring back a salmon or gilse for his
employer's table. After killing what game there was to
be got off Lord Grey's farms, it was his habit to shoot his
way back to Howick, the people over whose land he
walked never interfering with him. What would they say
or do if such a proceeding were attempted now ?
Even in my recollection there was plenty of good
trout-fishing in Northumberland, either entirely free or to
be had, nearly always, for the asking. At the present day
you would not get anything like the sport formerly afforded
by the Glen, the Breamish, the Am, the Coquet and other
rivers by whose sides I have often wandered when a
youngster—and this not owing to poaching or pollution,
but to the increase of drainage, not only in the low
grounds but on the hills. The Cheviots carry far more
sheep than they used, in consequence of such increase.
The result of course has been to add to the violence of
the floods.     This affects the trout-fishing directly and
• 126
l\   i
indirectly. Directly, because the rise of water being much
greater and more rapid, the trout become in a short time
glutted and sick; by the time they have recovered, the
water will again have become low, so that the good time
for fishing is much curtailed. Indirectly, because the
force with which the flood comes down is apt to tear
away parts of the soil and alter the course of the stream.
The landowners, in order to avoid any loss which might
be so brought upon them, employ men to keep the river
in its place; this they do by the use of piles and thorn
bushes, making it into a long straight piece of water like a
wide ditch, and doing away with the deep holes and corners
where the best trout used to lie. What fish are to be
found in these straight reaches are too small to be worth
catching. This is unavoidable, nor would any right-minded
man wish, in the smallest degree, to curb the energy of
the farmer who endeavours to make the most of his land,
or his sheep walk. We must make the best of things as
they are.
So far as sport is concerned I believe our grandfathers
had the best of it. They were not bothered with barbed
wire out hunting. They probably derived more pleasure
in watching their pointers and cocker spaniels hunt than
their successors do from killing the large bags now so
common. They could hunt a brace of dogs themselves if
necessary. Only in one respect have we an advantage.
Since killing the kelts was made illegal, we have got
larger salmon than they did.
Trout may with truth be described as almost omnivorous. They seem to partake of the nature of the shark,
as described in an old sea ditty.
A shark was on the larboard ; sharks don't on manners stand,
But grapple all they come at, just like your sharks on land.
They will feed on insects, worms, grubs, small fish, even TROUT
on their own kind, red horseflesh, bits of dough or bread,
shrimps and prawns.
The Hon. James Howard, for many years one of the
Commissioners of Woods and Forests, is said to have
killed a trout of great size at Hampstead Marshal with a
potato peeling, whilst a red herring which had been thrown
into the Itchen furnished the big Winchester trout of
16 lbs. with its last meal before its capture. Once when
having luncheon on the banks of the Itchen in company
with Mr. A. Bonham Carter, we noticed the rounded
shape of a large trout he had recently killed; on being
cut open, it was found to contain a mass of Olive Duns,
two dumb bees, and a small eel half digested—a strange
bill of fare indeed!
Mr. Bomanes, a gentleman not likely to make a
mistake in such matters, believes that fish have little or
no sense of taste, and this may possibly account for their
often being caught with different flies from those on which
they may be feeding.
When the May fly is up, an Alder will sometimes kill
as well as a Green Drake. When Olive Duns are thick
on the stream, Grey and Bed Quills may answer better than
Duns. In my own case the Bed Tag accounted for a good
many fish late in the season on the Itchen where the
usual patterns were unavailing and much to the surprise
of the Winchester tackle-makers. Why this should be
so, does not signify, though the question from a speculative
point of view may be interesting; it is enough for the
angler to know that it is so. When trout decline to take
the flies which may be on at the time, or such as are in
common use, Bed Quill Gnats, Wickhams and so forth,
let him then not hesitate to try patterns of quite a
different character. My own belief is that the fish are
attracted now and then by the change of colour (with due
submission to Sir Herbert Maxwell) and that they are so
-— 128
influenced I feel convinced from the fact that they are
found to reject those flies in which certain hues
I have often tried Bed Heckles in the German river
Ilm and in the Tweed, and cannot remember ever to have
killed anything in either worth having.
The natural history of the common trout is, however,
so well known, that it would serve no useful purpose to
say much upon that head here. Some remarks will be
found further on, as to their resting-places, feeding-ground,
habits and so forth, with instances bearing upon* the conclusions arrived at.
In all streams with which I am acquainted, if not
artificially fed, they will reach a certain size, after attaining which they will show signs of senile decay, becoming
lanky and worthless, alike for sport and the table. Where
food is plentiful the largest fish will be found; in fact,
unless the river supplies them with plenty to eat, they
will run small, and if, occasionally, one of unusual size is
caught, it will, in general, be hardly worth carrying home.
Fly-fishing for trout is, as every angler knows, carried
on in two different ways, i.e. with a sunk fly and a floating fly.
The dry-fly man describes the use of a wet one as the
' chuck it and chance it plan.' His rival who fishes with
the sunken fly maintains that a competent fisherman
should find no great difficulty in floating his fly over a rising
trout, provided he has learnt to place it accurately, but
that the skill which enables him to do so will not teach
him where to fish when no rise is to be seen, and when
sometimes the best sport is to be had on the north-
country rivers.
Let not the advocates of the two systems content
themselves with becoming masters of one of them only,
but rather endeavour to be armed at all points, and so TROUT
ready to take advantage of any opportunity which may
offer, whether it be on the chalk streams of the South or
on the more broken waters of the North.
To my mind both forms of fishing, with wet fly or dry,
have their charm. Wet-fly fishing I learnt as a boy, and,
indeed, it was then the only mode of fly-fishing in the
North of England, where my early attempts were made.
To succeed, the angler must have learnt where trout will
be found, according to the height-of the water and rapidity
of the river.
Trout will not lie in heavy currents unless there should
be rocks or some shelter from the weight of the stream ; it
is therefore necessary when fishing such places to be able
to pitch the fly behind the stone where a swirling eddy
probably holds a good trout, to leave it in the water just
long enough for that good trout to take, and, should he
decline to rise, recover it before it has time to get fast.
Further it wants a quick and experienced eye to see the
rise, and in heavy water even unscraped gut will go, if too
sudden and hard a pull is given when the fish takes. On
the other hand, the excessive clearness of the chalk streams
in the southern counties renders it imperative to use the
finest tackle, and adds to the difficulty of keeping, not
only yourself, but rod and line, out of sight. In fishing
such streams you have to cast with the sun in your eyes,
in spite of the glare, so that no shadow should reveal
your presence, kneel, crouch, or wade, and if possible,
get your back to a bank, hedge, wall, or anything which
will prevent your body or rod from showing against
the skyline. All this is tiresome no doubt, but, if you
can kill two or three brace of the fine trout which inhabit
the Itchen or Test by taking these precautions, you will
be well rewarded.
The use of the dry fly entails in most cases casting up
stream, though throwing across to a rising fish in many
instances seems to be quite as effective. The fly must by
no means be allowed to be dragged under water by the
Let us now consider what a day's sport may fairly
represent in the month of June on the Itchen, when
the large trout are at their best. The fisherman will
probably be on the water before the fly has come
up, and will have stationed himself where he can
watch for its appearance. On the walk up a trout
may have been spied near the surface, and approached
with all possible caution ; the line having been switched
out to the right length, and the fly nicely offered, the
chances are that he will take; if he finds his way
into the basket, his captor will be encouraged to wait
for the ' rise' with the more patience. Presently a few
Duns will show themselves; soon their number increases,
and the fish begin to feed. The angler will look out for
a trout which may be sucking in the flies near the bank.
Crawling up so as to keep well out of sight, his first
attempt perhaps lands the fly on a projecting blade of
grass, from which it is gently disengaged, if possible.
Should it be necessary, he will break the gut rather than
show himself. At the second cast the fly alights close to
the bank, touching no impediment, and falling as light
as thistledown; then comes a small ring, a quick suck,
rather than a rise; the hand gently goes up, the rod
bends, and away rushes a two-pounder up stream for twenty
yards before he can be checked ; gradually his run is
stopped, and he comes down to where the ready landing-
net is in hand to secure him. Then comes the most ticklish part of the game, for the weeds have begun to show,
and there is no great width of open water where he can
be landed. Should he catch sight of the fisherman, with
a last desperate effort, he will dash into cover, when the
betting will be long odds in his favour.   No such mis- «*■
fortune occurs, and he is put away to join company with
the one already secured. Whilst the rise lasts the angler
may continue his sport, perhaps occasionally losing a
trout in the weed; but by three o'clock the fly ceases
to appear and he walks home with six or more goodly
fish on his back, hoping that the next morning may
bring with it even better luck. Larger bags are, of
course, to be made than that indicated above, by first-
class hands, but the day's sport described may be fairly
expected, in tolerably favourable circumstances, on water
which is not over-fished.
The advantage of selecting a trout rising near the
bank is at first sight not apparent, but is a real one
nevertheless. Trout feeding in mid-river, where the
water glides along without disturbance, do not remain in
the same spot, but swim a short distance up stream and
then drop back to their starting point. It is not, therefore, certain that you will throw over the trout by casting
to the rise. Fish lying near the bank are practically
stationary, waiting for the food brought down by the
current, so that a man who can place his fly properly is
sure to get over them at once.
When there is a glut of fly and you are after a trout,
which is rising at every moment, it is well to wait until
none are passing over him—the real insect appears, even
when thick on the water, not in an unbroken and continuous succession, but in dozens, with, as it were,
intervals between each dozen. If the imitation is offered
during one of these intervals the chance of its being taken
is increased. Should the wind be adverse, i.e. blowing
down stream, trout may still be killed by drifting the fly.
In such cases a tolerably long line must be cast, so that
it may fall in a slight curve, either to the right or left of
the fish ; the line must then be slightly held back so that
the action of the stream may cause it to straighten just
at the right moment. You have, however, only one
chance, as, if the first cast is unsuccessful, upon lifting
your hand, the trout will be off instantly. This method
of fishing is not practicable, excepting where the water is
clear of weed. It once happened to me to bag four large
trout in this fashion on the Chilland water in the Itchen,
but the process is so tedious that it is hardly worth
resorting to, unless a brace or two are particularly wanted
for the table, or to give away. It is said that more fish
are pricked when fishing in this way ; in my own experience, I have found it to be so.1
On the chalk streams, it is common enough for the
fisherman to stick to a small extent of water, devoting j
himself to the task of killing one or two large fish which
may happen to live there. I cannot but think that
where that is habitually done, the trout become more
and more shy, and that for the sake of the river as well
as your own it would be better policy, having tried
two or three flies, to proceed in search of another victim
 to do this, however, you must have a fair extent of
water—perhaps more than you are at liberty to fish.
There is nothing, in my humble opinion, more satisfactory than plenty of elbow-room. When the fish are
taking badly, it is only one out of a large number that
will come to the fly, even in strictly preserved streams,
where there is no question of over-fishing. For a few
seasons I resorted to the Ilm at Weimar, which is
strictly preserved and fished most lightly. One evening
when thunder was about, and rain impending, the
trout I cast over would seldom take notice of the fly,
though they occasionally sucked down a pale transparent-
1 Since these pages were written, the experienced angler who writes
under the signature of \ Red Quill' has expressed his disapproval of dwelling
too long at one spot.- Sept. No. of Baily, 1905. I am happy to find myself
in agreement with so practical and skilful a hand. TROUT
looking Dun of which no successful imitation is made.
Now and then, however, a genuine rise would take place
at my fly, and the trout be hooked and killed. Before
dark, ten large fish were landed, but to get them any
quantity had been shown the fly—had not the extent of
water at my disposal been practically unlimited, I am
convinced that the bag would not have exceeded a
One of the drawbacks to fly-fishing is the exuberant
growth of weed; now, that weed has to be cut, and what
can be more vexatious than to be driven off the stream by
having the water covered with masses of vegetation, drifting down upon one. Occasionally a change of wind will
shift old-cut weeds out of the bays and bights above, and
in a* short time they may pass away, but if a supply of
fresh-cut ones arrives, it is a case of reel up, and away.
The only effectual remedy for the weed-cutting nuisance is to have a strong net with a wide mesh placed at
the upper limit of the fishery. To do this, a simple plank
. bridge must first be erected, with strong posts, at each
bank, to which the net should be attached. When the
day's fishing is over, one end of the net can be unhitched,
and allowed to swing across to the opposite side; the
weeds which have been collected in it will then pass away
during the night, leaving the stream clear for the next
day's sport.
The weeds in the fishery itself require careful management. On no account should they be all swept away
with the scythe, as, besides destroying the refuge afforded
the fish against poachers, it would be found almost impossible to approach a rising trout unseen. The best plan
is to cut away the weed only half-way across the stream for
a certain distance, then change sides and repeat the process.
In this way the fish still have a safe harbour to run to,
and the angler has a piece of open water to land his fish. 134
Where the river is of some width, this mode of treating
weeds would probably leave too large a space of bare water,
and in that case small channels should be made wide
enough for casting, and sufficient water close to the banks
should be kept clear to enable the angler or his attendant to use the landing-net. However, do what you will,
the weed nuisance cannot be altogether avoided, though
it may be mitigated. It is certainly the most serious
drawback to dry-fly fishing, on the chalk streams of the
southern counties, and, in my opinion, is, in some cases,
enough to make one give up the game, after the middle
of the season. What, indeed, can be more annoying than
to lose (if you are out of luck) fish after fish from their
going to weed ? I say ' if out of luck,' because chance
has a great deal to say as to your landing a trout of any
size where weeds abound.
Here are two instances in point. One evening late in
June I noticed three large trout feeding on a shallow
below a hatch hole on the Itchen. The moment the fly, a
Silver Sedge, was presented to him, the trout lowest down
stream took it greedily ; he instantly dived into a dense
mass of weed and was lost. The second took a similar
fly, but instead of diving, as his neighbour had done,
rushed violently across and down stream towards another
mass of weed. It was in vain that the rod was pointed
to the sky and held aloft, the trout knew what he was
about and quickly buried himself, too securely to be moved.
A third Sedge was put on and offered to the last of the
three; he also was firmly hooked, but, instead of weeding,
ran for the hatch hole, which was fortunately some way
above, and before reaching it, the stream, the fisherman,
and Mr. Hardy's rod together stopped his career; he continued to dig and plunge heavily, after the fashion of a
large salmon, until so beaten that he floated quietly
down into the landing-net.   Now this third trout was the TROUT
largest which fell to my lot on the Avington water, and
weighed nearly 3J lbs. The two lost were apparently
somewhat under 2 lbs.
The second example of luck was as follows:—Upon
one occasion the trout were rising fast, where the Itchen
widens considerably, above some hatches. Olive Duns
were up, but not a fish would look at my imitations; I
then found that they were feeding not upon the Duns, but
upon a small dark fly ; accordingly, the Olive was changed
for a ' Blue Upright.' No sooner was the change effected
than two fish were hooked and landed—then, having
caught sight of a large trout on the rise, I cast over him;
he came at the fly, and was hooked foul. How long a
period elapsed before he was in the basket it is impossible
to say—he went into every weed in the place, and when
brought near the bank bored out afresh into the deep; a
good attendant would have gone down stream and brought
the net under him, whereas it was impossible for me to
approach unseen. All things, however, come to an end,
and the end of the trout came at last. He was hooked
near the tail and weighed over 2 lbs. (I got one more
over 1 lb. and then the rise was over.)
Now, had the two-pounder been hooked in the usual
way, he would certainly have been lost in the weeds : as it
was, owing to the position of the hook, neither the fish nor
the casting line got fast, and it was possible, when he
went to cover in a short time, to pull him back into open
water. There is a theory that when a trout goes to weed
he hangs on to it with his teeth. The jaw and teeth of
a trout are strong, and is it to be supposed that, had this
particular fish closed its mouth on the weeds, fine scraped
gut and a small Blue Upright would have prevailed against
It has been asserted that, if you wait long enough, a
weeded fish will emerge from his refuge and so may be 136
killed after all. Such a proceeding would require a larger
stock of patience than I possess, moreover; whilst waiting
the trout's pleasure, it might well be that the chance of
getting hold of two or three others would be lost. I
therefore pass on to suggest what is the best plan to adopt,
when fishing a weedy river, premising that my views are
based on personal experience, and that it is far from my
desire to set them against any opinions which better
fishermen may hold.
When a trout of any size has been hooked where
weeds abound, the best chance of keeping him out of
them is to hold the top of the rod pointing straight up,
taking care not to interfere with the free running of the
line (the friction caused by the rings will put as much
pressure on as fine scraped gut and small hooks will stand).
Should the trout nevertheless run into weeds below you,
the case is hopeless; but if he is up stream you may get
him by lowering the top till it touches the water, and
keeping up a gentle strain. Should that fail, take the
line in your hand, the rod being kept pointing straight at
the spot where the fish is laid up, and give a succession
of gentle pulls. If this proceeding prove unavailing, I
should haul until the line broke, or the trout came away.
The last time I fished the Itchen three fish were thus
induced to abandon the weeds and were duly landed, but,
as intimated above, this result must be put down,
mainly, to good luck, and not to skill.
It will sometimes happen that a fish may be seen
rising in a hole amongst the- weeds, and where there is a
strong growth between him and the angler. In these
circumstances, he may occasionally be caught by casting
to the hole, and should he take, keeping the rod well up,
and endeavouring to lift his head on to the intervening
weeds. If the attempt be successful, the rod being still
in the same position, he may be drawn gently over
■fifi TROUT
towards the fisherman ; but in that case his head must be
kept out of water, or nearly so; the weeds will partly
sustain his weight, and each flap of his tail will* only
hasten his journey towards the landing-net. When a
trout is thus treated he will offer little or no resistance
when he gets fairly into open water, being, indeed, partly
in the state of a fish which has been a minute or two on
the bank. Whether killing trout in this way can be
honestly called sport is a question I leave to others to
decide, merely stating that, in my view, fishing amongst
weeds, after they have shown on the surface of the water,
is hardly worth while.
As to the tackle used in dry-fly fishing it would be
useless to say much. Fish are killed on 9-feet rods
(ducks, as some call them) and on double-handed rods.
