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both this and the other, in a still day in the streams, in a breeze that curls the water in the still deeps, where (excepting in May and June, that the best trouts will lie in shallow streams to watch for even then too) you are like to hit the best fish.
For the length of your rod, you are always to be governed by the breadth of the river you shall chuse to angle at; and for a trout-river one of five or six yards long is commonly enough; and longer (though never so neatly and artificially made) it ought not to be, if you intend to fish at ease; and if otherwise, where lies the sport?
Of these, the best that ever I saw are made in Yorkshire, which are all of one piece; that is to say, of several, six, eight, ten or twelve pieces, so neatly pieced and tied together with fine thread below, and silk above, as to make it taper like a switch, and to ply with a true bent to your hand; and these are too light, being made of fir-wood for two or three lengths nearest to the hand, and of other wood nearer to the top, that a man might very easily manage the longest of them that ever I saw with one hand; and these, when you have given over angling for a season, being taken to pieces, and laid up in some dry place, may afterwards be set together again in their former postures, and will be as straight, sound, and good as the first hour they were made; and being laid in oil and colour, according to your master Walton's direction, will last many years.
The length of your line, to a man that knows how to handle his rod, and to cast it, is no manner of incumbrance, excepting in woody places, and in landing of a fish, which every one that can afford to angle for pleasure, has somebody to do for him; and the length of line is a mighty advantage to the fishing at distance; and to fish fine, and far off, is the first and principal rule for trout-angling.
Your line in this case should never be less, nor ever exceed two hairs next to the hook; for one (though some, I know, will pretend to more art than their fellows) is indeed too few, the least accident, with the finest hand, being sufficient to break it: but he that cannot kill a trout of twenty inches long with two, in a river clear of wood and weeds, as this and some others of ours are, deserves not the name of an angler.
Now to have your whole line as it ought to be, two of the first lengths nearest the hook should be of two hairs a-piece; the next three lengths above them of three; the next three above them of four; and so of five, and six, and seven, to the very top: by which means your rod and tackle will, in a manner, be taper from your very hand to your hook; your line will fall much better and straighter, and cast your fly to any certain place, to which the hand and eye shall direct it, with less weight and violence, than would otherwise circle the water, and fright away the fish.
In casting your line, do it always before you, and so that your fly may first fall upon the water, and as little of your line with it as is possible; though if the wind be stiff, you will then of necessity be compelled to drown a good part of your line to keep your fly in the water: and in casting your fly, you must aim at the further or nearer bank as the wind serves your turn, which also will be with and against you, on the same side, several times in an hour, as the river winds in its course, and you will be forced to angle up and down by turns accordingly; but are to endeavour, as much as you can, to have the wind, evermore, on your back. And always be sure to stand as far off the bank as your length will give you leave when you throw to the contrary side; though when the wind will not permit you so to do, and that you are constrained to angle on the same side whereon you stand, you must then stand on the very brink of the river, and cast your fly to the utmost length of your rod and line, up or down the river, as the gale serves.
It only remains, touching your line, to inquire whether your two hairs next to the hook are better twisted or open; and for that I should declare that I think the open way the better, because it makes less show in the water, but that I have found an inconvenience, or two, or three, that have made me almost weary of that way; of which, one is, that, without dispute, they are not so strong open as twisted; another, that they are not easily to be fastened of so exact an equal length in the arming that the one will not cause the other to bag, by which means a man has but one hair upon the matter to trust to; and the last is that these loose flying hairs are not only more apt to catch upon every twig or bent they meet with; but,
moreover, the hook, in falling upon the water, will, very often, rebound and fly back betwixt the hairs, and there stick (which, in a rough water especially, is not presently to be discerned by the angler), so as the point of the hook shall stand reversed; by which means your fly swims backward, makes a much greater circle in the water, and till taken home to you, and set right, will never raise any fish, or, if it should, I am sure, but by a very extraordinary chance, can hit none.
