There are half-a-dozen general rules that ought to be attended to, which are worth all the choice flies that ever were invented. If these are constantly kept in view, and studiously carried out, patience and perseverance will do the rest. If even one is neglected, the chances of success are correspondingly diminished.
They are these:
- Have your rod and line as light, and your gut as fine as possible. The lightness of the rod tells considerably in the course of a day's fly-fishing; and one of fourteen feet is quite sufficient to command any part of the Almond. A stiff rod is better than one too pliable, as by it the line is more easily kept in hand, and the necessity of sharp striking renders this of the utmost importance. The line should be light that it may not cling too much to the water, and should taper gradually from the top of the rod to its junction with the casting-line. The gut must also be of the finest texture, as the reason why trout take the lure readier in discoloured water is not because they are more hungry on these occasions, but because its connection with the angler on shore is less easily perceived.
- Throw as long a line as you are able: no longer, however. The greater the distance between you and your flies, the greater your chance of a rise; for trout will not touch the daintiest morsel you can give them if they see the giver. It is well to keep the sun in your face, even if it costs you a wet foot in crossing; and as the wind is of great assistance in casting, you should, of course, take advantage of it when circumstances permit.
- Throw frequently. Upon this depends greatly the weight of a day's take, as we believe that nine out of every ten fish caught with fly, are got before the flies reach the actual surface of the stream or immediately thereafter; and you must ever be ready to strike on the least motion being visible on the water in the vicinity of their landing, as most trout take the fly with little more than their snout out of water - not waiting, as some tamely do, till they feel a tug at the line, which frequently proves the farewell salute of some enlightened trout. It is therefore of the greatest importance that your flies reach the water first, to which object the fineness of your line will greatly tend.
- Keep your eye always in the direction of your flies. The senses of sight, touch, and hearing must be developed in no ordinary degree in the proficient angler - the first especially. He must strike sharp and at once on every symptom of motion in the vicinity of his flies; for, ere the line is sufficiently straightened to affect the fish, some time must elapse - enough frequently to enable him to escape.
- Learn to be able to land your flies on the desired spot. The largest trout are frequently to be found immediately beneath bushes that overhang some quiet corner of the stream, lying open-mouthed and ready to seize any of those unfortunate insects which linger there and occasionally drop to the water; and to be able to make your flies cut the same caper without fraternizing with the bushes above, requires coolness, confidence, calculation, and a steady hand.
- Look at your line frequently. See whether your flies are in their proper situation - attached to your line; as however little chance the tyro may have of catching fish with hooks, these chances cannot fail to be considerably diminished when, behind him, they are strangling violently some innocent shrub.
- Fish up stream. Trouts almost invariably feed upwards, except in still water; and by throwing your line in the same direction, you obtain at least two great advantages - your being invisible to the trout; and the greater certainty of hooking him, otherwise there is much risk of pulling your fly straight out of his mouth. Another advantage is that, after your flies have reached the water, they assume a more natural position in being borne along with it, than in going against it.
- Keep moving. Do not remain long in one place. Better return to any likely spot, than by lingering long in its vicinity, thoroughly alarm all its inhabitants. You are certain to fill a larger basket by touching lightly the various streams in the whole range at your command, than by over-doing a few.
- No need for great variety of flies. A few casts, with hair-ear for the tail-fly, red and black hackles for droppers (larger and smaller sizes for the darker and clearer states of the water), laid properly on the stream, attached to the finest gut you can command, and you are certain, from March till October, of meeting with the best success on the River Almond.
Yet there is something to be done after the hook has changed quarters. Care must be taken that you do not pull it forth again, and that you do not, in your excitement, drag him too hastily shorewards. For the former contingency, we have given, in rule seventh, the only assurance; in the latter, where more than the fish will be involved in its escape, coolness is the desideratum. If he is securely fixed - which you will easily know by his lingering about the bottom, trying by rubbing his snout among the stones to rid himself of the troublesome thing in his jaws - he will soon give play by tearing up, across, and down stream with the utmost velocity; up again with accelerated speed, till you fancy his tremulous pantings are felt at your end of the rod. Then slowly backwards to his former haunts he comes. In all his vagaries must he be humoured: let him have time to give vent to his last burst of despair - to reconcile himself to his fate - to say farewell to his friends. Then lead him gently down stream, to some favourable spot where the water, gradually shoaling, ripples softly on a sandy or gravelly beach. But beware of him as he first sights his captor! Often at that moment is his attitude of stubborn compliance exchanged for that of determined resistance; and the struggle that follows is a trial between the soundness of your slip-knots and his indifference to pain. If the line holds good, the enemy may be numbered with the skin - in your basket!