Of course the weight of line must, as in salmon-fishing,
be so adjusted as to enable you to cast with the least
exertion ; the flies must be small and the casting line
fine. Flies of every conceivable colour and design, from
the showy Pink Wickham to the humble-looking Blue
Upright, are to be had at any good shop. Were I to fit
myself out afresh, my choice would be somewhat limited.
Bed Quill Gnat, two or three sorts of Olives, Blue Upright,
Wickham's Fancy, Bed Tag. The last-named is usually
considered a grayling fly, but in my experience of late
years it has been most successful with trout also.
Besides the great variety of flies nowadays offered to
the choice of the angler, we constantly see in the columns
of the sporting press descriptions given of the real insects
by fishermen who are also naturalists. To the practical
angler, it is of no moment whether he is aware that a Dun
of one colour is a male, of another colour a female. Experience teaches him that such and such flies are to the
taste of the fish, and the knowledge so acquired is enough
for him—some of the flies which kill the best are not 138 SEVENTY  YEARS' FISHING
imitations of any real insect, e.g. Wickham's Fancy in
the South of England, Hofland's Fancy in the North.
The patterns dressed by the fishing-tackle maker often
have too much wing in proportion to the size of the hook.
I therefore, some years ago, got Mr. Hardy of Alnwick to
use larger hooks in proportion to the wings than those
commonly sold ; and in order to prevent their being unsuitable to the size of fly required, to file off part of the
shank, leaving the bend as it was. In this way the appearance of the fly was according to the rule, whilst, the
bend of the wire being larger, there was a better chance
of hooking a rising trout and of killing him when hooked.
As regards casting lines, it is not possible to lay down any
precise law. Probably more fish will be hooked with very
fine tackle, but it is not certain that more will be landed.
Where there is plenty of open water the finest casts are
strong enough to kill even the largest trout one is likely
to encounter (it should be only a question of time), but
where dense beds of weeds exist, you of course have a
better chance of keeping fish clear of them or of getting
them out when weeded, the stronger the gut is; the
angler must exercise his own discretion in the matter.
Scraped gut has a tendency after a short time to ravel up,
presenting somewhat the appearance of fine cotton ; when
this happens, my practice has been to throw away the
cast and put on a fresh one. Should this be considered
wasteful, it is easy to have in your fishing book three
feet of the finest gut tied and ready to put on in place of
the lower part of the old casting line. It is the habit of
some men to coil away the casts, when not in use, round
their hats. In rainy weather this plan is good enough,
but in hot sunny days, especially if showery as well,
nothing will rot them so soon. It is better to keep them
in your case until wanted.
After the beginning or towards the middle of June you TROUT
may generally reckon upon a second rise of fly late in
the evening, especially on a calm evening, after a hot
day. As the light begins to fade, you may use less flimsy
casts, and if you have marked down any large trout, then
is the time to go for them. Large fish especially have
always a secure spot to lie in, when not feeding;
when in search of food, they repair to some adjoining
shallow, and if hooked on such shallows, will at once
make off to where they are in the habit of resting,
or possibly dash into weed. With fairly strong gut you
may succeed in stopping the rush of many a trout
before he reaches his refuge, not only to your own
advantage but to the advantage of others, bearing in
mind that where the river is well stocked it is far better
a fish should be killed than that it should get away
pricked, or, still worse, with a hook in its mouth.
I do not remember making any large bags in the evening. I once hooked eight trout about a bend of the
Itchen known as the f Duke's Corner,' but of these four
were lost in the weeds; yet, to one who is not only a
fisher, but a lover of nature, what greater pleasure can
there be than in wandering beside clear pools and
streams, occasionally bagging a fine trout, which may
have defied our efforts when the day rise was on, for
successive mornings ?
Trout have their own particular feeding-ground, where
they may be observed day after day. If caught, in a short
time the next largest fish in that part of the stream will
take the place of the ' departed,' but if the first has been
pricked or got away after being hooked, he will retain
possession of his haunt, and probably refuse the fly for
the remainder of the summer. I say' probably,' for cases
occur where a trout has broken away once, or even twice,
in the course of the season, and has been killed at last.
Going up the Itchen one morning, I saw a trout of 140
fair size rise two or three times, close to where the waste
water from the mill left the main stream. Two flies
were offered him in vain, so I passed on. A couple of
hours afterwards, another member of the club overtook
me with a two-pounder in his basket. On inquiring
where it was caught, it turned out that it was the
very fish I had tried for above the waste. Two days
later, I got one a trifle smaller at the same spot. Now
had either of us pricked the first, we should have missed
the two good ones we did catch.
I had often remarked a trout of fair size and perfect
shape, feeding in a side stream, over which was a footbridge. He lay a few yards above the said bridge, and
was to be seen sucking down the natural flies as they
floated over him. Thinking that, if hooked, he would
rush for the shelter of the bridge, where he would
assuredly break the cast, I had left him alone whilst any
chance existed of getting hold of other fish, in less
dangerous places. One day, however, when a poor rise
of fly was nearly at an end, I put a Bed Quill Gnat over
him; he took instantly, but instead of bolting down
stream for the bridge, he ran violently up, turned round
a sunken post, and was gone, with the fly in his mouth.
Daily, on my way up the water, I saw him in his old
haunt and, in general, feeding well. I tried him occasionally with Quill Gnats, Duns, and other favourite lures,
and, though he would sometimes turn and look at the
artificial fly, he refused all offers up to the end of the
season. There can be little doubt that many and many a
fish which will go on taking the real fly, and rejects the
artificial one, acts thus from having had an unpleasant"
experience of the latter. It has happened to me as well
as to others to catch trout with hooks still fast in their
mouths. Fishing the upper part of the Avington water,
one day in the middle of the summer, I saw what was TROUT
evidently a good trout feeding near the opposite bank.
Crossing by a bridge higher up and crouching below
where he was still rising, I let out the proper length of
line, and was fortunate enough to hook him at the first
cast. After giving some trouble, he came to hand. The
lad who was with me, whilst taking my fly out of his
mouth, said, ' This is the fish Lord Barrington lost last
week.' ' How do you know that ?' ' Here is his
Lordship's Bed Quill Gnat stuck fast in his palate.'
This lad had been out with Lord Barrington at the time
—the trout when hooked had run up stream a little
way, then, turning, had come down so rapidly that the
fisherman had to retreat quickly from the bank. In
doing so, he tripped up in some sticky ground which had
been poached by cattle, fell on his back, and of course lost
fish and hook. Now, here is a case which upsets a theory
I had always held, viz. that when a fish was caught
which had escaped previously, it was because he had
either had the fly struck away at the rise, or had, at all
events, got off almost immediately.
Two or three days after Lord Barrington's adventure,
referred to above, he had gone up to the upper part of
the Avington water, whilst I remained lower down,
devoting myself to a stretch of the river between a
waggon bridge and some hatches, used to turn part of the
stream down to a sawmill, and known as ' the Aquarium.'
Close to the waggon bridge a fish was rising; upon
throwing to him, he followed the fly, which just before
lifting it got into an eddy and dragged. In spite of
its being sunk, the trout rose just as the line was
being recovered, the result naturally being a break,
through the middle of the cast. It seemed strange that
the break should have occurred at this part of the tackle;
however, as another trout was rising a little way below,
no more heed was taken of the circumstance, a fresh cast 142 SEVENTY YEARS' FISHING
and fly were put up, and an attempt was made upon
the second fish. He took directly and ran up stream, and,
just as he was landed, to my surprise I saw the first, still
feeding. Naturally, another effort to catch him was made;
this time the fly worked properly, and the fish was hooked.
At that moment Lord Barrington, accompanied by the
keeper, arrived on the scene; the fish had come away
below, Lord Barrington stationed himself on the bridge,
to prevent his turning back to its shelter, whilst the
keeper went down stream with the landing-net. After a
short time the man got him, and said to me, ' You were
lucky to kill such a fish as this [he weighed nearly 2J lbs.] ;
he is hooked foul.' Lord Barrington, who was inspecting
the trout, said, j Nonsense, here is the fly well inside his
mouth.' This was the case, but there was also another fly
in his side with the broken part of the cast still attached
to it, and wound round the body of the fish. He had
evidently meant to take the first fly, but when it went
under water had turned away with a switch of his tail,
thus striking the line and fastening part of it round him.
The tale may seem to bear the appearance of a
romance, and I should have hesitated to relate it, knowing
how sceptical people are where fishing anecdotes are
concerned, had there not been witnesses present. Lord
Barrington is no longer here to vouch for what happened,
but the river-keeper ' Collins' is still at Chilland
Cottage, and would not hesitate to corroborate the story.
It seems pretty clear that, in general, fish can have
little or no sensation of pain when hooked—that they are
frightened at finding their movements interfered with, I
have no doubt. Once, on the Itchen, I caught a trout
with a wound, probably caused by a heron (which went
from one side to the other). The fish ran, seemingly,
with unimpaired strength ; as, however, it was under 1 lb.
I was about to put it back, when observing how it had TROUT
been stabbed, it was knocked on the head and taken home
for dinner. Would any creature that we know of, except a
fish, resist or struggle after being thrust through the body
in such fashion ? It is comforting to reflect that when
hooked fish escape, they feel no further inconvenience,
and probably forget the fright they have had before long.
The size and, what is more important, the quality of
trout vary much. Their size depends upon the abundance or the scarcity of food, though exceptional cases
may be found, just as, in the human race, men exist of a
size and height far beyond the average. The largest
common trout I ever saw was a female fish just under
20 lbs. It had been kept in a stew at Hampstead
Marshal on the Kennet, and supplied with food in abundance. Now and then it was taken out of the water and
weighed, its captors hoping it would reach 20 lbs. When
within | lb. of the weight, it showed symptoms of age
and none of increasing in size. It was therefore knocked
on the head and stuffed. I saw it many years ago at
Ashdown, Lord Craven's place on the downs. It was afterwards sent to the Sportsman's Exhibition at Islington.
In streams flowing through rich land, where every
rise of water brings down an abundant supply of worms,
insects, &c, the fish are in shape short and thick—
powerful, with small heads, and well filled out even to
the root of the tail. In waters where the weed is full of
insect life, especially of fresh-water shrimp, they are to be
found at their best. The Itchen and the Test afford
examples of such waters. The worst trout I have met
with have been in water-meadow streams, running through
poor soil, where there is no food-producing weed to compensate for the lack of water, when the river is nearly all
turned on to the fields.
It was my habit for some years to run down occasionally from London by train, to fish the upper part of the 144
well-known little river Darent. Some of the largest
trout were to be found at the lower part of the water I
had permission to fish, and there most of my time was
spent. After a time the farm near this portion of the
river changed hands, and the new tenant, availing himself to the utmost of his control of the irrigation, kept
his meadows constantly under water. Shortly, the trout
thereabouts began to fall off; though still of fair size,
they became lanky, with large heads and thin bodies, and
so, unfit either for sport or the table.
After a year or two the land, owing to its being kept
continually under water, grew nothing but rushes and
marshmallow, so that the landlord was obliged to take
the farm into his own hands, and found it necessary to
give up irrigating it, for a time. Immediately the trout
began to improve, and were, before long, as good as ever—
tolerable proof, if any were wanted, of the mischief
which may be caused by water-meadows, particularly
where flooding is overdone. It would be absurd to say
that water-meadows should be so managed as not to
starve the trout; therefore, my advice is, avoid rivers
where the system exists.
There is another cause for the decrease of trout, viz.
the silting up the mill dams, especially where the stream
is small and consequently the mill dams are large. Landlords, in these days, can seldom afford to clean out the
dams, so in time a miller who formerly had enough
water to enable him to grind for nine or ten hours, is now
able to use his mill only for three or four. At the end of
that time down go the hatches and a mere trickle remains,
just enough to keep the fish below alive. The trout are
thus without a proper supply of running water, which
brings them their food, and suffer accordingly. The
mischief is not unfortunately confined to restricting
the supply of food.   In frosty weather the water is often TROUT
so low that the spawning beds are exposed to the depredations of ducks and other enemies. On the Test I have
seen a pair of swans busily engaged in devouring salmon
spawn, almost immediately after the departure of the
parent fish from the beds. These evils will probably
cease, as the dams will before long become so shallow
that they will be of no further, use, and if the mills are
still required, they will be worked by steam engines.
A few pages back it has been attempted to describe a
good day's sport on a chalk stream in somewhat favourable conditions. Let me, per contra, set forth my own experience of an unsuccessful day. When the water was
reached, about ten o'clock, no fly was to be seen, but after
half an hour a patchy rise came on of which the fish took
no notice—not one was stirring. After waiting some time
in vain, it seemed best to walk up the river, on the chance
of getting sight of a feeding trout. Toiling up through
sticky ground and pausing to inspect every likely spot,
three were discovered rising, not greedily, but at intervals.
All three were hooked. The first got off just as it was close
to the landing-net, the second broke the hook at the bend,
and the third, which weighed 1^ lb., was killed. Having
then reached the boundary of the fishery, there was nothing to do but to walk gently back again; but no other rise
was seen, and so the day's fishing was over. Possibly
another trout or two might have been caught off some rapid
shallows, on the way home, but a party of soldiers from a
camp close by were bathing in the hatch hole above, and
had disturbed all that part of the river. I do not remember to have had, during the years I fished the Itchen,
more than one or two blank days, but often have come
home with, perhaps, only one or two ' killable' fish. On
the occasion just referred to there was apparently no
fault to be found with the weather or the condition of the
water ; the sun was hot, certainly, but so it had been the
previous day, on which four good fish were killed, besides
hooking two others which were lost. It seems to be impossible to tell beforehand if the sport will be good or
bad.    In the latter case it is indeed bad.
It is curious that trout should rise only occasionally,
at an interval of, say, five minutes, more or less. One
day when the fish were so conducting themselves, I
stationed myself on a bank from which, by means of an
opera-glass, it was easy to see what they were doing.
Before long a trout was discovered apparently biting a
piece of upright weed, working from near the bottom of
the water to within a foot of the surface. After a time
he left this particular weed, and swam to a similar one a
yard or so off, snapping up an Olive Dun which came
over him on the way. There can be little doubt that he
was feeding almost entirely on larva or some insect crawling about the weed, that when he had devoured all that
was to be found on the spot, he went across stream in
search of more larvae, but that he was ready to take a fly
if it happened to pass over him on his way. Perhaps the
worst result of this habit of feeding among the weeds is
that the trout become glutted, and may not take, even at
Apart from the causes already adverted to as hindering sport, there are two evils which are frequently met
with—'smut' and 'bulging.' Sometimes when everything looks well the water will of a sudden be covered
with tiny black insects no larger than a pin's head, and
known as ' smut.' The fish feed greedily on them, and
may be seen darting about under water in pursuit.
When they first appear, a trout or two may be caught
with any small dark fly, but after a short time the case
becomes hopeless. This curse may last a quarter of
an hour, or two or three days; whilst it continues
sport is not to be looked for.     The insect itself, when TROUT
examined through a magnifying glass, presents the appearance of a diminutive house-fly, and seems to be confined to streams where mill dams exist; I saw it first
many years ago on the Tweed at Sprouston, whither my
steps had been bent, in the spring, in pursuit of trout.
Suddenly the Dub, a long stretch of water, became boiling with rises. The March Brown was up, and much sport
was anticipated. After throwing over many fish, one was
caught, and on examination its mouth was found to be
filled with these little black insects. The' smut' appeared,
on this occasion, for only a quarter of an hour or so.
It is impossible to say how long a time this curse may
go on, so that the angler perhaps stays on, near the river,
for a couple of days, hoping, only to be disappointed, that
it will cease. At other times trout may be seen ' bulging,'
i.e. greedily feeding, as my belief is, on the immature fly
just before it reaches the surface. This is terribly against
the angler; but it is by no means certain that fish could
not be caught, when this is the case, by a sunk fly dressed
to imitate the larva. The Panshanger May fly is tied
on this principle, and sometimes kills well. Moreover*
once when fishing the Chilland water, on the Itchen,
the trout were evidently taking something just below
the surface, and none could I catch. A gentleman
who was on the opposite bank inquired what sport I
was getting. ' None,' said I. ' Why,' said he, ' I have
got five, and will show you my fly.' He cast his line
across where the stream was narrow, and I discovered
that he was using a fly well known in the North of
England, tied with pale green body, and heckle from the
golden plover—and this he fished, sunk. Happening to
have some similar ones with me, one was immediately
put on, and with it four trout were killed. Probably it
resembled the immature Duns, of which a few were to be
seen at the time.    To tell the truth, however, it must be
L 2 148
admitted that, though often tried on other occasions, I
never but that once found it of any use.
Trout, besides taking ' smut' and larvae, are much
given to grubbing. In hot weather numerous tails may
be seen sticking up on the shallows, the owners of which
are engaged in swallowing fresh-water shrimps, and snails
which abound in the weed (watercress, especially, contains a small grey snail of which trout are very fond). It
is said that these grubbers may now and then be
caught, by fishing down stream over them with a sunk
March Brown. According to my own experience, you
may get a fish or two when the curse is on or when they
are taking larvae, but never one of these weed grubbers. CHAPTEB VIII
The May fly—Reappearance, after several years, at Avington—Fickleness
of trout—Number of trout pricked—Performances of former anglers—
Old trout should be netted out—Sunk fly—The Ilm—Lord Northbrook's
big trout—Loss of large trout in the Ilm—Fishing in the neighbourhood—The town of Weimar—Hotels, &c.—Big trout lost by Mrs.
