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Fly fishing

Throwing the Linn and Plies - Making a Cast - Humouring the Flies - How to Fish a Stream -How to Strike, Hook, Play, and Land a Fish.
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To become a good fly fisher requires address, skill, nicety of touch, and, above all, practice. Experience alone can make the youthful angler proficient in the highest branch of the angler's art. He has to capture the swiftest of the finny tribes with the finest and frailest of material, in the clearest of crystal streams. Other sports may be more exciting than artificial fly-fishing, but there are none which requires more adroitness, more intelligence, a quicker eye, or a lighter hand. While the brain must be quick to apprehend, the senses the most delicate, the body must be robust, the limbs active, and the eye watchful. You see the fly fisher with his slender rod, gracefully waving his lint over his head, and the flies drop into the stream with the lightness of a gossamer; the line does not even ripple the water, and the flies dance on the surface. Anxiously the angler watches the miniature insects formed so cunningly to deceive the cunning trout, who lies with his nose up stream watching for his prey until

"He lifts his yellow gills above the flood,
Anil greedily sucks in the unfaithful food;
Then downward plunges with the fraudful prey,
And bears with joy the little spoil away.
Soon a smart pain, he feels the dire mistake,
The danger great; too late he starts awake.
With sudden rage he now aloft appears,
And in his eye convulsive anguish bears.
And now again impatient of the wound,
He rolls and writhes his straining body round;
Then headlong plunges 'neath the friendly wave,
With frantic strength tries hard his life to save.
Now hope exalts the fisher's beating heart;
Now he turns pale, now fears his dubious art.
He views the trembling fish with longing eyes,
While the line stretches with the unwieldy prize;
Each motion humours with his steady hands,
But one slight hair the mighty bulk commands;
Till tired at last, despoil'd of ail his strength,
The game athwart the stream unfolds his length;
And there, all efforts o'er, he floating lies,
Stretches his quivering tins, and gasping -dies."

Ere the young angler can realise all the delights of his pursuit, he will have much to learn, and it will be his fault if he does not profit by these instructions. He must remember, however, that all that a book can do is to point out the right road, and practice must do the rest.

The first lesson which the young fisherman has to learn is to throw the line. To do this properly requires no little address. The rod should be light, stiffish rather than supple, and about twelve feet long. His winch should be fixed with the handle towards the left, and he should draw out from three to four yards beyond the topmost ring. The rings must be in a right line with the winch, and the line should run easily through them. The winch and rings should be on the under-side of the rod; and for the first attempt, the line should not be longer than the rod itself. The beginner may now make his first cast.

To do this easily and gracefully the rod must be grasped lightly by the right hand, just above the winch, where it will balance properly. The thumb should be straight along the upper part of the rod, and slightly bent, so that the fleshy part of the thumb alone presses on the butt. The upper end of the rod should point towards the left, and the right elbow should be kept close to the side, free from constraint, and the body in an easy posture. Take the tip of your line, or, if armed, the bend of the hook, between the. forefinger and thumb of the left hand. You are now supposed to be on the liver's brink ready for your first cast. Take it easy. If you are flurried, you will fail. By the motion of your light wrist and forearm, bring the rod round to the right, with the point slightly lowered; and as the line gets taut, let go the houk, point the end of the rod backward; let it describe an irregular horse-shoe curve, and then cast it forward by a flinging motion of the wrist and forearm. The line will double back as the point of the rod is lowered, the end of the line will be carried forward, and fall lightly on the surface of the water. As the line goes forward, raise the elbow, and carry your arm forward to guide the line, but not so strong as to check the fly. In ail probability, to the great chagrin of the young fisherman, splash will go the line into the water, and probably the end of the rod with it.

Our young Walton should not despair, but strive to avoid this drawback. He will best do so by keeping the body upright and the chest backward. Stand with your left foot a little forward, and fiat on the ground, so as to afford a firm, purchase, whilst the right foot should have the toes turned out, and the bail of the foot touching the ground with a firm springy pressure; and if you are holding your rod properly as you guide your line, you will find the butt of the rod touching the under-side of your fore-arm, and thereby preventing the end of the rod from falling too low. A little practice will enable the tyro to throw a short line with precision. He may then double the length of his cast, and no longer using the wrist and fore-arm alone, the whole of the arm must be used. The shoulder-joint should replace the elbow-joint, so as to give the line a large easy sweep, thrown well from the shoulders.

