Alfred Edward Thomas Watson.

The Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes online

. (page 46 of 52)
Online LibraryAlfred Edward Thomas WatsonThe Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes → online text (page 46 of 52)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

was out in the pool again, but, misery of miseries, behind a sharp
ledge that projected black and ugly over the surface ; the line led
directly on it, and I dared not try to work it off for fear of fraying
it, in which case good-bye to his majesty. I sized up the situation
and saw that the only thing to do was to get across the stream — but
how ? The water was very swift and deep unless I went up to the
top, and that would entail a sure necessity of sawing the line. No,
I must wade it here.

*' Come and get my fly boxes. Jack ; it may be a case of
swimming," I shouted. Dawson relieved me of those, also of my
broad hat and sweater, and I started. The water was very cold, and
the bottom slippery as the mischief; a few yards and I was in to
my armpits, and the bottom fast receding from my face ! I had gone
in below the fish and slackened up on the line so as not to
disturb him. ** Now for a swim ! " And swim I did as best I could
with one hand, holding the rod up with the other. It wasn't far to
go, and I paddled on desperately and struck bottom twenty-five
yards below where I had gone in. I dripped ashore, shivering.

Digitized by



** Ah, there, friend, it's up to you again ! " Unconsciously I
spoke aloud to the fish, and Dawson laughed. " Go above and come
across ! " I shouted, which he did.

Very carefully this time I coaxed the salmon away from his
rock and got him into clear water. He took two short runs and
another " skitter," then came in tamely. "iVoie^, Jack ! " Aflutter
of foam, a lift, and he was on the beach ! I laid the rod down
and knelt over him, lingering on the glorious colours and scintillat-
ing scales, and dreaming, yet realising the joy of it all.

"A fine fish, sir." Dawson's voice "woke " me.

** Weigh him." Jack brought out the dear old instrument that
had recorded many, many pounds of the king of fish in varied and
wide spread waters.

"Twenty-two and a half, sir."

Ah, that was a fish ! A nervy fighter, a schemer with a will that
only gave out when its shell could do no more; superb in life,
beautiful in death.

** That's enough for the morning. I am going to take a walk
and a look at the river above. Tell the others that I will be back

in an hour or so, and ask Mr. to come out on this pool ; he is

sure offish," I said.

Dawson looked reproachfully at me. Dear Jack ! Ever since I
was a wee bit of a chap he has looked after me on our trips in quest
of salmon. Aye, more than looked after me. But he did love to
see lots of fish on the beach ! That is when he and I had tiffs.

" I know what is on your mind, lad," I teased. " Never mind,
we have three months on this coast, and are going to try every
river worth trying, and there will be plenty of fish."

** Humph ! "he grunted; "come way up here on this trip, and
now that fish are fairly leapin' for the fly you stop at one! " and he
walked off, still muttering.

I went up to the top of the pool, and climbed the bank on
to the moss and tundra barren. The Forteau River comes to the
sea from a system of lakes in the interior, and for fifteen miles its
lower reaches lie in a valley or cleft in the barrens. The day was
glorious, and I breathed the very breath of immortality as I wan-
dered slowly onward, following the river. Series of quick waters,
with long, fascinating, and delightfully tempting pools between them,
met my eager eye at every turn. The water was so limpid and
wondrous clear that I could see the dark outlines of salmon lying
behind their rocks. I tossed little stones into the pools and
watched the big fish and the grilse scurry about, then settle quietly
back to their places. Overhead, great billowy masses of white
clouds bellied and rolled across the heavens, their tops dazzling in

Digitized by



the sun, their under-sides grey and deep blue in the shadows, their
outlines mirrored on the river and turning its waters dark-coloured —
sometimes in the deepest pools it seemed quite black. It was only
for a few moments, though ; then the sun streamed out again, and
six feet of water seemed but a scant foot. The light north wind
blew from over the distant blue-hazed mountains with a suggestion
of far-off snows, and it waved the heather pines on the banks with
gentle whisperings.