Besides ordinary dry-fly fishing with fine tackle and
small flies, the May-fly season, on streams where it appears,
affords an opportunity of taking the finest trout in the
water. After it is over the fish, having become glutted,
are sluggish and rise badly, if at all. Indeed, in some
rivers they rise at the artificial fly no more for the rest of
the season—one such river I became acquainted with,
owing to the late Lord Barrington having hired a portion
of it. In the middle of the summer he and I went down to
try the water. He warned me that we could not do much
with the fly, but said he would order some minnows to be
provided, with which we might catch some of the best
trout. On our arrival we found that only four baits had
been procured: leaving Lord Barrington to make the most
of these, I wandered up the river, trying all the likely
places with fly. Though the wave of a moving fish was
to be seen here and there, and though some small dark-
coloured flies were up, not a trout would rise either at
them or at any I offered them,   Becourse was then had 150
to some artificial minnows which had been brought down,
in case they should be wanted. Here another difficulty
had to be encountered—the weeds had not been cut, and
though a fly might be dropped into narrow channels
between them, it was hardly possible when using the
minnow to avoid showing oneself or getting fast. At last
one fish was killed, by casting where the shade of overhanging boughs had kept the water comparatively open
for two or three yards. A little higher up was a mill,
above and below which the stream ran sharply and
was free from weed. There I remained for the rest of
the day, alternately trying the minnow and smoking
a pipe. Out of this piece of water I got two more
trout—Lord Barrington had caught a brace, so we had
enough for dinner and breakfast. The next day we
fished with much the same result. All the morning I
stuck to the fly, without raising a trout, towards evening
getting two good-sized fish out of the mill water with
minnow. Lord Barrington caught three. The keeper
told me that it was very seldom a fish was taken with
the artificial fly when the May-fly season was over.
Doubtless heavier fish are to be killed, as a rule, with
the Green Drake, and perhaps a greater number of
average-sized ones as well; but, on the other hand, bad
sport only can be looked for during a fortnight (perhaps
the best fortnight in the year) in streams where it is unknown.
On this account, were I in search of trout water, my
preference would be for a river where the May fly did not
exist. The fly itself varies much, not only in numbers, but
in size and colour. In Derbyshire it is large, and appears
sometimes in such quantities that the hedges are full, and
almost every blade of grass holds a Green Drake, as it
is locally called. In other places the fly is smaller, and
is not to be found in such profusion.    One of the most THE ILM
curious facts as to the May fly is its disappearance from
waters where it formerly existed. Still more curious is
its reappearance after an interval of some years.
On the Avington water, five or six miles above Winchester, it is no longer to be seen, though formerly trout
were to be caught with it, even higher up the river. One
year, however, it reappeared, but only on one part of the
water, a stretch known to members of the Itchen Club
as ' the Aquarium,' and not exceeding two hundred yards.
A day or two after, the trout began to feed on what must
have been to them a new kind of food, with the result
that many of the largest found their way into the
Once when out on the Darent I could do little or
nothing worth mentioning with the Green Drake, and a
friend who was with me advised me to try an Alder
instead. This the trout took quite freely. I have had a
similar experience at Longford, in Derbyshire. Probably
the May fly had, in both instances, been up but a day or
two, and the fish had not become used to it.
Amongst other problems relating to trout is how to
account for their remarkable fickleness as to what they
will take. It often happens that the most accurate
imitation of the fly which is on the water, and at which
they are apparently rising (I say 'apparently,' because
occasionally two different kinds of fly may be up at the
same time and whilst those which are in greater numbers
are neglected the others are chosen), will be refused, whilst
one which has no resemblance to it will be successful, e.g.
when Olive Duns are up, the Bed Quill Gnat may kill far
better. Nor is this the case on chalk streams alone,
where dry-fly fishing only is practised.
It has been stated of late years in letters published by
the ' Field' and other sporting papers, that trout are more
shy nowadays than they used to be, this view being 152
founded partly upon old reports of performances in bygone years, records which, at the present time, we cannot
approach. Wherever water is more closely fished, particularly on unfavourable days, trout will become more
difficult to catch. Every fisherman is aware that, as a
rule, the early part of the season is the time to make a
bag ; not the end of the summer. The weeds are not so
much in the way, the weather is more favourable, and the
water is generally in better order; but besides, there are
few, if any, pricked fish. Probably the majority of those
who turn their attention to the causes which conduce to
sport or the reverse do not realise the number of trout
which have been hooked, and escaped, after the first two
months of the season. How many of these does the
angler cast over in the course of the day ? More than he
In the ' Field' of July 30, 1904, there may be found a
letter from the experienced angler who writes under the
signature of ' Detached Badger,' in which he gives the
result of two days' fishing in the beginning of the month.
Eleven trout killed, besides under-sized fish put back,
and many lost. It would be interesting to ascertain
the proportion of lost to landed trout. Supposing that
this proportion amounts to one in four or five (not an
improbable assumption), it is clear that, short rises or
absolute refusals may be in great measure accounted
' Caeteris paribus,' a big fish has a better chance of
getting away than a small one. Not only so, but he is
more likely to be cas§ over; he probably lies near the bank
and so is sure to see the artificial fly when the rise is on,
apart from the fisherman being more anxious to secure
him on account of his size. Should he break the cast,
by going to weed, or in some other way, he will soon be
back in his original feeding place, but will in general turn THE ILM
a scornful eye on artificial flies for some time to come,
if not for the rest of the season. Again, the facilities
afforded by the extension of railways have rendered the
access to the waterside so easy, that members of fishing
clubs will run down to the neighbouring inns for perhaps
one or two days, and, having reached their destination,
are bound to handle a rod, be the surrounding circumstances favourable or not.
The brighter the sun and the lower the water, the
finer the casting lines and the smaller the flies will be,
adding, of course, to the chance of a break, and to the
number of pricked fish. As to reports of what may have
been done in former days, we must bear in mind that our
predecessors were almost entirely country gentlemen,
residing near the streams they or their guests fished.
Being able to go out when they pleased, they naturally
chose the best opportunities, and did not try the river on
days when everything seemed to be against them; as
a natural result, more trout were killed in proportion to
those lost.
The state of the weather, and, perhaps, conditions of
the atmosphere which we are unable to discover, are
doubtless of great effect with respect to the way in which
trout, and, indeed, all fish will take. I can only speak
from my own experience, but much prefer westerly and
southerly winds, though in the Glen and some of the
north-country streams good sport is often obtained on
cold days, with easterly and northerly breezes. Seldom
have I met with success when the barometer was falling,
and never have I killed a trout after the white mist which
is apt to rise from the meadows had made its appearance.
The performances of one angler, long since dead, who
used to fish the upper portion of the Itchen, were often
quoted in my hearing, and on one occasion I asked an old 154 SEVENTY  YEARS' FISHING
man who was praising his skill on what sort of day
he generally fished; the answer was, ' he always liked
to try his luck when a good drop of rain was about.'
Everyone who is acquainted with this part of the
water knows that the best chance of making a bag,
particularly of large fish, is in heavy rain. The inference to be drawn from the foregoing remarks is
that, in consequence of altered circumstances, trout are
more difficult to catch than they used to be, that their
nature has become different—that they are born timid
instead of brave I do not believe.
It was stated a few pages back that all trout streams
produce fish which will, after reaching a certain weight,
begin to go back in condition, until they become lanky
and worthless, either for sport or the table. What should
be done with them ? It is very desirable that they should
be got rid of, but how is this to be effected ? It would be
easy to catch them with a drop minnow, but it would be
impossible to avoid killing other fish in good condition as
well, with this bait. These old fish are apt to lie in hatch
holes, and still, deep places, where a minnow will not
spin, so that some form of Gorge hook would have to be
used. Possibly a clever keeper might get them with a
net, but of all fish that swim, a trout, under certain
conditions, is the most difficult to net. The fishermen
employed by the Wilton Fly-Fishing Club have told me
that they occasionally find trout of 4 or 5 lbs., dead or
dying, in the winter. The only apparent remedy would
be to set the river-keepers to work, after the spawning
season, with the net.
Hitherto ' dry-fly' fishing has been considered; let
us now turn our attention to the use of the sunk fly.
My own experience in this branch of the art has been
of late years mostly confined to German waters. It is
true that  on the Wiltshire Wiley I have caught both THE ILM
trout and grayling with a wet fly; but the dry one was
the rule, the wet one the exception.
For some years it has been my custom to repair in
the summer to Weimar for the purpose of fishing the
river Ilm, which flows almost through the town, the water
for some miles being held on lease by a German gentleman living in Berlin, who takes in three or four partners.
Above the town the trout rarely, except in one or two
mill dams, exceed 2 lbs., and even at that weight are
rather apt to have big heads and thin bodies. Below,
they reach a size of 4 lbs. and sometimes 5 lbs., the
average, not counting small fish returned to the river,
being quite 2 lbs. Larger fish are to be killed in some of
our own rivers (the late Lord Northbrook caught one of
8 lbs. with dry fly and fine tackle in the Alne, and
another of the same weight was taken in the Test), but
in number and average size the Ilm stands unrivalled.
This river is much overgrown with bushes, chiefly
alders, and the large fish lie, during the day, in the shade
of the boughs ; should one be seen rising, or near the
surface, he will probably take, if the fly can be got to
him. In order to reach the fish it is generally necessary
to cast off the water on account of trees and banks behind
you; not only is this usually the only possible mode of
casting, but the fly must be shot in, under the overhanging bough which shelters the trout from the heat of the
sun; granted that a successful shot has been made, and
the fish hooked, the wrist must be immediately turned
over, and a judicious strain put on to prevent being
broken, amongst the roots of the alder.
Now, let any man, who is disposed to look down upon
wet-fly fishing, honestly consider whether the performance above described is an easy one. When the sun gets
low, the trout come out from under the banks and feed in
the open water, and there may be seen lying near the 31
surface, generally taking rather small flies, which appear
at the approach of evening. The water usually becomes
slightly discoloured at that time of the day, owing to the
hatches of a mill being drawn. Here and there are places
where there are no trees to interfere with casting, and
where you may, if so disposed, use a dry fly.
The water being but lightly fished, the trout when
they do take are almost invariably well hooked, but they
are most capricious, so much so that it is impossible to
predict what will please them best. No doubt a large
Alder or a Watford Coachman would bring fish to book,
if used through the day, but a change to floating flies,
such as are used at home, will often account for one
which has refused to look at either.
Perhaps these German fish are even more capricious
than ours, and as they are certainly not much fished over,
their uncertain behaviour must be put down to the nature
of trout in general. It has happened to me to kill on the
same day with the under-mentioned patterns:—Teal Wing
and red body—Alder, Watford Coachman—all dressed
about the size of lake flies; Bed Quill Gnats (floating), such
as are used on the Itchen, which accounted for two fish that
had refused the Teal Wing. Upon one occasion, wading
out to a shallow where several good fish were to be seen
rising, I got three (largest over 3 lbs.) with the Teal Wing
—the natural fly on, at the moment, was a Ginger Quill,
which was being taken off the surface at every moment.
On getting home I sent a message to Messrs. Hardy requesting them to let me have a dozen Gingers of the
largest size used on the Test or Itchen. A couple of days
later, duly furnished with the Ginger fly, I repaired to
the shallow above-mentioned. The trout were still feeding on the same fly, so, having applied a little paraffin, I
looked out for the largest to be seen, and floated the imitation over his head.   He took it instantly, and when the THE ILM
disturbance in the water (for he weighed over 3 lbs.) had
subsided, back I went to the shallow fully expecting to
clean the place out. Not another trout would take the
Ginger Quill that evening, or on any other occasion,
though it was repeatedly tried.
A quarter of a mile up the water was ay bend about
which many of the largest fish lay; on the opposite bank
was a crumbling stone wall touching the water, and
close to it on the same evening when the Ginger Quill
had been tried, four or five large fish were rising at this
spot. No trees interfered with the casting, but the place
was not altogether easy, as there was a considerable
chance of hitting the wall and breaking the hook, and
besides, there were brambles hanging over the water: in
addition to which a large bough had fallen in, nearly in a
line with the fish, and against which bits of drift weed
had lodged.
A large Alder, a somewhat smaller Black Gnat, and
lastly the Ginger Quill were tried in vain. Eventually
a Silver Sedge was floated alone close to the wall
and taken—fortunately no misadventure occurred, and
the fish was secured—weight over 4 lbs. At the next
attempt a second trout of about the same size was
hooked with the same fly, but with a different result.
When nearly beaten, the fish caught sight of the man
with the landing-net, and bolted under the fallen bough,
above referred to, where he soon made an example of the
scraped gut on which the Sedge was tied. Had I been
using stronger stuff I should have beaten him in half the
time, and been able to stop the final effort which landed
him in cover.
The above instances are quoted as examples of the
fickle habits of trout in general—certainly over-fishing
cannot be put down as accounting for them in the Ilm.
A short account of some of my own experiences on that 158
river may possibly afford amusement to my brother
On arriving at Weimar some years since, I found the
river hardly clear enough for good sport, so did not make
a start till five o'clock. Owing to the state of the water
I began with a large Watford Coachman; having tried it
over several trout which were either rising or lying near
the surface, without avail, it was changed for a large
Black fly, peacock's topping and black heckle body, grey
speckled wings—with this I got two trout, one of 2 lbs.
and one of 4 lbs.
These fish were easily reached, there being no trees
opposite them on my bank. Proceeding up stream,
where the sides of the river were wooded, a rise or suck
caught my eye. The fish was lying close to a stump
near the opposite side. After one or two bad shots, the
fly dropped a few inches above the stump. It was
instantly seized ; on lifting my hand the sensation was as
though I had been fast in a salmon. The fish, instead of
making for the opposite bank, ran straight towards me:
the line slackened slightly, and the next moment it
burrowed under some old sticks at the bottom. For a
short time a few plunges could be felt, then back came
the cast, minus the fly; to make matters worse, the
river-keeper told me the trout was well known, had been
seen lying by the stump since the beginning of the season,
and weighed 6 lbs. or more.
Further up the Black fly was answerable for a third fish
weighing 3 lbs. It was then getting late, so I changed
back to a Coachman, and with that four more were taken.
The evening's sport consisted of seven fish—one of 4 lbs.,
one of 3 lbs., five of 2 lbs. and over.
The best afternoon's take (for I never went out in the
morning) came to nineteen fish, the next best eighteen.
On other days ten, fourteen, and so on.   During that THE ILM
season four fish over 4 lbs. were caught, a good many
over 3 lbs., and one over 5 lbs. (a Bainbow). Those
under 1 lb., and those not in first-rate condition, were put
back, and not counted in the bag.
The Ilm, below Weimar, probably affords the best
trout-fishing in Europe. But that to be obtained in
New Zealand, at the cost merely of a fishing licence, is still
more extraordinary. A party camping out at Christmas
(1904) killed in six days' fishing three hundred trout
averaging 4 lbs. each.—all Bainbows.
The trout-fishing for a mile and a half below Weimar,
where only these bags were made, is, for the present, at
an end, a drought having so diminished the volume of
the river that enough water was not left to dilute the
sewage of the town, so the trout were all poisoned. In
one afternoon two hundred were taken out dead, averaging 2 lbs. each. In the course of a few years, no doubt,
it will be as good as ever, and I trust that it may then fall
into the hands of some true English sportsman.
It would be necessary to attend carefully to the terms
of the lease—German ideas do not commend themselves
to us. Free access should be provided to the river, trees
and boughs should be cut away, and some arrangement
made as to turning in young fish. The club, to which I
belonged for some years, was bound to put 1,000 fry into
every mile of water at the end of the season; 100 yearlings a mile or 5,000 fry would have been more to the
It is sometimes said of us English people that we are
much given to the worship of 'red tape.' Let anyone
holding this view pay a visit to Weimar. At every step
he will come across the words 'Es Verboten.' It is
forbidden to drive along one road, to ride along another,
and so on. We suffered much inconvenience from the
prevalence of this spirit.   Above the town a good deal of 160 SEVENTY  YEARS' FISHING
the water was so overgrown with bushes as to be useless
for fishing, whilst other parts of it were unnecessarily
difficult from overhanging boughs.
The first year of my joining the club which held the
Crown lease of the river I was told that we had better
subscribe 51. each to pay the farmers who held the
adjoining land, for clearing away the overhanging
branches. This we paid, but nothing was done. The
keeper was sent round to try to make some arrangement
with them, but failed to do so, the farmers saying that we
only fished for our amusement and that they would do
nothing to help us. The next year we applied to the
chief magistrate, and requested him to order that access
should be given us, by cutting away bushes, &c. at
intervals of fifty yards, at the same time we expressed ourselves as ready to pay for the labour of the men who
might be employed on the job. The magistrate said he
could not give the directions we wanted, but that, as we
had the lease, which afforded a right of access, he would
order that all boughs hanging over the water should be
lopped away at the cost of the farmers; this, of course,
would have entailed far greater expense on them than
our proposal. Accordingly the keeper was again sent
round to announce the decision of the magistrate, and
to tell the farmers that we were ready to forego the
enforcement of the order if they would accept our first
The farmers still declining to accept our offer, nothing
was done. The next year a few poplars were cut down,
but the banks, excepting where these grew, were left alone.
Some of the best streams above the town run through the
Grand Ducal park, one of the most beautiful in Europe,
and when fishing them one is apt to be followed by the
natives, who stand staring at you like oxen, and constantly
get in your way, besides showing themselves to the fish. THE ILM
Of course it is possible to get away from them by
wading, and as this not only renders casting easier, but
also gives you a better chance of sport, it is as well to
take to the water; the wading is however Unpleasant, the
bottom being rough in some places and insecure from
shifting sand in others.
The water above the town of Weimar affords good
trout-fishing, though, as already stated, the fish rarely
exceed 2 lbs.; yet there are plenty to be caught between
| lb. and 1\ lb. by anyone who has mastered the difficulty of casting off the water, and who does not mind
wading or creeping through the bushes. I once killed
in the Park nineteen trout which weighed over 20 lbs.,
fishing only in the afternoon, and, as the head-fisherman
told me, there are rivers in the country where one might
do quite as much.
As already stated, the river immediately above and
below Weimar is in the hands of a club, but access can
be obtained by rail to water which may be fished by payment of some small sum to the farmers or proprietors, or
free of any cost except that of the railway ticket. The
trout are not remarkable for their size, but are of sufficient
weight to afford fair sport: better probably than could be
obtained at home except in strictly preserved waters. In
some of the neighbouring towns and villages lodgings
may be procured, but the accommodation is probably indifferent.
At Weimar there are some fair hotels—the 'Erb
Prinz,' 'The Elephant,' the ' Bussischer Hof '—where you
may reckon on clean beds, hip-baths and tolerable food.
