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primed with mountain-dew, was he deceived in his conjectures as to my intent and purpose.
“Here's to you, Rob, and noble sport to us,” I exclaimed, dealing out a moderate dram for myself, and having swallowed it, handing the replenished cup to my companion,“ you will find this rare stuff, I warrant you."
“Your health, Mr. -, and gude luck,” rejoined the stalwart old fisherman, draining it off. “This tak’s one's breath frae him ; its a hantle better than what we get from maist o' the titled chiels, whae nae mair ken gude whiskey than they ken hoo to manage their gads."
“See there;" interrupted I, as a large, new-run grilse sprung out of the water, almost within fly-cast of the boat.
“He seems keen for a mouth-fu' alang wi' us;" observed Rob, catching hold of the oars ;“ but he'll no look at the flee, that ane, or I'm mista'en. I'll just row you gently up, Mr. -, to yon bit o' rock. There's a score o' fish lying betwixt this and it. Be sure and fling weel over them, and gie plenty o'time afore ye strike.”
Thus directed, and impelled softly upward by the side of the Door's cast toward the spot alluded to, I struck out my hook across the main-drift of the current, imparting to it, as it came round with the stream, that peculiar motion which, among salmon-anglers, is well known to prove so attractive to the fish. Having repeated my throw several times, and over various portions of the cast, without, as far as I could judge, starting a single fin, I was recommended by Rob to give them a new fly. Accordingly, detaching the one I had on, a white tip formed of turkey feather, blue mohair, and dark coloured hackle with silver lapping, I affixed a small Irish hook, winged with golden-pheasant, guinea-fowl, and brown-mallard feathers; the body being of light blue silk, shouldered with a hackle of the same colour, and wrapt round with white tinsel. This somewhat gaudier lure I quickly found to be superior to the other; indeed, at the second or third cast, I had the satisfaction of getting hold of a small grilse, which, having quitted the boat, I contrived, without trouble or exertion, in the course of two or three minutes, to bring within reach of Rob's gaff, or landing-hook. With a single, rapid twitch, he laid it sprawling on the rock beside me. A fish it was, not much exceeding three pounds in weight, consequently one that with salmon tackle could not have been expected to afford anything like sport; still, as the index of better doings, it gave both the fisherman and myself considerable gratification; nor was this lessened when, after another throw or two, I sprung a goodly splasher, nearly thrice its size, whose eagerness in darting at the hook threw me so much off my guard, as to occasion the sudden jerking of my fly clean away from his mouth. A subsequent cast brought him once more to the surface, but he came up on this occasion with greater caution ; and, although I gave him full time to seize the hook without striking, he evidently was disinclined to favour me with a gulp.
Having carefully, and from both sides of the river, raked the Doors and Nethern heads, with at least three changes of hook, and given an unsuccessful trial to the Side Straik, we proceeded, having embarked for convenience in a different boat, towards the Red Stane cast. The fly, which by Rob's advice I here put on, was of a larger size than any yet employed. Its wings were of a light brown colour, and formed from a tail feather of the swallow-tailed gled; the body made of dark crimson mohair, or pig's-wool, lapped over with a blood-red hackle and gold-twist, the tail or tip, yellow or orangecoloured, and the head composed of an ostrich or peacock herl. Although the shortness of my wand, which was nearly a foot and a half below the average size of salmon-rods, prevented me from heaving the desired length of line, I still managed to keep a considerable distance betwixt myself and my fly; as much, at least, as the full state of the river rendered requisite for the occasion. It was not, however, until I was about to abandon the cast as unpromising, that I started and hooked a fish.
“You hae him noo," quietly exclaimed Rob," an'a gude whopper he is; faith, he's for ower the rocks-haud tight, Mr. haud tight; gie him the full strength o' your tackle, an’ no fear."
But there was fear. I had already strained my line to its utmost, and although the single threads of gut which terminated it were strong and trustworthy, yet I had smaller confidence in the upper portion of the casting-line itself, composed as it was entirely of horsehair, and formed, with the vicw of giving it the proper taper, with lengths of different thickness. As yet, however, the fish had made no great effort to escape, but was only pressing leisurely down with the current betwixt two ledges of rock, in the direction of the Side Straik. It was evident he was well hooked, but in a part of the mouth not so tender as to give him much pain, otherwise he would have instantly expressed his annoyance by some desperate dash or plange. As it was, he continued, for upwards of three minutes, in the strong run of the water, close to the bottom, with his snout in all probability pressed downwards, employing himself in an attempt to cut or weaken the line against the edge of the crag underneath. By this time, old Rob had conveyed me in the boat to a small uncovered projection of rock, close to where the fish had betaken himself. Here, without landing, we awaited in breathless expectation for some change of tactics on the part of the fettered monster. Nor was it long before he gave us ample demonstration of his strength and activity. Darting suddenly up the stream towards the spot where I had hooked him, he caused my line to spin out with singular velocity, until, in fact, the whole contents of the reel, upwards of fifty yards, had become exhausted. A plunge, quick and violent, succeeded this impetuous and uncontrollable effort of speed. It was decisive of his escape. My casting-line, unequal to the shock, had given way before it.
