A Breeze Desirable—West and South Winds Generally Favourable—Lochleven and Other Exceptions Explained — Trout Not Quite "Coldblooded" — Direction of Wind does Not Always Determine Temperature—Anti-cyclonic Draughts—Why do the Trout Keep Down?— Want of Wind not In Itself the Cause—A Theory of Breeze and Ripple—Evidences in its Favour—Thunderstorms—The Freshened Air —Lake-fishing Not Coarse Work—Dyed Gut a Mistake—Wind More Important on Lakes than on Streams—A Resource in Storm.
What of the wind ? Is it high, or low, or moderate ? Is it from the west or from the south ? Is there in it a touch of east or north ?
These are the queries of the angler as he looks out upon the morning of a day to be spent in pursuit of trout. Saving that his hope faints if there seems to be " thunder in the air," the other conditions of the weather are comparatively insignificant. What matters it if there be a little rain ? A shower now and then is refreshing to man and fish ; besides, there will be fair intervals, in which one's clothes will dry. Perhaps the sunshine is oppressive; but that need not cause despair, for clouds are likely to come.
The wind is more important. At least, it is generally deemed so. Especially if it be in a lake that the trout are to be sought, a breeze is considered necessary. If there is no wind, the boat will not drift, and the trout will not rise at artificial flies. If there is too much wind, the drift will be so quick that many a fish which would rise had it a chance will be passed over while another is being played into the landing net. To most anglers this exasperating state of affairs is very familiar. At the close of a good day on a lake during a high wind, who has not felt that it would have been much better if only the boat could have been stopped whenever a trout came on ? Is it not an article of faith that where one fish rises a good many others are probably feeding ?
The direction of the wind is quite as important as its force. If it is from the west or from the south, the trout, it is expected, will rise briskly; if it is from the east or from the north, they will either not move at all or come only in single spies. There are, it is true, exceptions to this rule. Any one, for example, who has fished on Lochleven will remember the gillie's encouraging words if it was against an easterly breeze that the boat cast off from the jetty at Kinross. There are other waters on which winds from the same quarter are not found to tell against the sport. These exceptions are easily explained. Lochleven and the rivers and lakes alluded to are all on the east coast; and an east wind is not so cold, so harsh, directly it leaves the North Sea as it is when it has travelled a good way inland.
Throughout the country at large, however, the rule cannot be denied. It is a west wind, or a south, that the angler needs. If the breeze is from either of the other quarters he has but little hope. Here and there, as if at some aberrant bidding, a trout may rise; but he knows that he will ply his lures diligently and dexterously for an hour at a time without success.
Why ? Why do trout rise in westerly or southerly weather and lie low when the movement of the air is from the north or from the east ?
Many anglers will be disposed to think that the answer is obvious. Some will say that trout, not being, as is generally supposed, quite without warmth in their blood, dislike the cold, and, as human creatures do, keep out of it when they can. That theory is not persuasive. It is true that they err who suppose trout to be "cold-blooded," many a fish being distinctly warm as you take it with chill fingers out of the landing-net; but even in an east wind the spring or summer temperature of the atmosphere in daytime is almost always higher than that of the water. If, therefore, during these seasons trout wanted to feel the warmth, they would be constantly rising above the surface.
Other fishermen will offer a solution of the problem apparently more scientific. They will say that the fish as a rule take artificial flies only when there are on the water real insects of which the lures are imitations, and that these insects, which are aquatic, the eggs lying among the sedges, or among the weeds and gravel on the bed of the river or of the lake, are not brought forth until the cold winds have passed. This doctrine is more plausible. It is beyond a doubt that the fish do not as a rule take artificial flies freely until the insects which the lures resemble are fluttering about the water in abundance. There would, for example, be no hope in offering a Mayfly before the natural insect was abroad in its multitudinous brilliance. The trout would bolt at sight of it.
Still, the scientific theory about the fish in relation to the winds is not sufficient. It assumes that, whilst west winds and south winds are always warm, east winds and north winds are always cold; and the assumption cannot be granted. In spring and summer the temperature of the atmosphere is often low when the wind is from the east, or from the north, during a cyclone ; but during an anti-cyclone it is always high. In the latter case, whencesoever it comes, the air is at least mild ; often, in July or in August, it is positively oppressive. That is because the breezes within the radius of an anticyclone are in a sense not what they seem. The wind which on the Itchen or on the Test is from the north-east has not necessarily come across the seas from the Polar region. It may not even have come so far as from London. It is a north-east wind by courtesy ; but it is not a true wind at all. It is only a draught.
For all the chill that it contains, it might as well be coming from the Solent. It is not preventing the eggs of the insects from being hatched. If one looks carefully, it will be seen that the flies are certainly on the water.
Why, then, are the trout not rising ? The question has never been answered satisfactorily. All we know is that even a draught from the east or from the north puts the fish down, and that they are likely to stay down until the setting of the sun. Even then their mood will not change unless the wind faints away under a clear sky. That, fortunately, often happens in summer; and then, during the cool fresh hour between sundown and the dark, the trout usually rise well.