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state, attracted by the vast quantity of fish and the quiet secluded nature of the river and country around. The carrion or corby crows seemed almost in endless numbers all along the wooded part of our walk, the vast range of woodland country affording them a safe retreat from all harm; and the game not being much preserved in the neighbourhood, the keepers leave them to increase and multiply. Great quantities of wild-fowl were said also to resort to the river in the winter time, and to breed in the low swampy places in the summer months. Having again tried a few casts with our lines unsuccessfully, we proceeded lower down the stream till we came to a place called the Parson's Pool, a deep spot with a rapid run from it, and difficult to get at except by wading: above the main pool and deep water, a small rill or off-shoot of the river formed itself into a tiny brook, which fell again into the main stream a short distance below, and running under a bank, formed at an angle a very small pool at the point where the water curved round, and not apparently larger than sufficient to find accommodation for a couple of herring-sized fish; but by standing at a distance, and with careful throwing, I contrived to extract from this small space three brace and a half of nice-sized trout, and one fully equal to 3lbs. had it been in good condition, but being too large for the hole, it had wasted, and was thin; these seven fish I was enabled to bring to shore without any landing net, by sliding them on the shingly bed of the river, then quite dry. Further on, near the steep cliffs, we saw some very fine fish, which could not be less than from three to four pounds each, but not to be got at in any legitimate manmer; and now the Mayfly and grey-drake were beginning to come more on the water, with the aid of wading we met with some very nice sport lower down the river, though but few grayling would rise. My friend complained much of his fish getting off his hooks and not being fully struck, though he was an excellent fisherman, but with rather too gentle a hand; he had, however, a device which I had not met with before, namely, a very fine watchmaker's file, with which to sharpen the points of the hooks broken and blunted by coming in contact with boughs and stones, &c., and a very few touches of the file gave a subtile point to the hooks, of which the fish had little idea until they felt them; but either from the quantity of the natural fly upon the water, enabling the fish to select their food early and late, or from some other cause, they certainly, except at times, did not take the flies eagerly, as is usual upon the Mayfly's first appearance-making several playful attempts at the same fly, and then letting it pass altogether. We however consoled ourselves with the reflection that the fish, like the fishermen, would probably, as time passed, become more hungry and inclined to bite; we therefore in the meanwhile selected a shady spot to lunch at, determining at any rate to satisfy ourselves, and afterwards to endeavour to do the same by the fish; and to see the two lads devour their portion was enough to excite the appetite of all the fish in the river. After we had had enough of creature comforts, we devoted ourselves to supply the fish with theirs, and not unsuccessfully; for as the sun clouded over, and the grey-drake came out more full, we had better success, and I basketed fourteen and ahalf brace of trout, and my friend a considerable number more, besides a grayling of about a pound and a-half weight, an excellent fish on the
table. We had this day six miles to walk home, along a hard, but not bad road, except that my fit-out for wading was not equally well adapted with my friend's stout boots for road duty: the water had had the effect of turning my loosely buckled boots heel-ways before, or at least crossways, and crippled me so much that to get on at all was very painful, and, at a distance, made one look like some poor creature taking his first walk after, or rather during a severe fit of the gout; but a bold heart, and the full conviction there was no help for it, carried me safe home at last; and having put out our catch of fish, refreshed ourselves heartily at dinner, having the benefit of the club wines, at night we both slept soundly as the two babes in the wood.
