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Proud of my acquisition, I set out with no small share of vanity, carrying my basket through the whole length of a neighbouring village, which was considerably out of the way. When I arrived at the happy spot where my sport lay, I was successful as usual. At length the declining sun admonished me of some ten miles betwixt me and home; so I resolved only to take a few casts in a dark and deep pool which was close at hand, and then to bend my course homeward. There I hooked a fine fish, which I was obliged to play for some time, and then, after he was fairly tired, to lift out with my hands, not having yet arrived at the dignity of a landing-net. In stooping low to perform this process, the lid of my new pet basket, which, from want of experience, I had omitted to fasten, flew open, and two or three of my last-killed fish dropped into the deep water immediately before me. In suddenly reaching forward to secure these, round came my basket, fish and all, over my head, and fairly capsized me. With some difficulty, and even risk of drowning, I got my head above water, and my haud on the crown of a sharp rock. There I stood, streaming and disconsolate, casting a wistful look at the late bright inmates of my basket, which were tilting down the weeds through the gullet into a tremendous pool, vulgarly called Hell's Cauldron.'--p. 75.
Such was the infant angler. A scene in his maturer life reveals him to us, now smitten with the love of Scotch salmon fishing, on the banks of "fair Tweed’ at the 'cast' of the Kingswell Lees:
Now everyone knows that the Kingswell Lees, in fisherman's phrase, fishes off land ; so there I stood on terrâ durâ amongst the rocks that dip down to the water's edge. Having executed one or two throws, there comes me a voracious fish, and makes a startling dash at “ Meg with the muckle mouth.” Sharply did I strike the caitiff ; whereat he rolled round disdainful, making a whirl in the water of prodigious circumference: it was not exactly Charybdis, or the Maelstrom, but rather more like the wave occasioned by the sudden turning of a man-of-war's boat. Being hooked, and having by this turn set his nose peremptorily down the stream, he flashed and whizzed away like a rocket. My situation partook of the nature of a surprise. Being on a rocky shore, and having a bad start, I lost ground at first considerably; but the reel sang out joyously, and yielded a liberal length of line, that saved me from the disgrace of being broke. I got on, the best pace I was able, and was on good ground, just as my line was nearly run out. As the powerful animal darted through Meg's Hole, I was just able to step back and wind up a few yards of line; but he still went a killing pace, and when he came near Melrose Bridge he evinced a distressing preference for passing through the farther arch, in which case my line would have been cut by the pier. My heart sank with apprehension, for he was near the opposite bank. Purdie, seeing this, with great presence of mind took up some stones from the channel, and threw them one by one between the fish and the said opposite bank. This naturally brought master Salmo somewhat nearer; but still for a few moments we had a doubtful struggle for it. At length, by lowering the
head head of the rod, and thus not having so much of the ponderous weight of the fish to encounter, I towed him a little sideways; and so advancing towards me with propitious fin, he shot through the arch nearest me.
Deeply immersed, I dashed after him as best I might; and arriving on the other side of the bridge I floundered out upon dry land, and continued the chase. The salmon, “right orgillous and presumptive,” still kept the strength of the stream, and abating nothing of his vigour, went swiftly down the Whirls, then through the Boatshiel, and over the shallows, till he came to the throat of the Elm-Wheel, down which he darted amain. Owing to the bad ground, the pace here became exceedingly distressing. I contrived, however, to keep company with my fish, still doubtful of the result, till I came to the bottom of the long cast in question, when he still showed fight, and sought the shallows below. Unhappily the alders prevented my following by land, and I was compelled to take the water again, which slackened my speed. But the stream soon expanding and the current diminishing, my fish likewise travelled more slowly ; so I gave a few sobs and recovered my wind a little, gathered up my line, and tried to bring him to terms. But he derided my efforts, and dashed off for another burst, triumphant. Not far below lay the rapids of the Saughterford: he would soon gain them at the pace he was going, that was certain ; see, he is there already! But I back out again on dry land, nothing loth, and have a fair race with him. Sore work it is. I am a pretty fair runner, as has often been testified; but his velocity is surprising. On, on,-still on he goes, ploughing up the water like a steamer. “ Away with you, Charlie! Quick, quick, man,-quick for your life! Loosen the boat at the Cauld Pool, where we shall soon be.” And so indeed we were, when I jumped into the said craft, still having good hold of my fish.
