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The curved meadow page 2

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I got right opposite at last, threw across, a yard above him, and simply knew he would come. A snap, a strike, three ' rugs ' and he was on, bolting down stream as though he were on fire. A vision of the catch of the season, a two pounder, added excitement to the noise of a stridulous reel. Then I thought he was foul hooked in the tail. Anyhow, his attachment was secure, and after taking me back to the rushes again, he was collared, an ugly black headed chap of fourteen ounces with the expression of a bull dog.

Moving up again to the smooth water the fishing was perfect. An unruffled expanse of yellow surface, hardly a foot deep, with the best of the waning light showing up every rise, most of which required an uncommonly long cast. After several refusals, I fortunately decided than the hare's ear was too large and sodden to float well, so cut it off and tied on a small blue quill gnat, which was already attached to a fine point. As with grayling-fishing on drawn gut, this makes one far more careful both in throwing and striking.

Straight above me, near my own bank, a good trout was rising at intervals: the only drawback being an intervening tussock of grass and weed on which the line would have to rest. Behind, all was clear; so that, provided the fly pitched right the first time, he ought to take it. I edged as near as I could, but being almost in the water was fearfully anxious not to send up a warning ripple, and then threw well above him. Fie waited for it to come down, and so did I. He took it with unconcern, making a diagonal furrow right across the shallow towards the opposite bank, and was more than surprised at receiving any check whatever. As there were no stakes or holes I deemed best not to be too rough, so kept a very gentle pressure and gradually got him on a manageable length of line; but found I had overdone matters by winding in the knot of the cast. However, he never jumped from first to last, and was gradually tired down, though I had to wade out to net him -over fourteen ounces and well shaped at that. In the same water I lost another by striking too soon, and caught two more of nine, and ten ounces, after a great deal of cautious stalking.

And then at half past nine the rise suddenly stopped. As the light was failing, and the trout had been laid on the grass in different places, I thought I would collect them before having a final try downstream during the later rise, which usually occurs from 9.45 to ten o'clock. f found all but one, which a rat or a heron must have made off with. A slight white mist crawled over the upper part of the meadow, making it look like the edge of things, and brought with it a sense of nervousness, so that I did not go up across the grass but came back to the rushes and made casts over them at hazard.

As I knew I must put down the rod, before leaving and going through the copse, 1 voted just another dozen casts, and after making a few of them found my fly in something heavy. (Jetting a short line and feeling it boring slowly down stream. I followed quietly until there seemed the risk of the fish getting under the beech roots. Putting on a strain it came slowly up, then gave a dull pull, and again made for the bottom. The water was specially dark and deep. Nothing I could manage effected any good. How the gut held, and why the fish did not kick, was so strange that I peered close to the water, and at last made out the fly tight into a long floating branch or bramble, which had a way of turning over in the current. It was rather an ignominious ending to so good an evening's sport, but it made me reel up quickly and start away to the fence and upper field.

It was dark and eerie under the trees, and half way along something rushed out of the fern close under my feet. What it was I do not know, but it sounded the size of a fox.

Down the steep path at last, probing into ferny vacancy at each step with the landing- net handle - even gratefully clutching brambles; thankful for nailed boots, and for not sliding through the brushwood into the river below; thankful for the guiding bits of paper which showed up nobly, I reached the bottom in a sitting position, with a sense of prickly relief, and hurried on the last half mile towards the ladder stile where the narrow cart road terminates.

The moon was getting up, and the white cob walls of the few thatched cottages stood out coldly in its half light, while the cypresses round the church were correspondingly black in the shadow.

From that point I had. on two previous occasions, walked the five or more miles home, a rather severe tramp after an unsuccessful day; but this time a trap had been ordered at the church for a quarter past ten. It was now- past that; the road was painfully silent, and the prospect of the walk not alluring. A sound of hoofs in the far distance: later on, a glimose of two friendly lights soon dispelled all misgivings on that score. This time it was congratulation, - too often it had been sympathy - that followed the question of ' Have you had any luck? '

The drive back that evening was made under the pleasantest circumstances one could desire. The cool night air after the warm day, the heavy rug round wet feet, and a long deferred smoke and talk about the evening's adventures, the smell of the hay in the meadows and presently the sight and smell of the moonlit sea, with the muffled roll of the heavy shingle on the beach, all helped to canonise the meadow and the date.

