Thomas Tod Stoddart.

The angler's companion to the rivers and lochs of Scotland online

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volume, or interlarding it with extracts which, although
confessedly to the point, are not in critical demand.
The great bulk of these details has been taken from
statistical sources, and stands incorporated in the
concluding chapters of the work. It consists, indeed,
of facts, already recorded, which are at the service
and within reach of every one who has leisure and
inclination to seek out and arrange them. This por-
tion of my task I have found to be more laborious
than I at first anticipated, but the principal difficulty
lay, not in the mere collecting of materials, but in
condensing and putting these together, so as to form a
summary of correct and useful information.


I have endeavoured, in this portion of the volume, to
give an accurate account of our first-class rivers and
their tributaries, embodying, to the best of my know-
ledge, all that relates to their salmon-fishings in the
way of produce, rental, &c. Along with these matters
I have comprehended, as respects Tweed, a detail of
the various salmon casts and stretches of water reserved
chiefly for rod-fishing. To specify and describe in a
similar manner the numerous trouting-streams and
lakes with which Scotland is intersected would be
quite superfluous. I have accordingly, in regard to
them, selected for special observation a few of the most
productive, those particularly where large trout are to
be found; at the same time, I have attempted in a
general way to describe the angling qualifications of
others less noted, arranging the whole, according to
the districts of country where they flow or are
situated. The concluding chapters, also, will be found
to embrace the names of those places where the
angler may expect to meet with good or tolerable

I feel it unnecessary to add anything further in the
shape of introductory matter. What remains to be
done is to discharge, simply, an act of duty. It is to
express my acknowledgments to more than one indi-
vidual for the encouragement as well as assistance I
have received, while penning these pages. This means
of excitement withheld, I should have ventured to the
task with a much greater measure of diffidence than



has been cherished by me throughout its performance.
There are many, I feel assured, on Tweedside, more
qualified to have engaged in it than myself many, at
least, not less enthusiastic, and who have attained, as
anglers, to a much higher degree of excellence. I have
been bold enough to take possession of their vantage-
ground, inconsiderate enough, it may be said, to
unfold some of the secrets of their proficiency, but it
shall not be added, that, in doing so, I have neglected
to tender my acknowledgments, and give expression to
my obligations.




WHAT is a river, a Scottish river, without its trout ?
What is the ocean without its navies ? What are the
heavens without their stars ? There is scarcely a scene
or landscape, in Highlands or Lowlands, with which
this fish is not in some measure associated. Climb
yonder hill, and gaze around and before you. See
there an earl's proud mansion, his parks and pleasure-
grounds. See there trees of twice a century's growth,

"Whose very shadows
Are histories on which to legislate ;
The veteran boughs are hung with oracles
And legendary song."

But mark ! seemingly at your feet, the life-blood of
the picture, a broad, shining, rejoicing river ! Gaze in
turn up along the valley; yonder, as if from a huge
cavern in the distance, you behold it issuing; you
catch with your eye the gleam of its progress ; now, at



the base of a green ascent or sheep-walk ; further on,
amid pastures and corn-fields; now,, skirting a forest;
now forming, as it were, the moat of a tower or castle ;
and, again, at yonder point, gathering in fresh tribute
from a silvery stream. How it progresses ! like the
everlasting march of a king music at every step
homage and increase at every turn. See, now it winds
onward below us. The sward freshens where it flows ;
the flowers are more varied and abundant. It laves
the walls of a town. It glides under a bridge of many
arches. It pursues far on, far as the eye can stretch,
its radiant and welcome course.

And this river, one of the noblest of our streams,
would it be the same would it be equally endeared to
us anglers, were it a fishless, unpeopled water, devoid of
the " mottled par," the star-sided trout, the glittering
salmon ? What a blank, dreary aspect it would have,
unassociated with these ! What chasms there would
be in the mind and memory in the forethought and
expectation of the beholder ! Not the landscape, not
the lore, not the minstrelsy, not the warble of birds,
not the chiming of the sunlit river itself, could fill them
up. Unpeopled ! desolate ! The fortunes of a thousand
rills are woven here. The dew of the mountain, the
overfill of the lake, the upwelling of the spring, the
boon of the cloud, have met and are mingled in this
one great artery. Its material is life, its flow is life,
its sound life; the shadows that fleet over it are all
life, and yet, imagine it, ye that can, it is an unpeopled
river ! No anglers' festivals are held here ; no fisher
moves along the bank; no wily nets are cast across
the pool ; no torch-light reveals the secrets of its chan-
nels* It is an unpeopled river ! The salmon is a
stranger to its fords and strongholds; the water-fly


sports unharmed on its surface ; the otter refuses to
frequent it ; the heron over its own shadow languishes
and dies.