The charges are about half those you would have to pay
in England. At the hotels there are generally one or two
waiters able to speak English, but at the inns where
we put up, neither the landlords, landladies, nor women
M 162
servants could speak anything but German. This, indeed,
was the case with the inhabitants of the town in general.
I knew of one tradesman who was an exception to the
rule, a wine merchant, from whom I bought a bottle of
brandy—this seems remarkable, as there are some resident
English families, and numerous schools where English
young ladies are often sent to learn German.
In the town and its neighbourhood you may find
something worth seeing when the rivers are not in order.
A curious old library, a museum, statues of Goethe and
Schiller, Goethe's garden-house in the park, the park
itself, which is beautiful, and of some extent; the Grand
Duke's palace and country places at Bellevue and Tiefurt.
At Tiefurt is a tolerable inn, where refreshment is to be
had for man and horse, and in the courtyard of which
I was shown a number of large trout swimming about in
a tank, awaiting a purchaser. It must be confessed, however, that Weimar cannot be justly described as otherwise
than a dull country town, without any diversions other
than a few lawn-tennis courts, and incapable of affording
amusement to a lady.
Mrs. Barrington was good enough to accompany me
on my visits, and often went out fishing with me in the
evenings or afternoons. One spot by the river-side near
the end of the park was a favourite haunt of ours, and
there we frequently had tea. It was sheltered from the
heat of the sun, and though trees interfered much with
the casting, there were so many trout in the pool that
some might nearly always be caught with a short line.
From this pool alone Mrs. Barrington took out one evening six fish of fair size. The rest of the river in the park
was totally unsuited to a lady angler, being accessible only
by pushing your way amongst trees and through cover.
Indeed, in some of the best places it was not possible
to fish without wading. THE ILM
Below the town, where the average weight of the
trout was 2 lbs., more open places were to be found.
From this part of the water Mrs. Barrington caught,
once, seven fish, after tea, amongst them two over 3 lbs.
The only misadventure she met with during our trips to
Weimar was the loss of what must have been a very large
trout, in a mill dam, about half a mile above the park.
We were just sitting down to tea, by the water-side,
when what was evidently a heavy fish rose close to the
bank. Mrs. Barrington promptly dropped a fly into the
ring; the trout was hooked immediately, and the next
moment dragged down the top nearly to the surface of
the water, as it rushed off towards the middle of the
river. The rod was a tolerably stiff one, a little over
11 feet of split cane, and made by Hardy of Alnwick, so
I knew it would not break; but, in spite of holding it
well up, it bent from the hand so as almost to touch the
water. After a few moments, the fish got fast amongst
some branches which had fallen into the mill dam, and
from which we failed to move him.
It is essential to the comfort of a visitor that he
should be able to communicate in their own language
with the natives. Weimar is easily reached from London,
via Flushing. Starting in the afternoon you would arrive
there the following night, as far as I remember about ten
o'clock. A man fond of fine scenery might, I should say,
with advantage, take his bicycle and prospect the country
about Gotha, Eisenbach, and Weimar, with the object of
getting hold of desirable trout-fishing. He would, of
course, have to put up with indifferent living, and he
must be thoroughly conversant with the German language. Nor should he expect to do much in the way of
sport, until he had made out how the land (or rather the
water) lay.
Fishing in England, worth having, is now so difficult
to get, without paying heavily for it, that it is quite worth
while to go further afield. The travelling expenses may
be larger, but the cost of the fishing would be infinitely
less. In my own case the subscription to a club fishing
the Itchen was quite double that of the Weimar club.
Number of trout over 1 lb. caught in the Itchen in 1890
(one of the best years), 150 trout 1 lb. and over. Number
killed in the Ilm in the year 1902: in the lower water, 177,
average 2 lbs.; upper water, 37, under 1 lb. mostly;
grayling, four,
the trout were
1| to 2 lbs. Total, 215. In the Itchen
1 lb. and upwards. In the lower waters
of the Ilm the average was 2 lbs.; they were killed in
seventeen afternoons. I never went out before luncheon.
On the Itchen fished both morning and evening rise.
Largest trout I ever killed on the Itchen, not quite
3J lbs. On the Ilm, in 1902, nine trout of 4 lbs. and over,
one 5J lbs. As to travelling expenses, the balance in
favour of the home waters could have been small,
if any.
In order to do justice to the Itchen, favourable-looking
days only were selected. When the wind was in the
wrong quarter or the weather very bright and hot, instead
of fishing, it was my habit to go back to town by the next
train, and wait for a change before returning to the waterside ; this entailed taking a three months railway ticket, so
that the difference between the price of the London and
South-Western Bail way season ticket and the journey
to Weimar and back was all that had to be considered.
It is true that the Itchen trout were killed with the
dry fly, the German fish with a sunken one; but to me,
owing to circumstances already mentioned, the fishing on
the Ilm was the more difficult. Further there was no
reason why a dry fly should not be used at Weimar, in
open places, where the bushes were not in the way. THE ELM
The Ilm has one great advantage : you are not subjected
to the nuisance of weed-cutting, or to the mass of vegetable
growth which in the chalk streams of England constitutes
such a drawback to the pleasure of fishing after the first
months of the season.1
1 On looking back to some old notes I find that in one week no fewer than
nine trout were lost in the weeds on the Avington water. In*
Free fishing in the North—Labouring men often good hands—Knowledge
of where trout lie essential—Flies for the North—Best day on the
Itchen —Large bags at Avington in thunderstorm—Behaviour of wild
fowl while it lasted—Large trout killed by Lady E. Baring—Brook
fishing—Longford—The Kennet—Casting the real May fly—Dapping
—Bait and minnow in clear water—Stewart tackle—Shade fishing—
Till fishers—Thames trout—Escape of a large one.
In Scotland and the North of England free fishing for trout
was often to be met with, so the angling for them was
far more general in the North than in the South, amongst
men of the middle and labouring classes. Many of these
are artists in their way, and, though preferring the fly, are
equally at home with the worm or minnow. They would
probably say (supposing that they understood Latin) with
Scrope, when writing about salmon, ' Becte si possis, si
non, quocunque modo,' which may be translated ' With
the fly if possible, if not with bait.' Two such men I
know well. One was in my service for thirty-five years,
the other was Dean, late station-master at Coldstream.
They both came from Alnwick, and had learnt as boys to
fish in the Aln.
Trout-fishers of that stamp could, if they choose, give
valuable information as to the haunts and habits of trout,
and as to the best mode of catching them. The old keeper
David Moffat, already mentioned, was such a one, and to
him I am indebted for what knowledge I may have acquired on the subject.
Some hints may be of use to beginners, or to men who
depend upon seeing a trout rise in order to discover where
to cast. It may appear strange that those whose
experience has been confined to chalk streams should
thus depend upon the rise: but proof that such is sometimes the case has been afforded me.
Two gentlemen who had been in the habit of fishing
in the South of England came one summer to pay a visit
to my uncle, the late General Grey, who then was living
at Coupland Castle, on the Glen. They could place a fly
accurately, so that they were not without experience.
Some of the best water near the Castle was reserved for
their benefit, whilst the General, his brother the Hon.
H. Grey, and I repaired to more distant streams. The
two strangers met with little success, whilst we brought
home fair baskets. One of them seemed to doubt if there
were many fish in the part of the river assigned to them ;
so a small net was put through on one of the holes a short
way below the Castle, with the result that fifty-two trout,
some of them of fair size, and two whitling were drawn
ashore (the whitling were kept for the table, the trout
were returned to the water).
Trout, at least those worth catching, have always a
harbour, where they lie when not feeding. When ready
for their meals they seek shallows and easy running
streams; it is therefore a waste of time to throw over the
middle of a pool where the water breaks and boils below
a fall (a hatch hole, for instance). Eddies close to the
bank, at the head of the pool, even the lasher, if the stream
be not too heavy, may be tried with success; the best
chance, however, is in the gliding water below, to which
the fish usually drop down when inclined to take.
Where the current runs hard, amongst rocks, trout
are to be found at the back of large stones which shelter .
them from the weight of the stream, and such spots should
be carefully fished from below.    This requires practice, 168 SEVENTY YEARS' FISHING
not only to hook the fish if they rise, but to avoid getting
fast; the rise will perhaps be invisible in the rough water,
the fly having been taken at some little way from the
surface. In such case, the angler must trust to his
sense of touch in order to strike at the right moment.
Perhaps the place most certain to hold a good trout is
where a spring or drain falls into the river. Should
you succeed in catching that good trout, the next best in
the neighbourhood will take his place. But these fish,
being well provided with food, are ' sair' to take. One
big trout I knew which lived in such a situation,
and which, for several summers, persistently refused to
take a fly, insomuch that it acquired the name of ' Artful
Terence.' As far as the fly was concerned he might
have become an ' Old Parr ' amongst trout, for doubtless
he fed at the bottom; but at last it was thought that
his innings had lasted long enough. The closure was
accordingly applied, by means of a spinning minnow.
The artful one weighed rather over 4 lbs., but he was
an old fish, and had he been left in the river, would soon
have begun to lose weight.
Flies, when used wet, should have the wings sloping
back towards the bend of the hook, not upright as in dry-
fly patterns. In my young days, when using a dropper it
was usual to put on one red fly and one black one. Not
a bad rule in streams where Bed Heckles, &c. are taken;
but in some water red is not a popular colour. In the
Ilm, near Weimar, I found flies of this hue useless, or nearly
so, and have heard that this is the case in the Tweed also.
Here is a short list of the flies which answer best, according to my experience in the North :
Heckles.—The Bed Tag, the best 'all round' fly I know;
Bed Heckle; Black Heckle, ribbed with silver wire, red
floss silk tail; Coch a Bondhu; Grouse Heckle; Golden
Plover Heckle* IN THE  NORTH
Winged Flies.—Duns, Olive and Pale; hare's ear
body: starling's wing; March Brown: Alder; Stone Fly :
Watford Coachman,1 dark body; Peacock's herl; Light
Grey Wing: Black Gnat, silver body; Hofland's Fancy.
Other patterns innumerable there are, and some of
them may be as good as those above mentioned; but if
setting out on a trouting expedition to the Lowlands or
Highlands of Scotland, or to the North of England, I
should content myself with the foregoing list. They
should of course be dressed of various sizes, the smallest
being tied on double hooks.
The ' Alexandra' is not included in the fist. It is
really not an imitation of an insect, but of a minnow, and
its use is forbidden in some waters. Yet it is cast as a
fly, and though trout will not look at it in some rivers,
where they will it is deadly. If used, it should as a rule
be of a smaller size than that commonly sold in the tackle
shops. A small ! Eagle ' would probably answer much
the same purpose. (I have now and then caught trout
with the ' Eagle' when salmon-fishing on the Avon.)
For my part, where fish are numerous and little fished
tor, as is the case still in parts of the Highlands, I should
not hesitate to use either. It certainly affords a much
more pleasant mode of fishing than spinning a minnow,
and in rough or slightly discoloured water would probably
be more successful. It entails no delay in baiting, a
process which requires care and experience so as to ensure
the baits spinning properly. Nor is there any difficulty in
procuring as many Alexandras as may be required, whereas
a supply of minnows is, ofttimes, difficult to obtain.
I have often thought of trying a good-sized Alexandra
in the Thames. It would work well in some parts of the
river which are not adapted for spinning. The intention
has, however, never been carried out.
1 Good in the evening. lift
It is to be noted (for the benefit of the tiro) that the
wet fly, especially in clear water, is most successful when
cast up stream, and that a good angler is not in the habit,
as some dry-fly men seem to believe, of confining his efforts
to what has been described as ' flailing down the water.'
' Flailing' when a brace of trout are wanted for the
table, or to send away, may be resorted to, should it have
been found impossible to get them in a more legitimate
way. When there is only light enough to see the rise,
a good-sized Watford Coachman or March Brown
thrown towards the opposite bank and worked across
stream, as though fishing for salmon, will generally prove
successful, not only in northern waters, but in the
chalk rivers of the southern counties. When a trout
is hooked, the angler should endeavour to get below
him and pull him ashore as quickly as may be. The
time available for this mode of fishing is so limited
that delay is to be avoided, and for this reason a
stretch of water free of weed should, if possible, be
chosen, and a strong casting line used. As far as
sport is concerned, there is little to be said in favour
of the process above described, but during the quarter
of an hour or so when the light suits, it is not likely
that more than two or three trout will be killed: the
stock in the river will therefore not be sensibly affected.
My best day's sport on the Itchen consisted of sixteen
trout over 1 lb. The day was warm and bright, and as
may be supposed the fish took freely. The fly used was
a Bed Quill Gnat. Had it not been for carelessness and
bad luck, two or three more might have been taken.
Towards the end of the rise a fish which had apparently
been firmly hooked got off, after a plunge or two. The Bed
Quill Gnat was still on, so, as the fishing would very shortly
be over for the day, and time was valuable, it was not
examined, and a second and third trout were hooked,
both of which also escaped. Then, upon looking at the
fly, the barb was found to be gone, the rise was over.
Over-anxiety to make the most of a favourable opportunity accounted for my carelessness, the breaking of
the barb just when it was most wanted was bad luck.
The first fish would of course have been lost, but, as it
was tolerably early in the season, and the weeds had not
become troublesome, the other two would, in all probability,
have been landed had a fresh fly been put on.
Two larger bags were made on the Avington water
by members of the Itchen Club, both killing the same
number of trout, viz. eleven brace. I was myself on
the water on one of these occasions. In the morning
heavy dark clouds threatened rain, and, shortly after
reaching the river, it came down, at first moderately,
soon turning to a downpour, with thunder close overhead, and continuous flashes of lightning.1 I had caught
one fish before the storm, and then, not supposing trout
would rise while the thunder was about, took shelter
under some trees. After waiting for some time, and
seeing no sign of fair weather, I started for home. On
the way a couple of fish were seen to rise, much to
my surprise. They both took and were killed ; six more
were caught within a hundred yards, and then, the storm
being over, the fish left off feeding. Immediately after
reaching my inn, the Duke of Leeds, then Lord Carmarthen, appeared with twenty trout in the basket. In
the evening he killed two more, thus making his take
for the day equal to the previous record of twenty-two.
This day's fishing showed that trout would take in
spite of thunder and lightning—a fact of which I was
in ignorance, but which  subsequent  experience proved
1 • The dawn was overcast, the morning lowered,
And heavily in clouds brought on the day,
The great, the important day.'—Addison. ;   f i
beyond doubt. Had I fished on regardless of shelter, my
bag would have been heavier, though it would probably
not have equalled that made by the Duke, his beat being
a rather better one than mine.
Since, it has been my custom to set the weather, however heavy, at defiance, by means of sou'wester hats and
mackintosh coats, and almost invariably with success.
On such occasions it is well to resort to the haunts of the
best trout, particularly if they frequent deep gliding water
where they are difficult of capture on ordinary days.
Following this course, seven trout were taken out of the
' Bectory Beach' at Itchen Abbas one morning which
weighed altogether 12 lbs, and, as mentioned elsewhere,
eleven large trout were killed in the afternoon in Germany
whilst thunder was growling round the hills.
The curious behaviour of the wild ducks which
frequented the Avington water, during the storm (though
not bearing on the subject of trout-fishing), may be here
recorded, as perhaps of interest to the wild-fowler. On
hearing claps of thunder overhead, they would rise, and,
after a short flight, alight close to the shelter of the
willow bushes, thinking possibly that some sportsman,
firing more than the usual three drachms of powder, was
During heavy rain Itchen trout take the sunk fly; in
fact, it would be impossible to use a floating one in a downpour. The Bed Quill Gnat, Wickham's Fancy and Bed
Tag generally answer best—the seven fish, however, taken
in the ' Bectory Beach' were all killed with a small Olive:
not quill dressed, but tied with light wings, rather woolly-
looking green body, and one turn of gold twist near the
shank of the hook. I have more than once heard the
dry-fly men express their contempt for the other branch
of the art, but as far as my own observation goes they do
not scruple to take advantage of a downpour and kill IN THE  NORTH
the trout, when the opportunity comes, with a sunken
one. Dry-fly men generally wait until the rise to begin
fishing, doubtless because the water is of such a nature
that it would be impossible to move up the stream without disturbing the trout they might happen to pass.
Where, however, no risk is involved of putting down the
fish, it is as well to try favourite feeding places before
the fly appears.
The Itchen, after the early part of its course, joins
another stream a little below Alresford—just outside the
town. The late Lord Northbrook rented, for some years,
a charming cottage, with the fishing of this other stream,
in which the trout, owing to the abundance of food, ran
to a considerable size—it was below a mill on this water
that he killed the 8-lb. fish which is mentioned elsewhere.
On several occasions he was good enough to drive me over
from Stratton (his own place) to fish at the cottage. We
had been over from Stratton one Saturday, and after our
day's sport, whilst waiting in the garden for the horses to be
put to, he pointed out a fine trout lying opposite an ornamental tuft of Pampas grass, asking if I thought it would
be possible to catch him. ' Not now,' I said, ' as he sees
us plainly.' The following Monday afternoon I was due in
London, but Lord Northbrook most kindly suggested that
I should have a morning's fishing first, and go up from
Alresford. He added that he should be glad of a few trout,
if I could get them, and that my flyman could bring them
back to Stratton.
Monday morning found me at the cottage on my way
up to a bridge, at one end of the pleasure ground, through
the arches of which trout would often drop down, from
the hole above, when inclined to feed. Presently a fish
appeared, and remained at the surface; he rose and was
killed. Then some shallows lower down were tried,
where  five trout were hooked.    Four got off, one was li
landed. There was no time to go down to the meadows
below, before my train was due, and it seemed doubtful if
another trout would be caught, when I bethought me of
the fine fish which lay opposite the Pampas grass.
In water such as I was fishing, it is easy to see trout
lying at the surface, but by no means easy to get within
casting distance without their seeing you. Crawling up
on my knees, not venturing to look if the trout was at his
usual post, I threw where he had been on the Saturday
afternoon. The fly was below his resting-place wThen he
rose and took it.1 Then he seemed likely to escape by
swimming under a garden bridge; but, luckily turning
of his own accord, and running hard up stream, was
soon exhausted. His weight was just 3 lbs. And so
Lord Northbrook got his dish for dinner, at the cost,
however, of having four good trout pricked, which would
still occupy their feeding-ground, but would probably
refuse the fly for the remainder of the season.