** Hello, you ! " I called to J. K. H., as I came on to the bank
below which he was casting industriously. ** How*s the luck ? "

"Rotten, d n it! I've lost four fish, one after the other;

can't seem to keep 'em above that cussed rapid," he shouted, point-
ing to the stiflfish white water below him.

As he spoke, I saw a fish gleam as it took bis fly and I heard
the merry song of the reel. With the freedom of fishermen, I
yelled sundry advices to him, such as : ** Keep him up ! Work him
up-stream ! " and then, because I saw that the fish, a good one it
was, inclined strongly toward **that cussed rapid," I tumbled down
the bank beside him.

** Hold as hard as you dare, and swing your rod out stream," I

He did so, and the salmon turned back.

** Thanks," he called, and I sat on a boulder to see the fun.
Round and round, up and down, over and across, out of water and
in — another devil such as mine had been. Although my pal had
never killed a salmon, he handled this one exceeding well. I
ventured a word now and then, but not often. At last the big fish
tired, and the gaffer did a pretty job. We danced a miniature fling,
and then I left and continued up river.

When I returned I found that the rest of the party had had fine
sport, and a number of large fish reposed in the little stone-bound
fish-pond that we had made for this purpose. Several big trout
were among the lot ; one of six and three-quarters was especially
to be admired. The " crowd " were happy, I was happy, we were all
happy but poor old Jack, who still murmured that ** the Captain
(my nickname) didn't fish as he should ought to."

The camp was situated on the river at the top of the Sea Pool
rapid, and the roar of the quick water sounded lullingly in our ears.

" Give us an idea of your theories of this kind of salmon-
fishing," the crowd asked, so I proceeded to tell them what little
I knew of the salmon lures of the Far North :

** The first and great thing to learn is to reconcile yourselves to
using small flies. It is very true that you lose many fish by so
doing, but it is worthy of remembering that you will hook far more
NO. cxxxi. VOL. xxiL—June 1906 T T

Digitized by



fish by using small flies than you will by adorning your leader with
No. 6's and 4's. Also burden your minds with the fact that it is
always well to approach a pool with due caution. Don't blunder
on to its very edge and then cuss because you do not get a rise; the
fish often lie close to the banks, especially in the early morning
when the sun warms the shallows a bit, and if you will curb your
impatience to reach the more tempting water you will find, I think,
that many fish will rise to you much nearer the shore than you
would suppose. Always cast athwart the current, say at an angle
of forty-five degrees ; let your fly swing with the stream, and move
the tip of your rod up and down with a slight and always regular
motion. Don't try to reach all over the pool from one spot. A
forty to fifty foot cast is plenty; then when you have covered that
water carefully (never hurry over your water) move down the length
of your last cast and begin over again. Above all, never let yourself
become restless and impatient and cast over a fish that you have
risen, at once. You will find by disappointing experience, as 1
have, that nine times out of ten a fish that is of any weight at all
will not rise again if he sees the fly he missed but a second before
float over him in so short a time.

In all my fishing experiences on these northern waters I may
remark that I have found that the Jock Scott is the first choice,
be the day bright or dark. Next comes the Silver Doctor. On
some rivers, especially in Newfoundland, the Silver Doctor is a most
killing fly ; indeed, on the Upper Humber, the Little and Grand
Codroy, Fischell's, and the Barrachois Rivers in Newfoundland, this
fly is preferable even to the Jock. Farther down the list of pre-
ferences come the Durham Ranger, Brown Fairy, and Black Dose;
always remembering that sizes eight to twelve are by far the greatest
takers. Another thing: you fellows have great heavy Forest rods;
you can see for yourselves that they are not necessary, can't you ?
Use light rods, anywhere from seven to twelve ounces. They are
plenty powerful enough, and will give you far more sport than
the fourteen to sixteen foot rods that you have. The rivers
like this one we are on, up in this country and in New-
foundland, average small, and you can reach all over with a
Leonard such as I am using. It's all very well to say that I
am prejudiced toward light rods, but the fact remains that I dim not.
What I want is the sport that is obtained in using light tackle. It
is more sportsmanlike, and gives your fish a decent chance to fight
you. That, to me, is the whole pleasure ; to know that unless one is
very careful, and handles his fish with a glove, so to speak, the fish
is very liable to carry away everything and leave one minus the whole
outfit. This is the sort of feeling I crave. Just one more suggestion:

