The dry-fly season page 3
Only seldom are we out at noon of the trying days. We prefer to set out at the dawning, creel on back, and rod in hand. It is then good to be out, the morning air is so sweet; there is such a wealth of life that later in the day hides itself from prying eyes. Along the road Innumerable rabbits frisk about, and lordly pheasants fearless strut; on the hill we catch a glimpse of the red fox homeward bound; we hear the lark salute the morn; we flush the wary heron at the ford.
We fish the early morning July rise, when the music of the stream is hid n the melody of the woods, before the first pillar of smoke floats away from the herd's cottage on the moor, as the sun begins to pierce the moist warm air, dispelling, if luck attends, the gentle shower which delights the thirsty midges. Then we learn again some of the greatest joys in life.
The trout are awake, the big ones are out, each on its own special feeding-ground, and we may take one of them if we know the spot and hasten to get the worm or minnow over it while there is yet tune; they will not linger long, but will depart as the light grows to the safe shelter beneath the bank or the stronghold of a sunken snag. If such a prize is denied, there are still trophies awaiting, the pounders, whose appetites are keen at early morn. We select, if possible, a western stream and fish up towards the sun, easily forgetting the terrors of early-rising in the en joy meat of the scene and the sport.
The trout are rising in the pool, dimpling the water daintily, taking down indiscriminately any species of fly floating over them. Our lure is an upright Green well, and whether it resembles any insect on the water we really have not time to his cover. We wade along a high bank, stepping carefully among the grass-topped masses torn off by winter floods, sometimes on little gravel patches between and sometimes on the yielding grass. Instead of casting in the usual manner, for that happens to be nearly impossible, we use the shortest of lines and dap the fly over each rise within reach as we progress. It is an exciting and a deadly sport, striking being almost impossible of failure, and the trout taken are mainly large and in the prime of form.
Quite as interesting it is when no fish are seen rising. They are, we know, eager for food, but the supplies have been delayed. Our fly is therefore heartily taken. It certainly is a fine sequence of happy things, to spot a rise, lay the fly, an exact counterfeit of the living insect that has just been swallowed up, lightly and accurately to the mark, watch it with strained eye as it slowly follows the floating bells, see it vanish beneath, and hear the song of the reel as the fish strives to break the restraining bonds. That undoubtedly yields pleasant sensations and intense satisfaction, because care and skill and knowledge are all demanded, but we hold that there is something still better.
Across the pool, irregularly waving, broken by stones and rocks, seen and submerged, weed-masses and projecting banks, there is not the slightest indication that one single trout awaits below. Yet up the bank we quietly proceed, casting as we go, not at random as might appear, but laying the fly on the likely spots, places where trout are sure to be.
We may continue for an hour or often more without the least result, when suddenly' without a warning the water breaks in a great swirl. First we have to realise its meaning, which takes some time if the monotony of useless effort has dulled the senses, and then we have to strike. We know not which is the greater pleasure, but we would dispense with neither. Fishing the stream, demands a knowledge of the lower waters and the ways of a trout, and its pursuit provides many startling awakenings from semi-consciousness to activity, while it requires quite as much neatness and skill as does fishing the rise where the target is clearly indicated. Practice in one or other will come on any July morning, and seldom indeed will the creel fail to open.
Not all days of July are difficult. There will be a few days of cool East wind, when even the Iron-Blue may arrive, and then the Black Spider is extremely deadly. There may be wet, blustery days, especially on the Uplands, when even the wet-fly is not altogether unprofitable, and there may occur a flood to clean out the streams. If so, good fishing conditions may be the rule for many successive days.
After the flood begins to subside, the water assumes a rich blackness; for a few hours the natural minnow is without a rival as a means of luring trout, hut, that period past, the floating fly is almost as eagerly accepted as the more substantial bait. It is difficult to know when the fly should be tried, especially if no hatch or rise occurs to provide a guide, but the time comes always sooner than one would expect, and that is some sort of indication.