“ Gone !'' exclaimed I, scarcely daring to look at my companion ; “he's fairly off, Rob, thanks to my own awkwardness.
“ Gie the blame to the fish itseľ," rejoined he; “ it's no ilka ane could handle him sae weel wi' siccan tackle, forbyo the place. But it's nae loss what's ne'er gained ; sae e'en let bini gang, and luck follow him."
“ Better that it wait on us," was my reply. “A five-and-twenty pounder he was, and a royal fish every inch of him. It is not an every day's deed getting hold of such a fellow."
“ There's mair forbye him, tak' my word for't," quoth Rob; " I'll engage ye shall hook a bonnier fish afore nicht, sae dinna bé doonhearted aboot it.”
Thus encouraged, I commenced, with the assistance of the worthy fisherman, to repair my broken tackle, and for this purpose produced a small tin box, containing flies and casting-lines. Having submitted the latter, which were formed of gut in triple plies, to the inspection of Kerss, he selected the strongest of the set, remarking, as he did so, that it was a hantle ower silly for the job,” and recommending instead one of twice its thickness, taken from his own repository of tackle, and which he might defy Leviathan itself, under the control of Mr. Waterton, to break away from. This however, for the present I declined, promising to make use of it after I had fished the Elshie stream and Laird's cast, which were comparatively free from sharp and dangerous rocks, and over whose surface the boat could be more readily managed to suit the capricious vagaries of a large salmon, such as I still hoped to take in tow.
Being once more equipped, I was rowed quickly up by old Rob to the lowermost of the two salmon-casts above-mentioned, namely, the Elshie stream. Here, on the third or fourth throw, I was fortunate enough to get hold of a new-run grilse, which, after a struggle of some minutes, was safely, with the assistance of Rob and his gaffhook, brought to land ; nor was it long before I hooked and captured another of similar dimensions, each of them weighing upwards of six pounds. But it would be tedious to go over the full particulars of my sport on the day in question; suffice it to say, that on reaching the Orchard head, which we did previous to three o'clock, I had taken no fewer than seven fish, one of them a salmon of about twelve pounds, and the others, with the exception of the small one first captured, all fair-sized grilses. Here, however, we mutually thought it proper to suspend our operations until the afternoon bad further advanced, meditating, as we did so, a second trial of the Red Stane and lower casts befora sunset.
In the meantime, having quitted the boat, we repaired to a small pleasure seat on the north bank of the river facing the Dark Shore, where, having refreshed ourselves with a sandwich or two produced from my pannier, and the remaining contents of my spirit-flask, we discussed together various matters relative to angling, also to the breeding, growth, and food of fish. . On some of these subjects Rob's opinion completely coincided with my own. We agreed as to the correctness of what is improperly styled Mr. Shaw's theory ; that gentleman having the merit, not of founding a mere belief as to the parr being the young of the salmon, but of proving them by a series of interesting experiments actually to be so. I may remark, that among many able anglers and most of the fishermen on Tweedside, this fish is still maintained, with strange and angry obstinacy, to be a variety of the common river-trout: and it argues a great deal for the good sense and intelligence of old Robert Kerss, that long before Mr. Shaw's investigations set the matter finally at rest, he, along with a very few others, adopted the correct, though not commonly received notions, respecting it.
I intend not at present to ohtrude any crude ideas of my own,
when I make the passing remark, that notwithstanding the recent light thrown by Shaw on the natural history of the salmon, there is a great deal in that history which, although open to experiment, is still strange and unaccountable; nor has Mr. Yarrell himself, in his well-known work, done much, besides giving us a string of barren opinions, to clear up the mysteries which surround the marine existence, the growth, food, and instincts of this noble fish. A proper and well organized inquiry into these matters would, I have no doubt, be attended with the desirable success; nor would it prove otherwise than beneficial in promoting the interests of our salmon-proprietors and the community at large, seeing that it would lead ultimately to the suggestion and adoption of such measures as are best fitted to assist the growth, further the increase, and, it may be, improve the quality of the salmon in Scotland. To the utter want of knowledge that prevails upon such subjects, is owing the present imperfect system used under the sanction of parliamentary acts for the preservation of these fish; a system as ridiculous as it is monstrously oppressive, embodying within its compass the most determined selfishness and opinionative ignorance. As I intend more fully to explain myself upon this matter in a future paper, and to hold up to you the absurdity as well as tyrannical nature of the enactments alluded to, the strong tendency they have withal to encroach upon and absorb the privileges of the trout-fisher-privileges that at this very moment stand in special hazard, and which, assailed from all quarters, must inevitably, unless some struggle be made in their behalf, soon cease to exist; it being my intention to bring this whole business before you early, I shall not at present press it upon your notice, but revert again to the history of my exploits on the Makerston water, under the guidance of old Rob.