Digitized by



Don't kill fish for the sake of killing ! There is no use in slaughter-
ing them just because they rise plentifully to your fly ; in using these
small flies it is only one fish in a hundred that is hooked in the
tongue. Look at that fish pond ! There are enough salmon there
to feed an army, and what earthly good are they to us ? Would it
not have been better to have had your sport with them, and then
instead of gaffing the poor devils that afforded you that sport to
have beached them and let them go ? I shall not gaff another fish
this season ! " (Growls from Jack in the background, and I waited.)
" We're with you," they shouted ; " no more salmon gaffed or
killed unless we need them to eat ! "

I bowed my acknowledgments. It was time for supper ; behind
the camp the sunset colours were glorious, and changed with
shifting hues as we watched them. The first night in the wilder-
ness is always the acme of delight and comfort that one longs
for during the tedious winter months. And as we sat by the fire
that shone ruddy and warm in our faces and watched the guides*
shadows lengthen and shorten as they moved about the flames,
we were truly indescribably happy. There were no sand-flies to
bother us, and we sat there till long into the night talking, singing,
and counting the falling stars that flashed and trailed across the
twinkling heavens. Then one by one the crowd turned in, and
one by one the fires went out, leaving but the star darkness shining
mysticsiUy on our five-tent camp on Forteau River, Labrador.

T T 2

Digitized by




Illustrated with photographs from Mr. Vailes book, ** Modern Lawn Tennis," by permissUm ef
the publisher, Mr. IVilliam Heinemann

There are not a few people who quite appreciate the value of lawn-
tennis as a physical and mental training. These, however, it is to
be feared, are in the minority, even among those who play the game.
It is therefore natural to assume that there is a great number of
persons who could, if they so desired, play lawn-tennis, yet who have
never even considered the question. This article is intended to
appeal not only to those who have, perhaps, never handled a racket,
but also to those who have taken up lawn-tennis, yet have not
realised its possibilities and the fact that ere long it is destined to
occupy a much higher position in the sports of the nations of the
world than it does to-day.

Lawn-tennis is a game that calls for many of the best qualities
that a man or woman should possess. To excel at it there is
required equanimity under adverse circumstances, quickness of eye
and mind, and also of the limbs which obey the suddenly-flashed
signal ; for of all games, perhaps, lawn-tennis is the one which allows
least time for thinking, especially when the opponents are at close
quarters near the net.

Great physical strength is not necessary for one who desires to
be a first-class lawn-tennis player. It is no doubt desirable, but our
greatest exponents have never been bulky, muscular men, and it will
always remain a game where quickness of eye and mind to see and
conceive, and of body and limbs to execute, will be of more value
than mere muscle. That is one of the greatest charms of lawn-

Digitized by



tennis. It is, without the least shadow of doubt, the most scientific
outdoor game there is.

Golf in this respect cannot compare with it. In golf one has a
stationary ball to hit and is himself stationary when hitting it, while
every man within a quarter of a mile who breathes during that
momentous operation ycleped '* addressing the ball " is branded as a


** bounder." There is none of this in lawn-tennis. There both
players use the same ball. The whole aim of each is to spoil the
stroke of the other or to stop him even from getting a stroke. The
skilful player places the ball as far from his opponent as he can,
makes him career from side to side of the court so that he has in
nine cases out of ten to make his stroke while running, and with the
full knowledge that his opponent is lurking at the net in order to
destroy his return.

