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Season 1886

A very good season, both on Dalnawillan and Rumsdale. Shooting up to Sept. 13th in two parties: of two guns each gave 1006½ brace, and in October a further bag of 205 brace to three guns; a most charming fortnight's shooting.

Grouse 1211½ brace.673 brace.
Sundries 88 brace.——

This season was to me a red letter year in Scotch sport; very considerable success rewarded my personal endeavours in every way.

During the month of April I fished on the Thurso and on Loch More, as one of the party of eight rods, all fishing from Strathmore Lodge, and I killed fifty-three salmon.

Sixteen of them, weighing 164-1/2lb., I made in the one day, the 15th, to my own rod on No. 8 beat of the river. On that day good fortune seemed to attend me at all points; they were taking surely in heavy dead water pools, and I bagged every fish into which I bent the rod—a most unusual circumstance. Many never showed a rise, they sucked the fly under water.

The first fish damaged the fly, the next fourteen were taken with one fly, a small silver-grey, no change of fly, but retied several times to the single gut cast.

The last fish, a fifteen-pounder, I had moved in the morning, in fact the first rise, and the last thing before leaving off I crossed the river and changed for a larger size silver-grey as the light was failing, and at that he came like a lion.

Not a single hitch or contretemps occurred during the day. Certainly both myself and my gillie, Johnny Sinclair, were desperately careful, examining and proving knots of the gut casting line after every fish. We were in for a good thing, and nothing that care and attention would do was neglected.

That was the best day ever made on a Thurso river beat and still holds the record, and in all probability will continue to do so.

It was a very hard day's work; as the fish meant it, I meant it, and I kept the fly going without intermission, with an interval of ten minutes for lunch, from 9.30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The next day, a Saturday, and also the Sunday, I laid up in the lodge with lumbago.

My good fortune still pursued me. My last fish at the end of the month was upon Loch More, and was the heaviest fish of the season, viz., 29lb., a magnificent clean run fish, and he was taken on the same silver grey that had killed fourteen fish on the great day. That fly killed twenty-three fish in the month, and is new assigned an honorary post in the fly box.

At the end of June, having obtained the necessary permission from the higher powers, I fished the Baden lochs in Sutherlandshire for trout with the fly.

The lochs are three in number, and communicate, all on one level, by two short water ways, and, collectively, they cover some miles of ground.

Except to one shooting lodge they are nearly inaccessible, and the boats upon the lochs, belonging to the lodges, even if they had been available to me, were too large, needing two gillies to row them, and for trout fishing a large boat is a great drawback; you can't go to work too quietly, or too gently either, in boats or tackle. The shepherds' boat was light enough, but unsafe.

It is a notion that Sutherlandshire lochs need a large gaudy fly, but year by year I have been reducing the size of flies, and fining down the gut.

Again, what is called a fishing breeze is a mistake: if it comes, of course you must make the best of it; but to kill trout cleverly and quickly let me have fine tackle, a light 10ft. rod, and just a ruffle on the water, and if rain is falling and dimpling the water, the less wind the better; of course, if you fish big gaudy flies and double handed rods, you get little without a breeze.

To solve matters, I arranged to lodge with a shepherd not far from the side of the top loch; he gave me a room, and made me pretty comfortable, and with tea and whisky, good red fleshed trout, eggs, and a ham to cut at, I got along pretty well. Anyhow, I was on the ground, and close to my work, which was the main thing if I meant business.

I sent my own boat and gillie by rail, and then carted it over, so I had the right boat for the work, and a safe boat too, which is a point I always look to, as the squalls of wind get up very suddenly on those large lochs amongst the mountains.

I fished with great success, commencing June 30, and fished for seven consecutive days, Sunday, of course, excepted.

My total bag was 534 trout, weighing 198-1/2lb., which is an average of over 28lb. per day; my best day was 113 fish, weighing 42-1/2lb.

I have not come across any trout fishing scores that will beat this record of seven days fishing.

Fortune had again favoured me, excepting one day, when it was a blazing sun; they were all good fishing weather.

When August came, to my own gun my bag of grouse was five hundred and a half brace.

Of all sport I know nothing so deeply exciting as the steady head and tail rise of a heavy salmon, say a 20lb. fish, and the firm tug that you feel as he goes down.

Remember what Major Treherne says, "Don't strike, that tug has fastened the hook if it is to fasten;" but there is nothing so quietly satisfying as the feel on your hip of a heavy pannier of brown trout.

About the salmon you do as your gillie tells you, plant your foot on that rock, or on that sod, and cast there, and the fish comes (when he does come), as the fly swings round two yards below, or rather comes when he does come, the coming being a long way the exception; but the basket of brown trout has been your own doing—you have cast your little flies yard by yard where your own experience tells you the brown trout will come, and the gay little chap does come.

It is all your own act and deed: the gillie has had no hand in it, except bewailing the loss of time after those messing trout, when elsewhere there might be "just a chance" of the salmon that don't come.

I take it that it is every bit as sportsmanslike in its way to kill the little brown snipe, or the little brown trout, as to stalk the monarch of the glen, or rise the monarch of the stream. As regards the snipe, he is good to eat, and the monarch of the glen certainly not. I suppose for punishment of my sins, I once had to live for a week on the latter.

In passing, I may remark as to size of Scotch trout taken with the fly.

In my twenty-six years experience of Scotch fly fishing I have been accessory to the taking of only four fish exceeding 2lb. each in weight.

It is my experience that, excepting two or three lochs in Caithness and Sutherland, that the few fish that exceed 1lb., so soon as they attain that weight become predatory, feeding on their own species, that flies and insects will not maintain fish of that size in condition.