1 I show a square hook here for the sake of variety, though the round bends have latterly given me greater satisfaction.
75.- Getting To Work
76.- Bass Caught In Alde.
Such is bass fishing in the river, and it is about the most delightful form of salt-water fishing that I know. There is another mode of bass fishing in rivers which I have practised, with very little success, in the Arun, just above Arundel. In it the boat is moored near the reeds, and live-bait tackle with float is used, as for pike, the bait being a live roach or dace. Very large bass are occasionally-very occasionally, I fancy-taken in this way, but the angler must be prepared for many days on which " man never is, but always to be, blest"!
When, as sometimes happens, the Devon bass are sighted, not in the river, but just outside the bar, the same bait and tackle are used as in the river itself, only the boat has to be slowly rowed in circles over the rocks. As the water is, just after low tide, not more than six or eight feet deep, and as the rocks are overgrown with waving " bootlace " weed, the hook very often gets hung up, and breakages are not uncommon. Nor do I recall a single instance during the past three years in which a bass of more than 2 or 3 lbs. was taken outside the river, though fifteen or twenty years ago, so residents relate, the last hundred yards just above the bar used to be considered the only ground for bass. Whether the large fish did not in those days penetrate up as far as the bridge, or whether they were there all the time and lay there undisturbed until some genius located them, the chronicler sayeth not. During the last five years or so, the " bridge swim" has been the fashion, and I never wish for better fun than it gives on favourable days. It must in reason be admitted that these are wonderfully few. Early morning is the best time, and I have often been after these bass as early as four in the morning. Both the large fish already mentioned in these pages were taken before seven in the morning, and only once do I remember a really good fish-I think it weighed 9¼ lbs.-being taken in the middle of the day. Narrow as is the river just below the bridge -there is an immense mud bank in the centre, where the natives are for ever digging the locally appreciated cockle-there is ample room for half-a-dozen boats or even more to fish for bass in company, if only they all drift in the right way up the deep water channel. When, however, the man or the boatman is wholly ignorant of the business-if I named three local boat-owners who understand bass fishing, I should exhaust the list, but I do not wish to incur an action for libel, so the reader must segregate for himself the sheep from the goats- trouble is bound to ensue. As soon as another boat commences moving backwards and forwards across the river, and trailing the bait instead of paying it out in front, lines are sure to foul. It is no good haranguing the offender. I tried it once one summer, when my friends, Mr. Cyril Maude and " the Doctor," were fishing with me, and this was the result:-
Irate Angler. Would you mind keeping off my line? (I do not, writing from memory, insist on this as an accurate verbatim report, but the sentiment is the same.)
Insulted Visitor. Hare you speakin' to me ?
I. A. I ham !
I. V. Look 'ere; is this (here followed two words, which I take to be dialect for weedy and swift-flowing) river yours, or may I fish here too ?
After which the Irate Angler maintained a freezing silence. He knew that argument was useless with a person who could describe such footling as " fishing," and, as there were ladies in other boats in the neighbourhood, he also thought it better to apply the closure, for " Words, like Nature, half reveal And half conceal the soul within;" and it seemed, judging from the sample revealed, that the remainder of that beautiful soul would be better for concealment.
77.- Bass In The Harbour.
Irritating episodes of this sort are, however, the exception, and are in any case confined to the end-July and August holiday season, which brings weird wildfowl from the great and busy centres inland. And there is, thank goodness, plenty of time to catch bass before they come, and occasionally, in a spell of Indian summer, after they are departed, unregretted by all save those who have given them houseroom.
There is another kind of calm-water fishing in boats in the latter part of the year, when whiting and codling find their way into many rivers, notably on our east coast. The Essex Blackwater and Crouch, even for that matter the Thames at Leigh, the river at Aldeburgh, and several others, are the yearly playground of many anglers who like to catch sea-fish in still water. A light gut paternoster, and either mussels, lugworms, or soft crab for bait, are best for this fishing. The great difficulty is to hit off the tide. I remember once not hitting off the tide at Maldon, on the Blackwater.
Everything had been arranged by telegram; Hand-ley's yacht, well known to anglers in that part of the world, was in readiness, and I went down by the appointed train. Something went wrong, however, with the tides. Whether they were not as they should have been, or whether, as seems more probable, I had miscalculated the whole programme, I forget for the moment, but the result was disastrous. I write from memory, but I vaguely remember spending just twenty-four hours away from home, and fishing for about forty minutes, the tide being too swift before and after that time to admit of fishing at all. And during the forty minutes we caught only two or three midgets of fish, bullheads for the most part, if I remember right, and nothing worth taking away. That was an exceptionally unfortunate outing, however, and I have in other days enjoyed very brisk sport with these Essex whiting and codling on bright winter mornings, with the moon just giving place to a little less pale December sun. Nowadays, however, give me the warm summer fishing. When September has yielded its last bass, and when in the early days of October one has had a day or two with the inshore whiting and the late mackerel, with perhaps a chance cod or dory in the boat's well, then let the rod, for my part, be laid by in a dry, warm corner, and let the guns come out during play hours. Sitting wet and shivering in an open boat during the last two months of the year is to my mind the least satisfactory of sport. If I were bent on winter seafishing, which I am not, I would rather fish from shore or pier, where at any rate a man can walk up and down and make his blood spin faster when the fish hold aloof and he has time to realise how much more comfortable he would be beside his fire. I am aware that enthusiasts do manage to enjoy boat-fishing at Deal and elsewhere on the coldest or shortest day of the year, and more power to their elbow, but-" for me, No," as the Frenchman said when offered jugged hare.