When eight or tea yards of the reel-line can be cast with case and facility in any direction in such a manner so as not to allow more than three or four feet to fall lightly on the water, the angler may add the foot or casting-line, made as already described, of about six feet of silkworm gut. This will give some ten yards of line to throw with, and the practice should be pursued until the gut-line falls first on the surface of the water, before any of the reel-line touches it. At first it will aid the beginner if he practises on that side of the river where he has a good breeze at his back. This will make his earlier efforts much easier, and enable him to drop the flies lightly and gently on to the surface of the water. When the angler can do this, fish fine, and far off, he may fish from left to right, or in the opposite direction to that above described. It is well always to practise various methods of casting, so as to avoid obstructions in or on the side of the river, and occasionally to cast underhand. The left hand may be practised likewise in casting, so as to relieve the right arm when tired, but it is by no means essential to success. Avoid the coachman's twist or jerk, or away will go your end-fly with a crack. Your motions should be easy, graceful, and precise, not sudden, harsh, and violent.

The angler's (ye must next be acquired. The line must not only be thrown well, but with precision and accuracy. The best method of practice is to have a mark in the water, and endeavour to throw below it, above it, beyond it, on it, and on different sides of it, until you can do what you wish with tolerable precision. You should practise throwing the line where obstructions exist, until you can avoid their entanglements and difficulties. Watch the movements of an old angler under difficulties, and endeavour to imitate them. In the compass of this little manual, it is impossible to give more than general directions approved by practice, showing what errors to avoid, and what course to pursue.

I presume at this stage of proceeding the beginner is anxious to try his hand with a fly at the end of his castingline. If he had one before, he would have lost it again and again. He may take a large single fly, tied at the end of a length of gut, and loop it to the end of his casting-hue. This is the tail fly, or stretcher, and with it you may practise until the rising of a fish shows you in the most pleasing manner that you arc becoming proficient. Do not, however, be too anxious to emulate the old gentleman above you on the stream, who has a "cast" of five or six flies, which he manages so deftly. Wait till next season before you proceed beyond a single " dropper," as each additional fly is called. Your casting-lino may be lengthened from two to three yards, which will be found a very convenient length for a single-hand rod.

You must learn how to make the fly-cast, however, and there are several plans of performing that essential operation. The ordinary cast is made by adding from one to four "bobs" or "droppers" to the casting-line, from twenty inches to two feet apart. The droppers should hang from two to three inches from the main line, and should be joined to it by slipping the knotted end of the "bob" through the links of the fisher's knot. This is a simple, easy, and efficient mods of making a fly-cast, and especially suitable for beginners. The droppers can be easily removed. It should not be forgotten that the flies must be dressed on the finest gut, and anything that will add to the strength of the line, without adding to its dimensions, should not be overlooked. Mr Stewart recommends a fly-cast somewhat different to the above, and much more difficult to make. He takes two flies dressed on long lengths of the gut, and ties the two ends of gut together, so as to have a fly at each end. He then whips a length of gut about two and a half inches above one of the flies, and to the end of the gut he attaches another length of gut on which a fly has been dressed, and so on until the required number have been added. He claims fur this plan the recommendation that really each fly forms a continuation of the main line, and if it does not strengthen, it certainly does not weaken it. The old loop practice, once so common, should never be followed.

With two or three " casts " twisted round his felt wide-awake hat, the young fly-fisher is ready to commence operations. His dress must be sober coloured. He has his rod, reel, fishing-basket or haversack, landing-net or gaff, and, on his feet his waterproof boots or stockings. He has a knife in his pocket, a pair of tweezers, a disgorger, scissors, and his fly-book. Let us hope the sandwich-case, spirit- flask, and cigar or pipe-case is not forgotten. Thus equipped for the day, he may sally forth on his piscatory campaign with pleasurable anticipation.

For all ordinary purposes a rod of some ten to twelve feet long will be sufficient for all ordinary waters. The long double-handed rod will be found tiresome and unmanageable when fishing for trout. Young fishermen should use a stitfish rod, and indeed some authorities recommend, for a variety of exceedingly profound reasons, that no other should be used. Of the lines and casts we have already treated. Let us now proceed to the fish.

