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A DUFFER'S LUCK WITH SPINNING TACKLE.
BY STEPHEN GWYNN.
MANY people think they can back from the Cork Blackfish because they have learnt water, where some ill-judging to use a wet fly on small rivers person had let him and his and mountainy lakes in Ireland employer loose in July on or Scotland. That was my case Carysville, after the river had till—well, the age does not been only fly-fished all summer. matter, but more than old They got close on ninety in a enough to know a vast deal fortnight, "routing them out better. Put it that I had been of old holes," said Michael. fishing for more than thirty But neither the Lydons nor years off and on in Donegal anybody else could make me and similar places before I enjoy prawn-fishing on that condescended to try spinning. high walk at Galway, where Worms for muddy water I you get a crick in your back knew and disliked ; once when stooping out over the swift I did slay a splendid great water far away below you, white trout this way I felt a and where there are so many criminal. It was not a much salmon that it is an insult if happier moment when I first you are not getting one every got a salmon with a prawn at half-hour. My conversion to Galway. But, to begin with, bait-fishing dates from a weekit is no credit to anybody to end on the Test just above catch a salmon in Galway : Romsey. My host, so accomnothing under four or five plished with the dry-fly that there is worth mentioning : to be scarcely troubled to pracgo on with, fishing the prawn tise his art, went off with his as they do it there is not other guest after trout, and spinning; it is a branch of confided me to his old keeper, the art by itself and, as the no fly - fisher, but a great Lydon family practise it, pro- performer with the minnow. bably the deadliest of all. I What he put up was a huge would not trust the most ex- prawn rigged as a spinner ; perienced salmon with Michael and with a stout cast and lavish Lydon and a Galway“ shrimp.” provision of lead, I splashed “If there is any little run of my way down half a mile of water at all, they musht take that lovely river. The sky was it,” he said to me once, and blue, the sun shining bright, he evidently believed it. Faith- the water like crystal, and catching is a surer thing than heaven was witness how clumfaith-healing. I think that was sily I got the thing out, when the day when I met Michael it did get out: for we fished
coiling the line, and twice out good to look at, and with great of three times it stuck in charm, he was much more than brambles or rushes at my feet, a mere slayer of birds and Nothing in all my life has sur. fishes. H. B.'s garden was a prised me so much as the pull delightful thing, and Studley when a fish took in mid-stream, helped to make it. on one of the occasions when flower-lover set his mark more I got the bait across. I sup- notably elsewhere. The most pose these Test salmon know beautiful thing in that most that their existence is pre- beautiful of rivers was a limecarious, for trout-fishers hate stone cliff just below where the to see them there; and they Awbeg (Spenser's Mola) tumbles may decide to offer up a victim into the Blackwater. Studley once in a while. That was a got seed of flowers, plastered ten-pound salmon : and next it through pellets of wet earth, morning first thing I caught did them up in little glass balls a beautiful nineteen-pounder, which would break on impact, and went back to London be- and shelled the cliff-face with lieving that this duffer's luck them from a catapult: and so was a triumph of skill. I had to this day April and May see not then learnt even the be a great cataract of white arabis ginnings of my own incom- streaming down the inaccespetence.
sible places. He had charming That came a couple of years ways with birds, too, and went later when I was acquiring the about the garden attended by rudiments of drill at Kilworth, robins: it was no compliment near Fermoy. H. B., most when they perched on hospitable of anglers, had a shoulder : but he was very long stretch of the Blackwater, proud when a shy chaffinch and there I first met one whose would eat from his hand. I name seems likely to become do not think he caught as many almost as famous as Jock fish as H. B., chiefly because Scott's. I think the Studley he lacked our host's deadly fly is known by now to all perseverance : but partly perfishing-tackle shops, and cer- haps because he almost always tainly on a river which he never fished his own fly and no other. fished—the Slaney-it has been It is a crude modernist piece introduced since his death, and of colour : strident yellow over is said to kill more fish than a blatant blue. Pennell appaany other. But none of those rently always fished the same whom I found using it ever kind of atrocity: whereas all heard of its inventor. J. T. flies originally designed by Studley was, as he described gamekeepers or professional himself in a book of memoirs, fishermen, from the Jock Scott
a sporting nomad," and one down, conform to some scheme of the most accomplished of of colouring which you will his type: tall, astonishingly find in bird - life - peacock,
pheasant, duck, grouse, or snipe. with Harry, and I went down I believe that is why Harry with a new and most attractive Smyth, H. B.'s head-keeper, boy called Timmy. The fly never really liked the Studley, was no good, but I had got though he owned it was good some Galway prawns, and for clear water in small sizes. Timmy knew no more than I But as fishermen, Harry and about them. I tried one down Studley admired each other. a stream, and at the very head Both were stylists. According of it struck a fish where I to Studley, Harry threw the looked for none, but missed best line he had ever seen. him : fished on and got another Yet neither of them would be triumphantly. It was all we bothered to turn to in summer got, but when we came back and go routing fish out of old to lunch, the two great masters holes with prawn-and still had touched nothing: and then less with worm. Harry once for the first time Timmy lifted confided to me that he would up his voice and wailed, “Wasn't as soon see the angler with it the pity now we didn't get him kill a fish as kill it himself, the two." provided he was throwing well : The lucid period when fishbut if the line went out in ing in Ireland was still possible lumps, he hated to see a fish lasted till the spring of 1920, taking it. Well, there were when I was down at Limerick days when he approved my and forgathered with a friend fly-fishing with a kind of com- who said that he had leave to placency, because when I came