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here not be uninteresting to the novice to give a slight insight into the sport by laying before them a sketch of “ a day with the deer" in the noble forest of Glen.
It was early in the morning of a bright October day that I was summoned by Duncan McAlister, to accompany him to a spot near the above-mentioned and far-famed forest. After some little delay a stag, attended by some does, was discovered by the aid of a glass at about a mile and a half distant; and the trusty forester, crawling upon all fours, made me a sign to follow him. For a good half hour did I, in breathless silence, creep after my guide, until I approached within one hundred yards of the noble animal. With what anxiety did I look along my rifle-barrel ! with what a trepidating pulse did I pull the trigger! and with what stillness did I await the
result of my shot! Until Duncan, jumping up, unslipped two splendid deer-hounds, and laid them on the slot, exclaiming, in the broadest Scotch dialect, that he never would cross the foaming torrent, that dashed from an eminence some little distance from where I stood. And true were the words of the forester : after a gallant run the wounded monarch of the woods fell a victim to the game and good training of Fang and Lutra ; and after being broke, was borne off in triumph upon the lusty shoulders of McAlister, and my gillie, Geordie Cameron.
The following account, which we lately fell in with in the “Inverness Courier,” will point out the “ wide awake” propensities of the red deer. These animals, says our authority, are uncommonly sagacious, and seem to employ the whole of their sagacity in inventing and adopting plans of self-preservation. Wherever a red deer is found, if his seat be carefully examined it will appear that it possesses a more commanding view than any other part of the surrounding scenery. If a deer travels in snow to his form, he gazes at and watches his own track with the greatest anxiety. If the wind blows from the direction of his pursuers, he will smell them at several miles' distance. If any of them are in a state of perspiration-no unlikely an event in a hot day in September he will detect them much further. It must have been frequently observed that almost every herd of red deer carries a young one along with it. The young one is the sentinel. He is placed on an eminence to watch, while the others browse beneath; and if he attempts to quit his post, the stags pursue and butt him with their horns until he resumes his watch. When the leading stag is perplexed with baffling winds, he works up the herd to a pitch of terror in a peculiar manner. He leaps from his form as if in extreme fright, scampers off, but soon returns, followed by the others. After a little, when no danger is apparent, they begin to browse, and the stag suddenly repeats his ruse. In this manner he convinces the herd that some danger threatens, and they all become watchful as so many lynxes. They also adopt this system in instructing their young. There is a perpendicular rock above the village Shieldaig, on the summit of which a stag selected his form. He lay with his flank towards the precipice, and commanded a view of the surrounding country, and did not seem in the least degree alarmed at the approach of the shepherd or his boy, or even the cutter-men; but if the gamekeeper entered the ground, he bounded away directly.
CASTS AND CHARACTERS ON TWEEDSIDE.
BY T. T. STODDART, ESQ.
(Author of the “ Scottish Angler,' &c., &c.)
A DAY'S SALMOX FISHING AT TROWS.
It was on a fine breezy morning in the month of September, that I set off from Kelso with the intention of having a day's trouting in the Makerston water, one of those portions of Tweed, which, as it is less thrashed by fishers, and more congenial to my taste in other respects, I am especially given to frequent. The river had recently been in a state of flood, and on the morning in question was of a brownish hue, a degree less so than the favourite trouting colour, but still sufficiently dark to tempt forth the zealous angler in pursuit of sport, the more readily, because, at the time of the year my relation refers to, considerable numbers of sea-trout are to be found scattered over this part of Tweed, willing occasionally to snatch at the small flies which it was the privilege, until very recently, of every one, in spite of salmon-proprietors and their tacksman, to use at all seasons over our Scottish rivers. Nor can I deny that the expectation of getting hold of one or more of these fellows, perhaps a grilse or salmon itselt, which the recent spate had displaced from its accustomed haunt, and left within fly.cast of the water's edge, chiefly, on the occasion in question, encouraged my angling humour; for, at so late a period of the year, except very occasionally with salmon-roe and worm, I am not given to go much in quest of the yellow river-trout, which do not rise at the fly with anything like their vernal greediness, and are more disposed, from sheer surfeit with this kind of food, to batten on ground insects and the ova of each other.
