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Dipping, Dabbing, or Pacing

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During the heats and droughts of summer, when the waters are low and clear, and the fish betake themselves to the shadow of the water-lilies and weeds, both the bottom and the fly-fisher may practise fishing with the natural fly. Indeed, it varies agreeably the somewhat monotonous pastime of the bottom-fisher; and there are few livers where it may not be practised, wherever a trout, grayling, chub, or, occasionally, a. carp or roach may be found. It is a practice only adapted for such streams as have overhanging banks, shaded by foliage and fringed with shrubs, which hide the person of the angler. The art of dipping is simply to drop a natural fly, fixed on your hook, so gently on to the surface of the water that it may seem but the sportive tendency of the insect, and not the artificial line of the angler. It is a somewhat difficult operation to do this successfully, for it requires a light hand, light tackle, and the most delicate manipulation.

Let us see the tackle necessary to practise this quiet, seductive, sleuth-like, piseatory sport. The length of the rod must depend on the situation and closeness of the waters. If the banks are shrouded with trees and shrubs, then a thirteen or fourteen feet rod, fitted with a light reel, will be best. If the banks are comparatively open and unsheltered, then a long rod will be necessary. One eighteen feet long will not be too long, as it will enable the angler to keep well out of sight, and use a blow-line. The line itself should be of fine tried stout gut, about a yard long, attached to a foot silk line, which may be lengthened or shortened according to circumstances. The hooks should be short in the shank and neatly whipped, and of sizes adapted to the bait you use.

The living insects used as baits for this description of fishing are various. House-flies, wood-flies, stone-flies, green and gray drakes, blue-bottles, moths, cockchafers, grasshoppers, beetles, bees, ants, are used according to circumstances. Whatever fly is on the water, or whatever insect is plentiful along the river-banks or water-side, may be used with effect. Great care is, however, requisite in placing the insect on the hook, so as not to kill it or harm it. If properly hooked, it ought to display all its natural motions, but it cannot do this if it is roughly handed or clumsily used. If one fly only is used, insert the hook under one of its wings, and bring it out between them at the back. If two flit-s are used, the first fly must be hooked between the wings, at the upper part of the back, and the second fly be placed with the head reversed, and the hook inserted under one of its wings, and come out at the back. This is an excellent mode of baiting, and generally proves a seductive one for the fish. The May-fly is hooked through the thorax, and then placed heads to tails. In baiting with grasshoppers, the hook may be placed under its head or lodged in its body, or passed through the upper part of the back. The fly-baits may be caught with a gauze-net, and kept in a box full of air-holes. House and wood-flies are, however, apt to be too nimble for the angler when the box lid is opened. An old powder-horn, with a few perforations, answers very well as a receptacle for these agile gentry, as only one can escape at a time through the aperture.

Dipping may be practised from the middle of May to the end of August. Chub and roach will rise at the natural fly in September, on warm evenings. During the day trout and grayling will rise at the May-fly, when on the water, and in the evenings they seem to prefer a bluebottle, house-fly, or moth. The fish, however, do not jump at the bait; they appear lazily to rise, suck in the flies as they flutter on the top, for they should never be allowed to sink beneath the water. Strike gently; do not play the fish long; tire him by keeping his head well out of the water; and then bring him quietly to the side.

In bush-fishing the angler must be divested of all encumbrances as far as possible. His equipment must be placed in a haversack under his coat; he must approach his scene of action noiselessly and unseen. Having fixed on a suitable spot, twirl your foot-line round the top pieces of your rod, so as to avoid the twigs and branches. Let it hang over the river; untwist the line gently by turning the rod, and then let the flies gently alight, fluttering at the top of the water. If there are any weeds near, so that the fly may appear to have jumped from them, so much the better. The angler must keep out of sight and make no noise. The fish - and, generally, it is big fish that are caught with the natural fly-open their lordly jaws, and generally hook themselves. If a few grubs or brandlings are thrown in ere you begin, the fish appear more greedy to swallow your bait. Everything will depend on the caution and tact of the angler.

Where the banks are more open, a longer line may be used, and the fly may be suffered to blow about by the wind, or be gently cast to some likely spot. This is difficult to accomplish; for everything like violent whipping must be scrupulously avoided. A gentle motion of the fore-arm must only be used, and the line brought gently- round, and the bait allowed to touch the water softly. Occasionally, the fly may be gently " chucked " beneath some overhanging bushes; but this is scarcely possible without the angler showing himself. On narrow rivers no reel or winch is necessary - nay, it is rather an encumbrance. The casting-line may be fixed to the upper point of the rod, and then cast without fear.

When using beetles or cockchafers, the shield, or external wings, should be cut off and the hook inserted at the back of the neck and out at the, middle of the back, so as to permit the feet to hang downwards. If the water is open, and the surface rippled with a breeze, a split shot may be attached to the line some distance above the bait, so as to sink it a few inches. This plan hardly comes within the denomination of dipping, which is generally practised when the sun is shining, and the fish are off the feed, from ten o'clock in the morning until four in the afternoon.

Many plans have been tried to dip with an artificial bait, but without any great success. The plan recommended by Ephemera (Mr Fitzgibbon) is perhaps the best. He recommends that a " pair of wings should be made of the feathers of a landrail," and on the bend of the hook put one or two caddis. The head of one caddis should go up close to the wings. Angle with a stiff rod, about fourteen feet long, a foot-line, eight feet, and a hook Nos. 5 or 6. Let the bait float down the stream, just below the surface, then gently draw it up again, a little irregularly, by shaking the rod, and if there be a fish in the place it will be sure to take it. If you use two caddis with the wings, put the hook in at the head and out of the neck of the first, and quite through the other from the head to the tail. Two brandlings or red worms may be fished with in the same way." I have caught roach frequently with a house-fly and a caddis attached, by dipping; but of the merits of the above plan for trout I cannot speak from experience. Where there are no bushes or other shelter for the angler, an artificial one may be made of a hurdle and bushes, or other handy contrivance. It must, however, be fixed some time before the angler commences operations.

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