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A final cast

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For a whole month, almost the last and one of the best of the whole trouting season, we have been guilty of neglecting the trout. Instead we have attempted to induce dour, irresponsive salmon to leave attenuated waters, but at length, realising the folly of the one and the futility of the other, we set out to the Clyde at Elvanfoot for a final cast with the little ten-footer.

After an absence of five years from what was wont to be our favourite stretch, we are keen to renew acquaintance, and we hurry through the rushes and twisted grass of the broad holm, putting together the rod as we go, though the haze of early October plainly indicates that of haste there is no need, that hopefulness must be awhile delayed. We reach the banks of Clyde and halt in amazement.

Never have we seen its pure waters so intensely clear; right to the bottom of the deep pots with their almost vertical sides of crumbling gravel we sec plainly; here and there we notice patches of bright white sand, with now and. then a clump of weed; not a single trout do we detect, and we begin to wonder if one has managed to survive the season's fishing.

That is not the end of our troubles. The wind is from the south-west, strong and downstream, which means that we have failed to follow our own advice, and deliberately selected a stretch which is not. suited to a breeze from that direction; but that is only an apparent lapse, for ahead lies a pool, our main objective, which is favourably placed, and which in itself used to be sufficient to make such a choice thoroughly sound. Presently the mist is wafted away, and the sun pours forth from a sky of unclouded blue. Thus the prospect of sport is of the poorest, but still it is a pleasure to be alone in these broad solitudes. The glorious freedom delights; the smooth, swelling heights are distant.

As far as we can see, and from a grassy mound we can examine nearly three miles of water, not another angler plies his craft, but that is the one favourable feature of the day The wind and the sky, the water and the scarcity of trout will render the day a comparatively poor one as far as sport is concerned. We shall have to work hard for any reward. A less inauspicious day might have been granted for our final offensive against the wary trout of Clyde.

And where are the birds of the holm and the water side? Even the little meadow pipit fails to welcome us; the curlew's eerie whistle, the music that takes us to the moorland stream and gives forgetfulness of the city, is not heard; the peewits do not swing and wheel, nor fill the air with clamorous plaint. From the rushes, it is true, we flush first one blackcock, then another, and also a solitary old grouse, but even the skylark's song is silent Faithful as of old, however, the white-breasted dipper nods from his water-worn stone, but says nothing, and, sure sign that no one has disturbed the pools this morning, a heron rises beyond the bend.

What a change of scene is this! On our last four expeditions we have been poking among trees, doing all sorts of intricate swings, both elegant and the reverse, with a hefty salmon rod, shooting the line and recovering it in ceils cm the bank, where of course it would often succeed in securely attaching itself to brambles and thistles; wading ill a boiling stream where every stone is a thing of life and full of guile; dodging behind and casting over bushes mercifully trimmed to make the work less impossible, and the reward was ever the same - tired limbs and extreme weariness of heart, and glorious rises from mighty salmon immediately we had passed them by.

Here all is entirely different. Not a tree, not even a bush, interferes with the long, free sweep of the; cast, wading hi the stream is more comfortable than walking on the bank, though an incautious step on loose gravel beside a pool might result in total immersion; the trout when he rises, means to feed: when the line passes over him he retires to the depths, flees in alarm from the dangerous place; he does not rise to taunt us. As for the recompense of labour, that is still to be discovered.

The little rod feels a mere toy in the hand. We wonder at first if it is all there, so light and useless it seems, but after an hour of incessant casting the wrist is left in no doubt that work has been per formed. Its action is awhile unfamiliar, and yet the same handy little weapon has brought to the net or bank many hundreds of trout from this very stretch. Here it took fifty pounds of trout in one week, but then the water was in perfect order, the wind right, and the fish feeding all day long.

Once here we were ordered out to obtain a dish for some friends; for the first four hours we covered two miles of water without receiving as much as a rise, but in the next hour, probably the most crowded hour we ever enjoyed, we took nineteen trout of the very best quality. It is difficult to be entirely hopeless when such memories come, but to day, we are sure, will not witness great events.

