Angling with the Worm is not held in that degree of estimation which it really deserves. Bat if the amount of skill required is a criterion of position, we do not know but it should rank as high as fishing with the fly. No one, however, will deny it a second place - of course in ordinary states of the stream. When the water is foul and swollen, no skill is requisite - nothing but a knowledge of the channel. At such times, and in those sheltered spots - where invisible rocks or other obstructions impede the swift-rolling torrent, and where it rests for a while, panting and covered with foam, shirking from the boisterous current - in those spots, great numbers of trout are huddled together: the seniors consulting as to what ought to be done, and the younger ones listening to the debate with considerable anxiety. Time, however, they all find to pick up any stray morsel that should come within the circle. If the angler should be fortunate enough to discover one of these meetings of council, he may play the part of the Great Protector to perfection, and "purge the House" considerably; and if he don't alarm the rest, fill a basket such as he rarely sees. This, however, needs no skill whatever; merely a knowledge of the river, and the most likely accommodation for a conclave of this sort.
But angling with the worm in clear water is a far, far different thing. In it the necessity of fine tackle is as much called for as in fishing with the fly.
For angling thus you require:
- A rod of about sixteen feet. Length of rod is of much consequence in bait-fishing - as your line must not be thrown in the same manner as a fly line. The bait must be held in the open palm of the one hand, and with the other a gentle pitch given to the rod - which should be lowered as the extremity of the line reaches its furthest point; then the rod must be slightly raised, that too much line may not lie in the stream. Thus the bait reaches the water in an entire condition - and the splash of its doing so is much lessened. By throwing back the line in the fly-fishing manner, the bait, by its own weight, is sometimes stripped off the hook.
- Advantages of a short line. The line, including several lengths of gut, (not less fine than that recommended for fly), should not exceed twenty feet in its whole length, from the point of your rod to the hook. As bait-fishing, depends less upon the sense of sight than that of touch - the shorter the line the more speedy the intimation given to the angler, the more sharp and sudden the resistance given to the fish when carrying off the bait, and the less time is suffered to elapse previous to striking. There is also less risk of the line being tangled or caught by tree-branches, &c. under water. Care must be taken, however, to deposit your shadow anywhere but on the water.
- Keep your bait moving. When the bait reaches the bottom of the stream, there are many chances against its visibility to the sharpest-eyed trout: being swept below stones, or covered over with the debris continually being carried clown, or the green weed that is such annoyance to the bait- fisher. It is not advisable, however, to practise that jerking motion so very prevalent among anglers, as it is more likely to startle the trout than tempt their appetite.
- (4) Look at your bait frequently. The traditionary lore of Troutdom probably cannot boast the precise date when these peculiarly-constituted flies, worms, minnows, &c. first appeared to perplex their judgment, and render the procuring of an honest meal a matter of life and death; but the fact that the race is not only not extinct, but yearly on the increase, is known to nearly every trout in the Almond. Some there certainly are, from a deficiency of instinct or want of memory, ignorant of the fact; others again, from an inborn conservatism, persist in believing that "whatever is is right " and scout the possibility of such a thing. But this race is slowly wearing away - as those unfortunate fishermen who carry home an occasional trout can readily testify. Consequently, every edible that passes down stream, undergoes a most searching scrutiny, previous to attack. The " one thing needful" is therefore, to keep your bait in excellent condition. Bo not spare your worms; for, in clear water, you have a better chance, however remote, of catching fish with a bare hook, than one with a broken or bruised worm upon it. The damaged worm is the true signal of danger to trout, and they (those above excepted) are sure to give it a wide berth, if they do not turn tail and run for it. Roger once said, as he stripped his hooks and flung his refuse bait into the stream - "If every bait-fisher did so, things might come right again [they had all gone wrong since the introduction of steam railways], for trout would soon discover that all damaged worms were not dangerous."
- Fish up stream and keep moving for the same reasons as given for fly-fishing.
- Fish in the streams only. The confusion of running water is the only medium that gives the bait-fisher a chance in a clear stream; but if he tries some quiet corner that is shadowed by a tree he may pick up one or two. The streams are, however, the main ground.
- Bait. For discoloured water, a pinky-white bodied worm is the best; but for clear water there is nothing so seductive as a small red lobworm. Brandlings should never be used, as they are far too soft. For their size, they should be rather small than large; and are better when kept a few days in moss, which besides cleaning, toughens them considerably. A little milk dropped on the moss will keep them hopeful a long time.
There are not a few perch in the Almond, also a numerous and thriving family of eels; which latter, however excellent they may be on the table, properly tiddivated, are exceedingly troublesome when in a state of compulsory transition; and the numerous and pithy consignments of hot-tempered fishermen has had no effect whatever in inducing migration to any extent. Eel-catching is to bait- fishing what tax-paying is to civilization. The only way of getting out of the scrape is to keep your temper easy, rubbing some dry earth on your hands meanwhile, then seize him firmly about the middle, and extricate your tackle as speedily as possible. Eels are really less evil-minded than they are misunderstood; indeed (though it is too bold an assertion to be credited by any angler), we believe that the eel is, under the circumstances, the most deserving of pity!
"But what of your Adventure, Roger?"