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Trout: their Haunts, Habits, arid Tastes - Scotch and Irish Fly. Fishing- Monthly List of Flies- General Hints on Grayling and Trout Fishing.
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While the mere mechanical routine of the "gentle craft" is easily acquired by those who have the desire to do so, and who possess the necessary patience; there is much to be learned ere the tyro become the expert and scientific angler. He must know the haunts of the fish, and tell almost at a glance where the best fish lie, and choose intuitively, as it Were, the must alluring baits, and those best adapted to the season of the year, and the particular locality. Observation and experience must be the joint teachers of this special knowledge, for no verbal directions can impart it- There is also the Cue feeling of a sportsman to be acquired, which checks the mere butchery of the fish, otherwise than by fair fishing, which places the love of sport above the satisfactory basketful of shining beauties in their grassy bed. The whole art of angling has been truly said to be the knowledge of how, when, and where to fish, and what to fish with.

The trout, which after all is the special object of the fly-fisher's ambition, is a gentlemanly fish, of high instincts. Not for him are the slow sluggish stream or muddy waters. He leaves them for coarser natures. He likes not grovelling in the mud, but courses along the watery highway, which runs clear over a gravelly bed. He is nice in his taste, and prefers the sportive fly to the lowly grub lie is not easily entrapped, he calls forth the highest skill of the angler, and often comes off the victor in the encounter. He is truly the fish of the spring, and is in the primers condition when nature is decked in her gayest apparel. From September to March he disappears from the angler's calendar. He waits until the daisy shoots from the sod, and then he delights in the shallows and the rougher streams, running into deeper water and shady pools, where he sojourns during the heat of summer. In whirlpools and holes he delights. He loves the sharp current of a mill race, where he can retire behind a rock or a big stone. Sometimes he is to be found under bridges, or between two arches which divide the current. He is gregarious and loves his kind, and though his size and condition vary in different countries, his main characteristics remain the same. Revelling in beautiful scenes, lie is susceptible of the influence of the weather, for when the storm rages he refuses to bite at even his most favourite food.

But what is the favourite food of the trout? On this subject anglers cannot agree. The taste of the fish varies, fie is hungry or the reverse, and from the experience of to-day and to-morrow various theories have been propounded, and learned discussions inaugurated, which only serve to perplex the inexperienced and to amuse the expert angler. There are as many different sorts of flies recommended as there are days in the year. Nay, there are some who use one fly in the early morning, another in the forenoon, a third during the heat of the day, and a fourth in the evening. The young angler may indulge these fancies when he has plenty of time to spare, and has profited by the result of my experience and of those who have kindly advised me in this disputed portion of our work.

Those flies will be found to be the best which approach in shape nearest the common flies of the streams on which you are fishing. The colour is nut so important as the shape, if they are not too large and clumsy. The finest and best will be useless if the fish are not on the feed.

I cannot here enter into an elaborate defence of these propositions, which I hold to be truthful and likely to command the adherence of a large body of expert brethren of the craft. I lay them down for the guidance of those who have to acquire experience, so that they may not be misled into continually changing their flies, and wasting their time whenever they are not meeting with the success they feel they deserve. In a succeeding chapter I have given full and explicit directions concerning the flies, and here I need say no more than, as a rule, a dark coloured fly is best for clear water, a lighter or yellow fly is more suitable for darker waters, and has been found especially killing at the close of the day. An excellent practice is to arrange the " cast " so as, if possible, to embrace the varied taste of Mr Trout, or to meet his caprice. A black, brown, red, and dun fly will always be found to kill well, and will prove the happy medium between the opposing theories of the theoretical and practical school of anglers. Mr Stewart, for instance, recommends, " When commencing a day's fishing at any season, the angler should begin with three or four different varieties, say a black spider for the tail fly, a woodcock wing with yellow silk and red hackle for the first dropper, a hare-lug body and corn-bunting wing for the second dropper, and a dun-coloured spider for the fourth fly." It will be easily seen which are the favourites, and then the others may be changed. The tail fly and the third dropper will be found almost invariably to be the most deadly. Larger flies may be used in rivers not much fished, but in well fished char streams the flies must be small and neatly made.

