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Evening on Tweed


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All day we have been inconsolable, tired of the stifling heat, stung by the glare of the dusty road, whiling away hours under the shade of drooping trees beside Tweed's fair river, now no more than a prattling stream. We might have summoned up sufficient energy to repair to Yarrow or Ettrick or the pleasant waters of the Cheviots, but these have well-nigh disappeared, and their trout, the few that have eluded the vigilant poacher, have resolved to remain in close hiding, until rain comes to restore, their confidence and allay their fears.

The sun is slowly sinking to rest behind the triple crown of Eildon as we walk quietly down towards Mertoun Bridge, where begins a fine series of grand streams. On the way there is much to interrupt anticipation. A weasel lopes across the sun-browned grassy track, making an easy burden of a baby rabbit; a cock pheasant rises heavily at our feet, and with a rattle of wings hastes to the shelter of the trees; the grey heron, standing motionless in the dancing shallow, allows us to approach within a hundred yards and with a harsh protesting croak flaps away to roost. The gulls are screeching merrily - what a crowd of white wings! - wheeling left and right, now stooping, now standing on the air, dipping, soaring, hovering, climbing; and every sudden change in direction means one fly the less for the trout.

We halt beside a glorious stream, deep and strong, foaming and heaving, but fading away to a flowing glide, and though we do not yet fully know its capabilities we feel sure that it will suffice for an hour at eventide. The water seems to flow more lazily than by day, with a slight suspicion of a misty haze across its foam patches, but nothing as yet disturbs the surface. The gulls have gone upstream, our presence no doubt the cause, and the flies are descending to the water.

As the last ray of sunlight fades away, and the red gold spreads even to the zenith touching the fleecy clouds to radiance, as at a given signal the first glad sound comes from the waving stream, and soon the calm water below is overspread with the daintiest rings. The old Tweedside angler beside us, one of a long line of famous fishers, remarks, " The stream is dimpled as with rain from the heavens."

The first and all-important problem is the determination of the species of fly that is occasioning this welcome and promising activity, and fortunately it is fairly easy of solution. All the way down we have been watching, and already have reached certain conclusions. No doubt the trout in the calm waters of the tail are sucking down spent spinners and tiny diptera, but there is some thing more substantial for the fish that throng the broken water, and these, to begin with at least, will have our attention.

A few dark duns have accommodatingly alighted upon us and our belongings, and to represent them a large-sized Greenwell Quill will suffice, but: they are far outnumbered by myriads of fluttering sedges which crowd the air and water, almost obscuring the view. Not one of our stock of sedges corresponds closely enough to the natural insect to deceive the extremely wary trout of Tweed. Despair and disappointment are about to fall upon us, when luckily we chance to remember our cherished collection of Rough Olives, which are a correct representation, save in one particular, viz. shape. By dint of some coaxing and gentle pulling the upright wings of this deadly counterfeit are induced to droop from their erect position and lie low over the hook; and now we possess in lieu of a member of the Ephemeridae a most amazingly faithful likeness of the sedge-fly, which is proving so acceptable to the trout. In great glee we affix it to the tail of the cast, leaving the Greenwell for the dropper, the place of secondary importance, the duns being most decidedly in the minority. Carefully we anoint the line and the cast, oil the flies, and cheerfully and confidently we wade out to search the fast-flowing broken stream, prepared to cover a rise whenever the opportunity is given, but determined to lay the flies on the water as often as possible.

At the union of a twin ripple behind a submerged rock a trout breaks water, just our distance, and lightly above it falls the converted Olive; the fish refuses. We pull off a yard of line, and present the Greenwell to its notice. The rise, the strike, and the rush through the stream to the opposite bank seem simultaneous; in fact, we can scarcely believe that the trout leaping high in air above the calm water beyond the rush is ours. Neither it is; it was, but the leap and the consequent easing of the strain have given it a chance to eject the hook, probably merely resting on and not penetrating some hard part of the mouth - a chance that a hooked fish never omits to accept. Sadly we recover line and cast, and prepare the flies once more for their work. The quick answer, though it comes to naught, is promising enough.

