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A QUITRENT ODE.
"THIRTY to-day?" Well, be it so-
Since when, I've toiled and failed and fought,
Let the peach apple hang, though rife
A sober strain, dear; one that fits
Where planets, summer-fraught with dew,
With such enchantment in the air,
G. W. Y.
A NEW SPORT.
WHILE Some people may be inclined to deny that sea-fishing is in any sense a sport, others perhaps hold the opinion that it is a very fine sport indeed, but not new; so that the title I have chosen is liable to be assailed for very opposite reasons. It is not, however, of ordinary sea-fishing, which needs long coarse lines, heavy leads, a multitude of hooks, and the various appurtenances of the professional fisherman, that I am about to write, but rather of angling in salt-water very much as it is followed in our rivers and lakes, with certain comparatively trifling modifications in the way of tackle, and variations in the matter of bait.
We should have to go back a long way to determine who was the first man to discover the advantages of the rod for this sport. The most primitive form of seafishing was doubtless done from the shore, and more particularly from rocks rising out of deep water. The Goth, Pict, or Scot who stood on some rocky prominence and cast out his stoneweighted line, must have found that his hook fouled the seaweed beneath him, and a pole of some kind, to prevent the recurrence of this mishap, was very quickly devised. On the abrupt, rugged coasts of Scotland, Ireland, Yorkshire, Devon, and Cornwall, long rods of some kind or other have been used from time immemorial.
But sea-fishing does not become a sport merely because a rod is involved. When, however, we find that skilful anglers come down to the coasts, and in places, at times, and generally under conditions when professional fisher
men would fail, manage to make heavy baskets of fish by means of fine tackle and the skill with which they use it, then I think it may be said that a branch of sea-fishing has been created which may reasonably be termed a sport.
The professional fisherman does most of his line-fishing during the night or at early morning, and the fish take little notice of his coarse lines in the semi-darkness. the daytime he is more successful when the sea is rough than during calm, sunny weather. The troubled surface checks the flow of light, and the wave-motion, where the sea is not too deep, stirs up the bottom and slightly thickens the water. In bright sunlight, after a spell of fine weather, when the surface is like one sheet of plate-glass and the eye can see down several fathoms, the professional will tell you that the fish are shy and unapproachable. But the salt-water angler knows better; and by using fine tackle, and lulling the suspicions of the fish by a judicious distribution of ground-bait, he may half fill his boat, to the great amazement of the professional.
I well remember how, one sunny August day, a friend and I walked down to a little quay at the head of Loch Inchard, carrying pike-rods in our hands. The gillie who was waiting for us said so positively the rods were worse than useless, that my friend went back and left his at home. were three hand-lines of the usual kind in the boat; and during the two hours we were actually fishing my friend worked two of these and the gillie the third, thus having six hooks between them.
be pardoned, perhaps, for quoting a few lines from the preface:
I, on the other hand, had a piece exhaustively considered.
"The subject of this little work is sea-fishing-or rather, sea-angling-for pleasure, as opposed to sea-fishing for profit; and apart from any value attaching to the information given, if my endeavours have the effect of sending more anglers to the sea, and rerivers and lakes, I shall not have lieving the strain on our over-fished written in vain. This book will, I
hope, show that angling of a superior kind is to be obtained in the sea, and possibly in a few years the very limited number of persons who angle in saltwater may be considerably increased."
The literature of angling is very large. Izaak Walton's 'Compleat Angler' has alone run into over a hundred editions, and there have been five and six hundred other works published; but nearly all these related to fresh-water fishing. In 1801 was published Dr Brooke's 'Art of Angling,' which dealt to some extent with rock - fishing. Later on we had a useful book by Captain Lambert Young, entitled 'Sea-Fishing as a Sport,' and Mr Wilcock's important work, The Sea-Fisherman.' But it was not until 1887, when my little handbook, entitled 'Angling in Salt Water,' was published, that fishing in the sea with fine tackle, and very much according to the methods used by fresh-water anglers, was
My expectations have been abundantly realised. There is not a pier or jetty jutting out from the shore of the United Kingdom where the sea-angler is not to be found, though I fear, owing to the steamboat traffic at most of those places, the majority of the fish have been driven away, and he catches but little. My little book made, indeed, many converts, and was followed by a work very much on the same lines so far as the practical information went, but with the addition of a very useful guide to the principal places on the coast-I mean 'Sea-Fishing on the English Coasts,' by Mr F. G. Aflalo. A smaller book, written by an enthusiast, but dealing chiefly with hand-lines, was Mr Frank Hudson's 'Sea-Fishing for Amateurs.'