So great is the difference of opinion amongst anglers of experience, with respect to the number of flies necessary, that Mr Fitzgibbon (" Ephemera") gives a reduced list of sixty-eight flies, while Mr Ronald, in his " Fly-Fisher's Entomology," seems to have exhausted the insect creation in his endeavours to show all the flies a fly-fisher may use. On the other hand, Mr Stewart (" Practical Angler ") gives only six, which for curiosity we extract: -

  1. A woodcock wing, with a single turn of a red hackle, or landrail feather, dressed with yellow silk, freely exposed on the body. For fishing in dark-coloured waters this fly may be dressed with scarlet thread.
  2. A hare-lug (ear) body with a corn-bunting or chaffinch wing. A woodcock wing may also be put on the same body, but should be made of the small light-coloured feather taken from the inside of the wing.
  3. The same wing as the last fly, with a single turn of a soft black hen hackle, or a small feather taken from the shoulders of the starling, dressed with dark-coloured silk.

Thus for flies proper: now for the "spiders" or hackles.

  1. The black spider. This is made of the small feather of the cock starling, dressed with brown silk, and is upon the whole the most killing imitation we know. This fly was shown to Mr Stewart by the renowned James Baillie, and it is used constantly by those gentlemen.
  2. The red spider should be made of the small feather taken from the outside of the wing of the landrail, dressed with yellow silk, and is deserving of a very high rank, particularly in coloured water.
  3. The dun spider. This should be made of the small soft dun or ash-coloured feather taken from the outside of the wing of the dotterel. As this kind is scarce, a feather from the inside of the wing of the starling will have to serve as a substitute.

I can speak to the general efficiency of all these, but I cannot endorse the author's doctrine that they are sufficient.

In another chapter I have given a list of forty of the principal flies, selected from various sources, which have the highest reputation as killers, and I have included a list of spiders or Palmer hackles which may be used generally throughout the year. I have found a yellow drake, dressed on a blue body, wrapped with silver tinsel, with a strip of golden pheasant, and a blue jay feather, full at shoulder, a killing fly every where. It is a favourite with one of the most successful anglers on the Fergus and Shannon. Mr Charles Armstrong of Larch Hill has kindly forwarded me the following hints, with respect to the best lakes and streams in his neighbourhood. With respect to trout and trouting, he says, the principal trout lakes in Clare are Inchiquin and Dromore. The flies used on both are very much the same, and are known by the name of Inchiquin, Dromore, and Lochabar flies. The colour distinguish them, such as brown, black, cinnamon, claret, frieze-brown, &c. They are nearly all fur or mohair bodies, and are tied on Nos, 5, 0, and 7 hooks as follows: - Gold tinsel tail, a couple of turns of orange, yellow or green silk under jib, which should consist of three fibres of brown mallard hackle to suit body. The body should be of mohair, slight at the tail, and getting fuller towards the head. Four turns of tinsel on body. For the wing a little peacock blue breast feather to form the body of the wing, and a sufficient quantity of brown mallard to form each side wing. Peacock or ostrich tail for head.

On some flies partridge and rail may be put on the wing, instead of mallard. These flies of different colours hold good during the season.

Hare's ear and hare's tail and yellow, with the wing of a starling, are also good.

Lochabar is another name for the orange or green grouse and rail, with the addition of a little gold pheasant butter feather in the wing.

In February, cinnamon, copper-coloured, deep brown, and black are excellent. Large hare's ear and yellow or orange, with gold breast. A small peal-fly (see Chapter on the Salmon) is also good.

In March, the same flies may be used. Some of the flies should have plain rail wings, as few spotted flies are yet out.

In April, pale brown and cinnamon, rubbed with gold cord, red hackles, partridge, and rail wings. An excellent fly is one made of deep brown and claret, and all shades of hare's ear are good.

In the fly-fisher's month of May, the trout feed mostly in the evening; and throughout this and the following month, hare's ear, and all shades of Dromore flies, will take well. In high winds the gaudy black fly should be tried.

