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certain may sometimes deceive, while there are particular nooks, perhaps the least attractive even to an experienced eye, where a fish is pretty likely to rise; this is especially the case when the river is swollen. An angler must have but a poor knowledge of his craft, who, after once or twice fishing down a stream under proper guidance, could not afterwards manage for himself. It will be very necessary to get a list of the most killing flies in use, on the spot, and tie them of various shades and sizes.
After being thoroughly shown the casts of the river when swollen, it may be as well to have recourse to the guide again, when it becomes small and clear; as some pools that are excellent in flood, are not worth a throw when the water has fallen in, and others that were too foaming and boiling when the river was large, then come into prime order. The resorts of salmon, however, are much more easily detected when the river is low. This state of the water also requires considerable difference in the fly, chiefly in size. In my opinion, most salmonfishers use too large hooks.
A stranger will often find his guide's knowledge superior to his practice; and that is the reason why the lower orders frequently excel those who might appear to a spectator to throw a better and finer line. Some anglers have an additional piece to screw on to their rods for long casts; a very thin butt is required when this piece is not added, and it is more apt to twist the rod. If equal in other respects, a man who has the power of throwing a very long line has the same advantage over a less gifted friend, in this particular, that a far-killing gun has over an inferior one, both in the same skilful hands. I should, therefore, advise every aspirant to excellence in salmon
fishing to attain this knack in the greatest possible perfection.
Some anglers who throw the longest line make it swirl out upon the water, the hook appearing to alight last. Others cause the fly to hover for a moment, and touch the water before any part of the line. These last appear the neater fishers, but the others command more water. In fishing a salmon-cast, throw a point down stream, bringing your hook gradually round by short jerks, but always keep it two points against the stream, and never bring it in so straight towards you as in troutfishing. In dead water, when a very long cast, you may throw straight out, bringing your fly round, by keeping the point of the rod up instead of down stream. There is an under-handed throw much in use on the Spey, which prevents the line from circling behind. Of course this is a great advantage among trees or other obstacles. It is generally practised up stream, and the line with its swish upon the water goes over all the fish before they see the fly, which appears to me a great objection. These Speyfishers can throw this under-handed cast as far as an expert hand in the ordinary way. A peculiar rod is necessary, which must be very stiff. Indeed, a common salmon rod would be apt to break in the hands of these fishers. The cast is easily learned, and must be seen to be thoroughly understood.
Large rivers require a large rather than a gaudy fly, which must decrease in size as the river narrows. Rapid brawling streams, on the contrary, take a gaudy fly rather than a large one. There are many Highland burns where
salmon and sea-trout ascend in numbers in the autumn. These being generally shallow and rapid, a large fly would
frighten as many as it would attract. If you fish with a small hook of sober colour in such troubled water, it might not catch their sight. Streams of this kind are in best order when tumbling over stock and stone something the colour of London porter. The reason that a large fly of sombre hue is preferred for a stately river, arises from the depth and clearness of the water. A large fly is required to catch attention of fish at the bottom, while gay colours would be apt to alarm them as they come up, when the water is so clear. When a large river is also rapid, as in the higher parts of the Tay, the fly may be proportionably bright. The size of the stream is an excellent criterion for that of the hook, and you may see every village urchin, fishing for the spring trout in Tweed, with a hook double the size of that he uses in Gala, or any of the other tributaries, for the very same purpose: the favourite fly in both cases being a woodcock-wing, hare's-ear body, tied with blue thread.
The regular fishermen, as they call themselves, of any particular river, will hold up the flies they are accustomed to use, and affirm that they will kill in any water. These men have, of course, a great advantage over occasional visitors, both from their knowledge of the flies and places where the fish lie; gentlemen are therefore apt to overrate their pretensions, and pay compliments which they suck down as eagerly as (by their own account) the salmon do their flies. But take both to a strange river and leave them to their unaided resources, and, if equal in other respects, the advantage ought to be on the side of the amateur, because, from the variety of rivers in his fishing tours, he gains twice the insight into the habits of fish; although he may not appear to the same advantage
with a far inferior fisher, when the latter is upon his own regular beat. Nevertheless, I must say that most gentlemen are so careless of everything but throwing the line, that the advantage gained by their more extensive means of observation is more than counterbalanced by the reflection of the lower orders, who put all their head-piece into their practice.
In the deep rocky parts of the river, especially at the beginning of the season, put on your largest fly, trying a smaller should you not get a rise. In the rapid Highland streams, where I have said before a small fly should be used, if you need any alteration, let it be in colour rather than in size. But on this point, as no invariable rule can be given, it will be better to get advice on the spot, if you can obtain it. For instance, though the Thames is so sluggish, and the trout so wary, the most killing fly there is what they call the soldier-palmer," that is, a brightdyed hackle red pig's wool, and gold tinsel.
When fishing for salmon only, never have two flies on your cast. The pleasure of hooking more fish will not make up for the vexation of losing one, even should more be secured in the long run. This, however, must be a matter of taste. By changing the fly judiciously, you have nearly as good a chance with one as with two, although sometimes the fish may be a little longer in stirring. Don't be too certain that you have detected the most killing fly because fish take it well one day, as salmon, in some moods, will rise at anything you throw over them.
When large rivers are so low that the salmon reject the smallest legitimate fly, reduce your hook to the size of those recommended for the Highland streams, viz., what is called a sea-trout fly, and try before the sun is up,
and after it sets. It is needless to say that this fly must be of a very sober cast. With these reduced flies, and no glaring sunshine on the water, a fish may now and then be taken in the pools, when there would have been no chance with the smallest salmon hook. An excellent fly for some light summer waters is a ptarmigan wing, dull yellow, or dark green body, and a hackle half black and half red. This is first-rate for large sea-trout. the Echaig, a blue jay-wing is a standing favourite, both with salmon and sea-trout, in every state of the river; and even in full flood they refuse a lighter wing. A dark mottled pheasant tail for wing, red body, and gold tinsel, is also a choice fly for the grilse and salmon of that water.
The salmon almost always keep the channel * or deep parts of a river; so, if it is fordable, you will often have to change from one side to the other, as the heaviest stream alters its course. In small waters this is not difficult, but in great rivers one is frequently obliged to make choice of a side. This requires judgment, as much of the day's sport depends on securing that one which combined circumstances render the most desirable at the time.
Trolling with par is a most deadly method, the bait being so gaudy, but it is ruinous to fly-fishing. If a par has been trailed over a salmon, there is little chance of its rising to the fly for some time, perhaps not even for that day. The Scotch peasantry have invented a substitute
* This rule does not hold good with trout. Often the weather-side of a stream, even when shallow, is the surest find for them, because the flies and other insects, being drifted across, are collected on the opposite bank. In lochs, they would be devoured almost as soon as their voyage had begun, therefore the contrary rule obtains.