There seems to be a lull in the rise, and we almost fear that it is about to end list after it began; but we proceed quietly upwards, gently casting at a venture to no place in particular, for one spot seems as likely as another, when, without the slightest warning, the Greenwell vanishes from sight. We are given the same tactics as before to answer; but the hook this time has secured a firm hold and, keeping our eyes on the plunging, puling trout, we manoeuvre cautiously into a position offering good footing, as well as deep water in which to use the net. That instrument is not required yet awhile, for it is a trout of Tweed we have to deal with, an active plucky fighter that knows as much of the art of escaping as it does of the angler's wiles. Out: from the rush it must come at all costs, and we refuse to be persuaded to follow it downstream, therefore we put on all the strain the 4x gut will permit, and steer it into the calm water beside us. The creel duly receives the first trophy of the evening.

A heavy trout rises ahead, and over it: we place without loss of a moment the sedge-fly; up it comes again with resounding splash, but the answering strike meets no resistance. How narrowly have we missed triumph!

Out across the stream we throw again; a gleam of silver pierces the failing light, and we hook a dancing fish which feels light on the rod, yet struggles gamely. Impatiently we pull it to the net, as we see it is but a lively smolt, about eight inches in length, an exact facsimile in miniature of a salmon; tenderly we unhook it and carefully lay it in the water; it lies on its side exhausted for a while, but by and by it recovers and his appears. How different, we think, is its behaviour from that of a trout of similar size, which would have been away with a lightning dart the moment it touched the water! We believe that we could, without breaking the law, have retained it, but who would be guilty of slaughtering such innocents?

The Rough Olive now conies into its own, raising, hooking, and holding in rapid succession three magnificent trout, which provide splendid sport, offering a vigorous resistance before they acknowledge defeat. Two of them reach nearly three-quarters of a pound each, and Tweed trout of that size, taken in a strong stream on fine tackle, would greatly surprise any angler who has not had any experience of the river. We marvel principally at the fact that these fish were rising in the roughest water at the neck, where we might not have thought of placing a, floating fly, after sunset especially, had rises to the natural fly not invited us to do so.

To hook such trout requires the greatest rapidity of casting and the use of an absolutely dry fly, and demands that the rod be in the striking position from the instant the lure alights upon the water; a short, tight line likewise contributes materially to success, but there is not the slightest doubt that the fish must be rising with deadly intent, and not merely amusing themselves, if any success at all is to be obtained.

Now the small sedges pass away, and in their place arrives a much larger variety whose presence we are soon made aware of by a tickling sensation on hands, face and neck. Obeying the sign we replace the cast with one of stouter build --larger flies demand heavier gut - and to it we attach two specimens of the Cinnamon Sedge. These are not very satisfactory imitations of the particular fly on the water, but it is the best we can do until we become possessed of patterns of the Auld Hen, a famous Tweed night fly. That represents a large caddis- or sedge-fly which appears n June and July just as darkness falls; it is usually fished wet and downstream, but we prefer that it should float on the surface as the living creature does.

It is rather early yet for the trout to take this pat tern freely, but, not knowing the moment the late rise may begin, we start once more at the bottom of the stream and fish up. Without the least encouragement we almost complete the stretch, and are on the point of deciding that no sport remains for us when a trout rises some." distance downstream. Carefully gauging the length of line required, we lay the flies on the track, reaching out and lowering the rod as the line straightens out. The trout comes up and makes no mistake in aim, but it proves a fatal mistake nevertheless. The Cinnamon Sedge has shown itself worthy of a trial.

The light has gone, and no longer can we see our flitę on the water. We reel up and set out for home, supremely contented with our basket of five excellent trout, the product of less than an hour's fishing. Moreover, we have clearly seen them rising to accept our fly, and been able to enjoy to the full their fighting power; we have taken no mean advantage of them by fishing for them under cover of night or with coarse tackle. Certainly the take compares very badly with what is sometimes obtainable even in the same time, but it is infinitely better than we have had.


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