While yet the water sucks at the grasses of the bank, the dry-fly should be laid close to the edge of the near side, and allowed to come down a yard or two before being sent forth again. Long-casting is quite unnecessary and even fatal; but, as the waters continue to (all, and the gravel begins to shine through, the fly may be sent farther and farther towards mid-stream and beyond.
Under different conditions the angler must be prepared to indulge in the art of trout-stalking, and many days full of interest he should be enabled to spend. If unwilling to put himself to so much trouble, he may find all the sport he requires at eventide. For the period about sunset, the Blue Hen Spider and the Red Quill are the best flies, but for the gloaming rise few patterns can compare with the Corncrake and Cinnamon Sedges. A breath of wind and a hatch of flies arc the two main requirements. If the water is calm, he should not lose confidence, but rather acquire it. He should place his fly at once on the rise, and he will immediately be engaged with a fighting fish.
But July is the time to visit the hill-loch. In the cool of the morning we face the arduous climb through the bracken and the heather; on the way we may sometimes regret having left the plain, but it is wonderfully easy to forget the toils after the goal is reached. In the evening we return con tented, but feeling the effects of the heavy air of the hill. We are happy after our day on the little loch, every creek and corner, every headland and islet of which we have visited, and the creel holds a goodly number of trout, small perhaps, but plucky beyond description. We have seen the nesting-isle of the seagulls, have startled the mountain hare from its form, and plucked the ruddy cloudberry from among the heather.
Possibly the dry-fly will be declared unnecessary on these distant mountain tarns; t is pronounced a super-refinement. There is no doubt that the wet-fly will take trout from these lochs, plenty of them, but if the floating fly will capture more and better fish, it is surely sensible to employ it. As a matter of fact, the dry-fly is almost a useless lure on some hill-lochs. The behaviour of the trout in any particular loch will depend on the type of food that they are in the habit of receiving, and the angler's lure should be a representation of that form. If in any loch trout are seen rising to take flies from the surface, then at that time the angler, who desires to obtain the maximum of sport., will lay a floating artificial on the rise, even though he is commenced that a wet-fly, as carefully and accurately cast, would be probably accepted.
As long as there are burns and lochs of the hill to fish by day, and rivers to seek at eventide and early morn, July will continue to yield many a good trout to the floating fly.
The dry-fly fishing in August
Not many trout-fishers feel jubilant at the approach of August, generally agreed to be the least profitable month of the angling season; they look forward to it with little hope, knowing that the trout are only on exceptional days in taking humour. In all probability the sorely harassed fish have experienced a long period of low water, and of a certainty they have been called upon to withstand the attacks of innumerable holiday anglers, with the consequence that they have become very shy and suspicious.
For long, supplies have been unstinted, and the wary trout can afford to go without for a time; winter is still afar off, there is no indication of its approach, and therefore the call has not yet come to prepare against the hard times that lie ahead. There is reason for the general despair, and the angler sets forth expecting only a light creel, but now and then he may strike a lucky day.
On the river prospects may be very bad in deed, sport depending entirely on the weather conditions. If the previous month has been rain less and the drought continues, then the streams become mere trickles of water, and every stone on the bottom is covered with a green, slippery-deposit, while the edges and the quiet backwaters become filled with the same vile accumulation. Fishing then ceases to be a pleasant pastime, the trout are dull and lifeless, though towards night fall they sometimes develop some activity. The floating fly is the only possible lure, any other coming continually in contact with the foul growth, necessitating constant interruption to clean the hook, a great strain on the temper.
Fortunately a flood usually occurs in August, and, if it comes as expected, all is well. Ii cleans out the river-bed, making all sweet and pure again; the weed is torn from its moorings and hurled seawards. We are somewhat sorry for the worm- fisher who never goes n pursuit of the trout except when the flood is rising or is at the height of its ugly yellowness; the floating rubbish covers up his bait most effectively, so that he is forced to delay his slaughter until the next spate calls him out again. When the waters begin to subside there is sport to be had which makes us forget the weary times that have gone before. The trout, welcoming the refreshing full water, repair again to haunts long denied them, and feed boldly as one could desire.
