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The dry-fly fails

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It had been a day of intense heat, unclouded sky, and but an occasional feeble breath of wind; merely to move about was laborious, to fish the loch with expectation demanded such faith as is not possessed by even an angler. Absolutely hopeless was the outlook; not a trout would rise in such a day, but the more generous evening was still to come, and we waited patiently, contriving even at times to become cheerful.

The loch, on which we were privileged to fish, is a small sheet, but as good as it is small. We had been told that it held trout of excellent size and quality and, in addition, an overwhelming supply of weeds. The first glimpse of it, as we reached the shores on a June evening, was sufficient to convince, us that in the latter respect report was very accurate, while the conditions pointed to the impossibility of being able to arrive at conclusions regarding the trout. Still it was pleasant to be in such a place, the little loch with its protecting belts of trees, its little wooded islet, its bays studded with water- lilies, its marshy headlands a mass of flowering bog-bean, forming a beautiful picture on which the eye rejoiced to rest.

The water lay calm and still save where a swan glided lonely about - his ancient mate was on the island seriously occupied imagining a vain thing - and playful coots indulged in their merry antics. Even the topmost twigs of the trees remained motionless, and long clean-cut shadows were thrown across the loch. The absence of wind helped to make more clear the unfortunate state of the water, great patches of weed were dotted all over the surface, and to them clung foul, decaying green accumulations, of which smaller clumps, not yet having found an anchorage, floated all around.

We had therefore little cause to become filled with enthusiasm. Still in the fading light trout sometimes, generally in fact, prove not altogether indifferent to our offerings. We always hope for the best, and we had come to fish. Consequently it was useless to remain idle on the bank. We mounted the rods, boarded the boat, and the keeper pushed off. Now and then a slight zephyr came out of the East, raising a tiny ripple, but no sooner it came than it; died away. Drifting being impracticable, the boat was worked backwards and forwards, gradually approaching ever nearer to what from a distance appeared to be an impenetrable maze of weeds.

Occasionally a fish would rise in half-hearted fashion, though never within casting distance; the sun still blazed, and we wearied for its setting; the floating fly seemed to be the lure that would produce a rise, but it entirely failed. It was evident that there had been a strong hatch of the pale watery dun earlier hi the day, as now the surface was most liberally besprinkled with the spent spinners lying motionless with outspread wings. Here was a feast prepared, and yet, save for a few negligible instances, it was being ignored; we hoped that acceptance of the minute dainties would come later, or, better still, that a swarm of sedges would arrive and be received with greater favour by the trout.

The bow-rod diligently searches the waters with a quartette of tiny doubles, while we from the stern strive to lay a floater neatly on a likely spot, or with great effort struggle to reach some far-off promising mark. An hour passes, uneventful if we except a few offers made without serious intent, and yet the feeling persists that reward may come at any moment. It is somewhat dreary fishing blindly in a calm, a1most as monotonous as doing nothing, and several times we are on the point of deciding to suspend operations, when a trout comes up to inspect. So the attention never wanders far.

Surely that is a boil in the vicinity of the sunken lures. We are not mistaken. The strike is administered in time and with judicious strength, and the shriek of the reel announces that at last a fly has found a victim. Before the long line can be recovered, the trout dives for the nearest weed bed and succeeds in reaching it, but obedient to the steady, unceasing strain it is forced to come out into more open water. As the fish tears off across the bows, the cast shows above the surface; three of the flies are decorated with green sliminess; but the fourth is fast in a noble trout. The fight is long and for a time uncertain, but at length the net is called for. The spell of patient toil is rewarded at last; a trout of 1¼ lb. is able to produce forgetfulness.

This success may be the signal for the commencement of a glorious time, but instead not a single rise is forthcoming, and all the while the sun sinks slowly down. At last it falls beneath the horizon, but still the afterglow is too brilliant to gaze upon. The breeze, never more than a breath, falls likewise, and a silence betokening great events fills the air. A wary old mallard leads her brood from their downy nest to the shore and out among the weeds. Will the trout also gather for the feast awaiting them?

From a little bay the answer comes. A great trout breaks the surface in a mighty swirl and, excited, we hasten to cover it. But what is this? The trout does not trouble to go down again; it ploughs through the water scooping up the spinners, gulping them down by the dozen, lashing its corner of the loch to a wave. We endeavour to put the flies not over t but in front of its tortuous path, but it is all in vain. Close at hand others follow the example, and our fly, taken from one mark to another, laid on the route indicated as delicately as possible, is absolutely unheeded, as if it were not there.

Which is the greater trial: to cast at random nowhere in particular and receive no response, or to reach with accuracy and neatness a clearly defined target and be ignored? The results are identical; we are defeated. The trout continue to rise, but never by any chance do they select our artificial.

We actually see two trout starting out from different points and arriving at the same destination; for a time there are signs of a weighty conflict, and then the waters fall calm again. We move onwards to other creeks and bays amongst the weeds, where we undergo the same tortures and achieve the same results.

By and by the light fades, a less impotent breeze springs up, caddis-flies of more substantial frame appear, not in countless thousands but a few from time to time, and divert the attention of the trout from the irritating spinners. Off the stern one of these sedges disappears from view, and we, having now discarded the futile floater in favour of the wet- fly, bring the cast across the wavelets over the mark. There is a lunge at the Woodcock and Yellow; we strike, and at last, after nearly three hours of complete failure, we feel that we have hit something. The thought of the first capture bids us be careful, but caution is needless, the fish being only a little fellow of six ounces, plucky and lively enough and extremely welcome, even though we were but a short time ago laying our flies in the track of cruising three-pounders.

The line and flies must be cleared from the omni present weed, a slight tangle caused by the contortions of the trout must be straightened out - occupations not too easy in the semi-darkness - before we may tempt fortune again. Almost at the first cast the reel screams out its message; the resistance informs that we have encountered a worthier foe, but the cast is sound, and we refuse to grant much liberty, as the many obstructions in the way might readily bring disaster. We hold the fish on a tight, short line as much as we dare, or perhaps rather more than we should, but all ends well. The trout is a finely proportioned specimen, just failing to reach a pound, but well worthy of the long-sustained effort under conditions so difficult.

This late rise is of the shortest duration, only a few minutes altogether, and the bow-rod unfortunately does not get a single opportunity of aiming at a mark within his allotted area. So luck swings round in fishing as in other things.

Now it is as dark as a June night of unclouded sky can be; the air is quite chilly, seeming to promise a touch of frost on the uplands, but no mist is wafted over the waters, which remain silent and undisturbed. The keeper, even more anxious than we are ourselves, spares himself no pains, rowing us up to the very choicest corners where good fish are went to feed, and encourages us by every means in his power to keep the flies on the water. His efforts and ours are of no further avail, and we reluctantly conclude that our basket of three trout, must suffice.

We set a course for the boathouse rot too contentedly, we confess, for the diminutive water can, when conditions permit, afford magnificent sport. During the evening we have seen several huge trout dining riotously on flies and, if we remain, we may yet lure one of them. Still we must leave, but we shall return in another season, when the trees are budding, and before the weeds have had time to reach the surface and curtail the fishing area so much.

Often indeed is the angler disappointed, and yet, no matter how frequently lie is subjected to adverse weather conditions, or received with complete in difference by the trout, or harassed with misfortune, he remains optimistic through it all, persuading himself that next time all will be as favourable as he could desire, and that he will have his great day.

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