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The Daer water

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A mid the silent solitudes around Queensberry is horn a tiny stream - Daer Water - destined to become a great and noble river. As it trickles along it gathers to itself innumerable hill burns, until it becomes a brawling torrent, tearing over a boulder-strewn bed. In time it checks its impetuous haste and sleeps now and then in a long, still pool, opening gradually out until, when it welcomes Potrail Water, it is fully entitled to be called a river. On it flows at leisurely pace, sweet and pure, clear and gentle, winding through a broad, grassy holm, and at last it receives the insignificant waters of Little Clyde. Here it ends in a fine, deep pool; the name of Daer goes no farther.

With the reason that allows a negligible streamlet to give its name to the glorious River Clyde and ignores the full-flowing river which receives it with little more concern than it would a raindrop, we are not meantime interested: we are out to fish the Daer, and that is sufficient to occupy completely our attention.

Right at the start we should be busy, for the pool that is the last on Daer has at its head a long glide, one of the grandest stretches for the dry-fly on the whole water. A favourable wind on it would lead us there from many miles away, for it contains numerous trout of fine size and quality which are generally in taking humour. The left bank is high and much crumbled away, so that care must be taken when wading along it, but that is the side from which the angler must fish if he desires to lure the wary, keen-eyed trout.

It will take him nearly an hour to search thoroughly, provided that lie moves slowly forward and lays his flies at many angles across the stream from each halting-place. He must beware of advancing and delivering the cast at the same time: that bad habit, easily acquired because very natural, is one reason why many offers are unaccepted. In estimating the time required for fishing this stream, we assume that a rise is not taking place; but should such additional incentive to careful work be granted, progress will be still slower, for the trout are not situated far apart, but spread all over the glide in great numbers, a fact that can be verified by anyone who cares to walk down the high bark. Then he will see many dozens of the finest trout hurrying for the shelter of the deep pot at the mouth of Clyde's Burn.

At the next bend the river runs in a narrower, deeper channel, a sure place for a kill when trout are keen and eager, but it is not one of our favourite bits, and we can pass it by without regrets. It is not so with the next pool, which rejoices in the possession of a smooth-flowing backwater, where we feel grievously disappointed f we fail to hook a half-pounder or weightier specimen. Here we can be content to wait for quite a long ti ne until we see a rise, and then without hesitation we strive to place a floating fly with all possible delicacy right into the centre oi the ring; if it is done neatly and at once, then a line fight is certain to ensue.

Now follows Crookedstane Ford with the long shallow flat immediately above it. This must be a grand flat for the night fly and, when the water is black after a flood and the wind is right, the angler need not leave it until the day is done. It is an impossible place, if the water is low and clear, and when, in addition, the breeze is absent or down stream. A stiff wind blowing against the slight current means that, when the deep waving run at the neck, where the grayling lie, is reached, the creel will be very much heavier, unless fortune has arranged a succession of untoward accidents.

Crookedstane Pool is a fine bit of water, broken up by cairns of stones, built for the purpose of persuading floods to keep to the river channel, into several deep holes connected together by gravelly shallows. It contains very big trout that know as much about lures as the angler does, but we once tempted one of them, a comparative youngster of 1½ lb., with a floating Greenwell, and it kept us in good humour throughout a cold, wet, blustery July day. From the topmost shallow, quite a short stretch, we once basketed during an evening rise six magnificent trout, and that denotes sport of the highest order, when the captures are in the finest condition, and few casts are unrewarded.

With a careless cast or two we pass over the next flat, because it has always yielded only small fish, and the following pool, because the bottom is so soft and muddy that wading is somewhat uncomfortable. We never have failed to fake one good trout at least from the pebbly stream at the top, and there we once got a fine grayling of 1¼ lb. which afforded satisfactory sport.

This spot is well worthy of more attention, but we have little time to spare it, as we are always so eager to reach the pool beyond it, which for some reason contains trout of finer average size, we should say, than any other, one alone excepted, on Daer. In fact, if the angler hooks a small fish here he should at once conclude that the favourable time has not yet arrived, and should lie down on the gravel to wait, until the big ones begin to feed. If that does not suit his temperament, he may proceed upstream searching the pools, five i n number, clearly defined but differing in no essential from those mentioned, until he arrives at the mouth of Potrail.

Here he is at the parting of the ways, and must decide which of the two waters he will fish. We can never resist the temptation of turning off up Potrail and following it as far at least as the White Bridge; if sport is good we continue farther, but if there is little doing, owing to want of water, adverse wind, anglers ahead, or other cause, we return to the Daer. We are always amazed at the little Potrail; it produces so very beautiful, bright- coloured trout, arid of a size remarkable, but we must not neglect the Daer.

Glenochar Pool, where three waters meet, is a very long stretch, which, we notice, most anglers pass by. We cannot understand their objections to it, for we have had excellent sport on it by casting a long line from the banks when the wind was strong upstream. In other conditions we also would move on to the rocky corner beyond, which is exceptionally good; here more than once we have had the pleasure of hooking and holding two trout at one and the same cast, and quite an exciting event that is.

From this point onwards the pools are fewer in number and farther apart, so that we find it easy to remember their names - Watermeetings, Nunnerie, Allershaw, The Bend, Watergate, and Wintercleuch, great names and great pools, all easily negotiated and all well stocked.

These pools that we have mentioned are all ideal parts for dry-fly fishing; on them that is the most efficient lure at most times, and specially when waters are low; a wind fairly strong from the right direction is all that is necessary to make it extremely deadly. Above them all we prefer The Bend, a long narrow pool that slips along with barely perceptible current. The right bank is a steep gravel bed, while the left is low and grassy, but - and this is the reason of the pool's excellence - it is also much undermined. On any given day we probably take more trout from each of the other pools, but we always approach The Bend with caution and expectation, for great events are always possible there. All the trout in it are grand fish, and there is always one at least, the capture of which would make a season memorable.

To see these trout on a summer evening rising along the grassy bank in that quiet manner which scarcely betrays, and which many might fail to observe, makes us halt to test the cast and examine the fly. The water is absolutely calm and still; no kindly breeze assists, there is not even the eddy of a rise on which to lay the fly. Often we have failed to raise a trout, but sometimes we have succeeded, and we remember clearly the frantic rushing to and fro in the confined space, the repeated efforts to reach the recesses below the bank and, lastly, the culminating triumph. Seldom, if ever, have we scored more than one success, as the coin- motion caused by the captive effectually brings the rise to an end.

Beyond Wintercleuch the character of the stream completely changes, becoming rough and rapid, and more adapted to fishing with the creeper and worm, the dry-fly, though exceedingly deadly, being rather difficult to manipulate among the moss-covered stones that in all directions pierce the surface. Great takes of trout are sometimes taken in these high reaches with the worm when the floods are out, but we infinitely prefer the slowly moving pools and the gentle streams of the lower pails, where the fish are wary and well-fed, and where we can place the floating fly over the dimpling rise or into some difficult comer.

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