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A day on Tweed


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The long, long series of rainless weeks is ended. A night of heavy rain brings us to a morning calm and fresh, with just the slightest drizzle that sways not from the vertical. The air is warm, and we set out with greater hopes than we have had for many days. Surely to-day the flies will hatch and the trout rise as we would have them.

The sun-browned grass already is touched with green, the crab-apple trees by the road-side have shed a part of their too abundant crop, the trim hedgerows have lost their powdering; but we are eager to be on the river, and much escapes our notice.

We strike the water beside a broad stream flowing with gently ruffled surface over a bed of small stones into a great still pool. It is little more than knee-deep throughout, a splendid bit for a floating fly, and we feel certain that many trout will have come up from the depths to welcome the flies that must arrive. With these we shall compete, and sometimes not in vain.

The shallowness of the stretch is itself a difficulty; a wildly waving rod will be seen by these trout of extraordinary shyness, and at the first glimpse they will seek safety in flight. A long line would overcome the trouble only to introduce another, the impossibility of effective striking; an under hand cast will make great events probable.

We note with satisfaction a belt of clear water between the. gravelly edge and the befouled stones farther out; the river has risen an inch or two in answer to the rain, and that at least can do no harm, while it may enliven the trout. In the absence of any guide from the waters - possibly we are too impatient to look carefully for a sign - we attach a Black Midge to the tail of the cast, and a yard farther up we affix a dropper, a Blue Hen Spider, a tolerable imitation of several delicate yellow- bodied duns, or, rather, their spinners, and a deadly pattern it is on Tweed. Out we wade carefully and quietly through the calm, casting and lengthening line until we come within reach of the rippling water.

As we search the far edge, more to ensure that all parts of the apparatus are working smoothly together than with hopes of response, we happen to detect a break in the surface upstream. Without hesitation we lay the cast across the spot; the trout rolls over the dropper; the hook sinks home, and the captive, with a lightning dart, shoots straight past us to the pool, where we dare not follow, as lower down tin; gravel is loose and treacherous, sure to run away if we set foot upon it. More over, there are ledges of rock, whose exact location we do not yet know; there on one side We have two or three inches of water over rock, and on the other the awful blackness of great depth.

We give the fish all the line it asks, freely at first, but later with a grudge. We put on a little pressure and recover; the trout would fain remain in the current, when it is denied the still depths, but we insist as strongly as we may on it conning between us and the shore. It essays little rushes, finishing each with a high leap; then it begins an unpleasant tugging action which threatens the gossamer cast, but, bringing it round with the straining rod, we slowly let it fall back to the sunken net. Proudly we bear it to the bank, and transfer it to the bag, a bonnie trout well over half a pound, a modest but very suitable beginning to a grand day.

Feeling full of guile, we remove the Black Midge, and for it substitute a duplicate of the death-dealing fly. Out again more confident than ever we go, casting as fancy directs over the stream, waiting and watching for a promising mark over which to place the flies. In a minute or two it is granted. From where we stand it is a long cast and the water is here already lipping the waders, so that we dare not venture farther. Pulling off line we make the attempt and overshoot the mark with the tail- fly, but the dropper comes to the rescue, rectifying the mistake and falling softly and precisely on the spot. The trout rises again and is hooked. It seeks safety upstream in the fast-flowing water, but that part is still to fish and must not be disturbed. Who knows what it may yield? We turn the fish by a sidelong pull and force it to come. down. It is even livelier than the first, though a trifle smaller, but in time it is our own. Taking no risks, we wade ashore and lay it beside the other, a bonnie brace indeed. We feel quite cheery; this is to be our great day on Tweed.

