Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/39

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chance is to use a big fly and “work” it, casting across and down stream. The big fly has also been found serviceable with the great fish of New Zealand and with the inhabitants of such a piece of water as Blagdon Lake near Bristol, where the trout run very large. For this kind of fishing much stronger tackle and a heavier rod are required than for catching fish that seldom exceed the pound.

Dry Fly.—Fishing with the floating fly is a device of southern origin, and the idea no doubt arose from the facts that on the placid south-country streams the natural fly floats on the surface and that the trout are accustomed to feed on it there. The controversy “dry versus wet” was long and spirited, but the new idea won the day and now not only on the chalk-streams, but on such stretches of even Highland rivers as are suitable, the dry-fly man may be seen testing his theories. These theories are simple and consist in placing before the fish an exact imitation of the insect on which it is feeding, in such a way that it shall float down exactly as if it were an insect of the same kind. To this end special tackle and special methods have been found necessary. Not only the fly but also the line has to float on the water; the line is very heavy and therefore the rod (split-cane or greenheart) must be stiff and powerful; special precautions have to be taken that the fly shall float unhindered and shall not “drag”; special casts have to be made to counteract awkward winds; and, lastly, the matching of the fly with the insect on the water is a matter of much nicety, for the water-flies are of many shades and colours. Many brains have busied themselves with the solution of these problems with such success that dry-fly fishing is now a finished art. The entomology of the dry-fly stream has been studied very deeply by Mr F. M. Halford, the late G. S. Marryat and others, and improvements both in flies and tackle have been very great. Quite lately, however, there has been a movement in favour of light rods for dry-fly fishing as well as wet-fly fishing. The English split-cane rod for dry-fly work weighs about an ounce to the foot, rather more or rather less. The American rod of similar action and material weighs much less—approximately 6 oz. to 10 ft. The light rod, it is urged, is much less tiring and is quite powerful enough for ordinary purposes. Against it is claimed that dry-fly fishing is not “ordinary purposes,” that chalk-stream weeds are too strong and chalk-stream winds too wild for the light rod to be efficient against them. However, the light rod is growing in popular favour; British manufacturers are building rods after the American style; and anglers are taking to them more and more. The dry-fly method is now practised by many fishermen both in Germany and France, but it has scarcely found a footing as yet in the United States or Canada.

Fishing with the Natural Fly.—The natural fly is a very killing bait for trout, but its use is not wide-spread except in Ireland. In Ireland “dapping” with the green drake or the daddy-longlegs is practised from boats on most of the big loughs. A light whole-cane rod of stiff build, about 16 ft. in length, is required with a floss-silk line light enough to be carried out on the breeze; the “dap” (generally two mayflies or daddy-longlegs on a small stout-wired hook) is carried out by the breeze and just allowed to touch the water. When a trout rises it is well to count “ten” before striking. Very heavy trout are caught in this manner during the mayfly season. In the North “creeper fishing” is akin to this method, but the creeper is the larva of the stone-fly, not a fly itself, and it is cast more like an ordinary fly and allowed to sink. Sometimes, however, the mature insect is used with equally good results. A few anglers still practise the old style of dapping or “dibbling” after the manner advised by Izaak Walton. It is a deadly way of fishing small overgrown brooks. A stiff rod and strong gut are necessary, and a grasshopper or almost any large fly will serve for bait.

Other Methods.—The other methods of taking trout principally employed are spinning, live-baiting and worming. For big river trout such as those of the Thames a gudgeon or bleak makes the best spinning or live bait, for great lake trout (ferox) a small fish of their own species and for smaller trout a minnow. There are numberless artificial spinning-baits which kill well at times, the Devon being perhaps the favourite. The use of the drop-minnow, which is trolling on a lesser scale, is a killing method employed more in the north of England than elsewhere. The worm is mostly deadly in thick water, so deadly that it is looked on askance. But there is a highly artistic mode of fishing known as “clear-water worming.” This is most successful when rivers are low and weather hot, and it needs an expert angler to succeed in it. The worm has to be cast up-stream rather like a fly, and the method is little inferior to fly-fishing in delicacy and difficulty. The other baits for trout, or rather the other baits which they will take sometimes, are legion. Wasp-grubs, maggots, caterpillars, small frogs, bread—there is very little the fish will not take. But except in rural districts little effort is made to catch trout by means less orthodox than the fly, minnow and worm, and the tendency nowadays both in England and America is to restrict anglers where possible to the use of the artificial fly only.

Grayling.—The only other member of the salmon family in England which gives much sport to the fly-fisher is the grayling, a fish which possesses the recommendation of rising well in winter. It can be caught with either wet or dry fly, and with the same tackle as trout, which generally inhabit the same stream. Grayling will take most small trout-flies, but there are many patterns of fly tied specially for them, most of them founded on the red tag or the green insect. Worms and maggots are also largely used in some waters for grayling, and there is a curious contrivance known as the “grasshopper,” which is a sort of compromise between the fly and bait. It consists of a leaded hook round the shank of which is twisted bright-coloured wool. The point is tipped with maggots, and the lure, half artificial, half natural, is dropped into deep holes and worked up and down in the water. In some places the method is very killing. The grayling has been very prominent of late years owing to the controversy “grayling versus trout.” Many people hold that grayling injure a trout stream by devouring trout-ova and trout-food, by increasing too rapidly and in other ways. Beyond, however, proving the self-evident fact that a stream can only support a given amount of fish-life, the grayling's opponents do not seem to have made out a very good case, for no real evidence of its injuring trout has been adduced.

Char.—The chars (Salvelinus) are a numerous family widely distributed over the world, but in Great Britain are not very important to the angler. One well-defined species (Salvelinus alpinus) is found in some lakes of Wales and Scotland, but principally in Westmorland and Cumberland. It sometimes takes a small fly but is more often caught with small artificial spinning-baits. The fish seldom exceeds 1½ lb in Great Britain, though in Scandinavia it is caught up to 5 lb or more. There are some important chars in America, fontinalis being one of the most esteemed. Some members of the genus occasionally attain a size scarcely excelled by the salmon. Among them are the Great Lake trout of America, Cristivomer namaycush, and the Danubian “salmon” or huchen, Salmo hucho. Both of these fish are caught principally with spinning-baits, but both will on occasion take a salmon-fly, though not with any freedom after they have reached a certain size. An attempt has been made to introduce huchen into the Thames but at the time of writing the result cannot yet be estimated.

Pike.—The pike (Esox lucius), which after the Salmonidae is the most valued sporting fish in Great Britain, is a fish of prey pure and simple. Though it will occasionally take a large fly, a worm or other ground-bait, its systematic capture is only essayed with small fish or artificial spinning-baits. A live bait is supposed to be the most deadly lure for big pike, probably because it is the method employed by most anglers. But spinning is more artistic and has been found quite successful enough by those who give it a fair and full trial. Trolling, the method of “sink and draw” with a dead bait, referred to previously in this article, is not much practised nowadays, though at one time it was very popular. It was given up because the traditional form of trolling-tackle was such that the bait had to be swallowed by the pike before the hook would take hold, and that necessitated killing all fish caught, whether large or small. The same objection formerly applied to