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The object of fishing


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The primary object of trout-fishing is to catch trout. If, however, the angler had no desires above and beyond the mere slaying of fish, his favourite appliances would be the net, the explosive, the lime-shell, and the otter. These are so extremely effective that it is well they are viewed with disfavour, for, otherwise, both trout and anglers would have ceased to exist long ago, and much happiness would have been lost to the world.

The angler imposes upon himself certain restrictions. His overwhelming desire, amounting to a passion, occupying his waking thoughts, and even obtruding itself upon his dreams, is to capture trout; but at the same; time he stipulates that the pursuit will give him pleasure and sport. The quest must also be attended with some, but nut too much, difficulty. If there is either too much or too little, then no sport can ensue. For example, if he fishes the wet-fly in July on a much-frequented stream, he finds it so difficult to catch a single trout that sport vanishes; if he works the otter on some remote mountain tarn, he may find t sc easy to fill his basket that again sport is altogether awaiting. Above all things, he desires trout, but he must be ailed upon to display skill in deeming them, and exercise supreme care in dealing with them.

It is rather curious that, while every angler is anxious to catch fish and still more anxious to bring them home, very few thereafter want them for themselves. It is not a desire to eat that drives men to the river. If that were the case, none would be particular as to method, none would shudder at illegalities. Why s t that an empty creel is considered a great calamity?

The trout are necessary to justify to others the undertaking of an expedition, and to provide clearly visible proof of its success. The angler must have them to give to his friends, who will be convinced of his piscatorial prowess. If these friends are stupid enough to congratulate him on his luck, he is annoyed, because, of course, fish are caught by skill; should they meet him at the end of a blank day and commiserate him on his bad luck, he is comforted, because certainly it is misfortune that prevents trout being caught. He would much rather have commendation than condolence; hence trout are a necessity. They represent the realisation of an ambition; they demonstrate the successful accomplishment of an enterprise.

In addition the angler demands that the trout he catches will provide him with sport. Individuals differ as to their conception of what constitutes sport. One will fish in a dirty, yellow, flooded water with coarse tackle and coarser worms, and find cause for congratulation in several dozens of trout caught under such conditions. There is a little skill required even in this, probably the lowest branch of angling; it consists in a knowledge of the pails favoured by trout at the various stages of the flood, and in an ability to detect and answer at the right moment an offering fish.

Another refuses to regard it sportsmanlike to take trout when their vision is blinded by the murkiness of the water, considers it unfair, finds no pleasure whatever in heaving them on the bank, and is quite prepared to affirm that the former would take trout with a net or by other legal means whenever there was no serious risk of being discovered.

Some find infinite pleasure and sport in fishing by night; others regard it as but little removed from poaching. Some restrict themselves to natural baits, some to artificials of various kinds, while others use al legal lures in their respective seasons. In all probability everyone has a lure which he prefers above all others; for one reason or another it appeals specially to him. It may bring him consistently good results; he may imagine or know that it produces the finest class, of trout; it may be the most suitable for his favourite water; it may give little trouble to acquire and manipulate; he may merely have enjoyed one great and glorious day with it.

No one should dare to dictate to the angler what he should use and what he should not, when he should fish and when he should refrain from fishing. Some do not find any pleasure in fishing in floods, but others may then find their greatest happiness.

Night-fishing has its delights: great baskets can be killed with the fly, the fly and maggot, the dock grub, and the minnow. Nevertheless, it is entirely unnecessary to be on the river at night. Many anglers have discovered that it is possible to capture more trout and better trout in the full light of day, and moreover obtain more enjoyment in their capture, than ever they used to do in the darkness.

The purpose of this book is to describe the lure which makes such a remarkable thing possible, which removes all necessity for fishing under the stars or in flooded water. That lure is the dry-fly. If the angler finds that his pleasure varies directly with the number of fish hooked and landed, if he measures it by the average weight of his catch, if he judges it by the number of large trout caught during a season, if he estimates it by the quality of the sport obtained under difficult conditions, or in any praiseworthy way whatever, he will at once acknowledge it largely increased when he adds to his list of lures the floating fly.

He is not advised to discontinue the use of any lure, because after all a basket of trout is what everyone desires, and that cannot always be obtained even with a dry-fly. That lure is not absolutely infallible; at certain times and under certain conditions, not few in number, but occurring with great frequency all through the season, no other is comparable with it.

Nor is he asked to abstain from fishing in the circumstances above described. That would be quite superfluous, as such practices will automatic ally cease, when the necessity for them disappears, and that will be when the floating fly becomes known to all. There is, however, so much fascination in this lure that, when he learns its powers and appreciates its capabilities, he will in all likelihood, as many others before him have done, discard most of his present possessions, and devote all his attention to his new acquisition.

