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tion to their company, especially as next day, being a festival of the English church, and all the fishers Englishmen, I should have had the river to myself.
The swallows were true prophets; next day was mild and calm, with a few clouds. After breakfast I walked to the cottage of one of the old fishing guides to borrow a rod, reel, and flies. "The river is so small, and the wind is so bad an airt, that unless it changes you would not get a rise," says old James McNicol. Seeing me rather incredulous, he added, "I will come down at one o'clock, and should the wind change we may get a fish." The wind had been in the same "airt" for the last week, and well did sly James know it would not change. The truth was, both he and the other old guide had been hired by the Sassenachs, and dared not go out, or even lend a rod or fly, as they of course wished to give the river a day's rest. I was not therefore surprised when McNicol made his appearance at one, with the excuse that he had to tie some small flies for Mr. Opposition only put me upon my mettle. I borrowed an old rod from the waiter, while the landlord, by some secret influence, procured three of the most approved salmon flies, and engaged to send a post-boy who knew the casts.
Being thus pretty well equipped, I started about three for the falls of the Urchay. My boy, no contemptible bait-fisher for trout, begged hard to accompany me, as he had never seen a salmon killed. At the tail of the lowest pool I had the good hap to hook a fish. As I was far from placing implicit reliance in the waiter's tackle, it took some time to tame him, and when I fairly had him under my thumb, where was the gaff?
'The beach, however, was good, and the post-boy handy, so we soon extracted a very fine eleven-pound salmon. The next pool was a long black whirling lyn, but we fished it blank; not a break or boil from top to bottom. We now came to a dangerous but very good cast. It was also deep and black, full of sunk rocks; and, should I hook a fish, it would soon show what the tackle was made of. At the very spot where I expected up he came, and now was the tug of war. The fish fighting for the rocks, and I doing my best to keep him clear of them, knowing that if he effected his purpose there was every chance of being cut. My tackle proved excellent; I fairly foiled him, and at last wore him away from the perilous rocks. The post-boy's hands again acted gaff, and brought to bank a noble fifteen pounder.
I was now quite satisfied, and despatched the readyhanded son of the whip for our car, which was put up opposite the place where I killed the first fish. At the very foot of this pool part of the stream flows near the opposite bank. More for the sake of instructing my boy in the mystery of throwing a long line than any sanguine hopes of a rise, I swept my fly twice over this bit of water. At the second throw up came a famous fellow. He turned his head down stream, and dashed along, making my reel ring. There was now a race different ways, my son for the post-boy, and I with the fish. Jehu came puffing like a grampus, ready to gripe his prey. He soon saw that his services would not be required for some time, as the salmon was fresh and strong, and making beautiful play. Patience and caution at length brought him to the bank; and for the first time the post-boy, after having a firm hold, lost it
from the strength of the salmon. It was a little while ere I could bring him within reach again, for the fright gave him fresh vigour; but the clutch at the root of the tail was more sure next time, and we landed the finest fish as yet taken in the Urchay since the season opened; sixteen pounds. I both hooked and killed every fish I rose, and with the same fly.
Here let me caution gentlemen neither to be too sanguine nor dispirited by the fishing guide's prognostications of success or failure from the weather. When you have good sport, they are sure to say the day is all that can be wished. If, on the contrary, you don't stir a fin, they will as certainly console you with some flaw in the wind, water, or sky, how propitious soever they all may have been. Catch them telling the angler (what is more often than not the true cause) that it is his own want of skill. The greatest bungler may more easily catch a salmon than one of these fellows making such a mistake.
Wild and uncouth were the exclamations and comments from a circle of highlanders, when the salmon were paraded before the inn; and truly absurd was the edification depicted in my little fellow's features, as he stared from one rugged weather-beaten face to another, severally delivering themselves of their Gaelic sentiments.
The cuckoo is a bird of bad omen if heard for the first time before you break your fast. So said some mountain sage to my little boy, who was unfortunately in that pre dicament. You are sure to fail in whatever you undertake immediately after; in other words, have "a gowk's errand." Nevertheless the unlucky gowk had brought us a fragrant morning, or more likely the fine morning had tempted the mal-a-propos call from the joyous bird. A
note from Peter Robertson was handed to me. The sea eagle had built upon the island of Loch Bah, but was shy and not sitting close yet. It is all that nasty cuckoo," said my son. 'Had you heard it in place of seeing the swallows, you would never have hooked the salmon.'
There is often more earnest in these "saws" than grown people would be willing to admit. I have known a deerstalker refuse to go out, on a fine morning for the sport, if he saw a mouse on his kitchen floor at early dawn and was unable to kill it. The same man was confident of success should a cat jump out of a bush before him when on his way to the hill. He affirms that he never saw either omen fail. This man, from the braes of Athol, is now conducting a flourishing trade in Edinburgh, a clear-headed capital man of business, and quite as superstitious as when he left the glens many years ago *.
In defiance of the boding cuckoo I ordered out our vehicle for Inveroran. No votary of nature can follow the windings of this lovely strath of the Urchay without deep interest. The road runs parallel to the river nearly the whole way, and, by a little observation, one can scarcely fail of catching a passing glance at many of the creatures that frequent these lonely wilds. An alpine hare, now of a mottled blue and gray, bounded along the road before us for
* Like most highland poachers, he had two strings to his bow, and followed the lawful calling of a shoemaker to conceal, as much as possible, his depredations on the hills. He told me he had killed thirteen deer before breakfast time. When after grouse, he never wasted powder and shot upon ptarmigan, as they only fetched two shillings a brace then, whereas grouse brought three and sixpence. The ptarmigan were so plentiful in the forest, that he assured me a fair shot might have` bagged ten brace in a few hours.
a considerable distance. She fortunately did not cross itthat would have been a clincher to the cuckoo! A roebuck was browsing upon the shoots of the birch and hazelbushes that fringe the river, not fifty yards off. He only stared at the carriage and "dandered" up the opposite hill. And now the dark outline of Bendora rose before us, whose slate-coloured crags add greatly both to the gloom and grandeur of the forest.
Arrived at Inveroran, there was the characteristic sight of a fine herd of the mountain deer, greedily feeding a little below the crest of the near hill, upon the young sweet grass which had sprung up from a long stretch of burnt heather. The telescope was soon brought to bear upon them, and some fine harts singled out. By the time we had dined they had fed down to the adjacent knolls.
At break of day the landlord's son and tax-cart were at the door of the inn to convey us part of the way to Loch Bah. Peter Robertson was all ready to jump in, when we passed the handsome new forest lodge where he has taken up his abode. We halted our cart at the nearest point to the loch, and cut across on foot through the heathery morass. A few redshanks, like well set up sentries, were stalking upon the mossy banks at the water's edge, and a stray one occasionally took a short flight from one little tarn to another, piping its desert cry, while numbers of curlews serenaded us from the clouds with their pleasing mournful scream.
When we had picked our steps through this boggy ground, Loch Bah burst upon our view, and the eyrie itself was just discernible upon the birch tree in the islet. Peter's glass was fixed, and the bird soon distinguished