Indeed, 1904 was the worst on record. It yielded only 205 salmon and 58 grilse, with a few sea-trout, for the whole river. There is a proposal, promoted by Lord Dalhousie, to remove the nets, of which, it is hoped, we shall have seen the last before these words are published. That, with reform of the passes, will improve the river greatly.'"
The Duke of Argyll's rights in his best river, it will have been noticed, are held under a charter of The Bruce. At first I thought that the Duke must have mentioned this merely because the title deed was interesting on account of its antiquity. Soon afterwards there was cause to think that the remark might have another significance. The incidental suggestion came with a letter from Colonel -, whose residence and sport are not a far cry from Loch Awe. The entertaining document runs thus :-
" If No. 1 makes No. 2 pay a rent to himself, for No. 3's property, is it right ? Here is an example:
I was fishing in the-on Mr. C-'s property, of which I had the lease. A man comes up and orders me off the water, as rented from Lord A-to the-Hotel. Mr. C-then applied to the Crown for a rent of this bit of his own river, subject to any prior claim. He got the rent. Lord A-was discomfited. He had no charter. There are many others doing the same as he did. Afterwards I leased the water at a rent of £30 a year for five years, and Lord M-let the other side.
I should be much surprised to hear that either of the proprietors has a charter. If my own experience is such, how many others are plundering the Government ? "
Excepting in the case of the gentleman who let to the Colonel the water which he was ordered to quit, successors to the estates of all the persons figuring in this strange tale are contributors to our chapter on Scotland. Therefore, I leave blank the proper names. It would ill become me to do anything that might revive the memories of wrath. At the same time, the episode is much too good to lose. In answer to a letter expressing sympathy with him in the thought of what he had suffered from the lawless chieftains, the Colonel wrote:-
" What is really wanted is that the Crown should call for, and make a record of all charters, and then take possession of all the waters not under charter and let them on lease, with first option to proprietors, and, if they decline, option to some one else. This would bring in to the Government many thousands a year. I should much like to see something done to improve the fishing."
The subject thus amusingly raised is of much public as well as being of much private importance. It is worthy of consideration by the House of Lords, which within recent years, as over the Bill to establish a close time for trout in Scotland, has shown a promising interest in the rivers of the United Kingdom. Happily, in any effort to preserve and improve fresh-water fishing, the House of Commons seems always willing to follow the lead of the other Chamber.