Digitized by



Let us try only just to imagine the golfer playing his game
in similar circumstances ! The fact is that lawn-tennis as a game
is unique in many respects. It is, so far as I can remember, the
only game in which two opponents fight out the issue with the ball
as the medium of conflict and passing straight from one to the other


without contact with a wallas in fives, rackets, and tennis. It is also
practically the only game wherein one's opponent may with advan-
tage habitually intercept one's stroke and spoil it by volleying the
ball. It happens frequently that the player must make his stroke
under the most trying and disadvantageous circumstances, yet
cleanly and coolly, or he will find his effort nipped up at the net and
rendered abortive.

Digitized by



Lawn-tennis calls for a certain amount of muscular energy and
great staying power. A good player must have strength to drive,
serve, and smash, yet he must have this strength so well under
control that he is able to regulate the flight of the ball so as to keep
it within the court ; in a word, his strength must be tempered with


restraint and intelligence. Here are no walls to keep his ball from
flying out of the court. In lawn-tennis the player continually has
to run out over the lines, play his return, pull up suddenly, and race
for the furthest point away from him that is available for his
opponent. This sudden stopping and starting is a very heavy
strain, and contributes in no small degree to making a hard-fought
five-set match in first-class company and on a hot day one of the

Digitized by



most searching ordeals that any athlete can go through. In tennis
and rackets the ball cannot go outside the court, and to a very'
great extent it comes to the striker. So in cricket, the ball to be of
any use must, so far as regards both length and width, pitch within
a very limited area; and the player, knowing this, is always ready and
waiting in the most favourable position to deal with the deliver}'.

Already lawn-tennis may be said to be the most international
game, for it is played under similar rules in England, Scotland,
Ireland, Wales, America, France, Russia, Sweden, Germany,
Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, all British colonies and dependen-
cies, and in many other countries. Probably polo is its greatest
rival ; but this, on account of its expense, is not available for many.


The press is generally quick enough to recognise the import-
ance of any game and to give it its full share of notice. Lawn-tennis
has been the exception that proves the rule, but editors are not
entirely to blame for this. If secretaries of clubs and others do not
take sufficient trouble to keep the press posted in matters in con-
nection with the game, they must not be surprised if less worthy
sports, whose votaries are alive to the importance of letting the
people know that their game is flourishing, get more publicity and
thrive better than does lawn-tennis.

One frequently hears the remark, " Oh, lawn-tennis is going
out now, isn't it ? " Let such a one take a lawn-tennis handbook
and look at the wonderful and increasing list of clubs; or let him
take a walk round the warehouses of the lawn-tennis manufacturers

Digitized by



of London and glance at the tens of thousands of rackets that are
being poured on to the market, the leading makers in many cases
being quite unable to keep up with their orders. That will be an
answer to him as to whether lawn-tennis is declining or not. He
will be sure it cannot be, but he will come away wondering how it
is that with all these scores of thousands of people interested in the
game so little is heard of it in the press.

No one need fear for the future of lawn-tennis. It is too good
a game to languish or die; but, nevertheless, while lawn-tennis clubs
are multiplying, there are two other aspects of the game's develop-
ment which are not perhaps in quite so satisfactory a condition :
I refer to the public or park lawn and the private lawn. There can


be no more charming adjunct to the cottage or the mansion than a
good tennis lawn or two. The lawns in our parks should be made
fit to play on, provided with ordinary stop-netting and other usual
conveniences, while for every court there is now we should have
three, and they would all be occupied. Every village should have
its courts, for lawn-tennis is a bright, moving game, and even more
suited to stir a boy up than is cricket.^

The great public schools bar lawn-tennis. They are afraid, and
with reason, of its proving a serious rival to cricket. It would be
so, but surely it is an unsportsmanlike thing to bar a game because

* This is the opinion of an enthusiast, but that there is a better game than cricket is
a thing multitudes of men will refuse to admit. — Ed.

Digitized by



it is too good. It has not worked any irretrievable damage at
Oxford and Cambridge. This restriction should be removed. It is
uncalled for, and is not fair to the game, nor to those who desire to
play it.

