I use this alone on a bright day and in low clear water, tied on a No. 4 Pennell-eyed Limerick hook, and have found it in these conditions attractive to sea trout and sometimes irresistible to herling.
In wet fly fishing for trout I am content with March-browns, Greenwell's glories, and Mr. Chol-mondeley-Pennell's No. 1 hackle fly in spring, tied upon Nos. 1, 2, and 3 hooks. As the season advances and the rivers become very low and clear, I change to a red quill gnat and a black spider upon No. 0 hooks.
With favourite dry flies I have dealt in a previous chapter, and I need only state their names here. They are :
1. Olive quill—medium shade.
2. Red quill.
3. Iron blue.
4. Black Spider, Nos. 00 and 0 Hall's eyed hooks are the most useful sizes for all these. A No. 000 red quill is very successful in rising trout on hot midsummer days; but it is too small to hold heavy fish satisfactorily.
As there is sometimes a difficulty in identifying flies, I have in this case referred to Messrs. Hardy of Alnwick, and have adopted their names or descriptions of the patterns which I submitted to them.
Gut is the most troublesome of all parts of an angler's tackle, but less so in the case of salmon and sea trout, than in trout fishing. I prefer in salmon fishing to have a cast tapered with some three feet of plain single gut next the fly, it is more transparent than any twisted gut can be, and it is not difficult to get it round, clear and strong. The thickness of it must be proportioned to the size of the fly, the size of the rod, and the strength of the stream, rather than to the size of the fish. Even a big salmon in easygoing water can be landed on comparatively fine gut with a light rod, but a heavy rod and a large fly are not compatible with fine gut. No one can play a fish so delicately with a big rod as with a small one, and perpetual casting with a large fly wears out the fine gut near its head.
For sea trout in clear water, when a single-handed rod is used, a tapered cast ending in the finest undrawn gut should be strong enough; be sure, however, that the gut really is undrawn, and have some spare lengths of it with which to keep the finer end of the cast in repair.
It is a great pity that we cannot get undrawn gut fine enough for difficult trout fishing. The strength of new undrawn gut is, in proportion to its thickness, quite amazing and it will stand a great amount of wear and tear. It is when we come to drawn gut that our difficulties are so great. Like all gut it has an unruly curliness when it is new and dry ; it begins to rot when it is kept wet or exposed; it frays and wears thin when it is used. Even when sound one often breaks it when testing it: if it is not tested, one cannot be sure that it is not rotten. All an angler can do is to keep a pretty fresh stock of drawn gut of different thicknesses, and put on the finest that he dares to use, and renew the fine end of his cast, whenever he sees that it is getting weak and worn. It is well to remember also that the constitution of all gut, drawn and undrawn, differs: some casts, which are strong enough when new, rot much sooner than others. It may be that the amount of sunshine, or the sort of weather to which they are exposed, causes the difference. I prefer not to carry spare casts and gut damp, but to soak each new piece as it is wanted. This takes a little time, but not really very much, and I think that the less gut has been exposed to alternate moistening and drying before being used the better it is.
For knotting lengths of gut together the ordinary double knot is as good as anything. The single knot will hold if the gut has been properly soaked, but the gut will break at a single knot much more easily than at a double one. For tying small dry flies on to the end of the cast the Turle knot, as described in Mr. Halford's book, is the best and the generally accepted one; no angler need trouble about any other. For salmon flies on gut loops, I use the following knot: Pass the end of the gut up through the loop, bend it over on the further side, bring it under the loop and pass it up under itself so as to form a loop of its own round the fly loop. Then bend the end of the gut back over the cast, and pass it through its own loop, carrying it flat along the body of the fly, and pointing towards the bend of the hook. Then hold this end still while the knot is drawn tight.
This is a most easy knot to tie, even with cold fingers; it is safe, and can be undone when the fly is changed.
Of lines it is only necessary to say that tapered waterproof plaited silk lines are excellent, but I think, at any rate for trout fishing, that nothing is better than a Manchester waterproof plaited cotton line; when it is new it goes into the eye of the wind beautifully. I think the silk line is better than the other after each has had a season's wear, but though lines, if carefully and regularly dried, will last a long time, they should be frequently tested and not trusted too long. A ludicrous accident once happened to me, when fishing for salmon with an old line. It was a pouring wet morning, and just at the critical moment when the river began to rise I hooked a salmon in a broad open stretch of water. This salmon played sulkily; after a few minutes I tried to reel in some line, but the fish was not very willing; the wet line would not run easily on the dripping rod, and broke suddenly about halfway up the rod. I was alone, but the fish, not understanding the situation, gave me time to lay down the rod, and knot the line rapidly to a ring. What I ought to have done of course was to join the two ends of line near the reel, and trust to being able to play the fish without needing more line than was already out: had I done this i should have- retained for myself the privilege of being able to reel in line. But to do this would have taken longer, the fish might have made a bolt while i was doing it, and i was in great terror and had no time to reflect. The result was that when communications were re-established, i was attached to a salmon about twenty yards away, without any power either of reducing the distance, or of allowing it to be increased. Far below me was a broad extent of shingle, and i fought to gain this. The river was at least forty yards broad, but the salmon kindly restricted all his struggles to my side, and at last i stood upon the shingle, on a level with the water, and with flat ground on which i could retire from the water's edge. This i began to do, and was succeeding yard by yard when the hold gave and the fly came back to me. Then followed the thought of how much better things might have been managed, and the blank despair of knowing that with a rapidly rising river, there was no chance of another salmon that day.