Many other successful evenings have been spent there - with the hope of others to come - but this one, so far, still stands out as perhaps the kindliest of all.

For seven consecutive seasons the trout on this half mile of water have maintained their exact stations, showing most clearly that their notions of etiquette as to feeding places are conservative. Not only does one get to know the positions selected by the best fish, but even the places in which they will almost always refuse, or accept, a well pitched fly.

Another experience too is interesting, which is that these good evenings have not been and cannot be attributed to some special pattern of fly, but embrace fully half a dozen; so that it is impossible to name any particular favourite to conjure with. On the last visit of all the fly put up was a ginger quill, dressed so sparsely that the hook appeared in attractive nudity; odourless paraffin taking the place, upon its rounded form, of the gauze-like raiment which encases the cool arms of a summer syren.

At other times a black gnat, in the garb of a crépe-clad widowy girl, has brought its followers quite as freely: while a floating Wickham, with its gilded corsage; a sober olive, with its artistic green drapery; or a pale watery dun. have added fish after fish to the bank behind the rushes. Nimium ne crede colori, is here as good a motto as any.

On disappointing evenings you may change from fly to fly, and effect nothing. Fish are there, and are rising, but they are not in the mood for eating hooks; and no dressing or ribbing is able to provide the sauce or to change their sullen demeanour.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I have always promised myself - and never kept the promise - to try dapping under the beech roots. There is an ideal seat, backed by the red cliff, and carpeted with harts' tongues, exactly over the deep water, where two and sometimes three special young bloods take every fly that passes - even those you catch and throw down to them.

To attempt anything on an ordinary cast, attached to a rod top, must be useless. A dive of a few feet would wind the gut round a net work of roots and effect a break in record time. Some day - perhaps one Sunday evening - I mean to attach a foot of strong catapult elastic to a walking stick, fasten four feet of gut to u, with a winged olive at the point, and then must see whether it floats.

Imagination paints these fish as ones which have been severely pricked

Perhaps a solemn vow to restore the possible victim to his asylum, would meet the case. If they had just some sense of shyness, one would not mind so much; but they rise inordinately, while staring you in the face, and gulp like gourmands who adjust a dinner napkin under their triple chins before wallowing in turtle soup And, all this time, their fellows are taking chances in the open water, braving a casualty list during the long evenings of each summer campaign, with the risk of having their weights and fighting qualities mentioned in the leaves of an angling despatch. It does not seem fair.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Do you ever find you are apt to put certain places as it were upon pedestals, just as one puts certain friends? There are times when one calls up the small panorama of a favourite scene of river bend, and slowly paints in every detail with all the accuracy of a softly toned picture, just as one recalls a familiar face or an evening's conversation upon topics never likely to be referred to again excepting in the company of that particular person.

You did not know, at the time, how they would be treasured, or what an effect they had exercised upon retina or memory. You long to be m certain places in certain moods; just as you long to talk to a special friend, and would gladly travel two hundred miles to enjoy a few hours exactly as you have planned in your daydreams.

Why is it too that although perhaps you have always fished fairly - possibly from never having had the temptation of departing therefrom placed before you in practical form - the account of a contraband experience, graphically and amusingly recounted by a companion, always sounds so fascinating? There must be some analogy between fly fishing and intrigue. The stealing down through the leafy copse, the lonely meadow, the hour after sunset, the dewy grass, the churr of the fern owl, the excitement of anticipation, the disappointment of success, the haunting memory of failure.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Well, it is time to reel up and say goodbye. You and I have never met - probably never shall - but I sincerely wish you ail the moderate good luck, and immoderate pleasure, that I am enjoying. If we still retain enthusiasm, I trust that you, and T, may both have another twenty years of such enjoyment.

Let us grow young early if we would keep young long.

And, if we cannot have quite that same eyesight and activity, we can retain the old keenness unabated; with nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to renounce, nothing to regret. If any untoward accident should take away fly fishing from us, we can only bow in resignation to the epitaph on Hasdrubal.

......... occidit, occidit spes omnis at fortuna nostri .........

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