The dry-fly season
The dry-fly may be used with consider able success throughout the Scottish trout- fishing season, but naturally it gives more efficient service at some periods than at others. Some anglers have become so impressed with its capabilities that they cannot be prevailed upon to discontinue it for even a short time; be ginners especially, delighted with the great results obtained with their new lure, are not unlikely to persist with it, even when it is apparent that certain wet-flies would do very much better. This is not surprising, for the floating lure exercises great fascination over all who know it, but any one, who wishes to catch as many trout as possible above a given size-limit, must be prepared to vary his lure from time to time, as the conditions indicate.
We shall, therefore., discuss the whole of the trouting season, endeavouring to point out when the dry-fly will surpass all other lures, and when it will be worthy only of a secondary place.
The dry-fly fishing in March
It is somewhat difficult for a trout-fisher to develop an enthusiasm for the month of March, the mere mention of which is sufficient to call up a picture of storm-tossed waters, leafless swaying trees, patches of snow on the hills. It does not suggest the hatching fly, the leaping trout, and the curving rod; but being anglers we can all think of these things even in the depths of winter. Therefore when we may we will go to seek our fortune in the waters.
No doubt its chief claim to fame lies in the fact that it proclaims the passing of the close season, and heralds the dawning of another period of sport; even were it without further distinction, that in itself is sufficient to gain it a high place in the general esteem.
Some there are who seek to take away from it its principal glory, declaring that trout have not yet by any means recovered from the hard ships of winter, and are quite unworthy the angler's art, even requiring his protection. Others again would contradict that with the greatest emphasis at their command, asserting that the pursuit of the trout is already decidedly sportsmanlike, and that, ia fact, they are at the very height of their condition. Two such opposing statements are quite possibly both correct, for they are made concerning totally different localities. A close season cannot be uniform and at the same time just, in a country where there is so much variation in climatic conditions due to altitude and environment.
The general condition of the trout over a number of years should determine the beginning and end of the season for each particular district, but at the same time it is advisable that the existing close time be not reduced in length. Admittedly such a change would occasion trouble and per haps create some temporary dissatisfaction. Although such a system would have more to recommend it than that at present obtaining, the labour involved is too great to admit of its introduction. Some new legislation affecting trout-fishing may yet be forthcoming and, whatever changes are made, in all probability uniformity will be retained, and the length of the fishing season curtailed, with the result that some places will lose one of their greatest attractions, and the month of March cease to have the same meaning for us.
All anglers look forward to the end of February as the time when anticipation makes way for participation; they long for it, knowing that then at last they will be at liberty to seek the loch and the river in search of health and sport. Some, fearful of the weather, may delay. The first bright day, when the sun burns cheerily and bestows a little warmth, will see even the timid making frenzied efforts to get their fishing gear in order again. Off they start full of eagerness.
Few flies may be seen flitting about the surface, but the trout, like the fisherman, are expecting the coming of spring, and they will mistake the artificial for the real insect. If the day is really fine, as man}' days in March may be, development of the aquatic creatures proceeds apace, the trout become thoroughly aroused into activity, and will take the wet-fly with a freedom that may not be repeated during the season.
We never know what fortune may have in store, we are not strangers to disappointment, but we can forget the bad times and remember the good, therefore let us fish wherever we are likely to find trout fit for sport. However, there are few waters in Scotland in which much sport need be expected during March, if the dry-fly is the lure used. It is true that a floating fly may bring up happy recollections to a hungry trout and so tempt him to the surface. Still, results will be poor, and the condition of the river-trout will not be satisfactory. To these rules there may be exceptions, but hi any case the dry-fly fisher had better wait another month.
There are lochs, for example, Loch Ard and Loch Lubnaig, which can yield truly astonishing sport in March. The trout are then in excellent form and take freely. They have not yet, however, acquired the habit of scanning the surface; they hover about mid-water, pursuing, whenever opportunity offers, the ascending larva; and nymphs. Consequently it is the wet-fly that scores most victories, and that only when t is well sunk.
Those who must fish in March, and either with the dry-fly or not at all, will in all probability find the Rough Olive, March Brown, and the Green- well Quill the deadliest patterns. They must, unless an early hatch occurs, be prepared to be easily satisfied, and they must not estimate the efficiency of the floating fly by the response to these premature efforts.
The dry-fly fishing in April
The call of the waters becomes daily more clearly heard until even the most hesitant angler must heed and answer. April is here, and. none may longer delay the happiness that awaits beside the sparkling river and the; sun-kissed loch.
Mists may swing round the mountain peaks, weirdly rising and falling, growing and dissolving; great storm-clouds borne on the wings of the south-west wind may bring the rain-laden squall to whip the crests from the rolling waves and obscure the wooded shores, but they will pass and the sun stream out again warm and cheery; skies will not again during the year be so beautifully blue. The wind must fall with the blast, and before us there will be a period of an hour or more before we shall have to suspend operations and seek the windward trees, an hour of sunshine and hope when flit's will venture forth, the trout will rise, and the rod will not be unrewarded. That is but one variety of April day.
There are others, glorious fishing days, warm and moist and grey, when the beauties of the scene almost pass unmarked, for sport is maintained throughout and the trout command all our attention.
Again we may experience bright, cloudless days when the water is calm and still, and the air is sharp with frost; but these have a joy of their own. Then a trout is an event of immense satisfaction, and each capture fills us with pride of our skill. On such days we take time to go ashore for lunch, and find what we miss at other times not more happy, the awakening of all the wild. The woodland glades are flooded with the myriad blue hyacinth me bells, a vision more than a reality; the river's brim is starred with the clustering prim rose; beneath the hedgerows the violet bids us welcome; while over all the birds are happy in their joyful song.