The next day was Saturday, on which I had originally intended to have returned home, but the pressing kindness of my friend, whom I was unwilling to leave entirely by himself in the evenings-two other members of the club, who promised to join him from London, having failed to do so together with the comfortable quarters we were in, induced me to comply with my friend's request, and stay with him till the Wednesday following, thus making out a week from our arrival. During this period, notwithstanding the sequestered spot we were in, thanks to the railroad we had daily news of what was going on in the world; our little inn, besides its other avocations, being the post-office as well; and the Times newspaper duly made its appearance upon our breakfast table each morning, together with my friend's London lettersmine I begged might bide their time till my return home. On this day there were some threatenings of rain, but none unfortunately fell, though in most other places there had been a good deal. We were about to start in a sort of gig, two before and two behind, David the Little taking a turn at walking, with the promise of a ride back if the conveyance should come for us in time, as we proposed fishing towards home; all ready, and in the act of setting off, our landlord suddenly pulled up, in consequence of the Ludlow fox-hounds appearing in view as they came over the crown of the bridge, and in a few minutes the huntsman appeared in plain clothes, and his whip in scarlet, with about fourteen or sixteen couple of young and rather ragged-looking puppies, going out for exercise; but at this season of the year condition was not to be expected. In the huntsman, I recognised Nicholls, the late whipper-in to the Albrighton hounds, a very civil and active fellow in the field, with whom I had had many a sharp gallop in former days. These hounds are kept a short distance off by subscription, but chiefly supported, as I was informed, by Mr. Sitwell, who last year took the mastership, rather than they should be given up on the cessation of their former master, Mr. Frederick Stubbs, a thorough good and hardy sportsman, who hunted the pack for many years with a very humble subscription, in a very wild woodland and severe country, taking the part of huntsman himself. After a few minutes' talk of the past and future prospects of hunting, we proceeded on our des tination, but found the sun came out very glaring and hot at timesunfavourable for fishing-and violent gusts of wind rendering it very difficult to throw at all, without snapping off a fly or getting entangled in the trees, which latter we often did. Our success, in consequence of these adverse events, was much diminished; but still we found,
later in the day, better sport, and as the grey-drake made its appearance more fully on the water, by using the Alder and other dark fly as a drop fly, we did better, and caught thirteen brace of killable fish and one good-sized grayling, besides the many undersized fish we turned in again. It was somewhat singular that we found, from the information of the keeper who visited us occasionally as he went down the water, that the other gentlemen had had little or no sport with the artificial fly; some had caught only one or two fish, and none, as he told us, had exceeded four or five brace at the most. The Mayfly and grey-drake were very strong on the water after mid-day; but though the river seemed at times quite alive with fish rising, and the quantity must have been immense, still but comparatively few seemed really to take the fly-rising at the same fly over and over again, but letting it pass. However, it so happened that the previous day, after trying various kinds of May-flies dressed in different ways, some with reversed wings, and obtained from almost every maker in London, I had luckily discovered amongst my old stock four Mayflies dressed in a particular manner, and made many years ago by a friend now dead, but an admirable sportsman in every way, and, though a clergyman, at one time joint-master with his brother, another clergyman, of a pack of excellent hounds, which were for several years hunted by the two brothers, with a man to whip-in to them, and most capital was the sport they afforded; but then, bishops were not so very particular. These four flies, of which I gave two to my friend, were regular "gay deceivers;" they were made very full-bodied and large, and what fishermen call well-buzz'd, and though apparently, to our eyes at least, not so like as others we had to the natural fly, their charms were irresistible; and with one of these flies alone, I caught upwards of twenty brace of fish, and finally lost it round a stake, with a fish fast hooked: this fly I termed the " family fly," as it caught all the fraternity of fish living in the same part of the river, and if changed for another Mayfly exactly like the one on the water, the one substituted for the "family fly" caught but few fish, but when the latter was put on again, it was pretty sure to make them rise; but unfortunately the four flies were not of long duration, and either became soon worn out from their constant use, or were lost round the stakes in the river. I should here state that the inconvenience of the extreme lowness of the water, and the innumerable quantity of wooden stakes driven into the bottom of the river, and the iron holdfasts which were drilled into the rocks, to prevent the river being netted, rendered it almost impossible to strike a fish in the deeper water and get him safe to shore, without its twisting round some of these impediments, and either getting off the hook, or, which was worse, breaking away with one's tackle, scarcely three yards in any of the shallower parts of the river being clear of stakes; often and often a fish would rise, be struck, twist round a stake, and get away; but these drawbacks to fishing do not occur, I was told, when the river is fuller of water, and in its usual and proper state. We were in one instance much disconcerted, in consequence of a good-sized fish being lost round one of these stakes: my friend had on his line one of the before-mentioned favourite flies, and, unluckily in rather deep water, struck a fish, which getting entangled round a stake, broke all his casting line away, with
two flies attached; this occurred in a very favourite spot for all the club to try their skill in as they were passing by. The next day several of the members told us of a fish they had seen lying dead at the place before-mentioned, but none could get at it, and which they stated they supposed was one we had lost; at length, on myself and friend coming that way, we determined to make an effort to obtain the fish, for the sake of the tackle which he supposed to be still attached to it, and on account of the favourite fly forming a part; after trying in vain to reach it by wading, I exhorted little David to strip and go in for it, with a promise of a shilling if he brought the fisk out; but no, David declared, like the Welshman when drowning, he was too short; then Arthur, the other and taller lad, was persuaded to go in, which he at length did, after much persuasion, as it was a very awkward looking place, more for the sake of recovering the wonderful fly than for the shilling, and after many efforts with the landing-net, and going in as far as ever he dared, he did succeed in bringing the fish to land in the net; but what was our surprise and mortification to find that it possessed, like Caliban, a very ancient as well as fish-like smell, and in truth turned out to be an old dead fish some one else had lost weeks probably before, with not a bit of tackle attached to it: the two lads laughed heartily at our do, and we could not but smile at our own simplicity, in not bargaining for the recovery of the tackle as well, instead of only getting a dead and putrid fish for our shilling.