This morning's fishing was worthy of notice. The
trout were hooked with a floating fly when no real ones
were out. The only one they would take was not a fly,
in the proper sense of the word, at all, but a dingy mouse-
coloured Heckle of larger size than those in general use
on the Itchen. Several well-known patterns were tried,
of which the first fish (the one below the bridge) took no
notice; then a small Bed Heckle was put on, which he
inspected and refused; lastly, the dull grey and brown
affair, fatal to three trout, besides hooking or pricking four
others. Bearing in mind that these trout had been killed,
though no fly was up at the time, when I became a
member of the Itchen Club I made it a rule on reaching
the water-side to cast over any suitable places at once,
instead of waiting for the rise, and often with good results.
1 One ought never to be in a hurry to lift the line, as trout, like the one
in the text, will often turn and seize the fly after it has passed them. IN THE NORTH
Immediately outside the grounds of Alresford Cottage
was a long stretch of Water, leading up to the mill referred
to above. Close to the stream was a road along which
people were frequently passing. Lord Northbrook told
me, as a curious fact, that the fish in that part of the
river became so used to the sight of mankind that,
instead of scuttling off at their best pace, as you may
often see the small trout do in a Highland burn, they
would leisurely drop out of sight of the passer-by, and, in
a very short time, reappear at their feeding-places. I
have seen trout act in the same way in the mill dam at
Itchen Abbas, where the high road to Alresford touches
the river.
A remarkable capture was effected in the Alresford
Cottage water by Lady Emma Baring, Lord Northbrook's
daughter. The following account of her Ladyship's
exploit is taken from his diary for the year 1888 :—
A fish of large dimensions had been frequently observed
by a most intelligent miller and staunch preserver
of fish. Last year this fish took his place in the curtain
of the mill tail, where it was impossible to catch him.
This year he rashly came down lower. For a trout of
such remarkable instincts special attractions were required. No other lures than the artificial fly being permitted, Colonel Birch Beynardson, Grenadier Guards, an
astute and experienced disciple of old Isaak Walton,
devoted the morning to the manufacture of a very artificial fly (the materials having been obtained from the
poultry-yard, colours white and brown). It was, in due
course, offered to the fish by Lady Emma, with her usual
skill. Her efforts were rewarded by the capture of this
' monster of the deep.' Colonel Beynardson assisted, from
the window of the mill, in directing the movements of the
rod at the right moment, giving the word of command
to strike in tones said to have been heard at Aldershot. 176 SEVENTY  YEARS' FISHING
He also landed the struggling trout, breaking the handle
of the net owing to its unusual weight (7 lbs. 2 oz.)
The idea of tempting this tyrant of the brook in the
manner related was, I believe, conceived by Colonel Beynardson from his having seen the miller now and then
opening the window, and casting bits of refuse dough
into the stream, which the big fish, having driven off his
less powerful companions, would swallow—hence, his tying
an imitation of the dough. The colour of the Colonel's
fly was, it may be noticed, much the same as the dingy
Brown Heckle with which I got the trout, as described on
page 174. There was another mill on the water a short
way above where my fish lay; perhaps it also bad been
partial to lumps of dough.
Besides the sport afforded by the chalk streams of the
South of England or the Highlands of Scotland, much
pleasure may be derived from brook fishing, even though
brook trout are generally of no great size. Fishing of
this character I have often enjoyed at Longford in Derbyshire, the residence of my old friend the Hon. H. Coke.
The fishing consists of two brooks, which run into a
mill dam—the mill dam itself, and the stream below, for
some distance. When the mill is at work, there is a
plentiful supply of water below it, and the fishing is then
at its best. Even when the water in the dam is penned
there are holes and corners from which trout may be
extracted by the persevering angler—and as, except just
before rain, the trout take readily, enough for an excellent
dish may easily be caught in a couple of hours or so.
The fish are of no great size, seldom exceeding \ lb.;
but still a good sportsman may find amusement in catching
them, as, in order to do justice to the fishing, some experience in order to judge where to cast, and some skill
in getting the fly into the right place, are required. The
mill dam holds larger fish, and in the May-fly season a IN THE NORTH
few years since I killed some of good shape and size,
where one of the brooks runs into it.
The morning had been warm, and I did not go out till
the afternoon ; there was no breeze, and but little stream,
so that the fish would not look at a sunk fly. A floating
one was therefore resorted to, and when a trout rose, an
attempt was made to put it over him. In water of this
description fish are not stationary, so that this was, to
some extent, guesswork. If the fly was not immediately
taken, it was left on the surface, in case a hungry trout
might swim by, until it sank; then it was removed from
the casting line and stuck into the bark of a neighbouring
tree to dry, a fresh one being substituted ; the same plan
was adopted after landing a fish. Had I been provided
with paraffin this would have been unnecessary; had I been
regularly fishing the brooks it would have been impracticable. Fresh trout seemed to be constantly coming up
from the mill dam, to feed on the fly brought down by
the stream, so that it would have been bad policy to leave
the place.
On another occasion I had a good afternoon at the lower
end of the mill dam, late in the summer, and again in a calm.
The trout were rising fast, but, owing to the want of a
ripple, only one or two small ones had been caught, when
it occurred to me to try a' Bed Tag,' fished dry. This
time, being furnished with a small bottle of paraffin, some
of it was applied to the Bed Tag, which was then floated
over the fish. Bather to my surprise, it was taken quite
greedily and, before the fish had left off feeding, as many
were caught as I cared to kill. I had never tried the
Bed Tag at Longford, but have found since that there,
as well as at other places, it kept up its character as one
of the best of flies.
The superior size of the trout in the mill dam is doubtless owing to the supply of food brought down by the
N 178
brooks. There is also another piece of water close to the
house, where some large fish are to be caught, if the wind
is in the right quarter to cause a ripple; their shape and
condition are generally perfect, and there, again, the food
is abundant, the water being full of small grey snails.
I have sometimes wondered how many trout might be
killed in the course of the day by a good hand on the
Longford water, supposing him to begin early and manage
to be on the lower part of the brook when the mill was
at work. One day last summer (1905) a tradesman, from
a town in the neighbourhood, obtained leave for a day's
fishing and carried off forty-two. Probably some of Mr.
Coke's friends could have done more, being better acquainted with the water. What anyone wants with such
a number I cannot understand. If the fishing were mine,
he would not have a chance of repeating the performance.
Applications for leave to fish are frequently made by
persons who have no claim on the owners of the water,
and if granted, the good nature of the proprietors is sometimes abused. I remember another case in which an old
friend of mine gave permission for two rods to fish on the
little river Darent. They took away with them about
the same number as the Derbyshire tradesman carried off
from Longford, and as they chose a day in the middle of
the May-fly season, the fish they killed were mostly the
largest in the stream.
The Longford water has been mentioned as a type of
good brook fishing. In contrast to it, let me record
some sport which has fallen to my lot on the Kennet.
It is nearly half a century since my first visit to that
river. A friend and I, seeing that tickets to fish near
Hungerford were to be had for a few shillings at a shop
where we were in the habit of buying tackle, settled to
take a couple and go down to try our luck. The first day
we arrived rather late in the afternoon, after the fish had IN THE NORTH
done feeding. We got one trout before dark. The next
morning we were more fortunate, my friend killing two,
whilst I got four, one of which weighed 4 lbs. Many
years after, a relative of mine, the late Mr. T. Price, known
as one of the best men to hounds in England, asked me if
I would care to go with him to Marlborough, and fish
Lord Ailesbury's ' water.'l He had permission for himself
and a friend for two days, from his Lordship. I was
glad of the chance—a few days afterwards we were off
by Great Western Bailway to Marlborough and started
fishing the next morning.
The Kennet offers as complete a contrast to the
Longford water as possible. The trout are large,
whilst the stream is sluggish, except below the mills,
of which there were three, two in working order, and
one no longer in use. The greater part of it is therefore of not much account without a breeze. Lord
Ailesbury's keepers told us that the fish ran up to
4 lbs. or 5 lbs. weight, but I suspect that those of that
size rarely took the fly. We were limited to trout over
1 lb. and allowed to kill eight apiece. Altogether, in
company with Mr. Price I made four trips to Marlborough,
and we were lucky enough to be almost always favoured
with a breeze. The most successful fly was the ' Governor.
When fortunate enough to get five or six trout over
the prescribed weight, I made a point of returning to
the water any which were not remarkable for size, even
though they might exceed the 1 lb., in the hope of getting
hold of one of the 4 lb. or 5 lb. fish spoken of by the
keepers; the result being, that only once or twice was
the number we were allowed to take reached. Only one
of these big fish did I, myself, come across. He lay close
below the partially ruined mill above referred to, and every
now and then rose at something I was unable to make out.
1 Until late in life Lord Ailesbury was known as Lord Ernest Bruce.
n 2 11
The Governor, a small Alder, a Bed Heckle, were tried
in vain—then a Pale Olive was floated over him, which
was taken instantly. After a few heavy plunges the fish
gave in, and was brought down stream into the landing-
net. According to its length, this trout should have
weighed 4 lbs. or more, but it was a large-headed, lanky
brute, and probably would not have scaled 2 lbs. As it
was being landed, the keeper appeared, and pulling a long
face, said, ' You are never going to kill such a fish as that,
sir.' ' By your rules,' I replied, ' I am entitled to do so,
but it shall be put back if you will allow me to take one
instead which may not be up to the proper weight.'
' Certainly,' said the man. My reason for making the
proposal was that I had only one trout in the basket; it
was then two o'clock, and it looked as though my chance
of another was bad. However, soon a rise was seen a
few yards off, and on offering the fish a ' Governor' it laid
hold.    It proved to be 1J lb.
By the end of the day I had several others, though
scarcely a rise was to be seen at the natural fly. The last
was spied in shallow water at the tail of a hatch hole.
Wading in below, it was easy to keep out of sight. When
hooked, the trout bolted for the hole above, but the place
being clear of weed or other obstruction, before long it was
brought back to the shallow, and there landed—weight
If lb. This day affords an instance of the uncertainty
attached to trout-fishing. The afternoon is not, as a rule,
the best time to fish ; there was no apparent change of
weather, and yet five or six fish were killed, besides some
smaller ones returned to the stream, after two o'clock,
whilst the morning's work only accounted for one.
As I have mentioned elsewhere, it is pretty certain
that, even on the most favourable day, one trout only out
of a great many to whom the fly has been offered takes.
On this occasion the fish cast over in the morning were IN THE NORTH
not hungry enough to take the ' Governor,' and it was
not till late in the day that I came across those that
were. As to the lanky trout, had the water been mine,
it would have been knocked on the head and left on the
bank. Fish of this description are not only useless, but
do harm. On one or two days, having nearly reached our
limit, we landed and returned to the water many fish over
1 lb., always hoping to get hold of one of the real big
ones. This we never did, our heaviest not exceeding 2 lbs.
I have since rather doubted if we were justified in
pulling out fish even though they might be put back—
the proceeding does not of course affect the stock, but it
may have a tendency to spoil the sport of those who fish
the water afterwards. Ought we to have killed our eight
trout and then left off fishing ? I think so. The rule
which fixes a Hmit as to size and number is an excellent
one. What can be the object of taking more, except the
vainglorious one of boasting of success?—a proceeding
quite unworthy of a sportsman.
Besides the artificial fly, trout are killed with the
natural insect, by dapping, and by the blow-line. I have
never caught a fish in either way, though a friend once
tried to teach me how to manage a blow-line, and indeed,
being a good-natured man, presented me with some yards
of the floss silk used for the purpose.
There is no doubt that, in the May-fly season, the
largest trout are to be killed, both on the Test and on the
Irish lakes, by means of the blow-fine. It appears to
me to be a tiresome way of going to work, depending too
much on the action of the wind. A puff will send the
line up into the air, just as the fly is about to alight, or
perhaps the breeze will suddenly fail, so that it hangs
limply by the side of the rod.
Of dapping I know nothing; but with another way of
using the real fly I am well acquainted.    The first step is II
to procure a small basket, with the ends of the willow
projecting inside it; the next, to fill it with May flies,
which perch on these ends, and which may be caught by
the lad who carries the landing-net. Two of these insects
are put on to a good-sized fly-hook, made of thin wire, and
attached to two or three yards of gut—they are then
floated over any fish which may be rising. If this can
be managed, the result is death to the trout. When
a boy at a tutor's in Derbyshire I have watched the
process and tried hard to acquire the necessary skill.
It is, to my mind, by far the most difficult form of dry-
fly casting, inasmuch as the flies are switched off if the
least jerk or violence be used.
At that time there was a man, Brownson by name,
who had brought the casting of the real fly nearly, if not
quite, to perfection. The scene of his exploits was Dove-
dale, and as, by staying at the ' Izaak Walton' hotel, the
river could be fished on payment of a small fee, it was
pretty well flogged even in those days.
The rods used were of peculiar make, being unusually
limber in the middle piece ; to the butt, instead of a
spike, a flat piece of wood was attached; this was placed
in the palm of one hand, the other grasping the rod
between two and three feet higher up; the line, being let
out and gently lifted, was swung round with a rotatory
motion, and the May flies quietly dropped a little above
a rising fish. After a lesson or two from Brownson I
learnt enough to be able to catch trout, provided they
were pretty near me, but it must be confessed that when
they were at any distance, even though well within reach
of ordinary casting, the May fly was nearly always
switched off. On the Tweed the Creeper or Stone fly is
used instead of the May fly; in Devonshire the Fern
Web answers the purpose, but, as I believe, they are not
cast in the Derbyshire fashion.
Many years after my visit to Dovedale, Lord Granby
kindly gave me permission to fish the Duke of Butland's
water on the Upper Lathkill, and here I again used the
live May fly. Leaving town one Thursday, I reached the
' Peacock' at Bowsley in good time, and in the afternoon
walked up the stream to see the keeper and settle where
to meet him the next day, passing the Wye and Lower
Lathkill on my way. With the exception of the Dove
in Dovedale, the Wye appeared to me to be the most perfect of trout streams. Dry-fly men were fishing both rivers
and seemed quite up to their work. On reaching the Upper
Lathkill I found a gentleman winding up his line, saying
the rise was over; he added that the May fly had been
up for some days, and that the trout were beginning to be
glutted. On the Friday, with the artificial Green Drake, I
got eighteen trout. On the Saturday the keeper declared
it would be useless, so having procured a supply of the
natural fly, he proceeded to put on two, which I managed
to drop in front of a feeding trout; it took instantly. So
we went on, I switching off the flies, and the keeper replenishing the stock. However, by three o'clock twenty-
one trout were in the basket. Then, leaving the Lathkill for the Wye, one more was caught. In these two
days I killed forty trout; no other visitor at the ' Peacock '
had taken even one.
Let it not be supposed that the fact is here mentioned
as implying that my success was owing to superior skill.
On the contrary, whilst watching the anglers who were,
in vain, endeavouring to tempt the fish on the Lower
Lathkill, it struck me that they were, generally, knowing hands. One gentleman was so in a marked degree,
not only floating the dry fly perfectly, but steering it
admirably between the boughs. Indeed the conclusion
which passed through my mind was that, had it been
my lot to fish where he cast his line,  I  should  have 184
been quite unable to equal his performance. The explanation is simple enough. Both Wye and Lower
Lathkill, no doubt pretty hard fished as a rule, had been
well flogged during the Green Drake season, and doubtless
held a number of pricked trout, whilst the water assigned
to me was more strictly preserved and but lightly fished.
It is true, I believe, that the anglers on the lowei?
water used the artificial fly. Still, the Upper Lathkill
affords an illustration of what may be done where the
number of rods is strictly limited. No fish under 9
inches long were allowed to be killed on the upper water.
I have never seen a trout killed by dapping, but once
the attempt was made in my presence at Panshanger. A
gentleman, who was on a visit to Lord Cowper, though
not a first-class fisherman, was certainly a keen one, and
had sallied forth immediately after breakfast. In the
afternoon I and one or two of the other guests determined to walk down to the water and find out what he
had done. He had caught only one fish, and told us the
trout would not rise. ' However,' said he,' I shall get one
or two out of the pool below the waterfall.' He had captured two or three common house flies or bluebottles, and
these he had put on a fly-hook, from which he had
stripped the dressing. Crawling up to the edge of the
stream, and lying full length on the grass, he proceeded
to dangle the bluebottles over the water, every now and
then turning his head to smile at us. Mr. Henry Cowper,
the brother of our host, whispered to me, ' The flies have
never been near the water.' Sure enough, the casting
line was lodged on a dead stick, which projected from the
bank. There we left him, wondering how long it would
be before he discovered that the bluebottles were suspended from the stick, instead of resting on the surface
of the water.
I have never been in Devonshire during the Fern Web IN THE NORTH
season; in my Cambridge days I happened to be staying
with a near relative and friend 1 close to Dartmoor. A
small river ran through the property, and close to the
house was a weir pool, above which was a long stretch of
deep water, where the trout were considerably larger than
those usually to be met with in the neighbourhood. As
they were not disposed to take the fly, I provided myself
with some minnows, and with this bait contrived to kill
a good many, some of them over 1 lb. weight. The
next day was Sunday, and, coming out of church,
the clergyman stopped me, saying, \ I hear you killed a
fine dish yesterday. I suppose you got them dapping ? '
Before he had time to get my answer, he was called
away on some parish business. The following morning,
whilst dressing, I saw from my window, which commanded
a lovely view of the river, and valley through which it ran,
a pony tied up to a white gate, whilst its owner appeared
to be groping amongst the ferns which grew close by.
On coming into the breakfast-room and inquiring what
the man could be doing, my host informed me that
it was the Parson, who, being under the impression that
my fish had been killed dapping, had ridden over and
was then searching for Fern Webs. ' I do not think,' he
added, ' they will be out for another week. When they
are, he will be sure to get some of the large trout above
the weir with them.'
I wonder if any of those who may chance to look into
these pages has ever been asked if he was not a ' great
fisherman.' To me the query has always seemed rather
out of place. Unless, indeed, one had the assurance of
Mr. Jorrocks, who, when asked if he was not a great huntsman, replied, without hesitation, 'The greatest in England.'
