" In the case of certain of the Ephe-" meridae 'either the mother alights upon " 'the water at intervals to wash off the " ' eggs that have issued from the mouth " ' of the oviducts during her flight; or " ' else she creeps down into the water " ' (enclosed within a film of air, with her " ' wings collapsed so as to overlie the " ' abdomen, and with her setae closed to-" ' gether) to lay her eggs upon the under-" ' side of stones, disposing them in " ' rounded patches, in a single layer " ' evenly spread, and in mutual con-" ' tiguity.' After laying her eggs she " floats to the surface and flies away, un-"less perchance her setae or wings have " become sodden, in which case the brief " remnant of her life is sacrificed to her "care for the next generation. Every " observant fisherman has at times, when " wading, been surprised to find a number "of spinners crawling up his stockings " and brogues. Doubtless these are the "females striving to regain the surface "after depositing their eggs in the " manner just described".
In a very scientific way, two things were thus put beyond question. In the first place, instead of being the main food of trout, flies are only an occasional luxury. In the second place, besides being liable to fall on the water and be drowned at the coming of strong winds or of untoward chills, female flies, in the course of nature, go down into the water voluntarily. Is it to be supposed that the trout disdain them as they go, or as they come upwards when the eggs are laid ? Is it not much more reasonable to suppose that it is then, when the flies are under the surface, that the fish indulge in their occasional luxury ?
This thought is strikingly supported by the fact, on which I have dwelt, that, although flies on the surface attract the trout to rise, they are often left there when the fish have gone. Indeed, the evidence I have quoted is practically a complete scientific demonstration that, if the purpose of angling is to catch trout, the Dry Fly doctrine, far from being in accord with the teaching of Nature, is flatly repudiated by the all-wise Dame. The lures should be allowed to dip below the surface.
The evidence is from no dubious source. The quotation within the third paragraph is from the writings of the Rev. A. E. Eaton, of the Entomological Society of London, who is described as "the first living authority on the Ephemeridae"; and the whole of the evidence transcribed is from Mr. Frederic M. Halford's Dry Fly Entomology.
Thinking of what I had read in the careful and authoritative volume, I recalled a picture in a book on Angling. The author has crept on hands and knees towards a pool in which there is a rising trout, and is in the act of throwing over it a dry fly. Does this sportsman, so earnestly expounding the fashionable doctrine we have examined, know the illuminating confession of a certain barber familiar to all who frequent the neighbourhood of St. James's ? " O, yes, sir," said the barber confidingly: " the lotion certainly does good; but it does so in what may be called an indirect manner. You will see that the instructions on the bottle say, 'To be well rubbed in.' The truth is, sir, it is not the lotion, fragrant and cooling as it is, that does the work: it is the rubbing in." Similarly, if our very serious fisherman in the picture catches the big trout, he will owe his success not to the consideration that the fly has floated, but to the consideration that he is crouching and out of the fish's sight. Thus far, and no farther, the Dry Fly is an unimpeachable counsel of perfection. Less than thus far, like "Efficiency," on which I have touched because it illustrates the same entertaining phenomenon of natural history in another domain of thought, it is merely one of those phrases which are so strangely attractive to the masses of men, and so contagious : a symbol which, while enchantingly revealing the ideal half of a truth, conceals the other half, in which the realities, the hard facts, lie. There are not only microbes that afflict the body : there are also microbes that afflict the mind: and, just as pollen, the fecundating dust of weeds, is distributed over the hospitable earth from the wings of the flighty bees, the microbes of the mind, the half-truths, inspiring symbols, are planted in the hospitable emotions of men from the wings of words, words, words.