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SALMON FISHING IN IRELAND

SALMON FISHING IN IRELAND

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Written by Hunter   
Wednesday, 08 October 2008 00:58
 
The pool has been cut through a peat bog, [Footnote: Peat-bog. Peat is a
kind of turf that is used for fuel.] and the greater part of it is
twenty feet deep. A broad fringe of water-lilies lines the banks,
leaving, however, an available space for throwing a fly upon between
them. This is the great resting-place of the fish on their way to the
lake and the upper river. The water is high, and almost flowing over the
bog. The wind catches it fairly, tearing along the surface and sweeping
up the crisp waves in white clouds of spray. The party of strangers who
had cards to fish were before us, but they are on the wrong side, trying
vainly to send their flies in the face of the southwester, which whirls
their casting-lines back over their heads. They have caught a peal
[Footnote: Peal: a small salmon.] or two, and one of them reports that
he was broken by a tremendous fish at the end of the round-pool. Jack
directs them to a bend higher up, where they will find a second pool as
good as this one, with a more favorable slant of wind, while I put my
rod together and turn over the leaves of my fly-book. Among the marvels
of art and nature I know nothing equal to a salmon-fly. It resembles no
insect, winged or unwinged, which the fish can have seen. A shrimp,
perhaps, is the most like it, if there are degrees to utter
dissimilarity. Yet every river is supposed to have its favorite flies.
Size, color, shape, all are peculiar. Here vain tastes prevail for
golden pheasant and blue and crimson paroquet. There the salmon are as
sober as Quakers, and will look at nothing but drabs and browns. Nine
parts of this are fancy, but there is still a portion of truth in it.
Bold hungry fish will take anything in any river; shy fish will
undoubtedly rise and splash at a stranger's fly, while they will swallow
what is offered them by any one who knows their ways. It may be
something in the color of the water: it may be something in the color of
the banks: experience is too uniform to allow the fact itself to be
questioned. Under Jack's direction, I select small flies about the size
of green drakes: one a sombre gray, with a silver twist about him, a
claret hackle, [Footnote: Claret hackle. A hackle is an artificial fly
made of feathers.] a mallard wing, [Footnote: Mallard wing. A mallard is
the drake of the wild duck. The artificial fly imitates its wing.]
streaked faintly on the lower side with red and blue. The drop fly is
still darker, with purple legs and olive green wings and body.

We move to the head of the pool and begin to cast in the gravelly
shallows, on which the fish lie to feed in a flood, a few yards above
the deep water. A white trout or two rise, and presently I am fast in
something which excites momentary hopes. The heavy rod bends to the
butt. A yard or two of line runs out, but a few seconds show that it is
only a large trout which has struck at the fly with his tail, and has
been hooked foul. He cannot break me, and I do not care if he escapes,
so I bear hard upon him and drag him by main force to the side, where
Harper slips the net under his head, and the next moment he is on the
bank. Two pounds within an ounce or so, but clean run from the sea,
brought up by last night's flood, and without a stain of the bog-water
on the pure silver of his scales. He has disturbed the shallow, so we
move a few steps down.

There is an alder bush on the opposite side, where the strength of the
river is running. It is a long cast. The wind is blowing so hard that I
can scarcely keep my footing, and the gusts whirl so unsteadily that I
cannot hit the exact spot where, if there is a salmon in the
neighborhood, he is lying.

