Before Mr. Pennell was working on the problem, or perhaps during that time, this question occurred to myself. It did so because I had noticed that a trout taken on Stewart Tackle was nearly always caught by only one of the three hooks, and that the upmost one. This brought to mind a statement that the trout invariably seizes its prey by the head. It suggested that the only use of the two other hooks was that they might possibly catch by the outside of the mouth a trout that missed or managed to eject the first hook. Otherwise considered, they were rather worse than unnecessary, to some extent hindering the lively movement of the lure, and at the same time showing, as it were, the cloven hoof. Thus, a small single hook in the head of a worm should be sufficient, and the bait should be the more attractive in that it would be almost untrammelled. On being put to the test, this reasoning was justified beyond expectation. The trout came very readily ; and, still more gratifying, the single hook, so small that it could scarcely be seen when baited, almost always held.
On the English chalk-streams, the limpidity of which is not much affected even by a heavy flood, this simple tackle affords delicate and exciting sport; but there are many fine streams of quite a different kind. Different are all those which flow through regions where brown earth is ploughed. These are the streams in the Lowlands of Scotland and of Ireland and many in England. They also, when the waters are clear, yield trout in the manner which now and then affords an engaging variety to fishermen in the south-west of England ; but sometimes they are in a state which calls for another method of angling. That is the state of flood. The local anglers are always hoping for it, and they hail its coming with delight.
One can share their feelings.
For weeks the stream has been steadily falling ; there is in it so little water that the millers all along the course have had to push down the sluices of the dams o' nights, so as to accumulate force for use in daytime; the river is but a shadow of itself, much too small for its bed. Then, in June let us say, there are signs of a change in the weather. The sportsmen in the village become alert, and vie with one another in prophecies of flood. The mercury in the blacksmith's glass has been creeping down for days; shepherds come in to the weekly market and report signs of storm in the behaviour of their flocks; the veterinary surgeon, who is all over the county, says that when driving home late last night he saw sheet lightning on the southern uplands, towards the sea.
Into their gardens all the villagers go to dig for worms, and soon each has a few hundred snugly bestowed in a bag of moss damped with cream. The sun goes down behind long banks of motionless thick clouds ; but, alas, the rain holds off. Next morning the earth is still dry ; but all the sky is gray, and the ancient weathercocks, which are rather rusty and not responsive to trifling airs, show that during the night there has been a considerable puff from the south-east. Ah, that is better ! It comes! There is actually rain at last I So strange is it after the long drought, the villagers go forth, hatless, to make sure. They cannot but believe it when they feel it. It seems in earnest, too: not a violent burst that passes as sharply as it comes, but a deliberate slant of small drops, which, if they were frozen and the time was winter, were heralds of a feeding storm that in a round of the clock would wrap the country thick in snow. On the rain comes, increasingly; it is noted with joy that it does not pause at twelve o'clock, which would mean a risk of its stopping altogether ; and by five in the afternoon there is no longer any room for fear. Certainly the floods are out!
Some who have been down to look at the stream announce that there is no change there yet; but that was to be expected. The ground has been very dry: it has to be thoroughly soaked before the water begins to run. Besides, the wheat and the oats and the barley, the turnips and the potatoes, have to be served before the stream. If it were autumn, and the fields were all stubble or fallow, the river would have risen a foot by this time; but the " growing crops " drink up a large quantity of rain.
All is still well at eight o'clock. News comes that the burn which runs for a few miles by the side of the North Road, and so drains a good strip of bare land, is rising so quickly that the river, below where the burn joins it, is muddy for two or three yards out. Some of the larger ditches are beginning to run.
Meanwhile the rain goes on: no longer a slight windy spray, but coming steadily down through motionless air, pattering on the leafy trees: the freshened earth is alive and awake, purring in gratification.
Suddenly there are twitterings in the gardens, and the copses ring with the notes of thrush and blackbird. That makes the villagers uneasy. The birds sing when the rain is past: is it about to stop ? Happily, the woodland music, which was over in a few minutes, seems to have been a false alarm. The rain is better than ever. Water is gurgling down the eaves of the cottages, trickling over the pebble paths in the gardens, and racing in the ditches beside the high road.
It is now nearly ten o'clock, and the eager villagers go to bed.
They are not there long. You are an early riser indeed if you are first on the stream in the morning. Rather is it likely that every fifty yards or so you will see a villager, rod in hand, the point of it low down near the surface of the stream while the end of the butt supports his elbow, moving very slowly along the bank. All the fishermen in the little community have been out since break of day. Intently watching his line, which, you notice, is very close inshore, each is moving with the bait as the current bears it down.
Perhaps there has not been much sport thus far. Indeed, it is probable that there has been none. The trout are not in good humour at the first flush of a flood. Then the water is very thick, full of the waste matter that has been accumulating in the drains and the ditches, and on the roads, for many weeks; and perhaps the fish, though not easily disturbed, are off their food.