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Fly-fishing page 2

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Away goes the startled and indignant fish; swift goes the line from the reel; and then the angler watches his opportunity to chock the mad career of the fish. He can only do this by letting the fish feel the pressure of the line and the hook as he turns, and away the fish dashes again, and perhaps indulges in some gyrations in the air, in the hope of breaking the line with his tail. If you can, just let him feel the line when he gets to a long distance, so as to induce him to turn, and exhaust himself by rapid races, backwards and forwards. Beware of bullying the fish when first hooked, or he may lead you a pretty dance over rapids and shallows and through pools, where the angler must follow. If the banks are clear of rocks and trees, it is not difficult to do this; but, otherwise, the chances are all in favour of the fish. A few turns will show the habits of the fish, and he must be treated accordingly. Some fish are sulky, and lie like a stone at the bottom, and will not stir even when well stoned. Others take to the leaping and jumping exercises. Some dash to and fro, while others take the straight course, either up or down river. Patience and coolness are requisite, for the angler is apt to be carried away by the excitement, loses his presence of mind, commits some bungle, and snap goes some part of the tackle. Do not listen, however, to the advice of a bystander, but use your own judgment. If you fail, you will, at least, have gained experience, while, if you see the scaly gentleman turn exhausted on his side your pleasure will be the more intense. A fair-sized fish will take you an hour to kill; others will occupy your time and skill for two or three hours.

"While on this part of the subject, let me give the young salmon-fisher a few general hints: -

When tired, leave off fishing until "tired nature is restored."

Do not fish when your style is eareless or indifferent. It is better to take a nap than he surprised by a sharp-set salmon.

You must be up early to obtain the best casts.

Always play your fish with as little line as possible. Butt him as soon as he exhibits signs of weariness.

When the fish leaps in the air, lower the top of your rod, so that the line may fall slack.

Endeavour to direct the fish into clear and open water away from narrow channels, choked bottoms, or overhanging banks.

Do not, if possible, attempt to haul in the line with your hands. Run backwards if you have the opportunity. Always use your legs rather than your hands. If in a boat, and the salmon rushes towards you, it mo y be imperatively necessary, with a common reel to your rod, to haul in the line through the rings to let it fall at your feet, and in this predicament a multiplying reel is valuable, and, indeed, this is its only value.

Fish the water well, and do not think the time misspent, if there be salmon in the river; for in no sport is perseverance better rewarded than in salmon-fishing.

It requires great experience to know the haunts of the salmon. On most rivers guides are accessible who know the run of the water, and the most likely places for the fish. Without such help the angler will have to exercise his judgment, which will be assisted by the study of the following hints: -

Salmon, as a rule, lie on a stony, and avoid smooth, muddy, and even gravelly bottoms. They are seldom to be found in a long, straggling reach of shallow water, which does not lead directly to some pool, or still, deep water. A swift stream, on the contrary, running into some still watery depths, is much frequented by the best fish. Salmon are seldom found in the middle of the current, they avoid it, and lie at the sides, close to pieces of rock.

Where the stream is but light, and equally diffused, the salmon is quite as likely to be in the middle of the stream as at the sides. It has a fancy for the quiet water between two currents formed by pieces of rock intercepting the stream. Where the streams unite, there the salmon lie.

I have pointed out, in a previous chapter, the method of bottom-fishing for salmon. I will now touch upon the tender ground of the flies.

There are some anglers who affect to believe that it little matters what combination of colours or materials you use - salmon will rise at them. That mere patterns are absurd we do not believe, though mere form is perhaps of less consequence in salmon-fishing than in fishing for trout. The size of the fly is, however, of more importance. When the waters are high, large flies are freely taken; when low and clear, smaller flies are imperatively necessary. Old anglers used to affirm, that in dull weather a bright fly should be used, and in bright weather a dull fly. Modern anglers know better than this, and practice has confirmed their knowledge. Bright insects belong to sunny weather, as philosophy and reason have pointed out.

Before I proceed to describe the different sorts of salmon flies, let me advise the young angler to make his own. He will find it a great advantage, and a source of great recreation; and to enable him to judge of how they should look, here are six or seven beauties, old friends of mine, well known on the Shannon.

On the " Queen of Island Rivers," as the guide-books call the magnificent Shannon, these flies are exceedingly popular, though many of the ordinary flies, are larger and some even more gaudy.