The line flies out straight at last, but I have now thrown a few inches
too far; my tail fly is in the bush, dangling across an overhanging
bough. An impatient movement, a jerk, or a straight pull, and I am "hung
up," as is the phrase, and delayed for half an hour at least. Happily
there is a lull in the storm. I shake the point of the rod. The
vibration runs along the line; the fly drops softly like a leaf upon the
water--and as it floats away something turns heavily, and a huge brown
back is visible for an instant through a rift in the surface. But the
line comes home. He was an old stager, as we could see by his color, no
longer ravenous as when fresh from the salt-water. He was either lazy
and missed the fly, or it was not entirely to his mind. He was not
touched, and we drew back to consider. "Over him again while he is
angry," is the saying in some rivers, and I have known it to answer
where the fish feed greedily. But it will not do here; we must give him
time; and we turn again to the fly-book. When a salmon rises at a small
fly as if he meant business, yet fails to take it, the rule is to try
another of the same pattern a size larger. This too, however, just now
Jack thinks unfavorably of. The salmon is evidently a very large one,
and will give us enough to do if we hook him. He therefore, as one
precaution, takes off the drop fly lest it catch in the water-lilies. He
next puts the knots of the casting-line through a severe trial; replaces
an unsound joint with a fresh link of gut, and finally produces out of
his hat a "hook"--he will not call it a fly--of his own dressing. It is
a particolored father-long-legs, a thing which only some frantic
specimen of orchid ever seriously approached, a creature whose wings
were two strips of the fringe of a peacock's tail, whose legs descended
from blue jay through red to brown, and terminated in a pair of pink
trailers two inches long. Jack had found it do, and he believed it would
do for me. And so it did. I began to throw again six feet above the
bush, for a salmon often shifts his ground after rising. One cast--a
second--another trout rises which we receive with an anathema,
[Footnote: Anathema: a curse.] and drag the fly out of his reach. The
fourth throw there is a swirl like the wave which arises under the blade
of an oar, a sharp sense of hard resistance, a pause, and then a rush
for dear life. The wheel shrieks, the line hisses through the rings, and
thirty yards down the pool the great fish springs madly six feet into
the air. The hook is firm in his upper jaw; he had not shaken its hold,
for the hook had gone into the bone--pretty subject of delight for a
reasonable man, an editor of a magazine, and a would-be philosopher,
turned fifty! The enjoyments of the unreasoning part of us cannot be
defended on grounds of reason, and experience shows that men who are all
logic and morals, and have nothing of the animal left in them, are poor
creatures after all.

Any way, I defy philosophy with a twenty-pound salmon fast hooked, and a
pool right ahead four hundred yards long and half full of water-lilies.
"Keep him up the strame," shrieked a Paddy, who, on the screaming of the
wheel, had flung down his spade in the turf bog and rushed up to see the
sport. "Keep him up the strame, your honor--bloody wars! you'll lost him
else." We were at fault, Jack and I. We did not understand why down
stream was particularly dangerous, and Pat was too eager and too busy
swearing to explain himself. Alas, his meaning became soon but too
intelligible. I had overtaken the fish on the bank and had wheeled in
the line again, but he was only collecting himself for a fresh rush, and
the next minute it seemed as if the bottom had been knocked out of the
pool and an opening made into infinity. Round flew the wheel again;
fifty yards were gone in as many seconds, the rod was bending double,
and the line pointed straight down; straight as if there was a lead at
the end of it and unlimited space in which to sink. "Ah, didn't I tell
ye so?" said Pat; "what will we do now?" Too late Jack remembered that
fourteen feet down at the bottom of that pool lay the stem of a fallen
oak, below which the water had made a clear channel. The fish had turned
under it, and whether he was now up the river or down, or where he was
who could tell? He stopped at last. "Hold him hard," said Jack, hurling
off his clothes, and while I was speculating whether it would be
possible to drag him back the way that he had gone, a pink body flashed
from behind me, bounded off the bank with a splendid header, and
disappeared. He was under for a quarter of a minute; when he rose he had
the line in his hand between the fish and the tree.

"All right," he sputtered, swimming with the other hand to the bank and
scrambling up. "Run the rest of the line off the reel and out through
the rings." He had divined by a brilliant instinct the only remedy for
our situation. The thing was done, fast as Pat and I could ply our
fingers. The loose end was drawn round the log, and while Jack was
humoring the fish with his hand, and dancing up and down the bank
regardless of proprieties, we had carried it back down the rings,
replaced it on the reel, wound in the slack, and had again command of
the situation.

The salmon had played his best stroke. It had failed him, and he now
surrendered like a gentleman. A mean-spirited fish will go to the
bottom, bury himself in the weed, and sulk. Ours set his head towards
the sea, and sailed down the length of the pool in the open water
without attempting any more plunges. As his strength failed, he turned
heavily on his back, and allowed himself to be drawn to the shore. The
gaff [Footnote: Gaff: a large hook fixed on the end of a pole or
handle.] was in his side and he was ours. He was larger than we had
guessed him. Clean run he would have weighed twenty-five pounds. The
fresh water had reduced him to twenty-two, but without softening his
muscle or touching his strength.

--JAMES FROUDE (adapted).

[Footnote: Is the first part of the narrative a typical story of
"fisherman's luck"? Show how the story illustrates that a real lover of
fishing is enthusiastic over every detail of his experience. Is the
story technical at the expense of the reader's interest? How does the
element of suspense add to the interest? Is the account more interesting
by being told in the first person? Why?]
 
Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 October 2008 12:24
 
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