Analogy from Golf-Built-Cane-Greenheart-Other Woods - A Delicate Instrument - "Balance" - Flexibility- How Distributed-Grip of the Rod-Throwing a Fly- Correct Casting Rare-Tapered Lines and Untapered- An Accidental Solution.
A first-class authority, Mr. John James Hardy, has said that " one sixty-fourth part of an inch more or less in the butt of an eighteen-feet rod will make or mar that rod." The statement may be astonishing; but it will not be scouted by fishermen who have used many rods observantly. Implements of certain recreations have subtle qualities which, though the study of many years might not give perfect understanding of them, are sometimes revealed by happy accident. Take, for example, golf. Not long ago a friend told me that he had become a member of the Hampstead Club. Would I go, there and then, to try the course ? My sticks were not within easy reach. "O, never mind," was the cheerful answer. "I'll get the professional to lend you a set." Off we went, then, and soon were at the game; and after the drive from the third tee I was convinced that I had mistaken my calling. I should have been a golfer. I had never driven such long balls before, and could not remember having seen any one else drive so. In my amazement I was shy; but my host and opponent was not reticent. " Are you too big for your boots ? " he asked, as my ball flew gaily over a hedge far beyond the ambition of any man with a handicap. " I am * said I, embarrassed. " I don't understand this at all. I'm above myself." My friend laughed merrily, and explained. The driver I was using was one quite by itself. He too had played with it. Then he had asked to buy it. As the professional would not sell, he had offered double the ordinary price for an exact duplicate. The duplicate was made, and in appearance was exact; but it was a failure. Among all the drivers in Hampstead there was only one that suddenly turned amiable persons into sufferers from swelled head. That was the one I was using.
Fishing-rods also have individual qualities. At first one thinks that any rod by a good maker will cast any ordinary fly or flies; but strange knowledge comes with experience. It came to myself on Loch-leven. Thither I had taken a twelve-foot built-cane rod. It is of the class generally assumed to be the best, and certainly it is pleasant to the hand. That day the trout were not rising well. By two o'clock, indeed, my companion and I had caught only one each. Just for luck, I would try that other rod which Mr. Harris, of the Green Inn, had lent to me, with a quiet recommendation, as we were leaving his hall after breakfast. What a difference! The new rod put spirit into the work. Out flew the flies with a fresh decisiveness, and back they came with ease and tidily. Ere long we had six other fish in the boat. As I had caught only half of them, the success could not be attributed altogether to the change of rods. It was mainly due to the fact that the trout had " come on the feed.'1 Still, the greater ease with which one managed the flies when using Mr. Harris's rod caused reflection. That rod and my own were of the same length, and apparently almost equal in weight; whence the difference in their actions? The answer was not far to seek. While my own rod was of built-cane, the other was of greenheart.
Besides being beautifully finished, a built-cane rod is very strong, so strong, indeed, that mine has never been broken, has never had a loose joint, since it was given to me nine years ago; but, even although it is " steel-centred," it does not have the highest possible power. If you have to cast against the breeze, as sometimes on a stream, the rod, being very pliable, lacks force; if you are casting with the wind, as nearly always on a lake, it is similarly hard put to it in recovering the line and the flies. A greenheart rod, on the other hand, has at once less flexibility and a liveliness peculiarly its own. It is not, like the other, a thing of shreds, compact of wood that has grown from several roots: it is a naturally solid unit, and seems somehow to retain the life it had when the sap rose through it in the recurring spring; you can, as you cast, actually feel it quivering, not with weakness, but with a spirit as of tempered steel. In short, when there is even a slight wind to be contended with, a built-cane rod, although it be of the best type, seems rather languid; but, even in a considerable wind, the greenheart thrills and is game.