Such is the testimony on one side of the question. The other side, the view of the sportsmen whom Dr. Barton finds it so hard to convince, is modestly presented by Major Traherne. He mentions that three grilse caught in Norway were gorged with insects, apparently daddy-longlegs; that certain Norwegians reported half-digested fish as having been found in salmon taken in their nets; and that a similar story came from Newcastle-on-Tyne. His belief is that the customary emptiness of the salmon's stomach is capable of explanation. He has " often noticed, fishing with natural bait, when a salmon is landed the bait is torn from the hooks and sent up the line a foot or more." " Does not this show," he asks, " that a salmon has marvellous power of ejecting its food ? Is it not probable that when he gets into trouble, either by being hooked or netted, he will disgorge the contents of his stomach ? A trout that is full of food will, we all know, do so after he is landed-and why not the salmon ? . . . The absence of food in a salmon's stomach has been accounted for in one other way. A salmon may have such powers of digestion that whatever food he consumes disappears almost at once." The opinion thus suggested is quoted from the volume on Fishing in The Badminton Library. The editor of the volume adopts it without reserve. "From my own experience," he says in a footnote, " I fully endorse this. Salmon must feed in fresh water, or they would neither take fly nor bait-spoons, prawns, or anything else. Yet I never found anything in their stomachs; they must eject it when in trouble."
Which opinion are we to adopt ?
What may be called the Badminton view is the less impressively stated. Major Traherne does not seem to feel that the question is of much moment. The evidence which he records was gathered casually. It is not even clear whether the fish that had remnants of recent meals within them were taken from fresh water or from salt. The editor's whole-hearted declaration is equally lacking in precision. His statement that "salmon must feed in fresh water" merely takes for granted what the contributor tries, rather diffidently, to prove.
On the other hand, there are striking oversights in the reasoning of the scientific side. Immediately after his diverting argument from analogy, Sir Herbert Maxwell tells a story. A friend was fishing on the Inver, in Sutherland. The water was very low. Many fish were lying in a certain pool, but not one would move at a salmon fly, and the fisherman seated himself to rest. Ere long he noticed a white butterfly floating down the stream. A salmon rose quietly and took it. Thereupon the fisherman put on a Mayfly, and let it float over the salmon, which rose, was hooked, and was landed. Sir Herbert Maxwell's comment is astonishing. " In this instance," he says, "the salmon, having ascertained that the butterfly was palatable, doubtless did take the Mayfly," which the fish supposed to be a butterfly, not being able to distinguish between white wings and yellow, "with gustatory intent; but it is surely too much to assume that all the lures we display are seized from similar motives." As a celebrated critic of literature said when too much disturbed to be coherent instantly, " This will never do." It is a strange sentence to find in the writings of a learned and thoughtful naturalist. His method of reciting the incident misleads. Backward gentlemen of the Badminton school might not consider themselves bound down to the assumption that lures taken by salmon are in all cases taken to be eaten. Perhaps they would admit the possibility of another motive occasionally. They must know that a cat does not always eat the mouse it kills; that a terrier leaves the slaughtered rat; and that the otter sometimes hunts mainly for the pleasure of hunting. On reflection they would acknowledge the possibility of similar actions on the part of salmon. Besides flouting a philosophy that has never been specifically advanced, Sir Herbert Maxwell, by his method of exposition, pulls a screen over a highly relevant moral deducible from the success of his friend. It is he himself who makes a questionable assumption. If the salmon took the Mayfly " with gustatory intent," what becomes of the theory which Sir Herbert has adopted ? The fish was in fresh water; it had eaten; and it was meaning to eat again. Nevertheless, knowing that one salmon did feed in fresh water, he assumes that no other salmon ever does.