· The Tweed is here broad and deep, and the salmon at length had become somewhat exhausted; he still kept in the strength of the stream, however, with his nose seawards, and hung heavily. At last he comes near the surface of the water. See how he shakes his tail and digs downwards, seeking the deep profound that he will never gain. His motions become more short and feeble; he is evidently doomed, and his race well nigh finished. Drawn into the bare water, and not approving of the extended cleik, he makes another swift rush, and repeats this effort each time that he is towed to the shallows. At length he is cleiked in earnest, and hauled to shore: he proves one of the grey scull, newly run, and weighs somewhat above twenty pounds. The hook is not in his mouth, but in the outside of it; in which case a fish being able to respire freely, always shows extraordinary vigour, and generally sets his head down the stream.'—p. 171.
This is very spirited, and Mr. Scrope's description of Burning the Water,' as spearing salmon by torch-light is called, is equally so; indeed it would be easy for us to fill twenty of our voracious pages with charming extracts; but we cannot at present afford room for more. We consess our heresy! We do not value the best salmon
fishing fishing in Scotland.' A man may kill his twenty fish in the Kelso water,' and dine upon one at the King's Arms afterwards, and declare, as he sips his wine, he has had a glorious day's sport. Compared with the fishing in the far north, it is like a day of pigeon-shooting at the Red House compared with ptarmiganshooting on Cairn.gorm.
Happy the man who can cast off his town coat and town habits, and turn his course northwards during the month of May, and say, 'I will return when I see good.' It would require the pen of inimitable Christopher of the Sporting Jacket' to describe his feelings. With what delight, with what boyish eagerness, does he hasten for the first time in the season, to the banks of his remote Highland river, and visit every familiar pool and stream where, he has of old slain the bright salmon! Every rock, every stunted oak bears the impress of an old friend. Each is associated with the memory of some adventure, some success or danger. Let us follow him to the banks of the Findhorn. But let not the word • banks' mislead. These are no banks of soft grass or sloping gravel. Where we have placed our angler, the river is hemmed in by high, black rocks, fringed at the top with the weeping-birch and birdcherry with its clustered flowers now perfuming the whole air. An almost imperceptible path leads down the rock to that black eddying pool, and thither our angler must scramble his descent. It is perilous footing, but he knows every step, and takes advantage of each hanging root and spray, and at length he stands safe on a rugged ledge a few feet above the water where it rushes in a coffee-coloured cataract into the black pool. Now, then, throw your fly into the strong current, and bring it back gently till it float quietly round that sunken stone, whose top makes a dimple in the smoother water. If a fish will rise in the pool, that is the spot. That was well done; but no rise yet:-try again. There, now! the fish, the monarch of the pool,' rises from his dark chamber, balances himself for an instant opposite your fly-darts at it, and then turns quietly away-safely hooked, however. Ah! he feels himself caught, and off he goes! Now look to your footing, or you are off too, from that ledge into the river below, where the salmon would have the best of it. But our angler is ready for all events, and keeps his head, while the fish darts first up the pool, then down it like lightning, now running out a hundred yards of line, now close at his feet. If the line slacken for a moment, he is off; but no-well done!-all is safe still. There he goes, right across the river, making twenty leaps into the air as quick as thought! If you get him safe through that, you may hope to kill him. Now his jumping is over, and he makes for the head of the pool, as if he would try the fall. But it is too heavy for him, and he turns down stream again, and, splashing
and floundering, he perseveres steadily downwards. You cannot resist him; you must follow-with as short a line as you canbut follow you must. Scramble round that point of rock, holding on as you best may: you know the crevice that gives one sure hold for the hand; but don't slip, or you are drowned. There goes the fish, still straight downwards, rolling through the fall where the river again thunders out of the black pool. Well done! cleverly round the point! but you must still hold on, the fish has now a long stretch of tolerably even water, and is still making down the stream. At length you are on a level, with standing room nearly two yards square: now is the time to collect the nerves, and prepare for the last tussle. Feel his strength a little, and try to wind him up towards you. See! he begins to get tired, and shows his white side, and, better symptom still, I see the gillie preparing his gaff. There is a shelving slab of rock, and under it the gaffer has ensconced himself. You haul him up there close to the rock within reach of the clip. Now, gillie, gently! Take care you don't touch the line. No fear! There he is, with the clip through his silvery side, safely landed!