On Sunday, we went to church; a fine old building, but much neglected, and a part of it given up as a place for pigeons to breed in, though there appeared several monuments under that portion of it. This neighbourhood must be healthy, from the circumstance of the number of long lives of its inmates recorded on the tomb-stones, many being seventy years and upwards. The singing was very beautifully performed by two lady singers in the gallery, who were, I believe, the schoolmistresses, but much in want of a bass voice to assist them. After church, we found it too far to walk to Downton castle, as kindly invited by my friend, Mr. Tarrat, and we went instead to Wigmore abbey and castle.
The following morning we were again by the river-side somewhat early, but there were now several other parties fishing the waters; we did not find the weather so favourable as before, and caught but about twelve brace this day. On our return homewards, one gentleman, a visitor, came up with an old man who had been a former keeper, and said he understood I had some kind of patent fly which would catch the fish whether or no, which he expressed much desire to see, and know how it was made; I shewed him the fly, at which he shook his head, and seemed to think it was too fascinating to be refused by any fish; and later in the day, several others of the members overtook us, and intimated the same thing; I showed them the "family fly," expressing also my regretting I had not another of the same sort left to give them; they had, it turned out, scarcely caught any fish with an artificial fly, but had employed a helper, who had been a former keeper there, and a great adept it was said in taking fish, and who, like the serpent of old, had been all day creeping along on his belly, peering through the bushes, and dapping with a grasshopper or natural fly, stuck on a hook at the end of a twenty-feet rod; by this means he had, like the tempter
of Eve, beguiled with his coaxing ways five fine trout, weighing three pounds a piece, together with some smaller ones, and in beautiful condition; but these proceedings, though they ended in catching fish, could not be called fishing. Most of the club, we afterwards found, were accustomed to adopt this method of filling their baskets, when otherwise unsuccessful.
The minnow fishing, for which the river seems particularly adapted, if the stakes do not interfere, is not allowed till the Mayfly fishing is over, only commencing from the 15th of June. During this day, along the secluded parts of the river, I saw several of those, in other places, rare and shy birds, the water-ouzel, or dipper, which frequently build here.
On the Tuesday, which was my last day, I was more fortunate than before, owing to my wading the river, and I caught seventeen brace of trout in beautiful season, and I became almost tired of catching fish, as none proved to be large ones, though all above the size for keeping, besides those I turned in again. It being somewhat inconvenient and uncertain sending fish away to any distance, I really felt unwilling to catch any more, as we had already made presents of them to the clergyman and doctors and the people of the house, besides supplying ourselves liberally both for dinner and breakfast; but some of the fish were not so good as they looked to be, and none were of that pink colour so much praised by the learned in such matters: many of them, though beautiful to look at when first caught, were quite white when cut, and somewhat soft. On the whole, a more beautiful river for fishing could not be, and the number of fish seemed endless at least, as to trout; and I was told the grayling were still more so, and that the grayling fishing in the proper season was splendid; the trout fishing being considered as quite a secondary consideration, and only followed because the other kind had not begun.
The club consists of twenty members, paying an annual subscription of ten guineas each, with three keepers or watchers to look after the water, and attend upon the members. A club-room is used in common; the club supplies its own wine, and the people of the inn find all else that is necessary, with four or five comfortable bed-rooms, though many of the members go to friends' houses near, or lodge elsewhere, and seldom more than four or five are staying at the inn together.
Thus ended a week's fishing at Leintwardine, after catching from eighty to ninety brace of trout and a few grayling. For this most agreeable and excellent week's sport, I was indebted to the kindness and hospitality of my friend, who supplied me with everything friendship could require, and was once my pupil in the gentle art of flyfishing, but is now become such a proficient, that he is not only able to lure the shyest of the finny tribe from its native element, but to capture the crafty rat, should it venture to cross the stream within his reach.
June 3rd, 1854.