Though the river sings a merry tune as it dances over the pebbly shallows, the water betrays no sign of life. Not a spreading ring marks the breezy surface of the pools or the broad calm belts along the bank; not a fly flutters through the sunny air or sails the sparkling stream; the thought comes strong upon us, and it persists all day long, that very few trout remain where once a magnificent stock was maintained. The great problem presented for solution concerns the flies which should be placed upon the cast. Possibly one pattern will be as good as another, and until some indication arrives from the water we decide to entrust our fortunes to a Black Spider as being sufficiently suggestive of the late Iron Blues, a very probable arrival, and a Rough Olive, a generally useful pattern and one not unlike the Autumn Reds and Browns.

The wind is as bad as it can possibly be, but at Bodsbury Flat the river makes a great swinging bend, so that the water actually heads to the South. That part will offer easy casting, and its immediate surroundings will be comparatively simple to negotiate. Thither we go, reminding ourselves that on each of two similar occasions the little stretch yielded six pounds, but the flat itself grants but a single fish, a lively quarter-pounder which falls victim to the Black Spider, a modest but withal satisfactory beginning.

If Bodsbury can do no better than this, prospects are bad indeed, and we may as well retire now as endure further disappointment, but round the bend there is a deep hole into which a brisk stream enters, one of the readiest bits we know, a cast that is almost certain to grant a trout. It is not an easy place to fish at any time, being narrow and very steep, demanding a short line and a cast straight up the middle of the run if the fatal drag is to be circumvented, but to-day the adverse breeze, half a gale rather, adds enormously to the difficulties. The fly takes only a second or two to complete its journey, a rise has to be observed and answered without a moment's hesitation, but if fortune favours and enables the cast to be neatly and correctly executed and the dangers to be over come, then a rise from a trout beyond the average is almost a certainty.

With an effort we succeed in cheating the wind and laying the Black Spider exactly as and where required. At once a trout gleams through the wave and we strike quickly and firmly; the reel sings out that the hook is fast and screams in protest as the fish bolts through the current towards us down to the depths of the pool below. We follow, and in the brilliant sunlight see it flashing, gleaming, and boring ten feet below; it searches the irregular sides apparently striving to reach some hidden recess; we observe, too, that the hook is fast in the tail, and now understand the reason for the unusual tactics. Exercising a little care and applying a minimum of pressure, we gradually lead it farther down to shallower water, where we may follow. In tine we bring t to the surface and the net, but not without a grand fight worthy of a pounder hooked in the mouth. This stroke of luck puts us in good humour; fortune has not quite deserted us, but instead has given us a good trout, rather more than half a pound n weight, and a few minutes of sport which might easily have been less exciting than it was.

The flat seems worthy of another trial, and we return across country to our starting-point. Round the base of a cairn of stones the water is slightly broken, and the wind driving against the current raises a fair wave, a place likely to hold a good fish. The tail fly is laid beyond the first of the miniature billows; it bobs along a foot or two, and then in a trough a trout arrests it. The strike fails to send the hook home. Not until we arrive at the generous rush at the neck do the flies receive further response; but the Rough Olive this time is the winner. The captive behaves exactly as the previous victim, and for precisely the same reason. As soon as the trout drops into the net, the hook comes away, and, on proceeding to touch it up for future con quests, we perceive that it transfixes a tiny scale. Three trout already are in the bag on what we consider a hopeless day. Surely it is worth while continuing, even although two of them art; the victims of their own bad luck.

The next stretch is a great, long, broad flat, the top part especially of which, and the glorious glide at the neck as well, used to be very good. In the glide a pound grayling was almost certain to suck down the fly, and along the high bank fine trout were often to be enticed to rise. Now all is changed. A bold bluff that used to send the water round in a swirl has been sliced off by some flood, the entering stream has altered its character and course, and, though the bright green weed-beds still flourish, we cannot help thinking that the old was better than the new. Still t gives us a beautiful half-pounder, which shows no hint of the approaching spawning season either it condition or power of resistance.

We go over the stretch once more and yet again, raising a trout occasionally and at long intervals landing one, until, when it is time to bid the river farewell for another season, the basket contains no fewer than ten trout, a take we consider very good and much better than we dared to expect at the beginning of the day.

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Pictures for A final cast

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