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The village of Talley is a romantic spot, situated in the most sequestered part of South Wales. It sleeps, as it were, beneath the shelter of some lofty mountains, and is celebrated for the remains of an old ivy-clad monastery. Beside the little church which fronts the ruin, appear two large pike-pools, or tarns, surrounded by steep declivities, and forming marshes, at the water's edge, where moor-fowl breed, and the heath-flower blossoms. Upon this spot, so admirably calculated for the enthusiast or the sportsman, for the lover of nature or of roast ducks, Morgan, Drake Somerset, and myself, turned the light of our countenances one fine spring morning, and bent our steps towards the cottage of a friend whom I have mentioned in the Otter Hunt, and who resides in the immediate neighbourhood.
We reached the village at an early hour, and finding, as usual, everything arranged for our arrival, hurried off to the scene of action. As the vast extent of the water rendered bank.fishing a vain employment, we had recourse to the Welch coracles, which enabled us to traverse it in every direction. Our bait was a somewhat singular one, and
may perhaps astonish the sporting cognoscenti in England. It was a huge artificial fly, constructed on the rudest principles, and so independent in shape, as to set nature at positive defiance. Its length was about three inches, with a thick body formed of gaudy-coloured worsted, and wings of a jay or a bright mallard's feather, tied upon two large hooks, such as are generally used in England for the dead snap, but of course without lead. The rod was about four yards long, and attached to a strong whip-cord line of eighteen or twenty feet. The manner of throwing the bait is somewhat similar to trolling; except that the fish should be struck on the instant, and landed vi et armis.
As for our coracle, it merits an equally minute description, being singularly formed of wicker-work, covered with leather or canvas, and pitched, so as to render it water-proof. It is merely large enough to carry one man, with his nets and fowling-piece, and is worked with a paddle. In shape it is nearly
round, with a seat placed across the centre for the greater facility of guidance. Wales appears to be the only place in which it is generally used : and its value to a poor fisherman is astonishing. With his coracle, and his dog, and his fowling-piece, he traverses the swiftest rivers, rattles down cataracts and water-falls, and then returns to his cottage, with his boat upon his back, his gun in his hand, and his trusty spaniel by his side.
Having said so much about the coracle, it is high time we should get into it; a job which we speedily effected : but being novices in the management, there was some little apprehension manifested on our first putting off from shore. But we soon got accustomed to the task, recollecting with the compassionate fish.woman, who excused herself for skinning eels, with “Lord bless 'em, it's nothing when they are used to it," that danger or pain of any kind is diminished by habit. To this observation, however, which I repeated to Morgan as we were entering the coracles, he begged leave to except a school-flogging, assuring me that after having been duly scourged for a week successively, he found the inconvenience as great at the termination as at the commencement of his discipline.
And now behold us seated each in his wicker boat, busily making for the centre of the pool,
where, according to the village records, the larger fish love to resort. The soldier was the first to cast out his bait without receiving any return to his letter of invitation. For my own part, I floated more discreetly by the bank-side, where a huge congregation of weeds hinted the probability of a bottom, which in the middle of the lake is almost as difficult to discover as the longitude. I soon found myself rewarded for my discretion; for on throwing the fly, a thumping pike, roused perhaps to activity by the approach of the coracle, seized it with the velocity of lightning, and, on being struck, rushed forward in a desperate hurry, churning the water into foam as he passed. Maddened with pain, he dashed about the pool, rose apparently exhausted on the surface, and then dived deep into the wave, till spent by fatigue he gave up the job, as well as the ghost; and I had the ecstacy of landing a pike of six pounds weight.
I was so much engrossed by my booty, that for some time I was deaf to the shouts of little Morgan, who had hooked a similarly sized fish, but was less able to restrain his jubilant cachinations. When at last I reverted my optics to his coracle, I found him skimming in it to and fro, now at one end, now at another part of the pool, in hasty pursuit of his prey, which was foundering about in
the water like a fresh-water leviathan. Reader ! hast thou ever seen a buttock of beef rearing its majestic form above the margin of a wash-tub?— such was our magnanimous Cambrian, while seated in a squat cock-boat, his goodly stomach rose proudly pre-eminent in corpulent circumference.
At this instant, while he was landing his fish, some wild-fowl sprung up from a little thicket, at the extremity of the pool. Somerset, who by great good-luck had his fowling-piece in the coracle, hastened to pay his addresses to them; but finding that they possessed all the timid shyness of youth, resolved upon a clandestine interview, and firing from behind a prolific family of osiers, lodged a brace of wild-ducks in the water.
• Bravo !" exclaimed the enraptured Morgan, and hastened to examine the bodily health of the defunct; a scrutiny which afforded him the sincerest satisfaction.
We had now been some hours on the lake, and Somerset, who laid aside his rod for his fowlingpiece, went poaching along the banks and through the copse, in hopes of scraping a further acquaintance with fish, flesh, or fowl. The Welchman returned to his position in the centre of the pool, while I, with wonted discretion, performed my noviciate with the coracle by the sides. I never indeed, such is my want of taste, could fancy a