Visionary ! there is no such stream in broad Scot-
land. The chemist's art, the bleach-field, the paper-mill,
the railway, acids and vitriol, gases, lime, sheep-washing,
manures, and machinery combined, have not yet pro-
duced this result as respects a single rivulet. Our
very mill-runs still contain trout our lakes and rivers
abound in the scaly tribe. Ramble with me from shire
to shire, and I warrant thou wilt cull from each a
measure of sport, ample enough to satisfy a man of
moderate wishes. Art thou otherwise, I have no key to
thy humour ; in these times, alas ! of exclusion and
selfishness, I have no power to assist thee. But there
are trout enough for all, for the sport of the peasant as
well as that of the peer; and a malison seize the churl
who would grudge to the labouring man his snatch of
pleasure, or deny him, although obtained through his
own skill and industry, the morsel that economises
or adds life-prolonging zest to his homely and every-
day fare.

Unquestionably, there exists no species of fish,
which, judging of it by the external marks, holds
claim to so many varieties as the common fresh-water
trout. In Scotland, almost every lake, river, and stream-
let possesses a breed peculiar, in outward appearance, to
itself. To prove and illustrate this, I do not require
to go farther than the district in which I reside.
Within a circle of about twenty miles from Kelso, I
find embraced the following streams and rivulets :
Tweed, Teviot, Ettrick, Leader, Ale, Kale, Eden,
Blackadder, Whitadder, Leet, Coquet, Till, Colledge,
Bowmont, Gala, Rule, all trouting waters ; yet, strange

B 2


to say, there is not one of the whole number but lays
claim, as far as regards the point of distinction in ques-
tion, to its own variety of trout ; and this is the more
remarkable, that, with the exception of Coquet, all
the streams I have mentioned have connection with
the Tweed, or ultimately contribute to it.

To describe, within reasonable compass, the marks
and features which characterise and distinguish each
of these varieties is utterly impossible ; and the task,
happily, is not required. They consist, generally
speaking, in the size, number, disposition, and colours
of the beads or spots; in the formation of the head
and tail ; in the shape and proportions of the fish ; its
tendency to become thick, deep, or round ; to fatten,
or remain lank ; in the tints also, changeable as sea-
sons and even states of water will render them, which
most frequently pervade the skin. Nor, in fact, is it
to be wondered at, when we consider the almost infi-
nite number of changes which even the size, disposition,
number, and colours of the beads alone will effect in
the external appearance of the trout, that the breeds
or varieties thus judged of should baffle all power of

But in regard to the waters above mentioned, (and
I have omitted none, within the limits assigned, of
any note), the trout peculiar to each are distinguished,
not merely by their external features, but by another
point of character as well ; to judge of which, in rela-
tion to so many different streams, may be esteemed a
matter of some difficulty. I allude to their edible
qualities, the flavour and degree of curd and richness
they possess, when in season. Now, in regard to this
feature or point of character, I can safely affirm that
it is almost as varied as the outward marks which


