The discussion might have gone on rather aimlessly but for a fortunate message from T-J- B-, who had friends at dinner across the room. The port was very good : if H. W. M. and I had finished our meal, wouldn't we join him ? We did ; and B. asked what was the trouble we had been considering so earnestly; and the Editor spread the dilemma out. " O, that's easily settled !" said B., who is ready in resource. "We'll put the question to the proper test. We'll have a trial of the Dry Fly against the Wet Fly. Mr. H-will use the one, and the writer of the article will use the other. Stakes, ten guineas,—to go to the Open-Air Fund for Children.
I back The D- C- view for another ten — bets also to go to the fund." The Junior Member for Windicated readiness to accept the wager. "Agreeable?" said H. W. M., still anxious, turning to me. " O, Editor! what do you take me for ?" I answered. At these words the Editor's expressive face lit up with reassurance. " Well, where's H-?" asked B. " Gone to the House of Commons," answered H. W. M. "Could you see him tonight ?" " Perhaps ; but he is very anxious to hear the debate on the Budget." "O, never mind that!" said B. "If you're looking in at the House, haul him out and arrange. Will you ?" The Editor vowed he would rejoice to do so. " Good," said B. " I put my stream at your disposal for the match, which might be this coming Saturday if you're all free, and H- is free; and you'll all be my guests at the old inn. Let me know by telegraph to-morrow if H- can go.
Then I'll get Senior of The Field to be umpire".
Soon afterwards, his misgivings about the angling policy of his journal much modified, the Editor took his leave in high spirits ; and next morning there was notification that Mr. H- had been found willing. A leaded leading-note in The D- C- stated that, serious objection having been taken to the article questioning Lord G-'s doctrines about Fly Fishing, it had been arranged that the objector and the writer of the article should put the question to a test by angling on the same stream, a chalk-stream, on the same day. The one would use the dry fly; the other would use the wet. The result would be announced on Monday, and, whatever it was, the Open-Air Fund for Children would benefit by the entertaining and instructive incident.
Alack, the project was not quite accomplished. The night before the eagerly expected Saturday, Mr. H- sent to our host a note saying that in accepting the invitation he had forgotten an engagement to entertain guests, "a Dry Fly party," on his own stream that very day. This was unfortunate. A carrying-out of the arrangement might really have shown the unreasonableness of debating in anger the principles of a peaceful sport. However, the plan did not exactly come to nothing altogether. The Dry Fly and the Wet Fly were tried on the same day, and it chanced that I met H-shortly after his return to Town on Monday. His basket on the Saturday had been one of fifteen trout which weighed twelve pounds. The basket on B.'s stream which represented scepticism about the Dry Fly doctrine contained twenty-five trout weighing thirty-three pounds. One of them, taken on a Greenwell's Glory, was five pounds and a half. The two baskets could not be regarded as affording grounds for a satisfactory judgment on the question that had been under discussion. H-'s stream may not have been so good as the other, and the atmospherical conditions may not have been identical. Still, a basket of thirty-three pounds was sufficient to persuade H. W. M. that The D- C- had been justified in its protest against Lord G-'s unnecessarily earnest derision of the ancient method.
On a subsequent occasion, when again the wet-fly basket was not despicable, Mr. Senior remarked, " Yes : I admit it is good, even surprising; but I am quite confident there are waters where this could not be done." Where are they, I wonder ? Once another scientific fisherman, Mr. A- L-, took me to the Test in order to see whether there was any truth in the reactionary heresy against the much-extolled Dry Fly. He caught eight trout, each a little above three-quarters of a pound, the limit on the stretch which we were fishing; his friend Mr. C- also had eight, of similar size. The wet-fly basket was twenty trout of the same dimensions.
Once, at the invitation of Sir W-P- and Mr. W- M- R-, I had a very pleasant day on the Kennet, the trout in which are generally supposed to be proof against all flies but the Mayfly. At the end of it the creel held sixteen trout weighing over twenty pounds. The only very well-known English river on which I have not fished is the Itchen, and I cannot easily imagine that water to be wholly different from others on which the old-fashioned method seems still to be not without merit.
Being averse from such a narrative of my own experiences, I would strike out the last two pages if that could be done without impairing the argument; but if one is alone in a heresy, which at present is apparently the case, how is the truth to be arrived at unless the facts on both sides are revealed ? I have no vanity in the brief record which has just been penned. Indeed, it seems scarcely less out of place than the language on the part of Lord G- which led to the discussion ; and it can be justified, if at all, only on the consideration that when one has a theory on our fascinating subject it is well, if possible, frankly to support it by statistics. All I mean to suggest is the possibility that even in sport, an activity of the daylight and the open air the human mind is liable to become the victim of a phrase.
In an early chapter I have briefly set forth one of the reasons for believing that trout often feed upon drenched flies. At other times, it is certain, fluttering flies have their seemingly exclusive attention. Then it is that the dry-fly man finds his opportunity, and I should be the last to deny that it is very inspiring. To most of what has been written about the delights of " stalking" a rising trout one can give unreserved assent. Every moment of the action is peculiarly aglow with the spirit of the chase. In a manner which is telling from its very simplicity, this charm, so enthralling in itself and so difficult to reproduce in words, has been expressed by Mr. R. B. Marston. Recounting an afternoon on the Tweed, he wrote to Mr. E. M. Tod, who published his letter: " In about "three hours I killed a nice basket of "over twelve pounds of trout, all with "the fly, and quite two-thirds with the " dry fly. I used your double - hook "midges, three on my cast (Greenwell's " Glory and Iron Blue did best). I fished " all three flies first dry and then wet. I " also fished with two of the flies dry and "one wet, or one dry and two wet, and "this in the rapid broken water of the " streams as well as on the pools. It is a "great mistake to think dry-fly fishing " must be confined to slow smooth water.