From the 1st of February to the 10th of March, writes cue of the best anglers on the Shannon, the flies used are very large, as the water is generally high. Those most in use and highly approved of are -

  1. Body, half light orange, half blue silk, ribbed with broad silver tinsel and gold twist. The hackle should be light-blue all over the body, under the shoulder a blue jay, orange silk bag, with one of darker hue just over it; a large lapping for tail, with ten or twelve of the largest-sized lapping" for wings. Sprigs of the leading tail feathers of the golden pheasant, and four long feelers of blue and yellow macaw. This is one of the spring Shannon flies, which has immortalised O'Shaughnessy. It is dressed on a No. 3 and 4 hook with a long shank.
  2. The goldfinch, which is made with a gold-coloured floss silk body, black silk tag tipped with gold tinsel, yellow hackle and gold tinsel over body, blue jay at the shoulder, and king-fisher over the butts of the wings, which are to consist of eight or nine golden pheasant toppings of middling size, feelers of red macaw; head, black ostrich; tail, golden pheasant toppings. Pressed on a No. 5 or 6 honk. This is one of the best flies in use, though the golden pheasant toppings render it somewhat expensive.
  3. Black-fly, with deep yellow hackle.
  4. Magpie. - Half black, half orange silk body, with black tackle and gaudy wings.
  5. Black silk body, black hackle, bright and gaudy wings.
  6. Orange silk body, black hackle, brilliant wings.
  7. The colonel. - Gold-coloured silk body, with a black hackle and brilliant wings.

The whole of the above are to be tied on four or five twist gut.

Large gray donkey's fur flies are useful as a change.

From the 10th of March to the 1st of April, if the water holds high, the same flies are recommended; but if it becomes clear, a smaller size will be necessary.

From the 1st April to 1st May, all shades of green flies answer well, with green hackles. One made with green peacock body, with a black hackle, is highly spoken of. Green and brown, olives, gray flies, black, all shades of brown, are killing flies. The colour of the natural fly on the water should be watched as nearly as possible. I have often been most successful by so doing.

The salmon peal or grilse begin to run about the 20th of May. The flies must now be much smaller, and the tackle much lighter. Orange body with the jay hackles, blue bodies with the same, black bodies, brown bodies of all shades, and Lochabars. All shades of green and olives will hold good during the remainder of the season.

In the river Fergus, where the water is nut so deep or so rapid as in the Shannon, flies of a smaller size may be used.

I have indicated briefly the principal flies that are used by the Irish anglers, and the principles that govern their dressing. Similar flies, making the same allowance for depth and rapidity of water, will answer also for the Blackwater, Killarney, and Waterville.

In Scotland a smaller fly is generally preferred, and of quieter colours; an excellent fly is thus made, and may be used wherever a salmon will rise. A yellow mohair body, ribbed with gold twist and black hackle; long yellow floss silk, tipped with gold rail, a small topping, blue jay at shoulder, brown turkey or kite tail feathers for the wings, mixed with golden pheasant tail and neck feathers; guinea- hen and teal, and a topping over all; blue mohair head, and blue and yellow macaw feelers. Hook, No. 6.

Another good fly is one made with a mixed blue, green, and yellow body, silver tinsel, black hackle, peacock wing feather for wings, and a tail of red mohair, with; No. 7 or 8 hook.

A third fly is one with a body half pale rod, and the remainder orange mohair, ribbed with gold twist; legs, turkey's wings, red hackle, with a black and white tail feather of the turkey for wings.

A Welsh angler states that the flies recommended by Mr Hansard are the best for the Cymbrian salmon. In the early portion of the year, orange body with broad gold twist, smoky hackle, wings dark-brown from the bittern. As the summer advances, a fly, with yellow silk body, ribbed with gold twist, blood-red hackle, and wings taken from the wing of a turkey-cock, brown and mottled added to a few of the green fibres from the eye or a tail feather of a peacock.

I can only indicate the varied assortment of salmon flies which find favour with salmon-fishers in this elementary guide. If the young angler is puzzled in choosing a fly, he should always observe one point - to suit the size of the fly to the depth and clearness of the water, using brilliant flies in the sunshine, and dull flies in murky weather. Salmon will rise when the barometer is rising, but will not when it falls, and, as a rule, they do not bite In the middle of the day.

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