Nevertheless, even if we have to abandon the belief that it is really the gillie, by virtue of his wariness, that is the sportsman in trolling, there is still much scope in minnow-fishing both for knowledge and for skill. Minnows are of considerable variety, and the trout are no less particular about them than they are about flies. Sometimes they will look only at a blue minnow, sometimes at a brown one, sometimes at a green one, sometimes at a gray one with a scarlet belly, sometimes at one which is all of silver hue, and sometimes at one which seems to be made of clay. At times they will be rather indifferent to any or all of them, and take an Alexandra fly. If you look at an Alexandra in the water, you will see that the feathers of which it is made shrink and close, becoming compact, instead of tending to expand, as do the wings of most ordinary flies. The Alexandra, therefore, is not really a fly: it is a minnow in disguise. This seems to have been discovered by certain makers of tackle, who now openly busk the peacock's feathers on a triad of long-shanked hooks, with a swivel at the top, and call the result the Halcyon Spinner. With all these minnows to choose from, and sport depending on the proper choice, who shall say that trolling in a lake is not a matter involving knowledge ? It would be very difficult to give a complete account of the different minnows and the times to use them; but there is one good rule. The artificial minnow most likely to be successful on any day is that which most closely resembles the minnows swimming about at the edges of the lake, specimens of which can easily be taken in a close-meshed net, or in a trap, or even on a small hook baited with a worm. Better still is it to fish with the minnows thus caught themselves: it is a peculiar fact that, whilst trout seem sometimes to prefer artificial flies to the insects which the artificer has imitated, they always prefer a real minnow to one made of canvas and paint, or of steel and paint, or of peacock's feathers. So do the salmon and the pike : only, in their cases, not minnows only, but also small fish of many kinds, including parr and trout, are among the lures in trolling.
Used in another way, cast deftly into some deep pool from which the angler is screened by bush or rock, the minnow is a deadly lure on streams; but it is generally objected to there, and, I think, rightly. The minnow used in lakes is capable of defence on the consideration that the great trout there do not rise at any known fly. Used in streams it cannot be justified by such a plea. In flowing water the largest fish are admittedly slow to rise; but they do rise sometimes, occasionally with much freedom, and it is proper that they should be reserved for those who use flies only.
Does the same argument condemn the worm on streams? For that purpose it is used, I know, and on many waters in England the worm is forbidden ; but that seems rather a pity. Worm-fishing on a clear stream is not coarse work at all. To any but the very expert in the management of rod and line, success in it is almost impossible. On a typical chalk-stream, to throw a fly properly is difficult enough : it almost appears that the trout have eyes in their tails : it is disconcerting to note how they sometimes scuttle off just as you think you are within casting distance. They are at much greater advantage when it is a worm, instead of a fly, you have to throw. You need just as long a line, usually, in the one case as in the other; and a long line weighted with a bait that is easily jerked off is very difficult to control. Indeed, the skill called for by worm-fishing is so great that the streams of England would not, I think, suffer much by withdrawal of the prohibition.
Lest this should happen, let us consider for a moment the evolution of the gear used in worm-fishing. It is a remarkable instance of how slowly, amid normal conditions, the inventive faculty of man habitually works. In days of yore, until the time when, for example, Sir Walter Scott roamed along the Border streams, the worm was impaled on a hook which, if the wire had been stretched straight, would have been about two inches long, Then arose an original thinker, Mr. W. C. Stewart, to proclaim a better way. It was surely obvious, he reasoned, that the bent and rigid appearance of a worm on such a hook must render the trout suspicious. A free worm in the water might not be always straight. It would wriggle. Still, its general aspect would be more nearly straight than curved. Accordingly, Mr. Stewart invented the tackle, a flight of three little hooks whipped to the gut one above the other, with a small space between the first and the second, and another between the second and the third, which made his name famous among fishermen. The upmost hook was slipped through the worm at the head, the second at the middle, and the other towards the tail. It was held that on this tackle the worm had a less unnatural appearance than it could have when impaled on a single hook. That was true; and thenceforth every fisherman in the land, or at least in those regions where the waters were not reserved for fly-fishing exclusively, carried Stewart Tackle in his book.
Without number were the published praises of the gear, which was regarded as perfect for nigh two generations. Then it began to dawn upon certain sportsmen that progress in the art of worm-fishing was still possible. Why should there be three hooks on the flight ? Would not two suffice? So one of the doubters asked himself. The result is that you may now have "a new form of Stewart Tackle" named after Mr. Cholmondeley Pennell. The only considerable difference is that it has one hook less than the old tackle. In respect that the dark shanks of only two hooks, instead of three, protrude from the bait, the new gear certainly is an improvement; but why stop at that refinement? Why not abolish another hook, leaving only one, and that small ?