1 The terms relative and friend are not always synonymous. There is
an old Scotch toast bearing upon the point. ' Here's a health to ma freends,
and the de'il tak the rest of my relations.' 186
Shortly after my Cambridge career an old college friend
took me down for two days' trout-fishing in Hertfordshire, where we were hospitably entertained by one of
his relations. On starting, after breakfast, the lady of the
house said to me, 'I hear you are a great fisherman,
Mr. Barrington, so I have ordered no fish for dinner and
depend on you for a supply.' Assuring her that I had no
pretence to the title, I pointed out that an easterly wind
and a hot sun were much against us. Nevertheless
we would do our best. On this occasion we had two
streams to fish ; my friend, who knew them both, told me
that one held excellent trout, but owing to its clearness
and the difficulty of getting near them unseen, they were
bad to catch. The other, he said, was easier to fish, and
the trout in it were to be caught with greater facility, but
were apt to be muddy.
We began with the first. On reaching the water I went
down stream, whilst my friend went up. As I wandered
along the bank, plenty of trout were to be seen, and
here and there was one rising. It was, however, impossible to get a fly over them without showing oneself.
Wading was out of the question, the bottom of the river
being found, on probing it with a landing-net, to be soft.
At last one was discovered, rising close to the bank, where
some slight shelter from the rays of the midday sun was
afforded, so, crawling up to within reach, an attempt was
made to get him. The first cast lodged the fly in the
bank, and the act of extricating it seemed to have disturbed the trout, for he ceased to feed. Lower down,
cows were standing in the stream, every now and then
stamping and stirring up the mud. Further down still
was a nice-looking shallow, which was quite thick from
the actions of the cows. Nothing was to be seen rising,
but, as the place seemed likely enough to hold a fish
worth having, I proceeded to try it.   After a few casts IN THE NORTH
a trout was hooked. It weighed rather over 2 lbs.
Having reached the limit of the water, I went up
stream again, to look for my friend, and on the way saw
the trout which I had put down recovered from his alarm
and again on the rise. Having successfully.stalked him,
and made no mistake in casting, he was hooked and
killed. He was of much the same size as the other.
My friend had got one, also a good fish, so off we
went to the second stream. There, when the sun was a
bit off the water, we got several trout, which, though
perhaps muddy and certainly rather black, showed good
sport. (My friend killed three over 1 lb. out of the tail of
one hatch hole.)
How often it happens that our host's pheasants will
go over him, and the poor relations, who are standing back
in the cover to shoot the stray birds which decline to
face the guns in front. Still more frequently do we, in
vain, give up the best pools to a friend, whilst only the
inferior casts provide sport whilst his visit lasts.
When the late Lord Malmesbury was tenant of
Achnacarry, one of his guests, a lady, much given to
fishing, said to the fisherman one morning, ' Where are we
to go to-day, John ?' ' Deed, my lady,' he answered, ' I
cannot say; them places as is the least likeliest, is often
the most likeliest of all.' John spoke from experience and
was no doubt right; the truth being that sport commonly
depends upon coming over the fish, whether salmon or
trout, which may, at the time, be disposed to take.
More than once I have tried, unsuccessfully, to show
some sport to a friend. The Mr. Henry Cowper referred
to above was a capital trout-fisher, and not a bad hand
with a salmon rod, and I had invited him to have a turn
at the Boyalty fishery on the Avon. The morning after
our arrival, the keeper reported having seen a good
salmon in one of the casts and another fish at the tail of 188
the same stream, which, however, he thought was a kelt.
' Why,' said I, ' do you think so ?' ' Because he acts
like a kelt.' ' How does a kelt's action differ from
that of a clean salmon ?'—that he could not say.
I told Mr. Cowper he had better try the fish at the
tail of the stream first; he made a few casts, but the
place was only to be fished with the left hand. A slight
wind was against him, and he did not persevere, but
walked up to where the keeper had seen the good salmon.
I thereupon made an attempt upon the one he had neglected, and almost immediately hooked it. j It proved to
be a clean fish of 19 lbs., not quite new run, the gill covers
just beginning to show a tinge the colour of copper.
After this I put down my rod until late in the afternoon, by which time Mr. Cowper had fished all the water
but one (the best) stream. I then went up to our
boundary and fished down behind him. In one unlikely
place, for the river was not high enough, a wave came
below the hook—evidently the act of a salmon. I therefore shouted to the keeper to bring my friend up to try
for him—he replied that Mr. Cowper had risen one fish
and seen another, and would prefer to take his chance
of one of them. I, accordingly, as it was getting late,
took a step down and cast over the one whose wave
I had seen, hooked, and killed him (18 lbs., just up from
the sea).
The next morning Mr. Cowper was obliged to go back
to town. I remained another day, and caught the good
salmon the keeper had marked down, weight 25 lbs.
Here was an instance of mere luck, except in the case
of the first fish. Mr. C. had fairly covered the others—
I watched him.
Some time after the dapping of the bluebottles
narrated above, Lord Cowper gave me a day for myself
at Panshanger.    I took with me Mr. Edward Petre, a IN THE NORTH
friend of many years' standing, and my constant companion in rowing excursions on the Thames. The fishing
consists of a broad piece of water near the house and
some nice streams above and below. Wishing Mr. Petre
to have the benefit of what chance there might be, I
remained by the broad water whilst he tried the streams
opposite me. The trout ran to a large size thereabouts, but
rarely took the fly after the May-fly season. Indeed Mr.
Henry Cowper was of opinion that each large fish in the
broad water rose but once, in the summer—so he said at
least. At luncheon time we had caught nothing. Mr.
Petre, who had fished the upper water, then went down,
whilst I remained where I was. Presently there came
a faint puff of wind (up to then it had been dead calm)
which caused a slight ripple. Up I jumped, and cast into
it, almost immediately hooking and killing a trout of
3| lbs. Hardly was it landed, when another laid hold,
which weighed 4J lbs. What little wind there was had
altogether died away. Another case of good and bad
luck! Mr. Petre had hooked only one trout, and that
ran amongst some sticks at the bottom and broke him.
Many men are of opinion that worm and minnow
fishing, when the water is low and clear, is the
most difficult of all legitimate ways of taking trout
known to the angler. In that view I concur. Fishing
with bait in discoloured streams is certainly deadly,
but it is hard to say where the sport comes in. It
differs little from catching eels with a clot of worms
strung on worsted, and a pole. Strong gut may be used,
and when a trout has swallowed the hook, it may be
dragged ashore with as little consideration as the eel.
In former days, when the possession of salmon roe
was not forbidden by the law, you might choose a suitable run, turn half a barrel into the cheek of the stream
as ground bait, and fish as men fish in the Thames for ill
mill i
gudgeon, roach, &c. The Thames men require considerable skill to succeed, using, as they do, the finest tackle,
single hair, a shotted line, and a float the top of which is
only just perceptible, and striking the very moment a bite
is indicated. Killing trout in thick water is, however, a
very different affair to filling the basket when the river has
fallen to a summer size. The first difficulty to be overcome is to keep out of sight—not an easy matter, as the
worm or wasp's grub, which answers as well, must be
thrown underhanded, or the bait would soon be destroyed.
It is necessary, then, to get nearer your trout, either
by wading or crawling along the bank, than when flyfishing.
If worms are to be used, they should be kept in moss
for a fortnight—they then become tough. If a man of
pitiful mind, you may, before putting them on, kill them
by holding them in the palm of one hand and giving them
a smack with the other. Wasp grubs should be scalded.
The tackle consists of fine unscraped gut, a single hook,
and one or two shot about eighteen inches from the bait.
Having waded in (if necessary) at the tail of the stream,
you fish the water up, as you go, raising or lowering the top of the rod according to the depth of water
and strength of the current) being careful not to allow
the hook to touch the bottom of the river. Should there
be rocks or large stones, the worm must be cast a little
above or to one side of them. When a trout takes,
the touch on the line will indicate the right moment
to strike. If not feeding greedily, the fish will often
keep the bait between its lips, apparently playing with
it—a strike then will probably pull it away, only
pricking the trout, or not hooking it at all. When
taking badly you may guess what the trout is about by
the way in which the line twitches. After a moment
or two the worm will be dropped, or a slow drag will be ■1
felt; in the latter case the hand may be raised with
the certainty that the hook will be securely fastened.
As evidence of the deadly nature of bait fishing in
clear water, I may mention that one afternoon, in summer
time, I took out of a pool in the ' Glen,' where the stream
from Coupland Mill runs into the river, eight trout of
fair size, fishing with wasp grubs. The bank was fringed
with willow bushes, behind which it was easy to hide, but
it was impossible to avoid coming in sight of the fish, in
landing them; consequently one had to wait a short time
before trying again. In fact, the trout took as fast as I
could catch them. The fly had previously been tried, but
with the result that hardly any were captured, and those
of the smallest sort.
In later days, though now many years since, the
' Stewart' tackle came into fashion. Instead of a single
hook, three of a smaller size are tied on the gut, one above
the other; on these the worm is threaded, so that the
topmost hook goes through near its head, and the lowest
through its body, half an inch or so from its tail. The
manner of fishing is much the same as in that described
above, only that you strike directly the bite is felt. It
has the merit that should small fish be hooked they may
be returned to the water; it is perhaps the more killing
plan; on the other hand, it has the fault of rendering the
trout shy.
When on the Lammermuirs after grouse, I went out
one by-day to fish a rocky burn which was full of small
trout, with the main object of procuring a supply for our
party. One of the keepers went with me to bait the
Stewart tackle and carry the basket. The streams first
tried produced only a few quite small fish, and upon
asking the man what made them so shy, he replied that
two of the servants had been out the day before, catching
trout for the house.     'When,' said he, 'we pass  the It
turn above you will have better sport, as the burn was
not fished higher up.' Sure enough, after reaching the
bend, there was no difficulty in getting an ample supply.
Another way of killing trout in low water on the
Coquet and other rivers in the North is by ' shade fishing.'
This was practised from amongst trees, in the deeps,
where the artificial fly, even had it been feasible to put it
over the fish, would certainly not have tempted them.
In order to get the bait into the water, the rod was poked
out between the branches, the top being bent back, whilst
the gut, above the hook, was held in the left hand ; taking
care to keep clear of the boughs, the line was suddenly let
go, when the worm, having been shot through the open
space between the branches, was gently dropped into the
water; strong tackle was necessary, as little law could be
given the fish. The charm of this mode of angling lay in
watching the proceedings of the trout. Standing well
above them, their every motion was plainly visible ; even
when hooked, it was by no means a certainty to land them,
as you were obliged to force your way to the water's edge,
and, either in doing so, or in the endeavour to get the
trout into the landing-net, considerable risk was incurred
of entangling the line.
Should further information be required as to skilful
worm-fishing, it would be well to consult a work published
a few years ago by Mr. Henderson, a gentleman well
known as a most successful fisherman in the North
of England. His account of expeditions to the Glen,
Breamish and other Border streams is interesting and
TrOut will also take the minnow in low water. Some
of the men living near the Till were adepts at killing them
with a spinning bait, using two hooks only, one passed
through its lips, the other giving its tail the necessary
bend to make it work properly.    The Till trout were IN THE
inclined to be shy, probably owing to a good supply of
food, its waters by no means rapid. The nature of the
Till is tolerably described in the old distich :
Says Tweed to Till, ' What gars ye rin sae still ?'
Says Till to Tweed, ' For sae fast as ye rin and so slow
as I gae,
Where ye droon ae man I droon twae.'
Yet these men, with their clumsy looking double-
handed rods and somewhat primitive tackle, would
generally get a basket of trout, in spite of low water and
bright weather. I do not think they were particular as
to the bait spinning truly, but would guide a rather
wobbling minnow into gentle runs, under the banks, and
seem almost to coax the trout into taking. It is true that
they killed their fish very early in the morning, beginning
as soon as it was fight. Complaining to one of them
once that I could do no good with a spinning minnow
in low water, the man remarked, ' What can ye expect
if ye dinna rise airly in the morn ?—a catch ma trouts
maistly whiles ye are resting in yer bed.'
There is another mode of using the minnow, when
the river has fallen in, perhaps as deadly even in the middle of the day as these Till fishers' spinning is at break of
dawn, i.e. the Gorge, or, sink minnow, as it is called in the
North. A baiting needle (a large darning needle with the
eye filed so as to admit the gut loop, is as good as anything) is passed through the mouth of the bait and out at
its tail; the gut on which the hook is tied is then drawn
through, so that the bend lies along the back of the
minnow's head.
The deep holes and gentle runs are fished much in
the same way as though trolling for pike.    Bapid streams
as the bait soon
are not suitable to this mode of fishing, 194
becomes worn about the tail, and does not in such
places so closely imitate the action of a small fish. It is
meant to represent a minnow alternately sinking and
rising in deep water. Trout, like other fish of prey,
seize their victim by the middle, afterwards turning its
head downwards preparatory to swallowing it. When
not in hungry mood, they will hold the minnow between
their teeth for a time before turning it, sometimes
running about with it in their mouth, as a cat will do
when it catches a mouse. To strike then would certainly
entail the loss of the trout, and it is in such cases
necessary to act in the same way as though worm-fishing
(described above). Should your fish move rapidly off,
line must be given, delicately, so as to oppose the least
resistance possible to the movements of the fish. You
will probably find the line stop running, after a few yards
have come off the reel, either because the bait is being
gorged or because it has been dropped. You can then
wait a little and lift your top. If the trout is still on, he
is safe enough. If the bait has been abandoned, you
must put on a fresh minnow and proceed as before, hoping
—for hope springs eternal in the angler's breast—that you
may come across a fish with a keener appetite.
On the whole, though, in my younger days, I have
killed many a good trout with sink minnow, I should say
it was the least sporting way of taking them. The skill
required does not by any means equal that essential to
success in fishing low water with the worm.
The bait is easier to cast, the experience necessary to
enable you to judge when to strike is much the same, in
either case. Ths advantage of the plan is, that you may
kill the large trout in deep and smooth water, out of
which they could not be extracted with the artificial fly.
On the other hand, whereas, when spinning, you may put
back fish which are either too small, or out of condition, IN THE NORTH
you cannot save the life of a trout which has taken the
Gorge hook.
The small double Gorges sold by the tackle-makers
are useless, the hooks themselves, from their want of
size, having a strong tendency to bury themselves in the
bait and to fail in getting hold of the trout unless it is
absolutely gorged. Now, a clever hand at the game, with
a delicate sense of touch, will contrive to hook most of
his fish in the throat, perhaps even in the palate, but to
do this he must use the right kind of hook. Finding out
the faulty nature of those sold in the shops, I took to
providing myself with some more suitable to the purpose.
With this object, a fair-sized single salmon hook was
loaded, not too heavily, with lead, just above the bend. This
is easily done by forming a mould of damped sand in which
the hook is placed, and running molten lead round it. If
the lead when cool is found to be in excess, it may be
trimmed to the right size with a knife. The hook is then
whipped on to a length of looped gut, and it is ready for
I have sometimes wondered if the Thames trout which
inhabit water too quiet for spinning might be caught with
a Gorge. When rowing I have more than once seen
them in such places; two there were, one summer, in the
backwater leading up to Monkey Island, a few miles
above Windsor. On consulting a Thames fisherman, he
said the gut trace would soon be destroyed by small pike,
which, at the time of year when it was most likely to
get hold of a trout, were ravenous. This is probably true
enough, as I remember one afternoon, in the middle of
May, losing three gut traces in this way whilst spinning
for a large trout which I had seen feeding, a little below
Hambledon Weir.
Besides these various ways of catching trout, there is
fishing with live bait; but, never having practised it, I can
say nothing of it here, except that once at Hambledon Weir
I witnessed the capture of a fish of 6 lbs. by a professional
fisherman by this method. When the trout was hooked
the man worked it down stream into slack water, running
along the side where grew some willow bushes, over which
he had to lift his rod; there he found another professional,
who eame to his assistance with the landing-net.
Though frequently on the river for many years I
never saw but that one Thames trout killed. Once, however, whilst sculling a little above Walton Bridge, I
watched, for twenty minutes or so, a most interesting
struggle between an unusually large one and a punt
angler. The angler, who was after roach and dace, had
hooked a small fish when, as it was being drawn in, it was
seized by a trout, which was allowed to gorge it;
then the excitement began. Either the bait was too far
down to be ejected, or the roach hook had got hold. The
trout ran all over the river, where it pleased, followed by
the puntsman, who had cast loose from the ryepecks,1 to
which he had fastened up, and wonderfully well he
managed his punt.
The angler seemed to have but little line on the reel,
his tackle being only intended to deal with roach and
small fish: nothing but the skill displayed by his attendant
could have saved him from disaster, long before the end
of the fight. At length the trout came to the surface, all
but beaten, and was gently conducted towards the well of
the punt, over which the professional was leaning with a
landing-net such as is commonly used on the Thames, i.e.
having no length of staff, but a mere handle of about two
feet. The fish, catching sight of the enemy, made a final
effort; the angler had shortened his line and in so doing
brought the gut through the top ring ; something stuck
for a moment, a break naturally ensued, and the trout
1 f Ryepecks ': local name for poles to which the punt is moored. IN THE NORTH
was gone. The angler flung down the rod in despair,
whilst the puntsman cried out to me, ' He wound hisself
up too tight, and that fish weighed 11 lbs. I have
known him all the season.'
Many fishermen, accustomed to other rivers, may
perhaps wonder why so few Thames trout are caught
during the season, considering the numbers turned into
the water by angling associations. Did any of these
gentlemen station themselves on a weir for a short time,
and observe the stream below, there, in early summer,
they might see hundreds of bait leaping close to the
lasher, ' breaking up,' as fishermen call it, after spawning.
A large trout swimming below has merely to open his
mouth and swallow as many of them as he wants, after
which he will remain in a lethargic state until the process
of digestion is over. The trout, unlike the human epicure,
does not linger over his dinner, which probably is finished
in a quarter of an hour. Should the fisherman come over
him with a spinning bleak or gudgeon, during that small
fraction of the day, he may perchance hook him, but
hitting off this favourable quarter of an hour must be
most uncertain.