Such is April, and not for worlds would we miss its Joys. Never is the world so fresh, the air so sweet, or our hopes so high as we set out in answer to the call. The broad flowing river claims us more than does the loch, and the reasons are many and good. So clear is the water that its depth deceives the eye, and the very first step into it may take us over the waders, and very cold and uncomforting can water be; but we can forget even that unpleasantness, as we rejoice in the easy working of the rod, sending out the cast of flies across the broad flats just as rhythmically as it did in the height of last season.
It is wonderful how every feature of the river is impressed upon the memory; we see and at once recognise every pool and stream, every stone and eddying corner where in previous years we gained victories or suffered defeats.
Any day March Browns may hatch out, the darker Olives are due, and towards the end of the month the Iron Blue should arrive. If the angler should have the good fortune to be on the river when the last-named fly puts in an appear ance, he has before him a spell of deadly, delicate work; diminutive litre, fine tackle, quiet rises, and lusty fights are the features which afford him delight. When in doubt, owing to absence of signal from the fish as to which pattern to use, he should try the sunken nymph; but, if he feels compelled to use a dry-fly because of its clearly visible beauties or other reason, he should affix to the cast the ever-willing, always useful Green- well Quill, and that is bound from time to time to excite sufficiently an expectant trout.
When we are on the river in April, we always hope to see the Iron Blue, for that hardy little insect, which revels in cold, ungenial weather, happens to be our first favourite. The expectation of its advent keeps us patient, and an hour in its company is great reward. We willingly wander miles in search of even the shortest stretch where the wind will favour us, for when that fly is up we want to give our und hided attention to the rise, we object to be hampered with difficulties of manipulation; there must be no dis tractions, if we are to reap the full harvest of these infrequent opportunities.
However bright the prospect on the river, the angler should not neglect the loch. There are lochs which can almost be depended upon to furnish sport on any April day, and there are others which do well in favourable weather. The season may be an early one, and that he cannot tell if lie remains in the city wishing his life away. Neither should he await reports from exploring brother anglers, but should instead go to investigate for himself. He may meet occasional failure; he may, quite as readily, find adequate recompense, and be enabled to inform others as to where, the happiness they most desire is awaiting them.
Reservoirs are now without exception in order for fishing, and pleasant hours may be spent wandering round the banks and casting a questing fly across the waves. These enjoy a longer rest than other waters, which fact cannot fail to be reflected in the general well-being of the trout they contain. Undisturbed for so long a period, the fish forget the lessons learned in the previous season, and do not at once acquire the extreme wariness which later in the year will be their characteristic. They are as a ride well advanced in condition, within casting distance of the bank, not too saucy or discriminating, and they have not as yet regained their old annoying habit of fasting all day in preparation for a gorgeous banquet at an hour when the angler must usually be elsewhere.
April holds many attractions still to be enumerated. The waters are not so crowded as they will be later, but perhaps Wt are only deluded into thinking that is so, because, the river being full, each stretch takes longer to fish, so that more anglers can be accommodated. The larger body of water affords greater concealment, which is a great advantage, but for ourselves we would much prefer to have the river low and clear so that we could approach within deadly distance of every tiny, tricky corner. We might reach the goal desired, even if the water were full, by lengthening of the line, but every foot beyond each individual's comfortable distance involves a sacrifice of efficiency, a handicap we at least would rather not concede. In smaller streams the case is entirely altered, but the larger rivers we like to see at summer level.
Possibly the most outstanding feature of an April day beside the river lies in the manner in which sport is provided. First there is a long period of inactive waiting on the bank or of desultory casting at a Venture; then follows a burst of flies with its attendant excitement and activity, a short or long blank spell, another hatch, and so the variety and sequence may be kept up through out the day. This intermittent species of sport, scarcity and plenty alternating, has an irresistible fascination, and we know not what we enjoy the most, the patient hopefulness, the strain on every sense, or the crowded intervals of speedy movement, quick decisions, and well-rewarded energy.
The dry-fly fishing in May
With the advent of May the angler attains at last to such contentment as can be his, envying no man save him whose every day is a fishing day. He is no longer seriously limited in his choice of locality, and his sole and happy predicament lies in the difficulty of making a selection that will satisfy him. That of course is impossible; but one thing is certain - viz., that he will set forth on every possible occasion, for the merry month is the period during which fish and fishers alike are in their best humour.
In the country the freshness of spring still prevails; early districts are still capable of yielding abundance of sport, while the later streams and lochs are quickly approaching, and within the month will reach, the summit of their excellence. Mountain lochs arc an exception, but we think meantime only of places of easy access, so many in number that we can the more contentedly neglect the remote solitudes until the long days of summer, when we can take more complete advantage of every opportunity presented of these pleasurable expeditions which reward expended energy with forgetfulness of the world below.
Occupying a position intermediate to spring and summer, May exhibits their characteristic qualities in a modified degree, so that we enjoy the most attractive features of both and suffer not their extremes. Seldom is it so hot that the trout lie dormant in the deepest pools and ignore our most painstaking efforts; only very infrequently indeed does the temperature drop so low as to forbid the flies of the water-side to venture out. The river is still flowing fresh and sweet; the fish are not confined to the quiet flats or the most gentle glides; they are spread throughout the stream even to the rushing necks; we may have difficulty in reaching a favourite corner which in the height of summer seldom, if ever, fails to yield a victim, but there are many fruitful places which later will be barren.
While we await the rise or as we take a well- earned rest, we find much to look upon; Nature has fully awakened from her winter sleep; prim roses deck the woodland glades; the old brown beech-leaves make room for the young; birds arc busy, too busy to sing; the scent of the haw thorn hangs heavy over the loaning.
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