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Dapping


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Sometimes the trout-stalker, in the course of his leisurely and happy progress up the stream, will arrive at some part where, by reason of dense bushes, low-hanging trees, or wild confusion of rock and boulder, casting in the ordinary sense is impracticable. He need not pass such places by, as so many of his predecessors have done: there are trout there that remain comparatively ignorant of the wiles of man, have profited by his timidity, and being unmolested have waxed fat and careless. They can be caught by any angler who will not shirk difficulties, and who will practise the art of dapping an artificial fly; that is in ordinary words, laying it lightly on the water without any assistance other than that conferred by a friendly breeze.

Dapping with the natural fly has long been practised. The stone-fly fisher impales the living Insect, a female preferably, on a series of two or three hooks arranged with cunning purpose to protect the principal points of attack, and using a line only a little, if at all, longer than his rod, he searches thoroughly the type of water in which these flies spend the major portion of their existence, viz. rough stony stretches and necks of pools. Most adepts believe in keeping the fly on the surface; but others declare that it is most effective if sunk a little, in which case it must, we think, be indistinguishable from a creeper. When a good upstream breeze is blowing - and that is what the stone-fly fisher desires - it is unnecessary to cast the bait; the wind will carry it out beautifully. In the absence of a breeze or when it is adverse, the fly must be cast, but very lightly, if it is not to be thrown away altogether.

Not content with the grand sport obtained in the two or three weeks during which the mature stone-flies are about, some fishers, making deductions from their experience, search about for other flies to use in the same way. The men of Lcadhills are the keenest and the most proficient at the game that we have seen. They use the " Grey " fly, a fat dipteron about the size of a Cleg, which is extremely common on the moors of Daer and Duneaton, the Daddy-long-legs, and later in the year the " Doctor," a crane fly with black body and scarlet legs. At times the ordinary House-fly and the Blue Bottle are pressed into service, and the luring capacity of all these insects, not one of which, the stone-fly excepted, is of aquatic origin, furnishes very convincing proof that trout in some streams will accept with freedom flies which are not born of the water.

A day with the natural fly is a very interesting experience; but many anglers, holding that the satisfaction derivable from any possession varies directly with the difficulties encountered in its acquisition, consider that the artificial fly constitutes a more sporting lure, and prefer it beyond any natural bait. That is our belief, formed after an experience of all methods of catching trout, but we see no reason why the artificial should not bear the closest possible resemblance to a living insect. Hence it is that we advocate the use of a dry-fly. With the natural fly as lure we should be almost certain to catch more fish than with the dry-fly, but it is more certain that we would not derive so much pleasure. Dapping with an artificial fly is quite a legitimate method of fishing, provided that it is resorted to only when necessary, viz. in places where casting is not merely difficult but entirely beyond the angler's powers, and where drag is impossible to overcome. It can be used with great effect anywhere that provides sufficient cover, but it is allowable only in these special circumstances, or under conditions such as we are about to discuss.

There are days on the breezy Uplands when the wind is so strong that it is almost impossible to cast. The line stretches out horizontally before the rod, and sometimes the light cast is whirled vertically away, refusing to go on the water. Dapping being the only method practicable, the angler has to choose between it and an immediate return homeward. We have been treated to these conditions quite frequently, and we have never had any hesitation in making cur decision. We fish, and that without any qualms, though with regrets.

Ephemeridae may be absent; but if the sunlight is strong, as it is usually on such a day, there are other flies about to arouse the trout. If we are on the Daer, we walk along the high bank, crouching if it seems advisable - crawling on these days is wholly unnecessary - and we allow the line to stream out in the wind. By altering the direction of the rod it is usually possible to manœuvre the fly to where it is required. Sometimes the sport is quite good, but it is difficult to prevent the line slapping the water, or the fly from being tossed about. In a more moderate breeze the basket would doubt less be much heavier, but in that case we throw off yards of line and cast over the spreading rings. Dapping is forced upon the angler, not deliberately selected.

