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sea-trout, in the next pool I fished. No sooner had I dropped it into my bag, than a five-pound grilse sucked down the same fly, as eagerly as the trout did, and shared the same fate. I had no more time to spare, but, if I could have remained, should probably have had prime sport with the fly, as I left a beautiful reach of the river untried.
About a fortnight after, the river was again in excellent trim for the fly, and I alongside of the pool I considered surest for a heavy fish. After twice going carefully over it with the most approved flies, and not even a break, feeling almost certain that a salmon lodged there, I again had recourse to the worm. At the very foot of the pool, where it joined the shallow, my bait stopped, and the peculiar twitching of the line made good my prognostic. Allowing him time to gorge, I struck, and had hold of a noble fellow. After a good struggle, I landed the largest fish I ever secured in the Echaig, fifteen pounds and a half when I brought him home. This day, however, neither salmon nor sea-trout would look at a fly.
A raw salmon-fisher is seldom aware what sized fish has risen. It often appears much smaller than it actually is, from the fore-shortening caused by the salmon coming straight up, seizing the fly, then descending head foremost; which last motion generally gives a glimpse of its tail. Instead of this, if the fish should flounder its whole body out of water in coming at the fly, the effect is very imposing, and even a six-pounder will appear to the novice a perfect monster.
When hooked fish splash on the top of the water, take great care, or you may break their hold by too tight a strain. The opposite extreme is equally dangerous, as
they may then shake the hook out of their mouth. It is the nicety of art to let them get down without falling into either error. Should the river be small, of course most of the heavy fish will be collected in the deepest pools. Pay most attention to them. When stones and rocks are easily seen at the bottom, there is a clearness either in the air or water that hinders fish from stirring freely; you have then, perhaps, a better chance with worm than anything else. Also, when leaves and other rubbish come floating down, they frighten fish, and prevent their seeing the fly. The nearer the bottom you angle, of course these impediments are less in the way. They are most troublesome on a windy day. When foam is thick upon the water, fish rise badly to a fly. A succession of floods, or, as we call them, "spates," will gorge the fish, and make them shy, especially of taking bait.
I shall here add an instance or two of the fastidiousness of salmon at one time, and their voracity at another; by which it will be evident that there are days when a very bungler may capture them, and others when all our skill is well needed. In summer, when the Teith was rather dwindled, a Highlander rose a grilse with a small seatrout fly. He, of course, gave him a rest, and tried him with a larger, to no effect; went back to the small one, and again rose him. He then put on, in succession, a worm, a par, and a minnow, without getting a tug; and, as a last resource, cut off the par's tail*, when the fish
* The par tail is an excellent substitute for the minnow, and in some moods of the water is to be preferred. It is easy to bait with, and bears very rough usage on the hooks. The head and shoulders are cut off in a slanting way, and you bait in the same manner as with the minnow or par.
came up greedily and fastened. He would never have wasted so much time had he not known that, from the low state of the river, there was little chance of another rise all day. On the other hand, a shepherd lad was looking dreamily over the Brig of Turk, upon the large deep hole below, overhanging which the martins had formed a colony in the sand-bank, when one of the young martins fell out of the nest into the river, and was immediately gulped down by a large salmon. The shepherd procured a baithook, and the coarsest tackle, took another young bird out of the nest, and baited; the fish at once came up again, was hooked, and landed.
Salmon are certainly far scarcer now than formerly, and the average weight of those taken much decreased. Sixteen-pound fish are now as rare as twenty-pounders used to be a few years ago. Many reasons are suggested for this falling off, but the most rational I have heard is the dexterity of the sea-netters close to the mouths of all our good salmon rivers and streams, and latterly the rage for thorough draining, which makes the rise and fall of the rivers both sudden and extreme. In consequence, the winter spawning-beds are often left so shallow as to be chilled and rotted by frost.
The following make-shift is inserted for the benefit of the luckless wight who may have the misfortune to break the top of his rod at the water-side, and neglected to bring a spare one. On the morning of my last day's fishing of the Echaig, I hooked a four-pound sea-trout on my bob, and when the fish was quite spent, the trail-fly fastened on a rotten stump. I waded in to try to disengage it, and in so doing, carelessly strained back my rod over my right
shoulder. The fish gave a languid plunge, and, of course, broke the top. Although I had only some thread, and a pair of scissors, I cut a couple of twigs, and spliced my rod, as clumsily as ever a country surgeon bungled a poor man's leg. With my maimed instrument I killed two fine salmon and several sea-trout. I had fished all the season, and bagged two hundred and fifty-seven sea-trout, many very large, and twelve salmon and grilse, with the same top, and little expected to break it the last day, when I was particularly anxious to do great things. A few years ago, the same mishap befel me when fishing in Loch Dronkie. At the beginning of the day, a large yellow trout rose, and was fixed, just under a perpendicular bank. Not being able to land the fish without throwing back my rod too far, I snapped the top, though I secured my prey. Nothing daunted, I mended my rod with a bit of twine, and killed five more fine trout. I question if, either day, I should have had better sport, had no accident occurred.
"IT'S A FAR CRY TO LOCH OW."
TROLLING for giant trout is the very acme of rod-fishing. It is generally thought that the whole of this exciting sport consists in fixing good baits upon the trolling-rod, letting out a sufficiency of line, mainly relying upon the boatman's skill to point out the best fishing-ground. Although trolling after this fashion may occasionally be successful, yet the reverse is far oftener experienced, when all the blame is sure to be laid on the weather; as the best ground has been carefully searched, and the baits were excellent. Few gentlemen are aware how easily this best ground may be changed to a good distance on either side, by a bright sun, a breeze of wind, or a rise of the loch after rain. This is invariably the case where the shores are level, and the depth, consequently, gradual. Should the sky be dark and the loch discoloured, or, on the contrary, small and clear, with a cloudless sky, a difference in the size and colour of the bait, and rapidity in spinning it, may bring home an empty boat, or reward us with a couple of trout that will give the boatman as much trouble to carry as two buckets of water.
There are three kinds of trout that peculiarly belong to this description of fishing. And, first, the great salmoferox, from its size, strength, and cunning, deserves the highest place. Next, the gillaroo (pronounced "ghirroo"