One of the first trout streams 1 ever fished presented greater variety of scenery and water in a shorter space than any other I have met with. While my eyes were feasting themselves on beauty, a learned discussion commenced as to whether the stream ought to be fished "up" or "down." Since that time a great deal of good paper and ink has been wasted on the subject, but it is not yet decided authoritatively either way. Excellent authorities can be brought forward to prove that each plan is the correct thing. My experience goes to show that, whilst it is more difficult to fish tip a stream, and harder work, it is more truly scientific, and is likely to bring a greater weight of fish to the creel. The fish, which generally lie with their heads up stream, are less likely to see the angler when he is going up than when he is going down, and they can be struck easier, and in their subsequent struggles they are less likely to disturb the unfished water than when fishing down a stream, as "troutie" generally rushes downwards when he finds his jaw tickled with the barbed hook. To fish down a stream is easier, is more common, and fair sport may be obtained. Perhaps, after all, it is best to avoid dogmatically adhering to either of these two schools of angling. Fish upwards whenever you can, even at a little inconvenience, and come down on the opposite lank when the fish are likely to be hungry.

As you approach the stream do so cautiously, and Keep out of sight as much as possible. Your lines will be all the better if they have been rubbed with india-rubber, and have been slightly soaked in water before you commence, so as to have no harshness or awkward wavy coils on the gut. Always remember that the flies should alight on the water before your line like a rose leaf en p lady's veil. To do this properly, the point of the rod must be kept well up, and the shorter the cast the greater probability of success. The most skilful angler cannot- make his flies fall too lightly, or keep too much out of sight. Nay, in some streams and pools it will be necessary to kneel. If the current is strong you may repeat the cast, and fish the river inch by inch, as it were, if the pool or stream looks promising; and the casts should be made partly up and partly across the stream, so that the flies spread across the stream. Watch your flies carefully the moment they alight on the surface of the water, for that is the moment considered the most deadly by all anglers, and when the fish is most likely to mistake them for the real insect, and to seize them. Strike at once, firmly but gently, before the fish can eject the fly on finding his mistake. Striking should be done by a slight but quick motion of the wrist, and in the same direction as the rod is moving at the time. An excellent plan to fish a stream is to keep away from the bank, and fish the nearer side first, keeping the flies on the surface, or but an inch or two below it, until the line gets dragged by the stream. Then return to the tail of the stream and fish the off-side in the same way. In very clear water this plan is essential to success By all means the fly-fisher should endeavour to give his flies as natural an appearance as possible. lie should humour them. If possible it should be allowed to drop lightly into the water from a stone, leaf, grass-butt, or other substance on the river. The quivering of the rod, the bobbing up and down of the flies, moving them along by jerks, and a variety of Other contrivances, may be recommended to give them the appearance of living insects. The best plan is to elevate the point of the rod, so as to keep one or more of the "droppers" skimming the surface of the water. Never drag your flies straight across the water. Should they be tinder water, any motion communicated to them is worse than useless. If the trout hooked is a small one, out with him at once without disturbing the water. If a large one, pull it down stream. By doing this you have the force of. the current in your favour, the fish chokes rapidly, and exhausts itself more rapidly. Playing a fish is the great crisis of angling. The struggle of force has commenced, and it is doubtful which will be the conqueror. But be calm. Decide if you can if your fish be a large one, or a small one hooked foul, that is, outside the mouth, in the body, tail, or fin, which is often the ease. A small fish under these circumstances is as strong and as difficult to exhaust as a large one. If a large trout is deeply hooked, he plunges at once to the bottom, and it will be necessary to check him gently by raising the point of the rod. If but slightly hooked, the fish struggles at first on the surface of the water, as if by his antics he thought to get rid of the troublesome bit of steel. If the top of the rod is lowered, the weight of the line will cause him to descend. You must, however, hold him well in hand. If he rushes from you, keep going with him until you judge it is necessary to check his career. At every pause turn the butt-end of your rod to him, bringing the lower joints over jour right shoulder. The strain will then be equalised on your tackle. If still vigorous, do not press upon him too hard; let your rod come more to the perpendicular, and indulge him with another run or two. As he becomes weaker, wind him up, so as to make him show himself. If his fins beat languidly, and he is evidently weak, guide him with the water, not against it, to some easy landing-place; and if the landing-net or gaff is not handy, take him in the left hand, but do not attempt to lift him out of the water be the line, or take the hook out of his mouth whilst in the water if you should be wading, or you may lose your labour, your temper, and the fish at the same time.

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