In April the water will probably be low rather than high, for February and March are on the average the driest months of the year, and April is not generally a month of heavy rains. On the other hand, the winter rains should have prevented the river from being as low and as clear yet as it may become in midsummer, though the water should be cleaner and free from the small particles of vegetation, which come from the stones and banks and pools in warmer weather later on. A fish may be seen to rise now and then, but it will be nearer the middle of the day before the rise becomes at all fast and lively, and what first attracts attention are likely bits of water. Some corner or bit of stream will catch the eye, and stir a keenness which makes one impatient of preliminary things that have to be done. It is a right and happy thing to linger over a walk or drive to the river on such a morning; but be the weather what it may, there is no added pleasure to be gained by spending time over putting on waders. An angler cannot even take pride in the way he does this as he may in the care with which he tests his tackle and ties his knots. When all is ready I like to stand either in the water or on a level with it. Besides the increased risk of being seen by the fish it always seems to me in trout fishing that the work is not so well done if the angler is standing much above the water, and that he casts better, fishes better, and strikes better when more nearly on a level. It is of course possible to cast a longer line from a height, but it is not possible to fish so well with a very long line as with one of moderate length.
And now perhaps for some time not very many trout are hooked. If only a few trout of average size for the river, and in good condition, are landed in the first hour or two, there is no reason to be disappointed; all these are so much to the good: the real rise must not be expected till eleven o'clock or later, and any slackness of sport, at any rate up to twelve o'clock, need not be regarded as prejudicing in the least the prospects of the day. Presently the signs of life, both of flies and trout, will be evident enough, and then the true test will begin. There are days when the trout will rise everywhere and take badly, but a very short time will show whether this is such a day or not. If the rise is really a good one, and choice of water can be made without interfering with the sport of any one else, the angler should so have arranged matters that he is now, as the rise is beginning, not far from a really good pool, which has not yet been fished. At such times I prefer a good stream at the head of a long deep pool to any other place. A heavy basket may be made, especially if there is some ripple, on broad shallow reaches of a good river where trout are plentiful, but there is more chance of an unusually large trout where there is deep water not far away, and there is a separate character of its own about a pool, which is attractive and gives a sort of personality to it. One such comes often to my memory. It is a pool in a north country river, just large enough to hold salmon, yet not so broad that the best of it cannot be fished easily with a single-handed rod by wading; one bank is the edge of a grass field, the other is fringed with bushes, and the stream slopes from the field towards the bushes. The rough broken water at the top is fairly shallow, and full of good trout when they are feeding. There are special places at the edge of the bushes in which to make a point of throwing a fly after the nearer part of the stream has been fished. Each trout that is hooked fights desperately for the shelter of the bushes, or for the deeper water below, and the angler may work slowly down, rising, hooking and landing fish of all sizes, till he gets into deep and quite smooth water. On a good day a dozen trout at least, none of them less than a quarter of a pound and one or two weighing one pound each or upwards may be expected from this piece of water alone.
By two or three o'clock the best of the rise will be over, and during the last hours of the day not very much will be added, but it is always worth while to fish steadily with a wet fly, both before the rise begins and after it is over. This, is another instance of the difference between wet and dry fly fishing. On a Hampshire chalk stream a day's fishing may mean that the angler has spent a day by the river, but it generally does not mean that he has fished all day: on a wet fly river it should mean both, unless there should be some violent interruption from the weather, or unless the water should rise quickly or be in flood and out of order.
In April I do not fish on into the evening, but leave off about the end of the afternoon: after a good day it is pleasant to sit a little on the bank after all signs of trout have ceased, listening to the sound of the water, and thinking with content of what has passed— leaving till a later hour the anticipation of other days that may be yet to come.
Other days there are indeed in April of a very different kind: bitter days when savage gusts smite upon the water and whirl the line about, and hard showers come pelting down from clouds of fearful blackness, and hands are in pain with cold. Even then there will probably be some time in the afternoon during which the trout will take, though one may have to fish on for many hours before it comes. I have seen the rise delayed till nearly four o'clock. One day I well remember at the end of April, when a basket which after some five hours' fishing at three o'clock was light enough, was heavy and full soon after five o'clock. The day was cold and the rise was very late in beginning, but when it did begin the trout took greedily.
Early in June a passion for taking small red worms seizes the north country trout: the lower and clearer the water, and the hotter the weather, the better do they take. This lasts till the end of the first week or rather later in July, and is, so far as I can see, quite inexplicable. There is nothing apparent either in the condition of the water, or in the natural supply of food, to excite this violent appetite at this particular time of the year. There is of course no month in which trout may not be caught with a worm, but it is certain that for these few weeks of the season worm fishing for trout is altogether a different thing from what it is at any other time. It is an art of which I have had little experience. It needs special skill in casting the worm up stream, a knowledge of when to strike, and, for great success, a practised rapidity in baiting the hook, when trout are being landed quickly.