fish the Doonass water at Castlethere I had no notion what- connell, and would I come ? ever how to throw a long line; I would indeed! “What about but as for the spinning, I have now ” he said. We had an heard of the patience of Job, early lunch and drove to the but it was nothing to what lower end of the water, then in Harry needed. The worst high flood. The boatmen put tangle which a beginner can the cot about a third of the evolve out of three flies and way across the river, where a a trout cast is simplicity com- group of rocks parts the stream pared to what even a Silex and the water spreads in a can do to your running line. long narrow fan-shaped race. Yet anyhow I spared Harry They got the cot head up to something, for I had not even where the rocks were though duffer's luck on that river, no rock showed, only the boil where I think I have most over them, and the man with enjoyed fishing, yet certainly a pole up-stream held her while have been least lucky. Except the one with a paddle in the slats, the only salmon that I stern kept her nose steady as ever got there with a bait was she was gradually worked downon a lovely May day after the stream. I stood up, gripping a war. H. B. went up the river thwart between my legs, for
it was not easy to keep balance the water made through the on that dancing water, and bushes. We began to fish, and fished out across the stream as the stream was less rapid with a heavy Devon. After here than it looked, I stuck in twenty minutes I was in a the bottom. Two casts later, salmon, and a fine one. They to my disgust, I had stuck poled the cot inshore at once, again, and said so, but the and kept telling me to hold man in the stern grinned. Fish him harder than I had ever it was, but not a fish that I seen a fish held: but the could get a move out of. He Japanese gut was nearly as swung heavily down-stream tostrong as a tennis racket's, and wards the island, and I picplainly if a salmon once got his tured him getting away down head in that welter of water, one of the little three-feet it would be impossible to stop gullies between the tangle of him. It took about ten min- thorn, and so I headed him utes to kill him, and he was towards the shore, little thinkthe biggest I had ever got- ing-and not having been told twenty-three pounds : but the that the way to gaff him Colonel had promised that I would be to get round the should kill big fish, and in- island on the outer side. At sisted that it was not what he all events, there he hung in called big, and I must try the water that poured down again. We left "the French- towards the rapid with growman," as that throw is called, ing momentum, and I held as and walked up-stream perhaps hard as I could-but the rod half a mile to the next fishing, was a treasure of a rod, split where an island of some size cane and beautiful, and not breaks the river: about two-mine; and I could not risk thirds of the water goes roaring breaking it. “You may let down a wide shallow beyond him down," said the headthe island, but a deep swift keeper. I eased the strain a rapid races in by the Clare fraction, and then with an bank. Between the two, above instant rush he was off into the island, is about half an the rapid, and holding was imacre of relatively calm water, possible. We tried to follow, where fish lie in a flood. In but it was too late : the end the rapid, the waves were run- came when he broke the running fully two feet high, and ning line, which looked strong the water's pace was tremend- enough to hang a man. So ous: I did not know exactly went west the biggest bit of how they got the cot across it, duffer's luck ever likely to but they did. Meanwhile I come to me. The Colonel took had been instructed if I hooked the rod then, and below the a fish on no account to let him island he hooked and in about near the island, or he would five minutes killed a fish just go down one of the cuts which under thirty pounds. We had
several days more clear in front ing hard and the fish was now of us to fish that water, and close in, actually over the of course thought we should flooded bank: a small one, do great deeds. But in three and quite possibly a slat, 80 days steady fishing neither of I called to this volunteer that us, so far as I remember, got he should wait. But with one a pull with either fly or min- wild swoop he struck at the now, But faith had been shoulder which was showing, wakened in me, and I was missed it, but caught the line staying on the very edge of in his swing and tore the the Shannon just above the minnow clean out. I suppose lax-weir which spans the top I said things, but the salmon of the tideway, indicating by was still floundering in a few its name that the Danes estab- inches of flood-water, and a lished the salmon-trap when second swoop was more sucthey founded and held the city cessful : with a wild screech, of Limerick eleven centuries he flung it far up the bank. ago. It is free water here, Fishing regulations used to be and the bank is lined with drastically enforced on the trout anglers, but nobody tries Shannon, and I was greatly for salmon except the snap- relieved when it turned out net fishers and the harlers in to be a clean little ten-pounder. their cots. Yet I saw fish After that, I decided to buy break within throwing distance, a spinning reel, for I had and tried a couple of times. visions of myself coming down Once again I saw one and ran and throwing half across the for the rod and a small Devon. Shannon and catching not ten It was not easy fishing, for but forty - pounders in that the place was full of rocks, free water. There
no and I had to get out perhaps Silex to be had at that mofifty yards—not very hope- ment, and I was overpersuaded fully. Then, blessed day, the into buying something else. It line checked and the pull came. looked all right, and next FebI "let a roar,” and my sister ruary I produced it for Harry came rushing down from the Smyth's opinion on H. B.'s front of her little bungalow water. He suggested that I dwelling. My Younger Genera- should try a few casts with it tion, then an invalid, could not in the field, before risking comrush, but sat up in her bath- plications in the river-bed. Rechair taking notice: while the sults justified his scepticism. gardener, a quiet God-fearing “It's a good reel,” he said, man, suddenly went berserk. “but you would need to be He dashed across the lawn, very knacky to fish with it." with two dogs wildly careering I was not knacky, let alone and barking, and before I could very knacky; and when I say a word, tore the gaff off started to fish, the first cast my shoulder. I had been hold- went badly wrong. I was get