There is one corner of the Daer, viz. the head of Watermeetings Pool, on which we seldom omit to dap a fly. There the water flows at great pace round a sharp curve, and drag is unavoidable. Now it is perfectly allowable to dap for an expect ant fish as well as for a rising one; but how is one to tell whether a trout is in a state of expectation or not? If a fish is seen hovering near the surface, apparently active and alert, then we may conclude that it is on the look-out for food; but in such a place as we have under consideration a trout could not hover; it must lie on the bottom behind some protecting stone that shelters it from the great force of the strong current. Also the troubled surface effectively conceals the trout from view. The result is that we persuade ourselves that it would not be in such a place except for one purpose, viz. to obtain food, therefore we lower a fly to the water to find out if a fish is there.

With these and similar exceptions, dapping is inadmissible on bare, open streams such as those of the Southern Uplands, where nothing interferes with the freedom of the cast. Its usefulness is mostly restricted to heavily bushed streams and rock-bound pools, where the angler is so near his fish that he cannot cast to them.

The sport reaches its perfection n midsummer, when days are hot and trout in the main river are lifeless. Then it is pleasant to wander up some cool, shady glen under the trees and among the crags, peering now and then through the leaves or over a sharp ledge of rock into a deep, black pot. Almost every scramble reveals a trout poised near the surface or leisurely swimming round looking for something wherewith to satisfy its appetite; if nothing is seen, then the bubbling water at the foot of the fall is sure to conceal a good one.

Let the angler then pass his rod slowly and carefully over the rock - let it be not the favourite rod worth, or rather costing, a guinea a foot, but any old weapon of historic interest perhaps, but little intrinsic value - and push the fly over after it. Let him lower the fly gently until it lightly touches the water, and refrain to answer the almost inevitable rise until the fly has quite disappeared from view. This is more difficult than it seems, and in fact anyone at his earlier attempts is almost sure to strike before the open-mouthed trout has even reached the fly. Perhaps the best plan the angler can adopt is to allow the trout to turn, before he dares to drive the hook home, but much depends on the method of attack. It is certain that the beginner will vastly enjoy the unusual and thrilling experience of being able to witness the whole performance.

We have pleasant recollections of hours spent among the rocky fastnesses of the Blackwater as the Shee in its lower reaches is called. It was by no means easy in certain places to reach the water in safety, and consideration of the return journey, quite as difficult, was, like the landing of possible captives, deferred until the need arose. The plan we adopted was to lower away the rod, butt first, and then go after it. Of course, after the descent and ascent at any particular place had been negotiated without disaster, we thought little of the undertaking on subsequent days.

For this sport we used nothing finer than 3x gut, sometimes gut-substitute of similar strength. On hooking a fish we allowed it to ran about the pool until it was thoroughly exhausted; then we caught the line, laid aside the rod, and pulled up the trout quietly and regularly hand over hand. If this was done correctly, the fish did not give a single kick. By this method we have never landed a trout over half a pound, though many of that weight; but we shall be very pleased to try it on much heavier fish. We have found it of great use when fishing off bridges and high banks. One trout per pot it was the rule, and each represented a large expenditure of time and trouble, but we judged the time profitably spent, though well we knew that when we reached the open water at the head of the glen we should add to the basket at much faster rate.

Dapping over bushes introduces another difficulty, viz. the releasing of the fly. If they are not much higher than the angler, he should pinch a small lead bullet to the cast about a foot above the fly, hold the cast to the rod and the rod high diagonally over the obstruction, and then set free the fly. The sinker will carry out the line, but, if allowed, it would swing the fly back into the bushes. There fore, as soon as t is released the line should be pulled in quickly with the left hand. When oscillation ceases, the bullet should be allowed to carry out the line and deliver the fly straight to the waiting trout. The fortunes of the lure can be followed through the foliage, and the strike must not be hurried. A short cast not more than the length between bullet and fly should be used. Landing a trout is a serious problem, but there is often a way out liven if the fish escapes, it has provided some excitement, and after all that is all we want; the fish is the proof required for others, not for the angler.

Dapping is a sport full of thrills, adding a pleasant variety to the ordinary routine of a day, and the angler should always be prepared with a short cast for a trout roving in fancied security within some hidden, shady nook.


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