Having done with both these ways of fishing at the top, the length of your rod, and line and all, I am next to teach you how to make a fly; and afterwards of what dubbing you are to make the several flies I shall hereafter name to you.
In making a fly then (which is not a hackle or palmer-fly, for of those, and their several kinds, we shall have occasion to speak every month in the year), you are first to hold your hook fast betwixt the fore-finger and thumb of your left hand, with the back of the shank upwards, and the point towards your finger's end; then take a strong small silk, of the colour of the fly you intend to make, wax it well with wax of the same colour too (to which end you are always, by the way, to have wax of all colours about you), and draw it betwixt your finger and thumb, to the head of the shank, and then whip it twice or thrice about the bare hook, which you must know is done, both to prevent slipping, and also that the shank of the hook may not cut the hairs of your towght, which sometimes it will otherwise do; which being done, take your line, and draw it likewise betwixt your finger and thumb, holding the hook so fast as only to suffer it to pass by, until you have the knot of your towght almost to the middle of the shank of your hook, on the inside of it; then whip your silk twice or thrice about both hook and line, as hard as the strength of the silk will permit; which being done, strip the feather for the wings proportionable to the bigness of your fly, placing that side downwards which grew uppermost before, upon the back of the hook, leaving so much only as to serve for the length of the wing of the point of the plume, lying reversed from the end of the shank upwards; then whip your silk twice or thrice about the root-end of the feather, hook, and towght; which being done, clip off the root
end of the feather close by the arming, and then whip the silk fast and firm about the hook and towght, until you come to the bend of the hook, but not further (as you do at London, and so make a very unhandsome, and, in plain English, a very unnatural and shapeless fly); which being done, cut away the end of your towght, and fasten it, and then take your dubbing, which is to make the body of your fly, as much as you think convenient, and holding it lightly with your hook betwixt the finger and thumb of your left hand, take your silk with the right, and twisting it betwixt the finger and thumb of that hand, the dubbing will spin itself about the silk, which when it has done, whip it about the armed hook backward, till you come to the setting on of the wings, and then take the feather for the wings, and divide it equally into two parts, and turn them back towards the bend of the hook, the one on the one side and the other on the other
of the shank, holding them fast in that posture betwixt the fore-finger and thumb of your left hand; which done, warp them so down as to stand and slope towards the bend of the hook; and having warped up to the end of the shank, hold the fly fast betwixt the finger and thumb of your left hand, and then take the silk betwixt the finger and thumb of your right hand, and where the warping ends, pinch or nip it with your thumb-nail against your finger, and strip away the remainder of your dubbing from the silk, and then with the bare silk whip it once or twice about, make the wings to stand in due order, fasten, and cut it off; after which, with the point of a needle, raise up the dubbing gently from the warp, twitch off the superfluous hairs of your dubbing; leave the wings of an equal length (your fly will never else swim true), and the work is done. And this way of making a fly (which is certainly the best of all other) was taught me by a kinsman of mine, one Captain Henry Jackson, a near neighbour, an admirable fly-angler, by many degrees the best fly-maker that ever I yet met with. And now that I have told you how a fly is to be made, you shall presently see me make one, with which you may peradventure take a trout this morning, notwithstanding the unlikeliness of the day; for it is now nine of the clock, and fish will begin to rise, if they will rise to-day: I will walk along by you, and look on, and after dinner I will proceed in my lecture of fly-fishing.
VIAT. I confess I long to be at the river, and yet I could sit here all day to hear you: but some of the one, and some of the other, will do well; and I have a mighty ambition to take a trout in your river Dove.
Pisc. I warrant you shall: I would not for more than I will speak of but you should, seeing I have so extolled my river to you: nay, I will keep you here a month, but you shall have one good day of sport before you go.
VIAT. You will find me, I doubt, too tractable that way; for in good earnest, if business would give me leave, and that it were fit, I could find in my heart to stay with you for ever.
PISC. I thank you, sir, for that kind expression; and now let me look out my things to make this fly.