During those early days of the season hardly any other anglers were out, and I saw nothing hooked; but as time went on, one or two local anglers, who understood the Winchester trout, began to fish, and by watching them and asking a few questions I came to understand their method. Some flies were then bought from Hammond, who was in those days the great authority upon the Itchen; they were not tied with a divided wing, as is the rule now, but it was possible to make them float, especially the hare's ears, and it was with one of Hammond's flies that I had my first success. This was a long time in coming, for it was not till June that I caught a trout of reasonable size, and that was the only one I caught during my first season. I can see the place and the rise of that trout now, and recall the anxiety and excitement after it was hooked! It was indeed a morning never to be forgotten: all the deferred hope, all the keenness of many weeks, found satisfaction and reward in a moment, the great gulf between failure and success was passed, and I stood on the right side. I had seen now how the thing could happen, and I was sure it would happen again.
The trout weighed a little over a pound, and was hooked with a red quill gnat. It was carried home proudly by hand, for I had no landing net in those days; and though there was no more success for me that season, it was henceforth possible to give a willing answer to the question whether I ever had caught anything.
A small annual payment gave us the right to fish in about half a mile of the river on the part known as " Old Barge," and the Winchester trout here had ways of their own, the result no doubt of special education. Day tickets, as well as season tickets, were issued for this piece of water, and I have seen as many as eleven rods fishing it at once, the average number of rods in the best of the season being probably four or five a day. The effect upon the trout was curious but logical. They had become very difficult to catch, or else none would have survived; there were plenty of them, and it was only partly true to call them shy. As a matter of fact, it was not nearly so hard to approach them as it is on many waters much less fished; nor did they take offence very readily at clumsy casts. It was possible to go on casting for hours over rising trout without putting them down, but it would be a mistake to infer that they were indifferent to bad fishing. I suppose habit had made them patient of many faults in angling, which would have been resented at once by fish of less experience. The presence of a figure on the bank, the coming and going of the gut and of an artificial fly, became to most of these trout incidents inseparable from their feeding time. These things must have seemed to them attendant on every natural rise of fly, features not altogether welcome possibly, but on pain of complete starvation not to be treated with indiscriminating fear. So the trout rose; they rose freely, and to some extent imper-turbably, but they discriminated. To the end I never was quite sure on what success depended most on this wonderful piece of water. Fine gut and a perfectly floated fly and exact casting must have been of use here as everywhere, but these alone were not enough. A Winchester trout might disregard them all, and there was no magic attraction for it in the first cast; on the contrary, I came to look upon it as an exception, if a trout rose at my fly before it had been often fished over.
Perseverance and continuous rapid work seemed to have most effect. There was one man who understood those fish better than any one else, and who caught far more; he fished nearly every day, and from watching him long and often I became aware of certain peculiarities in his style. Of course he knew the water very well and generally managed to be at a very good place when the rise began, and once there his plan was to stick to his fish and to cast quickly. He dried his fly harder and more rapidly than any one I ever saw, and brought it floating over the fish oftener in a given space of time. His rod and line used to make a very busy sound in the air, as he dried his fly. It was not pretty fishing to watch, but when he made a cast, the line went out straight and accurate, and he once to my knowledge landed in one day from this much-fished part of the river seven brace of trout, all above the limit of size. We used to find him fishing when we came out, and to leave him fishing when we had to go in, but his plan was always the same, to move very little, to watch the river closely when fish were not rising, to cast quickly and incessantly while the rise lasted, and to change from one fish to another, rather than from place to place, all day. He was also a very silent angler, as if his business was solely with the trout, and what he was, besides being the best resident fisherman at Winchester, remained unknown to me. I was so struck by his success in fishing that it never occurred to me to ask about anything else.
One or two of the men who fished this portion of " Old Barge" occasionally, were anglers of renown. There was, for instance, the late Mr. Francis Francis, at that time probably the best known of all authorities on angling; my recollection of his fishing on the Itchen is that he used a double-handed rod, and threw a small fly with it more accurately than it seemed easy to do with so large an instrument. Sometimes too, but not often, we saw on "Old Barge" the greatest angler I have ever met. One could not say which was the more instructive, to watch his fishing or to listen to his talk; no one had more information to give, no one was more generous in giving it; his knowledge seemed the result not only of observation and experience, but of some peculiar insight into the ways of trout. In the management of rod and tackle he displayed not only skill but genius. Such at any rate is my recollection of what I heard and saw in days long ago, and I gather from many tributes, which have appeared in print since then, that the genius of the late Mr. Marryat was widely recognised, and most highly estimated, and most willingly deferred to by those who knew him best.