Who shall blame him ? When he has caught one salmon, the Judge will be as ready for the next as any seasoned sportsman; but it is not astonishing that recollection of his first battle, in which he was worsted, made him regard the prospect of another with trepidation. Any man who has fought and lost may well have salmon-fright until he has fought and won. The initial and imperfect experience makes a lasting impression on mind and nerves. Indeed, I think it is only because of knowledge that the great fish will probably be vanquished that any of us makes the venture. A fair analogy may be derived from meditation on fisticuffs. Many a one, I think, would be ill at ease if he knew he had to meet a noted bruiser to-morrow; but all is well when you are comfortably fighting. Anticipation is worse than the event. In salmon fishing the reassuring experience often comes through sheer good luck. A fish rises; he hooks himself; whether you wish it or not, you have to go on with the affair. You pull through successfully, and are a salmon fisher for ever afterwards. You will read eagerly every salmon-fishing book or article or paragraph that comes your way; often, when immersed in prosaic affairs of business or of politics or of society, your thoughts will wander to the water; and thither you will go whenever a holiday can be snatched. The prospect of sport is hardly less cheering than the sport itself. How joyful the afternoon that is spent in preparation for catching the Scotch Express! You do not travel by day. That would mean arriving at night and going to bed before going to fish, which were a procedure much too uninspiring. You are to travel by night, and to be on the water soon after the close of the journey. Tackle-shops have to be visited. Perhaps you want for nothing in the way of gear; but the zest has caught you, and the inclination to see what new flies there may be, whether any one has a new line or a new reel, how the gut crop has turned out, is not to be denied. Regularly a man of my acquaintance, when he has resolved to give himself a few days off, a week before the time of his departure takes all his rods, all his boxes of tackle, his gaff, and even his basket, to be looked to by a professional expert. Usually they are in no need of overhauling; but he cannot resist the opportunity to have grave deliberations about them. At ordinary times this man is engaged in the occupations of the working millionaire; but during the whole of that week nothing is allowed to distract attention from the great topic of the time. That pervades his thoughts and all the hours. Often I have been with him on his expeditions. Instead of retiring to rest in a Pullman car, as an ordinarily decorous Croesus would do, he begins to unmask his batteries the moment the train is under weigh. The joints of every rod have to be examined; the flies have to be minutely discussed; the casts have to be tested. This, with the careful packing up again, keeps him going until York is reached, or Carlisle; at which place a morning journal is urgently needed. To see what Parliament has been doing ? or what has chanced on the foreign Stock Exchanges ? or whether some crisis in international statecraft is being composed or becoming acute? O no; all these have become affairs of no importance. It is the Weather Forecast that is wanted. If it is favourable in relation to needs of the time, all is well: this man, no longer a mere merchant prince, a gleeful schoolboy for the nonce, pictures to himself, and to me, the water at exactly the proper level, the wind in precisely the right direction, and the sky in ideal shades. If the forecast is unfavourable, why, all may still be well. The Meteorological Office is an absurd department. Over and over again it has gone wrong. It says, " Variable light airs, or calm ; a continuance of dry weather may be expected"; but just look at the clouds! Isn't that a watery moon ? Without doubt there's rain in the wind. The whole Highlands may be in a flood before we touch at Stirling. A slight tendency to doze overtakes him when we have crossed the Ochils; but it is not what it seems. High spirits are not exhausted. We do not now need to quit our seats until the journey is ended, and the butterfly sleep is only a way of saying to himself that we are practically at the riverside. At breakfast, after a bath and change of clothes, the gamekeeper, to our town-jaded eyes and ears a man of singularly brisk aspect and intelligence, sits, cap in hand, a cheerful glass before him, assuring us, in elaborate detail, that the river never was in better ply or so much astir with fresh-run fish.
All this is hardly less delightful than what we expect to follow. How is the spell of the sport to be explained ?
Many would say that it springs from joy of the open air. At ordinary times they live in towns, engaged in the bustle of commerce or of social pleasure: to be amid fresh scenes, fresh sounds, fresh silences, is a relief. This one can understand; but it is scarce sufficient. Mr. H-, who resides in the Temple and is Recorder of a great town in Yorkshire, is one of those to whom fishing is pleasurable simply because it is a change of occupation. He came with the learned Judge and me to Loch Lub-naig, and one morning had been fishing by himself. I asked his gillie, who had come for some particular fly, how the Recorder was getting on. "No vera weel, sir,'" said Angus, sighing. " His e'en are no' on the flees for mair than a second at a time. He's aye for lookin' at the ha'ks an' the craws, up the hull. His Worship is an oarnithoaloger, or a penter, or somethin' o' that sort, maybe; but he'll niver be a fisher. The Recoarder's wanderin' i' the mind." Angus made this report with sad gravity, and, after examining the new fly, went away with no spring in his gait.