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Wading page 2


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The most barefaced netting had always been resorted to, beginning at day break or the second of February, when some hundreds of forlorn little trout were hauled out by the local fishermen; followed by periodical visits after larger trout or peal on summer nights. Under such circumstances the rod has a miserable chance, and accordingly a two mile stretch of perfect water is rendered almost useless. No one but an enthusiast would go - and we belonged to that genus.

As however it is the only part of the river where no restriction is made as to wading, the pleasure of getting into the cool water after a sweltering July day, and of thus exploring unreachable creeks and pockets on the other side, can easily be understood. An old pair of carpet slippers or tennis shoes is all the equipment required; for thistles, nettles, or bracken soon lose their sting, or are disregarded, as the evening rise dapples the surface or catches the ear from the pools under the red cliff and the sycamores.

As no other rod was out that evening, we divided the upper meadow between us, and separated at a quarter to eight to seek adventures and sport each in our own way, agreeing to meet below swing gates at ten o'clock and tell each other all about it.

I should like to be able to convey to others the sense of absolute pleasure derived from sitting on that bank and looking out over the river. After fifteen years knowledge of nearly all that has been done each season - and of what a modest aggregate the all consists of - it is surprising that one can begin evening after evening with renewed hope and interest. Yet so it is, and I really believe if the water were privately owned, were stocked with two pounders, whose appetites were attuned to surface feeding, and I were given the only ticket to fish it, the old spell would be broken.

All the same if any philanthropist will try the experiment, and enclose a stamped envelope for the return of his permit, I shall be happy to give him my address and will let him know- how I get on at the end of the following month.

One factor we had quite forgotten - the tide. It was so badly up that it quite prevented my friend from getting across to the other side. My upper beat was clear, being above the influence of anything but a spring tide backed up by a south wind. I regret to say my friend's plight, doomed to cast into brackish water, which we all knew was no good, did not enter my mind until later on. Wading quietly in just below the island I found small fish rising well; with some that looked better higher up out of casting distance.

After doing my best with each fly that seemed suitable, I had to confess that they beat me altogether. Each one in turn would rise and salute the fly with a splash the first time t passed over him, the evident message being ' all right old sport, I see it, don't trouble further.' After this attention they continued to feed in their own way, sometimes a few inches from the fly.

I tried in every place, making casts that never went wrong, with gut points that lay on the water like cobweb - it is always easy to do this when fish are not taking. Never did the rod throw better, never did the fly pitch more temptingly. They would rise at it, but nothing more. I tried striking the very moment the ring appeared, sometimes even n anticipation; but it was no use, I could not get them.

At dusk I stopped, after getting one small trout on a downstream cast while crossing the stickle, and walked down the meadow wondering whether B---- had bicycled home disgusted with the tide.

Before I got close enough to see him I could hear the welcome swish of his rod. ' Is that you ' he said ' have you done anything?' 'No, practically nothing.' 'Well, come down here quickly - fair sized yellow fly; they are taking like mad. All our experience is upset. I have got a full dozen, of sorts - there he's missed it - one of a pound and several tidy fish. To think of our always being told that it was no good when the tide was up. I have never done this in the last seven years; and should not have believed it.'

The rise was nearly over: he got another, I got two pulls, and after that we whipped away for ten minutes into blank darkness without result. While he was getting off his wading stockings I examined the fish - a really good miscellaneous basket - fourteen trout, ranging from little three ouncers to several of over half a pound, one of three quarters, and the big one which proved an ounce over our estimate. We reeled up and walked home in triumph, B----- pushing his machine and recounting the evening's adventures. My envy quickly vanished under his pleasant assurance that ' you could have done just the same had you been down here.'

So here was another case of listen to everybody, but try everything too. Seven brace of trout, half of them above the preserved water limit of nine inches, from the Free water, when the tide was full up. This was in our small world a record-breaking feat. Had we been reminded of the tide before starting, we both agreed we should not have gone. Others said they did not go for that reason.

We tried it the next evening: but no: not four by honours two deals running. We were dealt a few trumps, but nothing to count beyond the pleasure of theorising explanations.

Orthodoxy in fly fishing is a hideous mistake. It stifles initiative and cramps experiment: two of the finest and most pleasurable attributes of angling. Was it Brougham who said of Alacaulay ' If I could feel as sure of anything, as he is of everything, I should be satisfied '?

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