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B.ER K f I I V

GENERAL
LIBRARY

UNIVERSITY OF
CALIFORNIA




er



MU R R AY



r.



FRANK'S RANCHE; or, My Holidays in the

Rockies, 1885. 5*.

This book went through Five Editions. The ffth
edition is quite out of print, but a few copies of the
third edition may still be had.

AN AMATEUR ANGLER'S DAYS IN DOVE-
DALE. Imp. 32010, is. and is. 6d.

HOW STANLEY WROTE "IN DARKEST
AFRICA." Crown 8vo, with numerous Illustra-
tions, boards, is.

FRESH WOODS AND PASTURES NEW.

i6mo, is.

DAYS IN CLOVER. i6mo, is.

BY MEADOW AND STREAM. Pleasant
Memories of Pleasant Places.

25 numbered copies, printed on Japanese vellum, izs.,
and 250 copies India proofs, 6s., all sold. Cheap
edition, illustrated, cloth, gilt edges, is. (>d. Boards, is.

ON A SUNSHINE HOLYDAY. Large Paper
edition, 6s. Cheap edition, is. &/.



LONDON

SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON AND COMPANY
Limited

St. )nnstan's $oas*
FETTER LANE, FLEET STREET, E.C.



AN OLD MAN'S HOLIDAYS



*** Of this Edition, on Van GeldeSs hand-
made paper, two hundred and fifty copies only
have been printed.

No



An Old Man's Holidays



BY

THE AMATEUR ANGLER

Author of 'On a Sunshine HolydayS
'Days in Dovedale,' etc.



" For I have loved the rural walk through lanes
Of grassy swarth, close cropped by nibbling sheep ;
.... have loved the rural walk
O'er hills, through valleys, and by river's brink."

Cowper.



LONDON
SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON AND COMPANY

Limited

St. JDunstan's toousc
FETTER LANE, FLEET STREET, E.G.

1900



RICHARD CLAY & SONS, LIMITED,

LONDOtf & BUNGAY.




\O my son R. B. M. (Piscator Major), and to my
good friend G. Y. (The Professor), expert anglers
both, my frequent companions on my Angling
Excursions, I dedicate this little book.
The thoughtful care of the former in all that contributes
to my welfare, and especially in providing me -with the
needful implements of destruction when I go a-fishing, and
the iinselfish anxiety with which the latter, by good advice
and ready help, sought to save me from many a scrape into
which my juvenile rashness and inexperience must otherwise
have plunged me, surely deserve and demand this slight
recognition of their goodness, and I seize with pleasure the
opportunity which is here afforded me of expressing to them
my love, my gratitude, and mv good wishes.



LONDON,
August 1900.



THE AMATEUR ANGLER.




M8-16185




NOTE

'ANY a year has gone by since I first bethought me
of Angling as an occupation for my brief holidays.
It was in July 1884, sixteen years ago, that I first
cast my line on the pleasant river Dove, where
it winds through the enchanting scenery of Dovedale. I
was truly but an amateur angler then, and I claim to be
nothing more than an amateur now ; that I take to mean an
unaccomplished lover of the angle, for although the art of
angling has ever since possessed for me a growing fascination,
my opportunities have been so rare that even now after
sixteen years of enthusiasm I find myself painfully deficient
in the skilful manipulation that comes first by nature (for one
must be born to it) and then by continuous practice. I must,
however, in extenuation, hold the bad weather I most fre-
quently had, in a large degree accountable for the repeated
failures herein recorded.

If I were called upon to tell why I have taken the trouble
to print in a book these holiday sketches, I could only say
that I have done the same thing before, and my efforts have
been only too kindly appreciated by a number of friends who
have asked for " more," and also by very many most friendly
critics who have chosen to be " to my faults a little blind,
and to my virtues ever kind."

Since my last booklet, On a Sunshine Holyday, was
published, many of my old friends have taken the voyage

" Across to that strange country, the Beyond."

Among these, first and foremost, was my dear old friend, for
nearly forty years, R. D. BLACKMORE, who always took a most
lively interest in my books, and whose kindly letters about
them I hold as golden treasures. Not the least treasure is
that singular little prose-poem which he did me the honour
of writing specially as a kindly introduction for my book
By Meadow and Stream,



x NOTE

Mr. Blackmore was my junior only by a few months.
Beneath a portrait of him in my possession he has written
the following quaint and characteristic note of his birth

' ' / was launched into this vale of tears on the jth of June,
1825, at Longworth in Berkshire. Before I was four months
old, my mother was taken to a better world, and so I started
crookedly."

Then, or rather before him, in the order of time, WILLIAM
BLACK was called away. He died comparatively young,
but my acquaintance with him began thirty years ago, and
to him I am indebted for many most kindly and encouraging
letters about my small literary attempts.

