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r L Y - F i s ii i n a, or Fishing at the Top, is, as I said before, of two sorts; with a Natural, and Living Fly, or with an Artificial, and made Fly.
First then, Of the Natural Fly; of which we generally use but two sorts, and those but in the two months of May and June only, namely, the Greendrake, and the Stone-fly; though I have made use of a third that way, called the Camlet-fly, with very good success for Grayling; but never saw it angled with by any other after this manner, my master only excepted, who died many years ago, and was one of the best Anglers that ever I knew.
These are to be angled with, with a short line, not much more than half the length of your rod, if the air be still; or with a longer, very near or all out as long as your rod, if you have any wind to carry it from you; and this way of fishing we call Daping, Dabbing, or Dibbling, wherein you are always to have your line flying before you up or down the river as the wind serves, and to angle as near as you can to the bank of the same side whereon you stand; though where you see a fish rise near you, you may guide your quick fly over him, whether in the middle, or on the contrary side; and if you are pretty well out of sight, either by kneeling, or the interposition of a bank, or bush, you may almost be sure to raise, and take him too, if it be presently done; the fish will otherwise, peradventure, be removed to some other place, if it be in the still deeps, where he is always in motion, and roving up and down to look for prey; though in a stream, you may always, almost, especially if there be a good stone near, find him in the same place. Your line ought in this case to be three good hairs next the hook, both by reason you are in this kind of Angling, to expect the biggest fish, and also, that wanting length to give him line after he is struck, you must be forced to tug for't; to which I will also add, that not an inch of your line being to be suffered to touch the water in dibbling, it may be allowed to be the stronger. I should now give you a description of those flies, their shape and colour, and then give you an account of their breeding, and withal shew you how to keep and use them; but shall defer that to their proper place and season.
Viat. In earnest, Sir, you discourse very rationally of this affair, and I am glad to find myself mistaken in you; for in plain truth I did not expect so much from you.
Pise. Nay, Sir, I can tell you a great deal more than this, and will conceal nothing from you. But I must now come to the second way of Angling at the Top, which is with an artificial fly, which also I will shew you how to make before I have done; but first shall acquaint you, that with this you are to angle with a line longer by a yard and a half, or sometimes two yards, than your rod; and with both this, and the other, in a still day, in the streams, in a breeze that curls the water in the still deeps, where (excepting in May and June, that the best Trouts will lie in shallow streams to watch for prey, and even then too) you are like to hit the best fish.
For the length of your rod, you are always to be governed by the breadth of the river you shall choose to angle at; and for a Trout-river, one of five or six yards long is commonly enough, and longer, though never so neatly and artificially made, it ought not to be, if you intend to fish at ease, and if otherwise, where lies the sport?
Of these, the best that ever I saw are made in Yorkshire, which are all of one piece; that is to say of several, six, eight, ten, or twelve pieces, so neatly pieced, and tied together with fine thread below, and silk above, as to make it taper, like a switch, and to ply with a true bent to your hand; and these too are light, being made of fir-wood, for two or three lengths, nearest to the hand, and of other wood nearer to the top, that a man might very easily manage the longest of them that ever I saw, with one hand; and these, when you have given over Angling for a season, being taken to pieces, « a
and laid up in some dry place, may afterwards be set together again in their former postures, and will be as straight, sound, and good, as the first hour they were made, and being laid in oil and colour, according to your Master Walton's direction, will last many years.
The length of your line, to a man that knows how to handle his rod, and to cast it, is no manner of encumbrance, excepting in woody places, and in landing of a fish, which every one that can afford to Angle for pleasure, has somebody to do for him, and the length of line is a mighty advantage to the fishing at distance; and to fish fine, and far off, is the first and principal rule for Trout Angling.
Your line in this case should never be less, nor ever exceed two hairs next to the hook, for one,— though some I know will pretend to more art than their fellows,—is indeed too few, the least accident, with the finest hand, being sufficient to break it; but he that cannot kill a Trout of twenty inches long with two, in a river clear of wood and weeds, as this and some others of our's are, deserves not the name of an Angler.
Now to have your whole line as it ought to be, two of the first lengths, nearest the hook, should be of two hairs a-piece; the next three lengths above them of three, the next three above them of four, and so of five and six, and seven, to the very top: by which means your rod and tackle will in a manner be taper from your very band to your hook; your line will fall much better and straighter, and cast your fly to any certain place to which the hand and eye shall direct it, with less weight and violence, than would otherwise circle the water, and fright away the fish.
In casting your line, do it always before you, and so that your fly may first fall upon the water, and as little of your line with it as is possible; though if the wind be stiff, you will then of necessity be compelled to drown a good part of your line to keep your fly in the water: and in casting your fly, you must aim at the further, or nearer bank, as the wind serves your turn; which also will be with and against you on the same side, several times in an hour, as the river winds in it's course, and you will be forced to angle up and down by turns accordingly; but are to endeavour, as much as you can, to have the wind evermore on your back, and always be sure to stand as far off the bank, as your length will give you leave when you throw to the contrary side; though when the wind will not permit you so to do, and that you are constrained to angle on the same side whereon you stand, you must then stand on the very brink of the river, and cast your fly at the utmost length of your rod and line, up or down the river as the gale serves.
It only remains, touching your line, to enquire whether your two hairs, next to the hook, are