The dry-fly season page 2
Disappointments now come less frequently, for there is a wealth of insect life which ensures sport for some time at least, it not throughout the day. Trout have ceased to crowd their feasting into an hour at high noon, and if, perchance, some cold snap should retard the insect hatch, still the fish will not persistently look upon our counterfeits with disdain, because they have awhile been welcoming the floating banquet and have learned to expect it. The day must necessarily be cold indeed if the hardy Iron Blue is not seen sailing down the pool and bringing up the trout to inspect.
If, on the contrary, the sun streams fiercely down, let it be remembered that it beats also upon the sandbeds, wherein lurk the young sandflies waiting and wearying for its coming. Over the sand they gaily sport, and a puff of wind, a mere breath, comes along, blowing them on the water, where await the trout longing for such great delicacies, and the angler must be there to reap the harvest.
Even sometimes another race of flies which love the gloaming will be born anew, and so the day may be prolonged into the night.
On the river the flies that may be expected are numerous, too numerous we might almost say, but the variations in size and coloration are so exceedingly minute that not all are worthy of imitation. Perhaps the time may yet come when the education of the trout will reach such a state of perfection that t will be necessary to attend to every detail, but the day is not yet. Greenwell Quill, Medium Olive, Iron Blue will on most waters be sufficient, but the sand-fly is indispensable on those streams which rejoice in the environment necessary to its development. It may be plentiful on some reaches of a river and altogether absent from others, the nature of the bank being the determining factor. The Grannom or Greentail is also due, and on suit able evenings a floating Red Quill will account for many trout.
The hatch of flies may on occasions be phenomenally large, causing the trout to rise with apparently complete unanimity, and rendering the angler as excited as the fish themselves. As is well- known, it is very difficult under such circum stances to deceive an experienced specimen, the artificial representation having poor prospect of success amid so much competition, but the probability of acceptance is considerably increased if attention is concentrated on one individual. If the unfortunate conclusion must be made that it is indifferent to all attempts at deception then another should be selected; but hurried movements and haphazard casting will almost certainly prove utterly useless.
The angler, however, may, and should, con duct the campaign on a totally different plan, and he will readily do so if he will but remember that a hatch is confined to a comparatively small area, that it is not occurring over a large extent of water at the same moment. The temptation to remain in dose proximity to rising trout is certainly very great and admittedly difficult to resist, but the tendency must be overcome if sport rather than disappointment is to be his fate.
When confronted with such an occurrence we tear ourselves away from what we now know will fill us with irritation, and seek a favourite or promising pool either up or down stream, wherever fancy directs, so that we shall be well placed to take advantage of the first of the hatch there or, alternatively, the final minutes of the rise in progress. Such tactics have seldom in our experience failed to succeed, and we have always felt convinced that more sport was thereby obtained than would have been ours had we remained beside the gorging trout.
The loch is, in point of attractiveness, second only to the liver, and many there are who would reverse that order. No matter what loch we visit, the ghillie is nearly certain to inform us that it shows its best form in the month of May; perhaps the remark is made to enable us to bear with greater composure the burden of a light creel, but the greater probability is that in the majority of cases average results tend to prove the statement true. We are convinced at any rate, and at no period of the season do we step aboard the boat with greater expectations that a pleasant day lies before us.
The trout are thoroughly alive, and take with a freedom unknown in the height of summer; nor do we often have to complain of short-rising, but instead rejoice to see the trout coming boldly to the surface, taking the dry-fly well, infinitely superior and more interesting sport than is usually possible earlier in the year, when the flies must be sunk to the depths and the rise, or rather offer, remains unseen.
The choice of a place for the fray is bewildering, but, if we could, we would make cheerful preparations for a day on Loch Voil or Loch Katnne. We know what these delightful waters can provide in July, but report has it that they are, incomparably superior in May.
The dry-fly fishing in June
What shall we say of June, the month of leaves and roses and long, long evenings? Can we cease to praise it, the month of kindliest weather and superb, but wary, trout? Shall anyone remain away from the waters for one single hour that is his own?