It is sometimes stated that these large trout dine at
about the same hour every day, so that if one of them is
observed in pursuit of his prey, we will say at six p.m. one
day, we may expect him to be similarly occupied at six p.m.
the next. Not having been accustomed to watch the
fish as a professional fisherman does, I am not qualified
to deny the statement; but as the state of the water, or
the temperature, with other influences affecting the
appetite of fish, are subject to frequent variation, their
punctuality in feeding is probably not much to be relied
Live-bait fishing appears to me much on a par with
harhng for salmon, possibly because I know little about 198 SEVENTY YEARS' FISHING
it. When a boy of sixteen I went to a private tutor's in
Derbyshire, a few miles from Longford, now the country
residence of my oldest friend, the Hon. Henry Coke.
On half-holidays it was my frequent habit to run over
and fish the Longford Brook, and there occasionally I
came across a live-bait fisher, a Derby tobacconist named
Fry. Immediately below Longford Mill is a plot of grass,
on one side of which runs the mill stream, on the other
the brook itself. Thither would Fry repair with a camp
stool, a large meerschaum pipe, a can of minnows and his
tackle. Whilst the mill ran, his float might be seen
struggling in the mill stream ; when it stopped, he shifted
across, camp-stool, minnows and all, to the other side of
the grass plot, and dropped his line into the pool where
the waste water came in. He was never to be seen on
any other part of the water, and doubtless killed many
trout in the two holes he stuck to. A more lazy or unsportsmanlike proceeding could hardly be witnessed; to
quote Scrope again, ' You might as well set night lines for
eels.' CHAPTEB X
' Here and there a grayling.'
Caprice of grayling—Fine ones near Romsey on the Test—General Bowles'
day—Large ones feed a great deal at the bottom—Good day at Steeple
Langford—Large fish in the Broadlands water—Lord Palmerston's
remarks—Admiral Hope and a 3-lb. trout at Christmas time—Cast of
large pike at Somerley—Fish require water that suits them—Rainbow
trout—Stock in ponds require constant renewing.
Something has been said already as to the caprice of the
fish we endeavour to catch with the fly. This quality is
especially characteristic of the grayling, though it is said
to rise boldly and may be caught after being risen two or
three times. On some days it is a matter of difficulty to
take two or three, on others a basketful may be caught,
though such good fortune is but seldom the lot of the
angler. The flies used in fishing for them are much the
same as those which succeed with trout, and vary in
different streams. On the Avon the Bed Spinner of fair
size is a favourite; on the Test I have found small Bed
Quill Gnats, Black Gnats, and Pale Olive Duns answer ; on
the Wiley, small Heckles—Orange Tags, Bed Tags, and
Grey Tags, sometimes fished wet, and sometime floating.
Grayling have soft mouths, and are more apt, consequently, to get off than trout. When first hooked they
generally bore towards the bottom and run. down stream,
so that it is necessary to humour them, for fear of the
hold giving way.   Just before being landed, they will -r-—
occasionally throw themselves out of water. One good
quality they have : that of never going to weed. I do not
remember losing one in this way ; moreover they are to
be caught in very low water. I have killed grayling in
the Dove, the Test, the Avon, and the Wiley in this
country; in the Traun near Ischl, and the Ilm at
Weimar, abroad. The finest, as far as my experience
goes, are to be found in the Test, near Bomsey. Never
did I see such a bag made as once when staying at
Broadlands, in Lord Palmerston's time, by General
Bowles. He and I were to have gone out after partridges
together, but at breakfast he said he should take advantage of a strong wind to go fishing. I went out alone, and
after a capital day's shooting came home just as the
General was getting out of the boat, in the bottom of
which were any number of large grayling; they had been
caught with a small Olive Dun (pale silky body and
starling wing) and a Black Gnat, body ribbed with gold
twist. The live Pale Olive has a body which is almost
transparent; no imitation of it succeeds in calm water,
but in a heavy wind the fly dressed as described answers
well enough. The rougher the day the better for
grayling, at least according to my own experience.
Grayling spawn in the spring, and are in condition
through the winter. No fish, to my knowledge, so quickly
recovers after spawning, probably because at that time of
the year flies and other food abound. Where a stream
contains both trout and grayling, the best time to fish
is from the end of August till the middle or end of
September (if the trout remain in good order so late), a
good mixed bag being often made at that season. For
my own part, I do not consider grayling and trout fishing
to be on a par. Not that grayling are to be despised,
particularly by men who, in spite of unpleasant weather,
are keen enough to fish during the autumn and winter GRAYLING AND TROUT
when trout are out of season; but, though they will fight
hard for their lives, they lack the dash and vivacity of
trout. It must be remembered also that, where they are
numerous, they eat a considerable amount of food which
ought to go to nourish the trout.
Many owners of rivers containing both trout and
grayling are so sensible of this fact as to place no limit
to the size of grayling which may be killed by the angler:
not that the number would be sensibly reduced under
such a regulation. No amount of fair fly-fishing will in
my belief affect the stock of either trout or grayling, as
constantly flogging the water will render the fish so shy
as to make their capture nearly impossible.
It is my belief that, at all events in some rivers, the
large grayling feed mostly at the bottom. An old friend
was in the habit of fishing the well-known grayling
stream, the Lentwardine; he told me that for one fortnight in the year the Lentwardine Club fished with a
gentle baited on a weighted hook covered with pale green
silk, after the method described as sinking and drawing,
and that the largest fish were killed by this process. I
have myself caught them in Germany with an Alexandra,
an imitation, not of a fly, but of a minnow. (A small
Jock Scott, by the way, is not at all a bad bait for large
Another reason exists for my belief. Some years ago I
was on the Wiltshire river Wiley, in May and June, and on
one reach, not far above Wilton, almost every day two or
three grayling of the largest size were caught, and, being
out of season, returned to the water. During September
of the same year, I again was fishing the Wiley, but
though grayling up to 1 lb. or so were killed in this part
of the river, none corresponding in size to those caught
and put back were taken by any of the members of the
Grayling have a curious habit in the autumn of
roving about in the pools, making as they swim a wave
in the water. They may often be taken, when so acting,
by casting just in front of this wave, provided of course
the fisherman takes care to keep out of sight. When they
rise, especially in shallow water, the strike should be gentle,
but quick, or they will, unless taking greedily, escape
being hooked. It has occurred to me more than once to
see friends, whom I have taken out on the Wiley, fail in
their efforts to kill grayling, though competent enough as
trout-fishers. Standing by the riverside, I have wondered
at my friends' slowness in striking, and sometimes at their
not apparently seeing the rise at all.
A grayling will occasionally just put his nose only out
of water as he sucks in the fly. Doubtless it takes experience to teach one to catch instant sight of this action,
and my friends were probably lacking such experience.
Grayling, like other fish, are to be caught with worms, &c.
They are hardy and prolific. In some streams where a few
have been turned in they have multiplied exceedingly. In
the Till, a tributary of the Tweed, they certainly were
unknown a few years ago, and now they are more
numerous than the trout.
In the Tweed two or three years back, when fishing
Bergham Dub, I saw many grayling rising. Whether it
is desirable to encourage them in a trout stream is
questionable. They must certainly eat a large portion of
the | food which the trout would feed on, and I for one
should be sorry to see them turned into a trout stream
which it was my habit to fish.
The best day's grayling-fishing I ever had was at
Steeple Langford, on the Wiley—the highest limit of the
water belonging to the Wiley fly-fishing club of which I
was then a member.    Steeple Langford mill dam is, with GRAYLING  AND TROUT
a wind on it, one of the best places on the river, holding, as
it does, plenty of grayling and trout of good size, the latter
rather better in quality than is usual in the Wiley. Where
the mill stream joins the main river is a fair-sized hatch hole,
and lower down a gentle stream glides over the shallows
into a pool about three or four feet deep. From this
pool and the hatch hole I got in one day twenty-one grayling which filled a 24-lb. basket. Several trout of fair size
were also caught; as these were going back in condition,
they were returned to the river. This bag was, however,
beaten hollow, lower down the river, by a gentleman
connected with the ' Field.' He was probably a better
hand at the business.
I might have killed a few more, had it not been that
the carriage was waiting at some distance to take me back
to Wilton, and to walk a couple of miles with 20 lbs. of
fish to carry is no joke to a man seventy years of age. I
therefore left off rather early, the fish being still on the
take. Had I gone on till dark my basket would, however,
not have come near that made by the sportsman referred
to. Good luck has enabled me to kill in the day twelve or
fourteen fine grayling on the Steeple Langford water, nor
do I recollect ever getting fewer than half a dozen of fair
size there, probably because being at a distance of six or
seven miles from Wilton, where it was my habit to put
up, a favourable was day chosen for making an expedition
which entailed a long drive. The flies which proved
successful on the occasion referred to were the Bed Spinner
(not a small one) and a Pink Wickham.
As mentioned further back, the Test, below Komsey,
contains the finest grayling I have ever seen; the trout,
too, are noted for their size and quality. Below Bomsey
bridge is a large swirling pool which holds trout of the
largest kind.    There are two stuffed in the smoking-room 204 SEVENTY YEARS' FISHING
at Broadlands which weighed over 11 lbs. each, but these
big fellows are only to be caught with bait.
Occasionally Lord Palmerston would desire one to be
sent up to London during the season. The keeper, a
Suffolk man, knew little about trout, but possessed a pike
rod and tackle. When called upon to provide a fish for
his master's table, he would proceed to the pool referred
to, bait his hook with a boiled prawn, and drop his line
and float into the river, allowing it to wander about the
stream and eddy wherever the water might take it. Here
he would stay till a trout was caught, sometimes remaining
for a couple of days, but never failing to get one at last.
Besides those mentioned above as to be seen in the
smoking-room, a dead trout came floating down the river
close to where I was fishing, which the keeper dragged
ashore with a rake, and which would, when alive, have
weighed at least 10 lbs. (it had probably been killed by
a mill wheel up above). The largest I ever got was rather
over 4 lbs.; it took a small Silver Doctor salmon fly
in the pool below Bomsey bridge; for some moments it
looked as though a gilse was on. Indeed, a man standing
on the bridge being of that opinion, shouted to some of
his friends to come and see a salmon caught. When the
fish was landed, he turned away much disappointed, crying out to me, 'Why, it's not a salmon after all.'
The grayling in the Broadlands water have been
caught of 3 lbs. weight; they are, like all grayling I
have been acquainted with, most capricious and generally shy and difficult to catch. One afternoon, however,
I came upon them when in the humour for feeding.
There was nothing, apparently, in the weather to lead
one to suppose that they would be less shy than usual;
there was not wind enough to cause a ripple, and the
afternoon was much like other mild afternoons in that
part of England.   Expecting only to get one or two, I
had left the basket behind and sauntered out with the
rod in one hand and the landing-net in the other. Half
a dozen casts had not been made before a fish was
hooked, and so the game went on, until it became time
to go home and attend to more serious business. I
therefore strung the grayling upon withies and went up to
the house, on my way falling in with Lord Palmerston
and Mr. A. Hayward, who was staying at Broadlands,
and who had also been out fishing. Upon seeing me
Lord Palmerston exclaimed, ' Why, here is Charles Barrington laden with fish like Masaniello.' 'You,' he
added, turning to Hayward, ' have got none.' Mr. Hay-
ward was fond of the sport, but more at home in other
branches of the art than fly-fishing. I remember his
killing a number of perch and pike in the water at
Brocket with spinning tackle.
Lord Palmerston was a good horseman, and went
on hunting, when an opportunity offered, after he was
advanced in years; as a shot he was not remarkable, and
1 doubt if he ever killed a trout in the course of his life.
He knew, however, that trout were not in season during
the winter, and one day, when on our way to shoot one
of the Broadlands covers, he asked me how I managed
to direct my fly into the mouth of a grayling, and not
into that of a trout. I explained, to his satisfaction, that,
whereas the grayling were caught in streams and
shallows, the trout, after spawning in the autumn, were
not to be found in such places, but in the deep quiet parts
of the water, where we did not fish.
There are here and there barren trout in all rivers;
one of these happened to take my fly when fishing for
grayling, just above an island in the park, It ran down
and across the stream, and seemed at first bent upon putting the island between itself and me. Luckily it altered
its course, and was eventually landed.    It was in perfect 206
1 iii
condition, though Christmas was close at hand. Just as
it came into the net, Admiral Hope, lately returned from
the attack on the Peiho Forts,1 came up to me. I asked
him what he thought of this specimen of a Test fish.
' Eh ! ' he said, ' a beauty and 3 lbs. weight.' ' Well,' I
replied, ' back he goes; we do not kill them at this time
of year.' The Admiral remarked that it would be a
perfect sin to put the fish back. Lord Palmerston's
orders, however, were strict, and had to be obeyed.
It is often difficult to give any reason for the growth
of fish. Why, for instance, should the Test grayling be
larger than those belonging to the Hampshire Avon ?
The other kinds of fish in the last-named river are famed
for their size, even leaving its salmon out of the question.
Eels, roach, perch, pike, and what trout are to be found
in it, are almost invariably big fish of their kind. Pike
in Lord Normanton's water are not what they were, as
orders were given to keep them down for the sake of the
salmon; but a cast of one is to be seen, at Somerley, which
was netted with a salmon's tail sticking out of its mouth.
It was said to have weighed 30 lbs.; the fish it tried to
swallow, to judge by its tail, might have been about
6 lbs.
I have at different times caught many grayling at
Somerley; though their average weight has been good,
running from } lb. to 1J lb., yet none of 3 lbs. have been
killed there by me or by other fishermen. I believe
one of 4 lbs. was killed at Fording Bridge, a few miles
above the Somerley water; but this, of course, was an
exceptional fish. In the Wiley they are of much the
same size.
The question as to whether the water is really suited
to the fish it contains is not altogether a vain one.    In
the ' Lac de Treperes,' close to Aix4es*Bains, there is a
1 Admiral Hope was badly wounded in the attack. GRAYLING AND TROUT
fish called Lavaret which somewhat resembles a grayling in appearance, but, unlike a grayling, it is one of the
best fresh-water fish for the table. Some years ago, five
hundred of them were caught, and turned into the Lake of
Geneva; within two or three weeks they were found floating on the surface dead—the lake from which they came is
full of hot springs, and it was probably owing to the comparative cold of the waters of the Lake of Geneva that
they perished—gradually chilled to death. The experiment will probably not be repeated.
Possibly the Test contains something, some kind of
weed, or some substance in the water, which is particularly favourable to the growth of trout and grayling. If
this were ascertained to be so, we might turn in their
fry to streams where similar conditions existed. Fish—
especially trout—will not remain in water unsuited to
them, if they can escape. Here are two instances which
have come under my own observation.
The Thames Association, a good many years ago,
turned in a number of trout below Hambledon Weir,
some of them of good size. I was a good deal on the
Thames at the time, and one day sculled up from
Marlow to pay a visit to some friends who lived near the
river. On my way a farmhouse was passed, and in the
duck pond belonging to it, to my surprise, trout were to
be seen swimming about and occasionally rising. The
pond was supplied by a tiny stream, a mere running
ditch of clear water which communicated with the river
below the weir. The fish not approving of the place
selected for them, had travelled up the brook, for more
than a mile. As it ran dry towards the end of summer,
many of them perished before they could be moved to a
safe place.
In the second case, a proprietor of part of the Hampshire Avon, wishing to improve his fishing, dammed up a 208
New Forest brook, and took several hundred small trout
out of it, which he put into the main river. No increase
in the numbers of trout, however, was apparent. They,
doubtless, swam up stream until they came to another
brook, resembling the one in which their early days had
been spent, and went up that.
In these instances the small fish showed a decided
preference for small waters. It is, however, no less true
that large trout will not remain in parts of a stream
which contain no pools and deep holes. Just at the top
of the Avington water, where a water-carry issued from
the Itchen, *a small piece of the bank had given way. We
tried in vain to get the defect remedied at the close of the
season, and the following spring the breach had become
considerably enlarged, so that whilst the side stream had
increased, the Itchen had diminished in volume. The
half-mile above, where it rejoined the river, was well
supplied with fine trout, mostly from 1^ to 2 lbs.
weight; when the water began to fail they dropped down
to the mouth of this side stream and went up it. The
result was that the lessee of the water-carry found his
sport improved, the members of the Itchen Club suffered.
Bainbow trout are said to disappear from the water into
which they may have been put, unless they are hindered
by gratings or some such device. Of them I know little;
the only specimens I have seen were three caught by me
in the Ilm—two were over 5 lbs. the third 1J lb. It is
difficult to say why they should not have remained where
they were. About five hundred had been turned in some
years before the three were taken, a large proportion of
which certainly disappeared. Had any number of them
been still in our part of the river, more would assuredly
have been caught, as they take readily. The few left,
according to the keepers, hung about three or four pools
only.   Some say they depart in search of more abundant GRAYLING AND TROUT
food, but this can hardly have been the cause of their
leaving the club water, as the common trout averaged
2 lbs. where they were caught. Can they be some little-
known kind of salmon or sea trout, whose instinct
prompts them to go down to the salt water after spawning? They certainly have much the look of sea fish,
being bright and silvery.
Be this as it may, in artificial lakes and ponds whence
they cannot escape it is well worth while to cultivate
them. They show excellent sport when hooked, and, to
judge by those I caught, are capital eating. It would
probably be necessary frequently to renew the stock in
ponds where only a small supply of water runs in. It is
doubtful if tiny brooks, often mere running ditches, are
of use as breeding places. The spawn is in danger of
being eaten up by ducks, dabchicks, &c, and, owing to
their shallowness, the parent fish may easily be caught by
The pond at Howick of about twenty acres was originally
well stocked, and, as one of these small runners fell into
it, it was thought the trout would breed. Whether any
of them did so I cannot say. The keeper reported having
seen two or three up the small burn; but as this burn ran
close by the village school, the schoolboys probably
helped themselves to any spawning fish they might spy.
Gradually the trout caught in the pond became fewer and
fewer. This was put down to shyness, owing to the
greater abundance of food in consequence of the growth
of weed.
