Angling cajoles the faculty of observation into a state of pleasurable activity which can be understood only through experience. Indolent as he seems as he drifts on the lake, or saunters up the stream, casting, casting, casting, the angler has his mind occupied at every moment. The trout may be down just then ; but who knows when they may not be up ? Certainly not he unless his flies are constantly testing the humour of the fish. An old Lochleven boatman is wont to say, when some novice in the sport is showing signs of giving up in despair, " The first rule here, sir, is—Keep your flees in the waater. Yell never ha'e a fish unless they're there." This elementary precept is often neglected. Many a man gives up for an hour or so when either he cannot raise a trout or he sees no rise at a natural fly. Often this results in what should be a good day turning out a bad one. If none of the flies which you have been using for half an hour is successful, another set might be. Perhaps insects are absent from the water; but at some hour of the day during the season there certainly should be a hatch in the course of nature. Untimely cold may have delayed the rise; but if an artificial fly chances to be of the proper pattern, the trout will probably take it.
This statement is founded on a memorable incident. A friend in London had been promised three brace of trout before breakfast-time next morning. The lake on which they were to be caught had recently been " fishing so well" that the promise had been made with confidence. It proved to have been rash. Three hours of the afternoon passed without the stirring of a fin. The flies had been changed so often that the resources of the tackle-book seemed exhausted. Indeed, only one fly remained, a thing with a khaki-coloured wing and next to nothing on its body, surely an uninviting lure. Still, it might be tried ; and it was tried; and within two hours and a half the three brace of trout, packed in heather, were being sped southward by The Flying Scotchman. The despised and nearly rejected fly had raised fish after fish almost as quickly as it could be disengaged and cast once more upon the ripples. It was the Sand Fly; and although, the weather being chill, the insect had not appeared, the time was ripe and the trout had been expecting it.
Coming from a person who essays to discourse on Angling, this will seem a confession of ignorance; and so it is. It will be thought that he should have known when the Sand Fly was due; and so he should. Still, he has something to say for himself. The little incident is four years old. Besides, there never has been, and there is not yet, a man who is all-wise in the craft of angling. The most we can hope to do is to enrich our lore by observation and reflection; and to the accomplishment of this purpose unexpected incidents such as that which has just been narrated contribute greatly. At least, they are capable of doing so. They would do so if one remembered them, thought about them, and interpreted them ; but some of us consider them "pure flukes," or freaks on the part of the fish which will never be repeated, and remember other things which it were well to forget.
As the knowledge that one must have unsuspected failings of one's own comes to the modest mind on observing the unconscious lapses of one's friends, a few instances of this remembering useless things may be not out of place.
One morning Mr. C-B-Sand I set forth on Loch Dochart. Charlie is a barrister-at-law, a man of the world accomplished in all the knowledge and the graces of the Town. Though I had never been out fishing with him before, I had often heard him talk about the sport; and that day I expected to witness a fine and instructive performance. The morning was all that could be desired. A soft wind was making a constant movement on the water; there were light thin clouds, now dissolving in rain, anon parting as if to let the sun glance through ; but the intervals between my friend's trout were long. At the other end of the boat the fish were coming quickly enough : what could be the matter with Charlie ? I looked round to see; and saw. Charlie was throwing a very long line, which went out upon the water so gently that the fall of the flies was not perceptible; but the instant after, holding the rod in his right hand, with the left he pulled in the line, two arm's lengths, as fast as his arm could move. Involuntarily, I expressed astonishment. "Teach your grandmother," he answered. My learned friend spoke the words good-humouredly ; but they undoubtedly meant that he knew what he was doing. I did not dare to say more about Charlie's error; but I doubt not that it sprang from his having once hooked a trout when reeling in his line, or when the flies were out as his boat was being rowed ashore or towards some fresh drift. However this may be, that day Charlie caught a trout only when one rose at the moment of his flies alighting : he never had a rise during the jerking process. Trout do occasionally take a fly which is being pulled through the water; but artificial motion causes them as a rule to remain suspiciously aloof. This explains why one so often has a rise when "not looking." Even the most careful angler, if the trout are rising so badly as to make him anxious, imparts, in his eagerness, some little action to the flies; but when he is "not looking" his arm and his hand are motionless, the flies seem natural, and a fish takes the risk. The same theory is applicable to an experience which must be common to many an angler who has visited Lochleven. You cast for an hour without having a rise, and, handing your rod to the boatman, begin to rest. Your pipe is hardly aglow before the boatman is fast in a lusty trout! This is simply because he has let the flies lie a few seconds where they fell. Most of the boatmen on that interesting water are clumsy anglers; but somehow or other all of them with whom I am acquainted are free from the error which, with an exaggeration peculiarly his own, Charlie illustrated on Loch Dochart.