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On Duneaton water

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Of all the tributaries of the Clyde none appeals to us quite so much as does the Duneaton, which, rising in Cairntable, on the borders of Ayrshire and Lanarkshire, falls after a long and varied course into the main river about a mile below the village of Abington. We find it difficult to give a satisfactory reason for our preference, which is none the less decided on that account. It is true that we have always had and can depend on having better sport on Daer Water, but we look upon that delightful stream not as a tributary but as the Clyde itself.

The Duneaton is a typical moorland stream, winding through a broad strath bounded by smooth rolling heights, slipping along between high grassy banks, chattering over gravelly shallows, gliding through long flats. No sound breaks the silence of the holms save the song of the sky-larks above, the bleating of the sheep, the lone far cry of the restless curlew, the music of the water, or the; sudden shriek of triumphant reel.

It is a place where we may spend pleasantly and contentedly a long summer day with rod in hand and bag on back casting a questing fly as fancy directs, and every minute is one of enjoyment, there is so much to do and see. The fresh breeze of the moor cools us as, after the labour of an hour's patient fishing, we lie deep in the grass gazing skywards, watching for the mysterious birth of a cloud, its growth and flight across the heavens; we revel in the great distances. Here we do not feel confined; here is freedom, here is space, and it is only when a stronger breath of wind wafts to us the gentle living voice of the water that we take up the rod again.

There is no monotony; there can be none beside flowing water, and least of all by a moorland stream. Where shall we find more variety? Yet we may easily destroy it all and thus miss the joys that await.

We may crouch upon or even wriggle along a high bank that we may lay, ourselves unseen, a dainty fly over a glassy pool; we may have to wade deep that our presence remain unsuspected and cast a straight line to an intricate corner; we may have to switch a fly round a projecting point where the eye may not follow, and listen for the sound that calls forth the strike; we may place the fly on the grass, and with gentle touch of the line bring it softly to the water where a fine trout lies expectant; we must take every precaution, if we would hope to lure the best of these lively fish that have learned to fear the dangers that surround them. And we may do none of these things, but simply draw off a far length of line and blunder along the banks, scaring many trout and raising few, and these few only innocent young things. Not a tree shades the stream; here and there a bush may dip a twig into the water, yet difficulties thickly throng the angler's path, and the greatest of all is the wariness of the trout them selves.

An upstream breeze foretells that the creel will not be empty when the day is done, but, should the water be flowing full and slightly tinted from the brown peat of the moor, then sport should be fine; and these are the conditions that we hope to meet on Duneaton. Such a happy combination has not yet been granted us, but we always keep a watchful eye on the weather and cloud-carry that we may hurry off whenever they send the signal. It has been sent and we have not answered, but that is unavoidable. We will not hesitate when it is possible to accept.

It may be difficult to retain confidence in a stream that always denies us its best, but a few trout here mean more than many taken in other waters, because the quest is made in such alluring environment. We never seem to learn the water thoroughly; we cast diligently up a long pool, wind favouring and assisting the work of the rod, and suddenly we find the breeze strong against us. We feel our luck is out, that the wind has changed its direction, but the trouble is due only to a great bend in the stream; and as likely as not in the rough water where the two winds meet we take the best trout of the day.

When we are out for a day on a small water we are accustomed to decide beforehand that we shall fish for a certain distance, and then return to try once more those streams and pools which have attracted most or given the greatest encouragement. That arrangement we find impossible to carry through on Duneaton, for the simple reason that, when we arrive at our destination, we look ahead and find such an enticing hit of water that we proceed at once to test its worth. When that has been thoroughly searched, we are in sight of another reach which seems superior to all that we have tried; it simply must be fished. And so on we go, up and ever farther up the stream, until we have covered so many miles that we have no time to search out our carefully marked places.

In such a miniature stream the angler might expect to find the trout correspondingly diminutive, but in that he will be agreeably surprised. Of course, there are many which must be carefully unhooked and returned to the water; but the average weight should be quite good except on very unsuitable days, half-pounders being fairly numerous, while there are a few grand specimens which will defy the most expert. The fortunate man may succeed when the efficient angler may fail, and may be. lucky enough to encounter and land a trout that will make him proud of his skill. A school boy, fishing probably with worm in a flood, once made himself famous throughout the entire vallej7 by the capture of a grand five-pounder.

Tn parts the stream is perfectly adapted for dry- fly fishing, long steep glides, gently moving fiats, streamy water at the heads of pools occurring frequently and at regular intervals, so that the rod is seldom idle. From that it is not to be inferred that there are no barren parts; on the contrary they are fairly numerous, though not of great extent.

We cannot at the moment, recall any stream where, at comparatively small cost, very substantial improvement could more easily be effected. By a judicious disposition of small concrete blocks, or by the removal and redistribution of the larger stones, many places at present useless could easily be converted into excellent haunts of trout. An enthusiastic angler resident in the district could in a few hours accomplish much, but it never seems to occur to some people that such things are possible.

The last visit we paid to Duneaton Water was on the closing day of April, a day of gentle east wind, unclouded sky, and remarkably high temperature. Scarcely a single fly hatched out - the Ephemeridae of spring like sterner conditions - and not one natural rise was seen throughout; the water was at lowest summer level, the long green trailing weed was already conspicuous, and therefore results were meagre. We found it extremely difficult to fish, everything but the wind being against us, and yet we wandered contentedly enough for miles above the sequestered village of Crawfordjohn.

The trout were n their most aggravating humour, rising with great freedom but refraining from taking a firm hold, presumably bold enough at the outset but spluttering over the fly at the last moment. We must have raised more than fifty fish, from which we conclude that the stream is well stocked, but we succeeded in capturing only four trout, from a quarter to half a pound in weight, and a grayling somewhat heavier. The best trout put up a capital fight, struggling valiantly as we sought for a gravelly bank whereon to land it, but the grayling, not being in condition, allowed itself to be pulled about in any sort, of fashion. Of course, there were in addition many immature trout that fastened securely, and bad luck was in constant attendance as we raised, ran, and lost a few trout better than any we secured.

In spite of all misfortunes, though our good day, the day of east wind and a black water, is still to come, we shall continue to have confidence in Duneaton Water. We: have never gone expecting a great basket, for the conditions have never raised hopefulness of that within us, but a pleasant day, with a few beautifully marked trout, well fed, pink-fleshed, and full of sport, has always been ours, and what more can angler desire?

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