The first, and, so far as I know, for many years the only, society of sea- anglers was the "Rock Fishers"" angling club of Aberdeen. But in the early spring of 1893 a "British Sea - Anglers' Society" was formed, of which Sir Edward Birkbeck, Bart., is the president. It includes among its supporters Lord Brassey, Lord St Levan, Sir Harald G. Hewett, Bart., Sir
George R. Sitwell, Bart., M.P., Sir Albert Rollit, M.P., Captain Lambert Young, Mr R. Biddulph Martin, M.P., Mr H. Cholmondeley Pennell, Mr T. A. Dorrien-Smith, Mr J. C. Wilcocks, Mr W. Senior (of the Field'), Mr S. Harwood (of Land and Water'), Mr R. B. Marston (of the 'Fishing Gazette'), Mr A. W. Blakey (of the 'Angler'), and a number of other gentlemen interested in sea-fishing. The chief burden of the undertaking was borne by Mr F. G. Aflalo, who was elected, and has since acted as, honorary secretary. The society was from the first a success, and within a few months the subscribers numbered nearly two hundred. It may, perhaps, be asked, What can a society of this kind do? The committee aim, I believe, at establishing branches in all parts of the kingdom, with boats and competent men. This, of course, is a work both of time and money. Then there are to be corresponding members at different sea-coast towns, who will give information as to the migrations of sea-fish, the best periods to visit the locality, the best men to employ, and so forth. All the information which is obtained is filed and ready for reference at the office in London, No. 66 Haymarket. Arrangements are being made with different hotel-keepers to charge members of the society a fixed tariff, and certain of the railway companies have already agreed to carry the members at reduced fares.
So far as my experience goes, some of the best sea-fishing to be obtained anywhere in the United Kingdom is off the coasts of Scotland and the outlying islands, and I hope the time will come when anglers living in the South will be able to make their journey North on more reasonable terms than those which at present prevail. I
think the success of the British Sea-Anglers' Society and the books which have been written on what I believe I correctly term a new sport" are proof, if one needed, that sea-fishing in its higher branches has taken a great hold on the minds of a large section of the angling community. First-rate fresh-water fishing is becoming more difficult of attainment every day, and it is only the few who can afford to pay large sums for salmon - rivers in the North, and trout-streams in the South, who may reckon on obtaining good sport. Men often spend their summer holiday in Scotland, devoting perhaps £50 or more to travelling, hotel, and incidental expenses. They fish hotel waters, and catch perhaps half-a-dozen salmon, often not so many.
There are not in Northern seas any fish (except big sea trout, which in certain places may be caught in salt-water) affording the same sport as that given by salmon. But in the warmer seas on the south, west, and east coasts of England we have in the bass a fish which, though very difficult to catch, gives almost, if not quite, as great sport when hooked as does the king of the river; while the pollack and coal-fish-better known in Scotland as lythe and saithe-take the fly most greedily at times, and give very fine sport indeed. In using the word "fly" in connection with sea-fish, I do not refer to the imitation of natural winged insects such as are the death of trout, but rather to the various, more or less gaudy, combinations of tinsel, fur, and feather which, without much doubt, represent in the water a small fish or some marine insect.
Sea-fish most readily take what we are pleased to term artificial flies, when they are feeding on fry
of various kinds, mostly herring and sprat, several of which may be included in the generic term "whitebait"; and the best fly is, without much doubt, one which most closely resembles those silvery little fish. I had such a fly dressed, which was very successful with a billet on the Yorkshire coast (billet is the local name for the young of the coal-fish, or saithe, which vary from 1 to 3 lb. in weight). The body of the fly was rather fat, and covered with broad silver tinsel. Tail and under-wing were of peacock herle, and over-wing two white strips from a swan's wing; the legs rather long peacock herle. With this fly I had a really remarkable take of fish, casting from the rocks. A shoal of billet had driven the whitebait (called on that part of the coast soil or sile), and I worked my fly just as I would for sea- trout. Darkness and a rising tide drove me from the spot, but in the short space of three-quarters of an hour I had landed over half-a-cwt. of fish. That is not an everyday occurrence, of course.
Looking at the fact that the herring-fry have bluish-green backs, and silvery sides and belly, it might be better to reverse the fly above described by placing the white wing where the legs usually go, and using long pieces of peacock herle to represent the back of the little fish. The more ordinary sea-fly, which has been used for many years, has a white wool body and a white wing; but mackerel, to capture which it is chiefly intended, do not take it nearly so eagerly as they do a strip of mackerel-skin, which, if properly cut, looks like a small fish swimming through the water. Strips of skin cut from the side of the grey gurnard are used for the same purpose.
VOL. CLVI.-NO. DCCCCXLVII.
Though the mackerel is, perhaps, of all marine fish the one which is generally deemed the most ready to take a fly, so far as my experience goes it is not to be caught in numbers by ordinary casting with the fly-rod. As a rule, mackerel are some little distance under the surface, and the best way to catch them is to trail behind the boat a single hook on which is a strip of mackerel-skin. A lead fixed to the line some distance above the bait is required to sink the tackle.
Casting with the rod in freshwater fashion is of little use except when the mackerel are every now and again breaking the surface as they hunt the shoals of small fry about. If we could follow such surface-feeding mackerel, it would be an easy matter to catch a large number; but if the fish chance to appear close to the boat, they are gone again in less than a quarter of a minute, to reappear perhaps a hundred yards away. Tenby Bay was alive with these fish one sunny morning towards the end of August. The shoals were breaking the water in all directions, chasing the herring - fry. But though a little Welsh boy and I did our best to get within casting distance, I do not suppose that I was able to place my fly over the mackerel half-a-dozen times. But each cast produced a
There are several records of herrings being taken with the artificial fly both in the sea-lochs of Scotland and Ireland. I have never yet had the good fortune to come upon herrings when thus disposed. It is when they are crowding into the narrow inlets of the sea in autumn, and are in shallow water, that the flyfisher has his opportunity.
Almost any summer's evening