There are few fish taken in July, and the same flies are used; and from this time to the end of October, the trout will take the flies named for February. In the Clare lakes trout run from 2 lbs. to 10 lbs. in weight.

The best flies for March are the February red, varieties of spiders, cow-dung, March brown alder.

In April, the above flies, with the sand-fly, stone-fly, gravel bed, yellow dun, iron blue, the jenny-spinner, and oak fly. Attention should be paid to the description of flies in the water, as some of the flies are partial, and only found to be of any value on particular waters.

In May, nearly all the previous flies will secure a run. The green-drake, sky-blue, and the fern-fly will be found the best new ones.

In June, the gray-drake, the cooh-y-bondhu, a beetle, the great whirling-dun, will be good for a change; but the Mayfly (green-drake) is the favourite.

In July, the pale wing-dun, the July dun, the ant-flies, silver-horns, with moths for the evening, are the fishy favourites.

During August, the palmer-hackles and moths, the August dun, house and blow-flies, are good for a change.

In September, the cinnamon-fly, pale-blue, whirling-blue dun, and the palmers, are sufficient with the moths.

For grayling, in streams where they abound, at the heads and tails of streams they love to frequent, particularly if it has a gravelly bottom, similar flits will be found taking, in every sense of the term, if the hook is armed with a gentle or grasshopper.

The accompanying plate gives illustrations of sixteen useful flies. Fig. 1 is a useful beetle, with a shorter hackle; it is the coch-y-bondhu of Irish fishermen. Figs. 2 and 3 are useful palmers, which, if dressed on larger hooks, form excellent chub-flies. Fig. 4 is the golden palmer. Fig. 5 is the house-fly, and if dressed with a brilliant harl, becomes the blue-bottle. Fig. 6 is the fern-fly. Fig. 7 is the yellow sally. Fig. 8 is the oak-fly. Fig. 9 fairly represents the form of moths. Fig. 10 is the governor, and the general form is that of the ant-flies. Fig. 11 is the stone-fly. Fig. 12 is the March-brown; fig. 13 the blue dun; fig. 11 the red spinner; fig. 15, whirling-dun; fig. 10 the May-fly.

There are several maxims which the young fisherman would do w ell to remember. Tread lightly, and keep yourself well out of sight. Always fish with as fine a tackle as you can use, and think no time wasted in care and preparation.

The best weather for fishing is probably when a warm south-west wind dapples the surface of the water; but the direction of the wind, with reference to the point of the compass, is of less consequence than its power. It is exceedingly difficult to fish up stream when the wind is blowing down; but the splash of the falling line into tin water (which it will do under these circumstances, in consequence of the force necessary to be used) is less likely to be noticed than in calm weather. When there is no breeze, wait until the motion of the line has subsided, and then draw the flies slowly towards you. Never allow the flies to remain stationary. In sunny weather avoid letting your shadow fall into the stream, Rather have the sun in your eyes.

The best time for fishing is in the forenoon, and later in the evening, when the trout are on the "feed," which may be easily seen by their rising; make the most of your time, as quickly, quietly, and steadily as you can, or else you will mourn lost sport in a hitched, tangled, or broken line.

Do not be in a hurry to change your flies. If a fish rises arid refuses your fly, give him a short rest, and try him again. Remember a trout cannot be enticed. If he again refuses, proceed on your way. If a fish rises behind you, do not "hark back;" he is looking for other prey than yours.

However tempting it may be to wade, and however well prepared you may be, do nut do so unnecessarily; it only disturbs the fish, spoils your neighbour's sport, and is not conducive to the health of those w ho happen to have even an iron constitution.

Trout will seldom rise immediately after a flood, as they have been too well fed. The water is best alter sufficient rain to just colour it.

Fishing at night, or in dull weather, the flies should be larger than those used in clear weather during the day In dull, wet weather, the flies take better when they sink beneath the surface of the water. A large moth-fly is best for night fishing, and not more than two need be used. In the heat of summer the addition of a "gentle" to the fly will add much to its attractiveness. For special directions adapted for each month, the reader is referred to the " Fisherman's Calendar".

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