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by the Highlanders), which, although not nearly so shy, nor of such giant proportions as the other, yet has been frequently taken from sixteen to eighteen pounds. (I have never fished much for them myself, and the largest I have caught was five pounds weight. I hooked him with minnow near the foot of Loch Lubnaig, as I rowed home after fly-fishing the green sunk banks at the top. He was in excellent condition; but in fight and appearance strongly reminded me of a barbel.) And, lastly, the famous trout of the Thames. It seldom attains the dimensions even of our gillaroo; but merits place among the first triumvirate, both from its beauty and the skill required to hook it.
In trolling for any of these fish, especially the salmo-ferox, great attention should be paid to the tackle, not only that it is all of the very best quality, but also that it is dressed in a manner least apt to miss the trout. Of course the angler must not expect many runs in a day, which makes it particularly vexatious when the fish that do dash at the bait escape the hooks. In boat-trolling for smaller trout, I often use but two hooks—a large one through the tail of the bait, and a smaller through its mouth. This has many advantages; you bait quickly and easily, the appearance of the minnow is not spoiled, and when the trout are at all greedy, they don't often miss. There is this to be said against it, however, that when shy fish bite warily, they may sometimes seize the bait by the middle, and, for want of middle hooks, blow it away again, when slightly pricked by the others. The spinning also is neither so quick nor so true as by the following method, which I have tried with great success. It is, first a single hook, next three tied back to back, then another single one tied the contrary way, ending with a second trio. Of course, when trolling
for the feroxes, all the hooks must be very large. This latter plan, when properly baited, moves very naturally; and, although there are so many hooks, I am convinced, from the rapidity of the spinning, they are even less perceptible than when there are few. One of the last hooks being inserted at the side of the bait's tail, the whole tail fin catches the water better than by the other more simple method; and there are three hooks for the shoulder and three for the tail, the two places where the feroxes are most apt to strike. I am quite sure, after trying both ways, that this last plan not only misses fewer trout, but secures a greater number of runs. I should therefore strongly recommend it when large shy fish are the object; although not where trout are small and plentiful, especially in cold weather, when the difficulty of baiting is a serious objection.
When fairly afloat, beware of trusting too implicitly to your boatman, even should you be totally unacquainted with the loch. It commonly happens, unless he is a good practical fisher, that he will take you over the same ground under all circumstances; and should no fish run, lay the blame on something unpropitious in the day, which it may require some ingenuity on his part to discover, and some credulity on yours to believe. Your best plan with such a guide is to make him be most particular about the surest resorts of the large fish; and should you be unsuccessful the first time of going over them, try again a little nearer the shore, if there is much wind; or, if it be calm, a little further out, especially when the loch is small. Towards dusk you may generally keep nearer the shore, also when the loch has risen, or is discoloured with rain. You must not then sink the baits so deep, but raise them by taking
off some of the sinking lead, not by winding up a part of the line, as the shallower you troll, the more need of a long line. It is always a good plan to have baits of different sizes; the larger upon the outside rod, which should have the longest line and heaviest lead. This rod should be fixed by the butt, at the opposite side of the boat, so as to cross before you. I need not say the reel and line must be quite free. Keep the other rod in hand, now and then sinking the point in the water as it grows deeper or the day calmer. Should the rod across the boat hook a fish, instantly throw the other to the boatman next you, who may wind it up out of your way, his comrade guiding the boat with both oars. If the fish is large, he will most likely strike away from the boat, and your first effort should be to shorten your line by backing water. Whenever the fish is under command of a short line, and you can persuade him to follow the boat, land and kill him from shore.
While sitting in the stern, be always on the look out for weeds, and give the alarm. Your boatmen will immediately turn rapidly into the deep; and you, raising a rod in each hand, as high as possible, should make every effort to keep the baits near the surface. If this is done cleverly, it may prevent that major misery of boat-trolling, a double fast. If fortunate enough to get clear, it may be as well to examine the baits; indeed, this should be done at intervals throughout the day; as a small green weed attached to the bait will prevent it from spinning, or, at all events, act as a damper to the trout. Fish always for such shy customers with a very long line, especially if there is little wind to curl the water. Where the shores are level, the depth is generally gradual; therefore try the good places at various
depths, as your own judgment may suggest. But should the rock or mountain rise abruptly from the margin, the water almost always deepens suddenly within a short distance of the shore. Once going over is quite enough if you keep between the shallow and the deep, which only occupies a few yards. When sky and water are dull, a large bright bait, such as a salmon smelt, is very good; but, if the loch is clear and low, bait one rod with a par instead of a burn-trout, the ordinary bait.
Never find fault with your boatmen, when the hooks stick fast, for taking you into too shallow water. If you do, they will most likely prevent this annoyance, by keeping too deep for any fish to see your bait. Most fishing guides are too apt, at any rate, to err this way, to save themselves trouble; as they dread a fast even more than the angler. The truth is, when trolling for the salmo-ferox, the baits should be hung only a few yards from the bottom. They must therefore frequently catch a weed, or root, or sunk rock. Be assured that the largest fish are generally taken by trolling close to the bottom, as they are lazy. In roughish weather row slowly, in order to give them a good opportunity of seeing and seizing the bait; quicker in a mild clear day, for it is then as well to give them little time to reflect. East wind is the worst for Loch Awe; west or north-west the most favourable. By adhering to these rules, a fair troller ought to take one or two large feroxes every good day.
In the year 1842 I had five days' trolling on Loch Awe, and, as I noted down each day's success, will here record it.
Head-quarters, Cladich, April 30th. Did not go out till five o'clock; a fine evening, but too calm. Trolled
down three miles on the Cladich side of the loch, returned over the same ground, a little nearer shore; not a tug until dusk, when we were within half a mile of the inn. I then hooked a fish: he was a dull wretch, and made indifferent play. Weight, eight pounds. When brought to table he cut up white, but was firm and good to eat. I have observed two kinds of the salmo-ferox, one, darkskinned and white in the flesh; the other, pink in flesh, and of starry scales. The latter always makes the most spirited resistance. Perhaps it may be inferred that there is only one kind, and that the difference arises from their condition. This is not the case, however, as I have taken white-fleshed specimens in the finest possible order.
May 2nd. Started at seven for Castle Connal, about midway between Cladich and the ford at the foot of the loch. Castle Connal Bay a great resort for the heavy fish-killed a brace, one six pounds, the other two and a half. Trolled till six o'clock.
May 3rd. A close sultry wind; did not go to fish till after dinner, when it got brisker. Tried the islands and head of the loch; hooked a fine fish off Enish Isle; he made capital play for half an hour, when I stranded him upon the island. Weight, nine and a half pounds, in first-rate condition, and a beautiful fish. Had a look at the island, and a description of it from old Sandy. It is a fine green sheep pasture, and often called the green isle, as well as Enish Isle, or Ellen's Island. Ellen was a daughter of Sir James McNaughton, and was the first person buried in the island. She was drowned in the loch. The poor chief of Lochiel, who was stabbed with the penknife in Castle Connal, was also buried here.