No sooner do we return to the fray than we are met with a terrific, shower of rain, which drives us to the shelter of a leafy tree. With it comes the wind, a hurricane; the rain ceases, but the blast continues. For long we fight against it, striving to fish; it plays tricks with the cast, tossing it high in the air, slapping it on the water; it bellies out the line, making the flies come down at speed, furrowing the water. No self-respecting trout would touch them; one glance is sufficient to make, them flee in alarm. We also are driven away to look for a "bieldy bit," as they say on Tweedside, and find none. Why were we not on the water an hour sooner? We are. tilled with vain regrets; our promising day is finished.

The gale soon absorbs the moisture from the gravel, and we lie down at the edge of a narrow pool, slightly less exposed than the rest, partly in hope that conditions will improve and partly to watch for a rising fish If either event occurs we are ready to seize the rod and begin to live again.

Our eyes wander from the pool to the stones at our feet. Here is a nymph, a dark brown, squat, venomous-looking creature, mounting a semi sub merged stone; it lies motionless for a time, and then something begins to take place. A head emerges; the brown mass heaves a little and a yellow banded body is slowly dragged forth; one after the other the crinkled wings are spread, and before us stands uncertain in the wind an Olive Dun, complete to its short antenna.1 and long flowing setae. A handsome big fellow he is, as he stands clinging to the stone, quivering to the gale, drying his wings preparatory to a flight on this inauspicious day.

It is the same fly as we have frequently seen hatching out at all times of the day, even just before nightfall in July, when especially it forces the trout to take notice. It is likewise our old, esteemed friend the dark Blae and Yellow, with which we have done considerable execution on the loch and in the gloaming on the river.

In the interval of watching this specimen, several more have come to land. We are specially interested in one of them; something goes amiss, for in spite of great effort it fails to extricate itself from its confining envelope, and presently all is still.

We are induced to look more closely into the water, and we perceive dozens of the nymphs crowding the upper surfaces of completely immersed stones. Apparently to them the call to the air has not yet come. We raise a hand to lift out a stone generously dotted with them, but at the first movement everyone of these curious creatures within two yards disappears as if by magic.

In a few minutes they are out again, as numerous as ever; we flick a cigarette end into the water. As it floats along it seems to sweep the nymphs before it; with amazing speed they bolt beneath the stones. Occasionally one will swim from the shelter of one stone to another; the eye can easily follow it on such a journey, but fails completely to do so when the nymph darts from above to beneath a stone. We do not think that trout can capture many nymphs of the Olive Dun, except at that time when they are about to assume the winged state.

We pick a stone out of the water, and by rare good luck discover a nymph on the under side. Being concealed it must have considered itself safe, but on being exposed to the air it becomes quite inert, allowing itself to be touched. We see, or imagine we see, the breathing processes vainly striving to extract the necessary element from the film of water. Gently to the stream we lower the stone, and the nymph, as soon as it feels the first touch of the water, vanishes.

On another stone is a small mass of white jelly; it shrinks and swells, lengthens and shortens, stands on one end and waves the other, and makes astonishing progress. We can distinguish no organs. This is something beyond our ken, but it. has no appealing beauty to make us desire its closer acquaintance.

More interesting are the caddis-tubes, scores of them, all nicely decorated with minute pieces of gravel. We are inclined to think that there is some attempt at: a colour design, the red, the white, the black and the rest being so well intermingled. They are absolutely still, for they have shut them selves behind a gravel grating to rest until the rime comes for them to take wing. Now we see a tiny twig from a miniature tree, or so it appears at first, but a closer view shows it to consist of six short, smooth tubes, lightly attached together, and each of them contains a life which we do not allow our curiosity to destroy. What a wealth of life there is in Tweed!

Here beside us on the dry gravel, neglected until now, are two duns of exceeding minuteness and frailty, smaller than the autumn Iron-Blue, and that is small indeed. Yet they stand up to the wind, but refuse to venture a flight. Near them is another delicate creature, a pale Olive Dun, and here is another, a mammoth by comparison, of no remark able feature except its size. Trout may have been rising -n great style for the last hour, but we have been too busy to think of fish or fishing, and now it is time we were home.


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