Without limit are the joys of the loch and stream in June; in peerless condition are the lusty trout; everywhere is loveliness. Where should the angler spend his days and evenings with the rod?
He may devote them entirely to the faster streams, where the stone-fly abounds, and come home tired and happy under the joyful burden of the heavy creel; but, though it still will lure fine trout to their doom, that bait has lost its attractions for us. Why that should be so we cannot explain satisfactorily even to ourselves, and good it is that reasons are not always necessary. We prefer to use a delicate copy of the fragile dun, the fluttering sedge, or the suggestion of a tiny midge, and seek thus to tempt the discriminating trout, that roam the pools and throng the gravelly streams in June.
The burning sun drives us to the shade of the quivering trees, where, too, the busy spinners have retired; there we lie in wait on the dappled turf or thick carpet of pine-needles, eyes gazing on the pool, longing for the advent of the first glad rise that makes us spring to attention. Eagerly we scan the water in an effort to determine the species of fly that brings the waiting to an end. It may have been but an adventurous froghopper that has hopped too far from his grassy spire; if so, our rest is only briefly interrupted. It may have been only a wandering spinner dashed down by that wheeling martin, but it was not, for there the rise is again repeated; the heavy sucking swirl stops our vain conjectures and sends us out to mid-stream to make investigation.
Now we see till clearly; one or two little; duns float past, Pale Olives without a doubt. We tie one to the cast of tenderest gut, and cautiously wade in behind the feeding trout. Everything is in readiness, even to the length of line required for the distance and, as again a fly disappears for ever, we send out the tiny artificial with an underhand cast. There it floats with wings acock, following up the eddying water. That is something worth seeing, but it is not all; up comes the trout with confidence, and the quickly answering rod does its duty.
Although flies are fairly numerous on the pool, only that trout now resting in the creel seems to have been interested in them. Why do the fish ignore the varied assortment of duns, olives of more than one shade, a few Iron-Blues that apparently have misread the; temperature, and even a big, brown, blundering sedge that really should have delayed its aerial adventure until evening? Even a dry-fly cannot compel a trout to rise; it is not more alluring than a natural insect. It is needless to attempt the impossible, so stealthily we move; up, well back from the bank, to the; waving head of the long, silent pool.
It occurs to us that the trout congregated here will have sharper appetites, and may, if they have reasoning powers, as they certainly seem to have, consider that should they allow a fly to pass over them it will be lost to them for ever, and be snapped up by a rival below. Therefore we determine to test the surmise and, fixing another Olive to the cast, we lay the questing pair across and up the stream, working our way gradually to the neck. The journey upwards is slow and occasionally interrupted; the creel opens now and then to receive a Victim, and we retire to the trees again to rest ourselves, and likewise the stream.
But in June we think mostly of the twilight hour, that mysterious hour between sunfall and the night when all is peace and a hush descends over the land.
If you would see us supremely happy, set us afloat then on bonnie Loch Dochart when the great peak of lofty Ben More is tipped with the final ray of the setting sun, when the wind has gone to rest and the reeds stand straight and motion less, when the water lies calm and dark beneath the hazel-clad rocks of the northern shore, when the castle stands out clear and sharp against the western light. Grant us a boatman keen and skilled, able to steer a silent craft with one deft touch of ready oar, let us revel among the weeds and let the trout commence the evening banquet.
We face the blue heights beyond Strathfillan, watching, waiting for the signal. There by the edge of yonder reeds the water is faintly dimpled, and the circles spread and spread unto the shore; now there is another and yet another, and the wavelets meet and rock together. Forward silently moves the boat; as silently it stops.
High above the concentric rings the fly is cast; daintily it lowers itself on spreading wings until it gently touches the water; there it rocks on the tiny vortex, a living thing; beneath it the trout rises slowly and delicately, confidently takes it down; the rod gives to the strike, the reel protests, and the hooked fish lashes the water as it vainly strives to gain the sanctuary of the tangled weeds below. The rod, nothing yielding, for to yield is fatal, keeps command until the net embraces the plucky captive.