distinguish the fish of one river from those of another.
I make this observation, not merely upon my own
judgment/ although I have exercised it oftener than
once, as regards the produce of all of the streams in
question; but I do so on the authority of others, and
there are many such, who can attest as to the truth
of what I have stated. In Kelso itself, there is scarcely
an inhabitant but what can at once, by the exercise
of his palate and organs of taste alone, distinguish
betwixt a Tweed, a Teviot, and an Eden trout, or the
produce of the main river and its two tributaries that
flow in the vicinity of the town. Externally, the legi-
timate breed of each is unmistakeably marked, (there
occur, I allow, mixed varieties or crosses, frequenting
in common all the three waters, and the presence of
which may be accounted for in various ways) ; but,
more than this, the very colour and consistence of the
flesh when cooked, the flavour and richness it exhibits,
are all severally unlike. The true Eden trout, for
instance, is a deeply-shaped fish, small-headed, and of
dark complexion on the exterior. The stars or beads
are by no means numerous, but they are large and
distinctly formed; those on either flank being of a
deep crimson or purple hue, and encircled with a
whitish ring or halo. Its flesh, when in season, on
being cooked, is of a fine pink colour; the flakes
interlay ered with rich curd. At the table, it is highly
esteemed for its firmness and general excellence.

The Teviot trout, externally, is a more beautiful fish
than that of the Eden. The back is finely curved, and
the head small. It wants depth, but possesses con-
siderable breadth of form. The spots, which are large,
stand well out, and engage the eye. They are gene-
rally of a purple colour, inclining to crimson. A fine


gold or orange tint pervades the exterior of the fish,
which, towards the belly, fades away into pearly white-
ness. In its edible qualities, the Teviot trOut is cer-
tainly somewhat inferior to that of Eden. When
beyond half-a-pound in weight, it cuts red and possesses
considerable richness of taste. What are caught in
the lower parts of the river, from Oxnam downwards, are
much superior, both in size and flavour, to those taken
higher up; and I have noticed that in certain pools,
they are firmer and better shaped than in others.

As regards the proper Tweed trout, it is quite easily
distinguished from those of Teviot and Eden. The
general shape of this variety is by no means faulty.
Its head, except in the case of overgrown individuals
or such as are found in the rocky parts of the river,
is moderate-sized. Its paunch alone has the appear-
ance of being out of proportion to the rest of the body.
This receptacle is capable of holding a large quantity
of food, and is usually met with much distended, or in
a loose flabby state.

In Tweed, the cross breeds are very numerous, and
they all, in some degree, grow to partake of the pecu-
liarity I mention. The true stock, however, is easily
distinguished. It inhabits the river from its very
sources, as far down, I may say, as Norham. The
cross breeds, on the other hand, are severally, accord-
ing to their varieties, found in the neighbourhood of
such tributaries as contribute to their production ; for
instance, in the Tweed below where Teviot discharges
itself, trout are frequently met with which unite the
characteristics belonging to the fish of both rivers.

The trout of Tweed, I allude to the pure bond fide
breed, is plentifully decorated with stars or spots. Of
these, the most attractive are of a vivid crimson hue.


The general colour or outward complexion of the fish
is yellow; its back having an olive, frequently a grey
shade or tint. In its edible qualities, it is much infe-
rior to an Eden or Teviot trout. It seldom possesses
any tendency to redness in the flesh, and unless cooked
shortly after being taken, becomes soft and curdless.
It is, however, when in season, quite sweet and palatable,
and in some parts of the river, where there is good feed-
ing-ground, acquires a considerable degree of richness.

I have described the trout of these three streams, all
running within a short distance of each other, in order
to exemplify the existing varieties of this species of fish.
It is needless to extend my observations upon the sub-
ject any further. The most lengthened inquiry can
only lead to the conclusion, that every lake, river, or
streamlet, be their connection with each other what it
may, possesses its peculiar breed of trout ; and all I
shall do further to establish this fact is, to instance, in
general terms, a few additional localities where it has
fallen most strikingly under my own observation. I
take the neighbourhood of St. Mary's Loch, in Sel-
kirkshire. The loch itself is contiguous to that of the
Lowes, and united with it by a small run, not a hun-
dred yards in length. The two sheets of water contain
distinctly-marked varieties of trout. Of streams con-
nected with these lakes, there are the Chapelhope and
Corsecleugh burns, the Summerhope burn, the Meggat
water, with its tributary Winterhope burn; Yarrow,
with its feeders ; Douglas burn and Altrive lake, every
individual water possessing its own peculiar breed of
fish. Extend the range to Ettrick, and the same
observation holds good. The main stream, the Back
burn, Faa-hope burn, Rankle burn, Timah, &c., all
have their own varieties. Go to Dumfriesshire, to Loch