Under the new conditions prevailing, cool water and warm atmosphere, a plentiful hatch of duns by day and of sedges in the evening in almost a certainty, and the welcome sight of free-rising trout is seen again. To take full advantage of the opportunities, the floating fly must be used, and of these the best all-round pattern is the Green- well Quill. We have even seen in August a hatch of the autumn brood of Iron-Blues, and that it a signal for a good rise and many captures. The dark Olive Dun and the Rough Olive are also line patterns to use, and the Black Midge is deadly among the August grayling. That fish is not yet quite ready for the angler, but its capture adds a little variety to the day's sport. It often mistakes its aim, but, unlike the trout, it will rise again and again as if determined to die. Tt is usually the fish inhabiting a deep, slow glide that err in this way; those that frequent rapid shallow necks of pools seldom miss the fly, we find, but it. requires a watchful eye and a ready strike to send the hook home.
There are other two flies which are sure to appear in August, and of which the angler would do well to possess copies, viz., the Black Sedge and the Needle Brown. With the former, we once, many years ago, took a basket of eighteen beautiful trout from the lone Potrail, a fact which had quite escaped our memory, until reference to an old diary brought back clearly all the details. The fish approximated very closely to half a pound in average weight, an astonishing and almost incredible average for that small but delightful tributary of Clyde, or more correctly, Daer Water. We remember also that the loss of the fly, the only pattern in our possession, brought the sport to an abrupt termination. Curiously enough, we did not replace the pattern for many years, but again, after seeing the welcome accorded the natural fly in the Cairn and elsewhere, it holds a high place in our esteem. The value of the Needle Brown has only lately been impressed upon us, but that it is a good fly we arc thoroughly convinced.
The flood that freshens up the lochs and rivers ultimately reaches the sea and the silvery fish eagerly awaiting it. The salmon and sea-trout answer and come, each to its chosen river. The shoals of her ling or finnock or whitling, by what ever name they may be known, crowd the streams, not always in the same enormous numbers, it is true, and we are apt to neglect our friend the yellow trout.
We have not yet tested whether the dry fly has any attractions for the sea-trout and herling. As these fish undoubtedly feed in fresh water and on flies, the probability is that a floating fly would be even more readily accepted than the gaudy confections generally submitted to their inspection, and some anglers have declared our surmise to be an unquestionable fact. All who have the good fortune to enjoy sea-trout fishing should certainly try the effect of a dry-fly on these highly sporting migrants.
On the loch, anglers are usually subjected to brilliant suns and gentlest breezes, when lunch in the shade of some wooded island is a.pt to become a protracted affair. Any day, however, may bring grey skies and a fine wave, and consequently a long, fruitful spell on the water. Loch Leven sometimes fishes very well in August, but only if there is much cloud, and then the trout are in their very best condition, which in itself is sufficient to make a visit there attractive. Frequently, the dry-fly is the correct hire, though on dour days a sunk lure will reward patient unceasing labour still better.
Some of the hill lochs will still provide sport; but the highest of these suffer from occasional night-frosts, which have the effect of driving the trout into deeper water. Consequently the angler should not fish the shallows in the morning; but as the daj7 advances, he may approach the shore again, in case the trout have returned to their more usual haunts. For dry-lly work on these lochs, probably the best pattern is the Rough Olive, as it may pass for various species.
In spite of any attempts we may make to persuade ourselves to the contrary, the fact remains that August yields the poorest sport of the season. It is not without its redeeming features, but it arouses little enthusiasm. Still if the angler be takes himself to the water-side on every available opportunity, he will sometimes find a rise in progress, and find his floating fly well received.
The dry-fly fishing in September
September is the evening of the year. It is to the season what eventide is to the long summer day, and just as the angler waits, with whatever patience he may possess, throughout the breath less hours of June and July, for the coming of the gloaming, when the trout awake to cruise about in eager search for spinner and sedge, so he longs for the passing of August.
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