Having dealt with the importance of the game, we now have to
consider as well as we can within the limits of a magazine article
some of the most essential points in connection with the science of

Perhaps one of the most important for English readers is one
which has never been properly insisted on. This is, that in playing
nearly every stroke the player shall have his forearm and the handle
of his racket as nearly as may be in the same straight line. If one


is hammering a nail the arm is always in the same straight line as
the handle of the hammer, so far as regards the ** plane of the
force " to be exerted. So, as nearly as may be, should it be with
the lawn-tennis racket. This is a good general principle, and of
the utmost importance to anyone who desires to get the best result
for the energy expended. All of England's best forehand drivers,
of whom we have far too few, practically carry out this precept,
which is universally understood and used in America and Australia.
Perhaps the most important point after this is alwaj'S to watch
the ball right on to the centre of the racket. You will find this very-
hard to do. Practically nobody does so, but it is the right thing to
try for, as the man who lifts his eye the latest will probably, all

Digitized by



other things being equal, play the best strokes. As in golf, so in
lawn-tennis. ** Keep your eye on the ball *' is an all-important
maxim, and remember always that you must hit the ball right in
the centre of the racket face, if such a shape may be said to have
a centre.

Remember that, as in practically every branch of athletics, so
in lawn-tennis, body weight plays a most important part. In serving
throw the ball up well over the right ear and a little beyond the


reach of your racket. Some good players throw it quite high.
Have your weight on the leg that is further from the base-line, and
directly the ball gets within striking distance of the centre of your
racket hit it sharply with the centre, at the same time transferring
your weight to the foot that is in front. A right-handed person will
have his weight on his right foot just before serving, and a left-
handed player on his left foot. This transference of weight is of

Digitized by



great importance, not only in the service but in nearly every stroke
in the game. Mere arm-work in serving or smashing must always
be comparatively ineffective.

These are elementary points, yet of the highest importance, and
too often neglected by really first-class players. For instance, I
cannot call to mind three English players who transfer their weight
(as mentioned above in reference to the service) when they are


smashing. The result is that the smashing of anyone who tries to
do it with arm-work only is infinitely less deadly than that of a man
who puts his body into it.

A really fine game may be developed by a lawn-tennis player
who does not intentionally put any cut or spin on his ball, but the
true science of lawn- tennis is absolutely shut out from him who does
not know the effects of the different spins on the ball. As well
might a cricketer expect to rank as a bowler, knowing nothing of

Digitized by



spin, as a tennis player to rank as first-class while ignorant of the
principles and advantages, or otherwise, of rotation.

We had two very striking examples of the value of cut at the
last All England Lawn-tennis Championship meeting. The three
finest players from abroad, men unquestionably of the first class, and
right at the top of it too, practically never hit a plain-face ball. By

Note position of ball and weight transference

a plain-face ball I mean a ball which left the racket as it would
if it were to bounce off a wall. Nearly every stroke was played with
a glancing blow, which hit the ball so that the racket-head passed
across it at the moment of impact in a line that was at an angle to
the intended line of flight of the ball.

Some people are under the impression that cut and lift detract
from accuracy. There is no greater fallacy. The chop is perhaps

Digitized by



the most accurate stroke known in lawn-tennis, and those who saw
our lady players go down one after the other to America's Lady
Champion will not readily forget the accuracy and pace of her
driving. This was obtained solely from the forehand drive with
upward cut or lift, which is easily the king of ground strokes, and
should be cultivated by everyone who desires to excel at lawn-

This stroke, on account of its quick drop at the end of its flight,
enables a player to hit the ball harder, while keeping it within the
court, than he could possibly do with a plain-face return. This
is a most valuable quality in this ball, as it allows the expert player
to drive much higher above the net and yet to pitch within the
court than can the man who only has a plain-face return ; also the
return, on account of the forward spin, generally has a fine good
length bound. A great part of the science of modern lawn-tennis is

Online LibraryAlfred Edward Thomas WatsonThe Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes → online text (page 46 of 52)