Skene, MofFat-water, the Annan, the Esk, the Liddle,
and the case is exactly similar. Ascend the rivers of
Perthshire the Tay, the Earn, the Almond, the Isla, the
Tummell, and the Garry : or its smaller streams, such
as May, Ruchil, Erochty. Go to Lochs Tay, Earn,
Tummel, Rannoch, Freuchie, Broom, Turit ; or retreat
northward, as far as Boss-shire, to the Conan, Black-
water, Meig, and Orrin, to Lochs Luichart, Led-
gowan, Achnanault, Garve ; or to a spot in that county
embracing, within a short distance of each other, four
small lakes, Lochs Laran, Nech Beann, na-Dhream, and
Achilty ; each of which has its own peculiar breed of
trout, differing in size, shape, quality, and external
appearance. To every stream and range of water men-
tioned, and I have caught trout in all, the fact here
stated applies ; and to adduce, as could easily be done,
additional evidence in corroboration from other districts
of Scotland, I esteem quite unnecessary.

In entering, as has been done, into details upon
this subject, it may be asked what purpose I have in
view ; or, in other words, does the fact of there being
such numerous varieties of the fresh-water trout assist
in forming any conclusions beneficial to science? I
leave this to be judged of and considered by others
better adapted for the task than I am. One or two
observations, however, I venture to make relative to
the varieties in question; and first I hold, that trout,
on being transferred, whether by accident or otherwise,
from their parent stream or lake to another range of
water, rapidly undergo a great change; one, however,
that does not affect their external marks or embel-
lishments, which features I therefore regard as best
denoting the breed or variety.

For instance, the trout of Teviot carried accidentally


into Tweed lose in fact, after a few weeks, many of
those distinctive points which the superior feeding of
the first-mentioned stream afforded them. They lose
their redness of flesh, their strength, liveliness, &c. ;
but in no case can it be proved that the change has
so affected their outward appearance as to alter the
character and arrangement of the stars or maculae.
These they retain as the indices of their origin; and
they are as essentially theirs in this character, as are
its spots the distinctive property of the leopard.
With regard to the general colour or complexion of
the fish, that is quite another matter. Nothing is so
readily operated upon, even within the precincts of its
own parent stream, as the skin of the trout, in relation
to colours. In this respect, it is like that of the cha-
meleon. During a top-flood, when the river is clayed
or thick, and fish are only to be captured by the pout,
hand-net, or some such contrivance, they present a
white, I might almost say sickly, look. On the water
becoming brown or porter-coloured, they assume a
fine yellow, healthy, and inviting appearance ; and on
its recurring to the ordinary size, they are again trans-
formed, and partake of a complexion agreeing to
that of the stream itself. The character of their
retreats also, the nature of the stones or banks they
lurk under, influence, not unfrequently, the general
complexion I speak of, and sometimes lend a parti-
coloured appearance to the fish, quite independent, how-
ever, of its fixed decorations in the shape of stars, &c.

I have stated, that fresh-water trout, on being trans-
ferred from the parent stream to another range of
water, are capable of undergoing great changes. To
what extent these, in any instance, will take place, must
depend upon the nature of the transference. I have



mentioned very cursorily the effect upon a Teviot trout
when shifted to Tweed ; but in respect to such a case,
the transference is far from being violent. Besides
the relation that exists betwixt the two rivers, as the
tributary and its recipient, there are other accom-
modating circumstances which prevent the occurrence
of any great change in the size, appearance, and flavour
of the trout. For instance, the action and qualities,
nay, in some measure, the feeding capacities of Teviot
become diffused on its junction through Tweed; then
there is the similarity of climate ; the fact, also, that
both rivers abound in trout of a similar size, all of
which circumstances operate as I have stated.