After a certain time it became necessary to remove the
mud which had accumulated, and the water had to be run
off, whilst the remaining trout were put into a smaller
piece of water. In this pond of twenty acres some twenty-
five only were found surviving.    There were no pike in it;
p 210
besides the trout only a few tench. How came it about
that so few were left ? Probably, as no record was kept,
the number credited to the rod had been considerably
exceeded. It is clear enough that, if the trout did spawn,
the eggs never came to maturity, and afterwards it was
recollected that no small fish had been caught for some
years; the few taken were of fair size and in good condition.
The facts mentioned are alluded to because, in these
days of artificial breeding and hatcheries, the expense of
keeping up a sufficient stock in a twenty-acre pond is hardly
worth considering, and because few owners of such places
seem to be aware that, unless this is done, they must be
prepared to find the supply of trout reach the vanishing
Doubtful advantage in the case of salmon—Not in that of trout—Different
systems—Sticklebacks—Pugnacious habits of fry—Visits to Denham
Fishery—Stirling breeding ponds—Blind fish-^Bannockburn.
Artificial breeding until modern times was but seldom
resorted to. Now, there are breeding ponds and hatcheries
to be found in most districts of the United Kingdom.
To me, it is a matter of doubt if the system will prove of
much use in the case of salmon rivers. A female salmon
is said to contain 1,000 eggs for every pound that it
weighs ; a pair would, on that assumption, lay from 8,000
to, say, 25,000—100 female fish would deposit one or two
millions. In rivers like the Tay and the Tweed it is a matter
of some difficulty to form an estimate of the number of
fish which reach the spawning beds, but there must be at
least many thousands which safely arrive at the breeding
places. The men employed by the Tweed Commissioners
have been in the habit of counting the pairs of breeding fish
(how they managed to do so I know not), and, according
to the last Beport of the Commissioners, about 5,000 pairs
were on the spawning beds in 1904-*—not half the number
seen in the previous season. It is true that the waste of
spawn must be enormous. It is devoured by fish and by
aquatic birds; it may be swept away wholesale by floods.
When hatched, the young fish are subject to perils of all
kinds.   Yet, allowing for all drawbacks, the supply of 212 SEVENTY YEARS' FISHING
fry furnished artificially, as it seems to me, could be only
trifling as compared with the natural produce of the river.
For the whole of Ireland, according to the last return,
the number of fry, reared artificially, is put at five millions.
Granted that an equal number were supplied to Scotland,
what would be the proportion assigned to any river of
sufficient importance to hold salmon ? It must surely be
doubtful if enough young fish could be turned in to make
any appreciable difference. Careful observation as to
what may be the result in Ireland may help to solve the
If there exists a doubt as to the benefit to be looked
for in the case of salmon rivers, there is none as to the
usefulness of artificial trout-breeding. The young fish
reared from ova taken from trout belonging to one
stream may be turned in to another, so as to change the
blood, if that be thought desirable. They can be introduced where trout did not exist; they may be kept in
ponds until, after a year or two, they become able to take
care of themselves.
Two systems are in vogue when it is desired to stock
water or to increase that already existing : (1) to put
in some hundreds of yearlings or two-year olds, or
(2) thousands of fry, taking care in the second case to
furnish a copiou's supply. A mistake is apt to be made
on this point: e.g. the lessees of the Ilm at Weimar are
bound by their agreement to turn 1,000 fry into each
mile of water. In my opinion, this number should be
multiplied by ten, in order to have any effect. Indeed
some say 10,000 a mile would not be enough. The
destruction of fry is, of course, very great, and has to be
provided for on a large scale; but an additional reason
has been given for plan No. 2—viz. that the survivors are
more vigorous and thrive better than those that have
been kept in confinement until they are a year or two old. ARTIFICIAL BREEDING
Before deciding upon either plan, it would be as well
to ascertain whether the water to be stocked or replenished contained many natural enemies of the fry
(sticklebacks and so forth); where, from the absence or
scarcity of such enemies, the fry would have a fair prospect of reaching maturity I should prefer their use.
In the case of a fishing club, an account of tolerable
accuracy is usually kept of the trout killed each year.
Let us put the number at five hundred. When the season
is over, six or seven hundred young fish should be turned
in to keep up the stock, on the principle adopted by a
wise man who lays down every year a fresh supply of
wine equal to a year's consumption. According to the
usual calculation, a trout of 1 lb. weight is from three to
four years old, so that if the rule of putting back small
fish is strictly observed, in a couple of seasons the two-
year olds would be large enough to kill. On this plan,
the club would know better how they stood with respect
to the maintenance, increase, or decrease of their stock
than if they adopted the alternative of turning in fry.
The water-keeper, if complaints were made as to a diminution in the number of fish, could not make the excuse
that the dabchicks and sticklebacks had eaten up the fry.
When first I joined the Itchen Club, we reared trout in a
small way: according to my belief, without any good
result. We had no proper arrangement for keeping the
fry, the mortality amongst them, when they began to
grow, being great owing to their pugnacious habits.
They would, if kept long enough in the tank, I am
inclined to believe, have emulated the famous Kilkenny
cats, and eaten one another up. After a time, a more
suitable spot was hit upon, where, at a blow-hole under
the shade of a plantation,' fresh water bubbled up from
the ground. There the fish could be kept for a year,
after which they were put into a side stream hard by, to 214
the number of 1,200 or more. This side stream was
netted when angling was over, and 400 of the largest
trout turned into the main river (the keeper reckoned on
losing two-thirds of the 1,200 put in). Some of us rather
doubted if the plan was a good one, as fish, accustomed
to such places would be sure to acquire a vulgar taste
for minnows, which there abounded. After being put
into the Itchen they would probably leave it, to seek
the food they had been used to in early life, in the
numerous runners which supply water to the meadows.
I have, now and then, caught one of these minnow-
hunters with the fly, but there is little sport in doing so,
owing to the confined space—besides the fish may easily
be poached by shutting the hatches. Moreover, at
certain seasons, the smaller water carriages are apt to run
dry. I believe that, at the present time, the Itchen Club
has given up artificial breeding, and buys the necessary
number of fish from some hatching establishment.
I have visited two breeding establishments, both
conducted on a large scale. The one at Denham, on the
Colne, under the superintendence of the then owner of
Denham Fishery, Colonel Goodlake. My visit here was
somewhat hurried, as I was anxious to begin fishing.
The Colonel had certainly a good stock of fine trout, and
was satisfied that this was owing to the number he had
been enabled to rear, and put into the river. The fish
at Denham Fishery were always famed for their size and
quality; the late Duke of Leeds caught, one day, six,
which weighed 18 lbs., with a spinning bait. At three
o'clock, being fully satisfied with his sport, he wound up
his line and went home. On the same day I got six with
the fly, all between 1 and 2 lbs.
The other breeding place which I have twice been to
see was a short distance from Stirling and close to the
field of Bannockburn, the Bannock, indeed, supplying a ARTIFICIAL BREEDING
flow of clear water to the thirty-six ponds which contained
the parent fish and their offspring. Here were trout from
Loch Leven and other waters, some of the breeding fish
being of large size. They, as well as their descendants,
were chiefly fed on boiled horseflesh. When boiled, the
meat was minced fine, and put into a metal pot with
holes bored in it and provided with a long handle. On
immersing the pot, its contents were shaken out through
the holes. No sooner was this contrivance dipped into
the water than the fish appeared and fed greedily, being
as tame as chickens in a farmyard; the attendant pointed
out one of about 4 lbs. which he said was blind owing to
a film that had grown over its eyes. It was apparently
well nourished, nor did its blindness prevent it from getting
a full share of the food. (Elsewhere mention is made of
a blind salmon caught by the net in the Avon.)
How these blind fish obtain their sustenance it is
impossible to say—perhaps the sense of smell enables
them to do so. In the two instances referred to they
were in good condition; but this is not always so. I have
scooped out of the Itchen two blind trout with a landing
net, on different occasions, and these were miserable to
behold, being shaped like eels and black in colour. The
loss of sight is said to be caused by lime, which is present
in most clear chalk streams.
In a kind of small pen were two trout still alive, but
in the last stage of salmon disease.
One of the thirty-six small ponds was occupied by
hybrids between the true salmon and the common river
trout. My first visit to this hatchery was made about the
time when salmon are swimming up to their spawning
ground, and so strong is the inclination of these hybrids
to follow the example of their parents that hurdles are
placed round their pond to prevent their throwing themselves out of it in the vain effort to reach a breeding place. II
2] 6
One had leapt out the night before my visit, and was
found in the morning, on the bank, dead; the attendant
not having put up the hurdles till too late, as far as this
individual fish was concerned. This fish was about 3 lbs.
weight and had much the look of a small salmon which
had been some time away from salt water. It was brown
in colour and, as far as my recollection goes, had no red
spots on its side.
The proprietor of the hatchery had made a study not
only of the fish, but as to the different food-producing
weeds. He told me the best kind was watercress, which
contained quantities of tiny grey snails. The trout were
very fond of these snails and throve wonderfully on them;
the fish seen on the watercress shallows of the Itchen,
with their tails out of water are no doubt grubbing for
these creatures : we cannot be surprised if when thus
pleasantly occupied they refuse the fly. Hopping about
close to us, whilst the man was distributing his horseflesh,
was a tame raven, to whom he occasionally threw a morsel.
The bird was, he said, invaluable in keeping the herons :
at bay : of this we had proof very shortly. One of these
trout-eating birds, passing close overhead, caught sight of
the raven, and altering his course, quickly disappeared.
On leaving the breeding establishment, we crossed a
large grass field in which were two or three horses, past
work, waiting till it came to their turn to be killed and
boiled down, for the benefit of the trout. One of these,
evidently well bred, had the appearance of a lady's hack.
Its thigh had been severely injured, and it limped up to
us on three legs whinnying and expecting, as was likely
enough, to be coaxed and presented with a lump of sugar
or a carrot; finding that we had no dainty to offer, with
a toss of its head it hobbled off and began to feed. We
were glad to observe that, as far as could be surmised, it
was at least in no pain, and, like the lamb * unconscious ARTIFICIAL BREEDING
of the butcher's knife,' not in anxiety as to its approaching
Though having no connection with fishing concerns,
it may possibly be worth mentioning that, whilst staying
with an old friend in the North of Scotland, I came across
an account of the battle of Bannockburn, written in
monkish Latin by a Scotch clergyman some hundred
years after the fight. The way in which Bobert Bruce
won, is well enough known, but the old monk's story told
me something which I, and perhaps others, did not know.
Before the engagement the Scotch king had placed a
body of infantry close to a marsh by the Bannock side,
so as to protect his left flank, thinking the boggy ground
to be impassable. Further examination showed, however,
that although cavalry would be unable to cross, infantry
might. Bruce, well knowing the deadly effect of the
English archery, withdrew his flank out of range. Its
second position being taken up 300 paces, say 250 yards,
from its original one. Specimens of old spears, swords,
. cuirasses and so forth are to be found at Stirling Castle
from which it would appear that the Scotch foot, which
often fought in clumps of spears, were but poorly protected
by defensive armour—for one thing, their helmets were
without visors. The English archers shooting at some
elevation, and, as they say, * wholly together,' might have
dropped an 'iron sleet of arrowy shower' into the unprotected faces of the Scotch, had it not been for the
foresight of their king and general. i
Going over the boundary—Fish killed for the roe—Lawlessness at Berwick
—Coup at Christchurch —Look-out should be kept for footmarks—Net
marks—Scales—Set lines—The White Fly—Poaching in Wales—Police
and magistrates reluctant to assist in suppressing.
Besides legitimate fishing there are, as is well known,
other ways of capturing salmon and trout.
Trespassing upon land or water belonging to others
during the day time is rare. I have only twice seen men
fishing where they had no right to fish, once on a south-
country trout stream and once on a salmon river in the
Highlands. In the first case the trespasser was a well-to-
do man, and had a boy with him to carry his luncheon-
basket and landing-net. Having outflanked this trespassing fisher, so as to cut off his retreat by the high road, and
succeeded in approaching'him unperceived, I inquired how
he came to be fishing our water. He pleaded ignorance
of the boundary, and said leave to fish had been given
him by the gentleman who owned part of the river
immediately above. As his story was plausible enough,
he was allowed to depart free, on giving his name.
It is to be feared that people are not always overparticular in observing boundaries, for once when buying
a basket in a country town, the shopman, seeing that I
had chosen a white one, recommended me rather to take
one of dark colour, remarking that it was less easily
seen at a distance.    \In case, sir,' he said with a smile,
' you should happen to go over the March.'
The poacher referred to, as it turned out on inquiry,
had no permission from our neighbour, he had spoilt two
capital pools as far as my chance of sport was concerned,
had effected his retreat by a lie, and had completely
taken me in by his respectable appearance. In the
second case, the late Mr. B. Cholmondeley and I came
suddenly on the village blacksmith in the act of running
a salmon. The fish got away. Probably the casting line
was broken on purpose, and as the man promised faithfully to fish no more while we had anything to do with
the river, we took no further notice of the matter.
Night poaching and snatching is common enough,
and besides the injury to the river does infinite harm by
deterring persons from taking fishings, spending money,
and giving employment in the neighbourhood. The
skilful poacher of game is doubtless, in general, an idle
dog too lazy to work ; but yet he often obtains a certain
amount of sympathy on account of his skill and knowledge of the nature and habits of the creatures he pursues;
such sympathy would be utterly thrown away upon the
fish poacher. What chance has a fish of escape when
surrounded by the net, or when three heavy hooks tied
back to back have been jerked into its body, the line to
which they are attached being strong enough to drag it
ashore as soon as hooked ? In some parts of the North
of England, sea trout and salmon are actually killed on
the spawning beds, merely for the sake of the roe, which
is sold at 5s. a lb., the fish, after the roe is taken out,
being buried, as worthless for food.
In the Tweed, the close time for nets begins on
September 15, and, for many years, the law was enforced
by the presence of a gunboat which lay in Berwick
Harbour.   After some time the Government refused to 220
detail a vessel for the service, so that the netsmen began
to set the law at defiance, and kill fish, mostly with drift
nets, after that date. One October, out of six fish which
I killed in a couple of days on Lord Home's water, three
were covered with the prints of the mesh, pretty clear
proof of what was going on at the mouth of the river. I
believe, however, that the Tweed Commissioners have
recently had more success in preventing this illegal
The Berwick fishermen carried on their proceedings
in almost open violation of the law, in some instances
setting the water bailiffs at defiance; but there were
also men from other places higher up the river, who
would not hesitate to row a shot of the net if they saw a
prospect of doing so without detection. One night an
attempt of this nature was made on the lower water at
Floors, but the Duke of Boxburghe's people, having heard
what was likely to happen, were on the look out. Just as
the poachers were about to start the head-fisherman came
upon them, and seized their nets. The poachers, do what
they would, were unable to loosen his grasp, but dragged
him for some distance across the adjacent meadow; he,
according to the account I heard from his own lips,
J roaring hideously for assistance.' The net was captured,
but I believe the poachers escaped.
With regard to salmon, it is, as a rule, easier to discover if poaching is going on than to find out if trout are
being taken unlawfully. Salmon are creatures of some
size, and means must be provided for carrying them off.
Even an odd one, stowed away in a large inside pocket,
would seriously interfere with the speed of its captor, if
Great destruction of   salmon at the hands of the
1 See Mr. Scrope's account of the chase of the Soutar from Selkirk, who
was caught with a ten-pounder in his shooting-jacket pocket.
irnr*   •-- •
poachers also takes place on the spawning beds by rake-
hooks in the daytime or leisters at night; but these proceedings are generally known in the neighbourhood and
can be put down by efficient river-keepers, provided
always money is forthcoming to provide a sufficient force.
The salmon poachers are more apt to pursue their ends
in open defiance of the law than those who go after
trout. Should there be reason to suspect that the former
use the long-net, those portions of the river adjacent to
lanes or cross-roads should be carefully watched, as,
without a fight cart, the fish caught could not be speedily
One of the most successful 'coups' of these gentry
was made, now many years ago, near Christchurch on
the Avon. The fishermen employed on the ' Boyalty
water' had made a heavy capture one morning, no less
than nine fine fish having been netted. These they
locked up inside a fish-house at Knap Weir, whilst they
went into Christchurch to have their dinners and procure a cart to take them away. Meantime, some poachers,
who had watched the proceedings, sent one of their
number on to the roof of the fish-house. The man then
dropped down the chimney, opened the window shutter,
and handed the nine salmon to his confederates outside.
With respect to trout the case is somewhat different.
The owner or occupier of a trout stream, should his stock
of fish diminish, must make a point of finding out if such
decrease is owing to the depredations of the poacher or to
other causes. Should the trout become less numerous in
the open parts of the water, whilst those which haunt spots
where the roots of bushes or the weeds offer safe refuge
remain in undiminished number, it is natural to conclude
that the poacher has been at work. In that case, signs
of his presence will probably be discovered—footmarks
leading to the river ; prints on the margin of the stream ; 222
perhaps the ridge-and-furrow-shaped mark of corduroy
trousers will be found where a man has been kneeling to
draw a net ashore; the impression of the mesh will
occasionally be visible on the mud by the riverside; the
scales of the fish may possibly be discovered, and a few
drops of blood where it has been knocked on the head.
Netting is, of course, the most destructive mode of fish
stealing, and havoc of a wholesale description may be the
result of a night's work, but it is easier of detection than
other kinds of. poaching, and where weeds are properly
treated, can hardly be resorted to with effect. There is,
indeed, one method of working a net frequently used in
southern waters which is deadly if weeds have been left
in oblong patches, running straight up and down stream.
In the very early morning, just at daylight, two men
will saunter along the bank. The trout, catching sight
of them, will run into these patches of weed, then the
men wade in, one of them holding a net resembling a
landing-net on a large scale, with a considerable purse at
the down-stream end of the patch, whilst the other
tramples the weed towards his mate, driving the trout
into the net. Where the weeds are cut halfway across
for some fifty yards on alternate sides of the river, this
mode of poaching cannot be pursued.
In the North of England,' poke nets ' are used, which,
having been put in at the tail of a shallow, are pushed up
close to the bank to the head of the run and then brought
out with a jerk.
The north-country poacher was, and probably is still,
much given to the use of night lines, and these are