Having allowed nearly three quarters of an hour to glide away in piscatorial discussion, we at length, in spite of our recent fatigue and the scenic attractions of the spot where we lingered, thought of bestirring ourselves, and once more putting our skill and good fortune to the test. Accordingly, quitting the Dark Shore, which, along with the rest of the upper water, is fished from a separate boat, we proceeded along the north bank of the river to the foot of the Clippers, and there embarking in the skiff we had first occupied, were conveyed rapidly down to the Red Stane cast. It was now bordering upon four o'clock. The sky, from the horizon upwards, lay overcast with light fleecy clouds. A joyous wind came in straggling gushes across the water, vivifying and vocalising the trees above us. The landscape itself, narrowed by the banks of the river, was of that sort which soothes and pleases without astonishing the beholder. There was scarcely one point in it more than another that served to rivet the eye; but still the whole combination produced feelings of gladness and tranquillity, more to be envied, perhaps, than those called forth by scenes of savage and ruthless grandeur.
The fly recommended to me by Rob, as we glided along the north side of the Shot pool, on our approach to the Red Stane, was dressed by the hands of Blacker upon a hook of Philips's-B.B. Its wings were formed of the silver-pheasant tail-feather; the body, in the upper part, was of dark mohair, shouldered with an orange-coloured hackle; below, it was composed of light-blue materials, tipped with a crest feather from the golden-pheasant, and lapped over throughout with silver twist.
“ It's no aft ye'll meet wi sic a gran pirl on the bit,” remarked my companion ; “sae tak my word fort, Mr. ---, if he be in the water at all, he's sure to rise here."
Rob was correct. In less than a minute I had hold of a goodsized fish ; but it was by no means the monster I had expected-fellow to the one which had broke me in the morning. Still, being a well-grown grilse, nearly seven pounds in weight, lie afforded me no contemptible sport, darting along the water with resolute speed, and indulging in several vigorous plunges and somersaults, which created some little alarm lest he should escape. I had, however, before commencing the afternoon's labour, taken the precaution to substitute for my own the casting-line previously offered me by the fisherman, so that, be the danger what it might of the hook becoming disengaged from his mouth, there was none whatever of the tackle itself giving way. After several violent but ineffectual struggles, the fish at length quietly submitted to his fate, and having led him into a small creek or landing-place at the margin of the river, he was dexterously gaffed and despatched by my companion.
The next places fished by me were the Side Straik and Doors, in the latter of which I started and pricked a dun sea-trout of no great size. Despairing of any further success, and indeed, to tell truth, sufficiently satisfied with my day's sport, I was about to intimate my intention of retiring from the river, when old Rob recommended me strongly to give one more throw at the Nether-heads--the lowermost salmon-cast belonging to the Trows range, which is wont to be fished. I have already described it to lie on the north side of the Tweed, at the foot of the Doors stream, and forming the break, or, as the cast corresponding to it is more significantly termed, the Ower Fa, to a piece of rough, perilous water, which, after foaming, cddying, and thundering along to the extent of some hundred paces, becomes disgorged at the Killmouth pool, not far from the Makerston boundary. Complying with the wislies of the worthy fisherman, who had edged forward his boat until within Ay-throw of the spot in question, I hove out my line with as much nicety as its texture allowed. Scarcely, however, had the hook, driven round by the current, reached the hing and centre of the cast, where, in a break like the Nethern-heads, it is the custom of all anglers to keep it, if possible, suspended for a short space, when I felt its progress suddenly arrested. Supposing that the fly had come in contact with some stone or sunken rock, I instantly expressed my fears to old Rob, who as quickly replied, in a voice which indicated strong satisfaction
“Na, na, there's nae rock there—its a' deep water. Tak tent, noo, Mr. --, ye've haud o' a braw fish-be canny wi't-there, he starts."
And start he did-a braw, brave salmon-over ledge and foam-bar, through surge and whirlpool. A moment it was to me of intense and breathless excitement. Fathom after fathom the line darted from the reel, until the whole had become exhausted. On such an