In order, therefore, better to illustrate my position, I
shall assume the transference to be one of more violent
character. I shall take the produce of a small stream,
say, up to the number of four or five dozen trout. The
breed or variety inhabiting this stream, I shall suppose
seldom attain the length of nine inches, or weigh more
than half-a-pound ; as food, they are of inferior quality;
in point of shape, they offer nothing attractive. These
individuals I transfer to a pond, or lake, hitherto devoid
of fish, and occupying a space of several acres. Its
soil or bottom I shall suppose to be composed of marl,
or some such feeding substance. It is provided with
ample shelter, and every requisite that can encourage
the growth of trout. Well, what will be the effect of
this change upon the character of the fish in question ?
It will not alter the setting or arrangement of their
stars or distinguishing marks ; but it will, and that most
materially, improve, in a short space of time, their size,
shape, and edible qualities. A single season itself
would, in all probability, suffice to fatten them up to
thrice the weight which it was possible for these trout to


attain to in their own native stream. They will acquire
more seemly and captivating proportions, and derive
from liberal and luxurious feeding a corresponding
richness of flavour and firmness of flake. That these
latter results are frequently accompanied by a heighten-
ing of the internal colour a change from its pristine
whiteness to pink or red, I do not deny. Where there
is shell marl, or abundance of insect food, this trans-
mutation is likely to occur ; but it is by no means, even
under these circumstances, an infallible result of the
transference. I am acquainted with a natural sheet of
water, forty or fifty acres in extent, and stocked, as I
have described, from a small streamlet, or hill burn,
where, while the trout acquired large dimensions, and
improved both in shape and flavour, they still retained
the original white colour. Nor is redness in the flesh
always an indication of superiority, as respects the
edible qualities of the fish. I have partaken at table of
trout distinguished for their high colour, and yet, in
point of taste, they were soft, rank, and mud-flavoured ;
while, on the other hand, I have met with white-fleshed
trout, firm, curdy, and good.

In regard to this matter of redness, peculiar to the
flesh of salmon, trout, and charr, I am led more naturally
to refer to it in a future chapter : it is therefore, at
present, quite unnecessary to expatiate on the subject.
Nor, in renewing my remarks relative to the transfer-
ence of trout from one range of water to another, need
I multiply instances. What has already fallen from
me, will suffice to bring out and illustrate some points
in the natural history of the fish hitherto unrecorded.
Their astonishing variety, every lake and river possess-
ing its own distinct breed the effect of change of
circumstances on their appearance the chameleon-like


transitions in point of hue, undergone by them during
a flood, and while it continues to abate their shape,
growth, and edible characteristics, have all cursorily
been brought under view.

Of the food and habits of the trout, however, I have
said comparatively little ; nor have I called direct atten-
tion, while treating of their varieties, to what may be
termed the cross breeds, in contra-distinction to the true
or original breed, peculiar to each stream or lake. This
last-mentioned subject I shall dismiss with a very few
observations; and, first of all, I may notice, that the
cross breeds to which I refer are simply those which
have their origin in varieties of the common trout
(fario,} brought into contact with each other at the
breeding season, and do not implicate the questionable
produce, or mule breed, arising from any hap-hazard
connection betwixt the fario and bull-trout, or whitling ;
a connection altogether discountenanced by nature, and
which (if my notions respecting the breeding of fishes
be correct) is not likely to take place. I may also
remark, that, although cross varieties may, for a season
or term of seasons, rival in number the true breed
belonging to this or that stream, and threaten to ex-
tirpate it altogether, yet there is no fear or likelihood of
such a result ; the peculiar nature and qualities of the
water, aided by the remaining original stock, always
tending to reinstate the breed.

Thus, for instance, it has happened in the case of the
upper part of Eden, above Stichel Linn ; where, owing
to the accidental escape of considerable quantities of
another variety of trout from inclosed water at Meller-
stain, the stream itself became the haunt, and continued
so for three or four successive years, of a cross breed,
which vied in numbers with the proper stock, and


appeared, during the greater part of this period, as if it
would ultimately supplant them altogether. This breed
however, and its after-crosses, have nearly disappeared,
and the original trout are resuming, in point of num-
bers, their old position.*

Again, in the case of Yarrow, in Selkirkshire, where,
owing to an excess of trout having descended during
the spawning season of 1832 from St. Mary's Loch, the
stream in question, its sole drainer, became in a manner
over-run with the Loch variety, so that the real ' ' yallow
fin," as the Ettrick shepherd used to term them, was,

Online LibraryThomas Tod StoddartThe angler's companion to the rivers and lochs of Scotland → online text (page 2 of 32)