Rushing down between the forests of Darnaway and Altyre, the Findhorn makes a continual succession of rapids and falls. How the salmon make their way up is most wonderful; but yet they do so, and rest but little on the way, till they reach the very head of the river among the wilds of the Mona-liadh. Few indeed live to return, the greater part being speared by torch-light, in spite of the water-bailiffs.
It is certainly astonishing what a supply of salmon is extracted from many of our northern rivers, notwithstanding their numerous enemies. What are killed by rod and line, by the leister (or harpoon) of the black fisher, and even by the more wholesale destruction of the net, are few in comparison with what are destroyed by their natural enemies—fish, bird, and beast. The fullgrown salmon falls a prey in great numbers to seals in the sea, and otters in fresh water. The osprey sometimes attacks and kills salmon, though probably this kind of eagle cannot carry off a whole fish of great size. Thousands of gulls and sea-fowl feed for weeks on the fry as they descend the rivers to the sea. Common trout and eels, and the voracious heron also, feed on them while in the fresh water. The spawn is destroyed in prodigious quantities by fish of all kinds and by many birds. The waterouzel is particularly destructive of them. This pretty little bird walks under the water (although Mr. Waterton denies it), and scratches up and feeds on the spawn, sending adrift great quan. tities that it does not devour.
Though enough has been written of grouse-shooting, we cannot pass it by altogether. The red-grouse is found in no other part
of the world but these islands. Other countries would seem equally adapted for it, both as to food and climate, but the common red-grouse crows on no hills but our own. Its eggs are generally laid in a tuft of high heather, and the hen, sitting very close, is often killed by dogs or vermin. When hatched, both cock and hen take the greatest care of the young, and will fight crow or hawk courageously in their defence. We have seen the cock-grouse keep a hooded crow at bay while the hen led the young off and concealed them in the rank heather. Their food consists almost entirely of the young shoots of the heather, till oats are ripe, when, if there are any patches near, they are very greedy of it. Everybody knows how tame the birds are during the season when the youthful sportsman loves to see his deeds—the numbers of his slain-recorded in the newspapers. But that seldom lasts long. In most districts and in common seasons, the grouse is shy and watchful in September, and wild in October. When they pack in large flocks, at the approach of storm and wet, they are quite unapproachable, except by stalking, and keep so good a look-out, that even that is difficult. It is in a September day the sport of grouse-shooting is seen to most advantage, and the real sportsman contrasts best with the shooter who can use his gun, but is wanting in judgment, patience, and knowledge of the game and ground. Even if full-grown in August, they are changing their plumage and looking ragged. Nothing can be more thoroughly high-bred in looks than a grouse in September.
It were a long roll to enumerate all the enemies of the poor grouse. We may give the first place in honour, certainly not in amount of slaughter, to the double-barrel of the fair sportsman. Then come the poachers of every denomination, from the gang who cross a country in strength, prepared to resist all interruption, to the cotter's boy who snares the grouse on the late sheaves with a gin of horse-hair. We might estimate the amount of poaching if we could reckon the quantity of game passing through the shops of London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth, and Aberdeen. We may be satisfied that at least nine-tenths are poached, the small remainder being sent for sale by the few persons who, having moors of their own, or renting shootingground, choose to sell their game. Then comes the catalogue of 'vermin,' ground and winged, who feed themselves and their young altogether or partly on grouse and grouse-eggs. Hawks of all sorts, from the eagle to the merlin, destroy numbers. The worst of the family, and the most difficult to be destroyed, is the hen-larrier. Living wholly on birds of his own killing, he will come to no laid bait; and hunting in an open country, he is rarely approached near enough to be shot: skimming low, and