A trout already and the rise just beginning! The triumph is repeated, and again many times repeated. An error hi direction, a want of delicacy now and then, a hold giving way, a strike too forceful, but serve to make us more careful.
At length darkness falls, and only we disturb the eerie silence of the loch. Ashore we reluctant and yet contented go, and there on the dewy grass we arrange a dozen gleaming trophies whose rare beauties we can guess but dimly see. Is that a most remarkable hour, the best hour of a season? No, it is just Loch Dochart.
Again, we may seek Loch Leven, where a June evening is likely to prove more generous than a full day7. There is not time to go far, and we per force content ourselves with the Graveyard Bank or the Thrapple Hole, unlovely names, no doubt, but more romantic spots are beyond our reach. The long, level rays of the setting sun throw long shadows across the loch, soothing the breeze to a gentle zephyr, calming the rolling waves to a pleasant ripple. The sun drops behind the farthest peak of the Ochils, and nerves begin to tingle with anticipation. There is no visible reason for excitement, and yet the feeling pervades that something is about to happen.
Meanwhile the rod has not been idle, all the way from the pier we have cast at a venture across the waves, not in expectation but merely to put the wrist and rod and flies into working order. Now the boat lies across the breeze, and we cast assiduously all around, simply because we cannot remain inactive. A faint but familiar sound bids the eye rest on a swirl away to right of us, a hundred yards or more, and we pull off line, as if we would reach the mark, but the action is only a sign that we are making greater effort to deserve success.
The light is waning, doubt begins to lay its grip upon us, and all at once the surface breaks. The dry-fly rod is mounted, the work of a minute or two; the rise is beginning, and of it we must take full advantage. As soon as all is ready, there is a mark to cover; once more the water parts, and the air is pierced. The near boatman ships his massive oar, grasps his ponderous net, and stands aloft ready to swoop upon his prey. We steer the boring, plunging fish round to the windward side in true Loch Leven style, and bring it within reach as soon as possible,! and perhaps sooner than advisable. There we seem to lose much of the sport of playing a fish, but, whether it is because we are anxious to get it in the boat that we may the sooner be fast in another, or because we do not like to keep the boatman waiting, we really do not know. We act according to the custom of Loch Leven.
There, are days when the angler may be doubtful of sport on the main river, and yet be unable to content -himself with idling until the evening shadows fall. No happier expedition can he then make than to one of the clear, sparkling burns among the hills, now gurgling unseen into great depths in cool, dark glens, now opening out upon the moor into gliding flats with line entering streams. These are the waters we enjoy most on hot, still days of June, waters of youth which are filled with happy memories. We must go bewadered now and keep dry, whereas formerly happiness varied directly with the amount of mud and moisture acquired. Numbers used to be the supreme necessity; now it is quality. The pools are not quite so deep as they were, nor is the burn a river, but. the distances seem to have grown greater. A small pink worm on two-hook tackle used to be the killing hire, but now it is the floating fly, and if the angler will follow that example, he will be amazed at the response.
June is the angler's month. He can fish early and late, anywhere and everywhere, in burn and river, loch and mountain tarn, and find sport in all, with trout in the prime of condition, but wary enough to demand the cautious approach, every refinement in tackle and, above all, a floating fly.
The dry-fly fishing in July
The scent of new-mown meadow grass is heavy on the air; the tortured herd invades the favourite pools; a flickering haze vibrates across the holm; away on the open moor the shady side of a turf-dike affords the bleating Cheviots a slight protection. The angler on the river, under the merciless sun, is glad of a trout or two from the rougher streams.
It is July, a month of many disappointments, but perchance a little kindness, of much labour and still some possibilities. By day sport may be very poor, but on occasions it may be excellent, and the flies that will cause the waters to give up their trophies are the Blue Hen Spider, the Red Quill, and the Black Midge. The Badger Hackle, useful also at times during the previous month, is now indispensable, and capable of many victories, when the waters are besprinkled with tiny smuts.
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