If that should happen, it is to be hoped that he will not scorn, or pretend to scorn, other methods of filling the basket, as well as those who continue to use them, for without their years of research and without the knowledge of trout and their ways that the advocates of other lures have been the means of furnishing, the art of dry-fly fishing would not have been evolved. On one point all, who arc qualified by experience to pass an opinion, are in agreement, viz. that the floating fly is the most reliable and most sporting lure that has been perfected.

It has been wisely said of fishing in general that its practice is calculated to induce forgetfulness of all worries that can render miserable the life of man. The dry-fly fisher can claim, and, moreover, easily substantiate hi claim, that his branch of the art of angling can never fail to produce complete oblivion to all but the object in immediate view. He must, of necessity, watch with engrossed attention for the rising trout, or determine from his experience the exact position of an expectant one, study and discuss with himself the difficulties of its situation produced by contending currents formed by stones or banks of weed seen and unseen, discover the species of fly that is being pronounced acceptable or is expected, and select its counterpart.

His prospective victim may be an old and wary trout, far advanced in knowledge of artificial flies, ready to take alarm at flash of rod or glimpse of the most fragile gut. Possibly it has been hooked a score of times, and the memory of the piercing barb or the suffocating strain may be strong and clear. It may be that, to ensure success, the cast must be delivered to fall in such a way that the fly reaches the trout before the betraying gut arrives, a trick which will reap great rewards, but which requires assiduous practice and the acquisition of a knack that is difficult.

When the fly is sent out on its mission, it may hover hesitatingly, as if uncertain yet of making the attempt, but gradually it settles slowly down, until ii sits riding the rippling wave forward to the fateful spot. Its progress must be closely watched, for it may disappear, and the moment of its going be unmarked, and a golden opportunity be gone for ever. With so much to do, all else is forgotten, and the dry-fly angler obtains the happiness that alone can come by the moorland pool or the sparkling stream. After the trout is securely hooked, all is commonplace though exciting enough; but it is the prelude to the fight that requires the thought, demands the preparation, and claims the undivided attention.

Some who have spoken regarding the dry-fly have unfortunately done the sport great harm, and retarded very seriously the advance of the angler's education. To very many they seem to be striving to put themselves into a position of splendid isolation, and to claim for their methods, and also for themselves, a vast superiority. They appear to disparage other lures and other anglers, proclaiming that they alone are sportsmen, that the floating fly is the only honourable, the most scientific, means of capturing trout, and suggesting that it is to be used only by a few mortals, who have been endowed by Nature with extraordinary intelligence.

It is not surprising that only a comparatively small number of anglers have had the courage or the vanity to adopt a lure which demands so much. Any legal lure is honourable, if used in waters where it is not forbidden by general agreement. The dry-fly is not the most scientific lure, that is to say, it does not call for the most expert know ledge; the place of honour is occupied by the artificial nymph.

It has been laid down that a dry-fly must be presented only to a rising trout. Now every angler knows that there are days, many of them in the course of a season, when he will not see a single fish rising. Is he, after journeying fifty miles or more to the river, to weary his soul out waiting for the rise that never comes? Does he cease to be a sportsman if he enjoys himself casting the wet- fly, worm, dry-fly, or any other lure? The art of dry-fly fishing consists of fishing with a floating fly. Every sensible angler will place it over a rise when that is possible, and into likely places when no fish are rising. He will act in precisely the same way as the wet-fly man acts; the only difference between the methods is, that in the one case the fly floats and 'n the other it sinks.

The man who praises the clear-water worm does not declare that we must on no account offer a worm to a trout until we first discover that the trout is feeding on worms. If he did, he would be no more ridiculous than the dry-fly purist. The latter seeks to lure a " tailing " trout, that is to say, one grubbing about in the weeds, searching not for fully-fledged flies but for nymphs and shrimps, and betraying its presence and occupation from time to time by throwing its tail above the surface. It would be more logical to offer it a wet-fly or a worm, and more in accordance with his own principles.

The dry-fly, used as indicated in the following chapters, assists the angler to accomplish every object he has in view when out on a fishing expedition. He catches trout in a fascinating, sporting manner, indulges in a pleasant recreation, enjoys in the sunlight the beauties of the country, exercises and increases his skill in manipulating the rod, reading the stream, and overcoming his captives, all of which he might also do sometimes, whatever his lure; but the floating fly will ensure their continuance during that period of the year which is at present least kind to him, and at other tunes it will certainly not fail him.

There are a few who say that the practice of dry-fly fishing has one great effect, viz. that it destroys the. most reprehensible desire for big kills, and yet they give instructions in the art, so that anglers may be enabled to catch more trout than ever they did before. They record instances where the superiority of the dry-fly over other lures was clearly demonstrated, and relate how certain pools, considered to contain impossible fish, were made to yield freely of their magnificent specimens.

The expert with the dry-fly does not lose his desire for a big basket - no angler ever does. On the contrary, he accomplishes his ambition. He, how ever, raises his standard, cither intentionally or unconsciously; he ceases to be responsible for the death of small trout, but tries his hardest to over come, and succeeds in overcoming, the biggest fish the river contains.


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