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Among the hills

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Again we are beside the old familiar river. We know every stone and corner, every pool and stream, the haunts of the best trout, the barren parts and the fruitful stretches. There are places that we hurry past, fishing carelessly or missing altogether, but there are others which we linger over, expecting something to happen at every cast.

We enjoy a first visit cither to loch or river. There is so much to discover, so much experimenting to find the killing fly; the water is all to learn, for it certainly has peculiarities of its own which distinguish it from all others; the trout, too, may be large or small, bold or wary, quick or slow in the rise, sullen or lively in the fight, and a first day is never so successful as it might be.

We like none the less the well-known stream. We know what to expect, though we me y expect what never comes. Should we fish up a stretch without response we know that ahead lies a pool that never fails; it always is farther and farther up, and if by the end of the day we have not reached it, still hope has carried us ever onward, and the pleasures of anticipation are probably the sweetest. Memories of the past crowd upon us; great events may take place where they have be-fore occurred; where a fine trout fell to the lure, a worthy successor may lie in wait; the monarch of the pool, which once we raised and lost, may rise again, and we tremble with excitement as we approach the well-remembered spot.

We recall conversations with other anglers, and hear again their accounts of wonderful days of the long ago, when trout were not expert entomologists, and rivers ran full and undefiled throughout the year, when pollution was unheard of and the dry-fly unnecessary. Despair may readily overtake the angler on an unfamiliar river; but on a favourite stream hope fulness cannot altogether leave him.

Still we have disquieting thoughts to-day. While the river is in grand order, very clear but of fine volume, with every stone washed bright by the flood of a week ago, yet that is the only favourable condition. It is a day of late August, dull, sultry, and heavy; thundery clouds hang low over the hills; across the valley stretches a thick rain-curtain, and down towards us it comes on the wings of the light South-west wind. We shall have to cast against the breeze, a prospect none too attractive.

Almost before it reaches us the rain vanishes, the sun pours through a cleft in the clouds, and we begin to feel somewhat cheery as we stand fitting up the rod on the gravel beside the first stream. Not a fly sails the wave or flutters past in the breeze; not a rise disturbs the quiet pool or the sparkling stream. We have only two hours at our disposal, and therefore can wait for neither hatch nor rise; difficulty attends the selection of a fly, but memory of past successes decides in favour of the Rough Olive for the tail, and the dropper we elect to reserve for experimental purposes. The first choice for that position is the Green- well Quill. These are two of the finest patterns ever made, and the presence of either on the cast gives the confidence necessary.

Like all anglers, we have our notions and fads, and one of these is now in evidence. We confess that only when a good healthy rise is in progress do we select a new fly, that, when there is little or no activity amongst the trout, we submit for their inspection a fly that has already seen much service and accounted for several fish. After much experience day after day on the same river we have been forced to the conclusion that a well-used fly, provided that it is complete in every detail, is infinitely more effective than a brand new specimen that has never been laid upon the water. There is a great temptation to use one, so bright in all its glory of freshness, so attractive to angler's eye, but the trout require something more than beauty.

After a fly has been dragged under water a few times, whisked backwards and forwards through the air, removed from the mouths of two or three trout, the wings divide out more or less into their separate fibres, and thus acquire a transparency which is more natural than a heavy opacity. We are convinced that the trout are less suspicious of such a lure, though when well on the rise they will readily accept a fly out on its maiden voyage. Therein, too, we believe, lies the deadliness of the hackled pattern, in which the wing is only suggested. Some anglers use this type exclusively, but we obtain, or imagine we obtain, the best sport by using hackled flies on calm or gently-flowing water and the winged varieties on the rougher streams.

Preparations completed, we fish carefully up the long stream right in the teeth of the freshening wind. At times the cast flies out beautifully straight, and lightly enough, it seems to us, to bring up a trout; now and then an error in timing causes it to be blown back, but the result is always the same. Not a fish honours us with the slightest attention, so far as we can see, and we begin to wonder if the river has been completely cleaned out.

This is a really fine stream, which used to yield good sport; in fact, we do not remember drawing it blank, and we persevere. Almost at the top the Olive raises and hooks a trout, but it is undersized and is returned. As soon as the. line is lengthened out again the same fly brings up another, a bright little fellow rather less than a quarter, but good enough for a start on this inauspicious day.

Now we have a stroke of luck. The wind suddenly fades away altogether, and almost immediately comes again, but out of the North-west. It blows with just the right strength directly against the stream, and we hail the change with delight. Such good fortune1 does not often follow us, and we hurry on to a favourite flat, a beautiful stretch with a fine glide deep and slow down the far side. An eddy here and there breaks its smooth expanse, betraying the existence of a current; the bank is built up with stones and branches, so that there is provided adequate shelter for many trout, while the glide affords them a happy hunting-ground.

In answer to the invitation of the quiet water we substitute a Black Spider for the Greenwell, but we allow the lucky Olive to remain. Success is immediate; a good trout, dark in Colour but lively enough, makes the fatal mistake, and the Olive scores another victory. Almost as soon as we could desire a line golden trout of slightly larger size falls a victim to the same pattern.

Then follows a succession of rises missed; the small fish, of course, take a firm hold, but their larger brethren annoy us. We shorten line, we hasten the strike, we cast straight up in front; but, in spite of all, the irritation continues, and we move onwards to the next pool, pleased to learn that so many trout have escaped the snares of poachers.

This has never been a favourite of ours, but hence forth it will be, and we shall hereafter fish it with the greatest care and attention. Similar in appearance to the last, it is rather faster and more shallow, and one would not expect it to be the home of any but the smaller trout. Gradually upwards we go, searching only the centre of the waving current. Beneath the Olive we see the gleam of a golden flank. We lift gently to the strike, the hook sinks home, the rod curves to a strong resistance, and the trout makes one long, fierce, thrilling rush right into the foaming neck.

Already we know we have something beyond the usual to deal with, and we seek the dry gravel. The fish comes towards with a glorious, stirring, yet dangerous dart through the shallows, across to the depths and secret difficulties of the high bank, downstream with heavy pull on the line, then it rests at the surface as if to recover breath, and we rejoice to see a great trout. Wading out, recovering line as we go, we advance the net, but at sight of it the captive awakes and dives below, the reel screaming merrily the while. It makes a bold endeavour to plunge into an island of weed, but is prevented; then into another farther down, but we keep on all the strain the girt permits, and succeed in steering it past these danger zones. Full fifty yards from where we hooked it we take command and lead it unprotesting to the net.

A more rousing fight we have seldom had. We lay the superb trout, exactly 1½ lb. in weight, upon the grass, and stand over t n admiration. It is the finest specimen we have ever taken from the river. Throughout the season it has seen many hundreds of flies and has ignored them all; it has baffled dozens of anglers; it has eluded the poacher's net, and at last it has succumbed before the deadly Rough Olive.

Filled with a great contentment we carry on, caring lit tie whether we fish or not, but now another Olive takes the place of the Black Spider. The time passes quickly and pleasantly among the hills, and now and then the net reaches out to embrace another victim. Soon we halt and arrange on the grass beside the favoured pool eleven beautiful trout, headed by the great trophy, followed by two or three half-pounders, and so through a tapering series to the first fish of the day.

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