The weapon I took with me, as best suited for encountering fish of this description, was one made under my own superintendence, by Forrest, of Kelso, than whom there is not a better rod-maker, a better fly-dresser, or, I may add, a better angler in Scotland. It measures about sixteen feet and a-half, consists of three pieces, and is jointed in the English fashion, which I now begin to think greatly superior to our Scottish screw system. I have used it over the lower part of Teviot for upwards of four years, during spring and autumn, when fish of any size are to be got, and have not unfrequently killed a couple, sometimes four or even five salmon, and sea-trout with it, on a forenoon ; wading, of course, when the low state of the river called for it, but as often doing the work of execution solely from the edge or bank.
Thus armed, and amply equipped to boot with the requisite ammunition, I sallied forth, holding my route by the south side of Tweed -the north, which immediately above Kelso is formed by the park and pleasure grounds belonging to Floors House, the residence of his grace the Duke of Roxburghe, being strictly shut up against the intrusion of anglers. A walk of rather less than three miles brought me to a part of the Duke's water not far from Trows, and immediately opposite a salmon-cast, known by the name of the Weetles. Here I made ready my trouting apparatus, selecting, as the most likely flies, a large brown professor, to be used as the trail hook; one with landrail wing and harelag body for the lower bob; and for the uppermost, a dark-coloured hackle, winged with teal-drake feather. These, I may remark, are the best killers at all seasons on this part of Tweed, only let the size be varied according to the mood of water, and let care be taken to dispose of them properly along the fly-line, always placing the largest and weightiest hook lowermost. Not many minutes elapsed before I had captured three or four trout, one of them of very respectable dimensions; but, as I was bent upon getting sport with larger fish, and at the spot in question had no expectations of procuring it without wading, I ere long pursued my course upwards to the Makerston water, wetting my line in passing at the Black Stane pool and head of the Slates, two of the Duke’s favourite salmon-casts. Arriving at the Killmouth stream, and when on the point of testing the humour of its inhabitants, I was hollosed to, from the other side of the water, by old Rob, who, unobserved, had emerged from a small shed or fish cellar, not far from the river's edge.
“Good day, Mr. --, how are ye comin' on?”
Returning the worthy fisherman's greeting, I revealed to him the state of my pannier, expressing a hope that ere long the contents might assume a more respectable appearance.
* Had ye no better come antak a throw wi' me in the boat ? I've been waitin' amaist the whole morn for some yerl or ither; but I'm thinkin' he's no gaun to show face, an' it's a pity to lose sic a fine chance o' gettin haud o' a fish. Ye'll hae some big flees wi ye?”
The invitation thus cordially given was not to be despised. Tweed was in fair, if not first-rate trim for salmon-fishing--a thought indeed too large for the lower part of Trows water, but this was a fault which before the end of the day would, in all likelihood, wear off. ACcordingly, thanking him for his offer, I removed to a sort of landingplace at the lower end of the Killmouth stream, where, in the course of a minute or two, Rob made his appearance with a light skiff, or ferry-boat, used for the transport of passengers. Having accompanied him across, we proceeded together over the rocky bank to the Doors and Nethernheads; where, substituting a casting-line of stronger material for that already used by me, and replacing my trouting-flies with a small salmon one, I embarked anew, along with my companion, in a boat similar to the other, but used solely for the purpose of angling out of. Before, however, we launched off
, a certain thought struck me, accompanied by a movement of the hand towards my coat-pocket, which movement had the effect of making the good fisherman quit hold of his oars, and turn an expectant glance in the direction in question. Nor, judging from the merry twinkle of his eye, which succeeded it, on my bringing forth a small spirit-flask, 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 bim full time to seize the look without striking, he evidently was disinclined to favour me with a gulp.
Hlaving 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 ine 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, kowever, 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 view 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 itsel',” rejoined he; “it's no ilka ane could handle him sae weel wi' siccan tackle, forbye 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."