It has been a source of no small pleasure to me that the
authors of books so v\ idely known as Lorna Doone and The
Princess of Thule should have given me so much encourage-
ment, but it will be remembered that Mr. Blackmoje was
an ardent trout angler, and as for Mr. Black, I fancy he
felt more pride in catching a twenty-five pound salmon than
in writing one of his best novels and he certainly did not
despise the superior art of fly fishing for trout ; there we
were on common ground.

Then again let me call to mind and to memory my old
friend J. G. MORTEN a most skilful trout and salmon
angler, and all-round sportsman he too, only a few months
ago, went very suddenly over to join "the great majority."
It was in his good company that I spent many a pleasant
day on the Wiltshire Avon as recorded in this and my
previous volume, On a Sunshine Holyday. Lastly, among
my old angling friends, let me bear an old man's testimony to
Doctor JOHN WIBLIN, who went to his rest only a few
months ago. He was seventy-five when I first knew him
hale and hearty, happy and joyous, an enthusiastic fly fisher,
both for salmon and trout, who wielded a mighty rod, heavy
as a weaver's beam, as easily as I could wield an eight-ounce
Leonard. He it was who first introduced me to the lichen,
and there for several years we fished together and had very
pleasant times, the memory whereof will linger with me all
my days. He gave up fishing when he was eighty-two or
thereabouts, and now at the good old age of eighty-seven he
too has crossed to " the Beyond."

These reminiscences, de senectute, in reminding me that I
myself am no longer young, suggested the title I have given
to my book.

A. A.



CONTENTS



CHAP. PAGE

I. EASTER FLY FISHING ON THE ITCHEN . . i

II. THE KODAK FOR ANGLERS n

III. ANGLING THAT " PREACHETH PATIENCE" . 13

IV. KINGFISHERS, SCARCITY OF 19

V. ON THE ITHON, LLANDRINDOD WELLS . . 23

VI. THE ELAN VALLEY AND THE BIRMINGHAM

WATERWORKS 35

VII. GRAYLING FISHING UNDER DIFFICULTIES-
GRAYLING FISHING ON THE ITCHEN . . 44

VIII. SPRING RAMBLES 53

IX. OUR HOLIDAY IN CORNWALL 63

X. OUR HOLIDAY IN CORNWALL (continued] . 75

XI. OUR HOLIDAY IN CORNWALL (continued] . 85
XII. IN PURSUIT OF THE MAY FLY THE GANDER

AND THE MAY FLY 93

XIII. FLY FISHING NEAR SCARBOROUGH THE

FORGE VALLEY 107

XIV. FLY FISHING NEAR SCARBOROUGH SCALBY

BECK 113

XV. FISHERMAN'S LUCK 120

XVI. ANIMALS OF TO-DAY THE CUCKOO . . . 130



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



OUR SEAT UNDER THE MAY TREE . . Frontispiece
THE OLD BRIDGE, RIVER ITCHEN . . to face page 12

COTTAGE NEAR THE ITCHEN , 16

ON THE ITCHEN , ,, 18

SHAKY BRIDGE, ON THE ITHON ... ,, ,, 24
ALPINE BRIDGE, ON THE ITHON ... ,, ,, 32

PONTYLFFON BRIDGE, ELAN RlVER 34

CWM ELAN ,, 36

IN THE ELAN VALLEY ,, ,,40

WAITING FOR A RISE , ,, 58

ON THE ITCHEN ,62

LAND'S END FROM THE SOUTH , 66

FIRST AND LAST REFRESHMENT HOUSE

IN ENGLAND ,68

VIEW FROM THE " PARLOUR," KYNANCE

COVE ,,78

ZAWN-PYG CAVE, LAND'S END ... ,, ,, 84
FISHERMAN'S LUCK. THRILLING MOMENT 128



AN OLD MAN'S HOLIDAYS




CHAPTER I

JSASTER FLY FISHING ON THE ITCHEN
April 1898

iT is now about seven months since last I
had the gratification of holding a fly rod
in my hand, and then it was in the rocky
bed of the pleasant Barle. We came down here on
April 6, " Piscator " and I, to our old quarters on
the Itchen I with the pleasurable anticipations of
an " amateur? he with the doubt and misgiving of
bottled-up experience. I looked forward to bright
sunshine, green meadows, the songs of birds, and
the hum of bees on the willow catkins. He, with
the wisdom of a sage, foretelling that, whatever the
weather may be, we were at least a month too early
for the aristocratic trout that inhabit the Itchen.

Our first afternoon was fine and breezy, but there
was no fly on the water, and, therefore, nothing for

B



2 EASTER FLY FISHING ON THE ITCH EN

trout to rise at, had they been so inclined; but
there they were, with their tails flapping about in
the air, and their heads deep down amongst the
grass and weeds, showing a kind of contempt for
the mere dry-fly fisherman. In truth I am inclined
to formulate a little theory of my own about these
sophisticated trout. There is undoubtedly, and it
has been noticeable for some time past, a growing
scarcity of flies on our waters. Why is it? Is it
not because our river is so persistently flogged for
trout all through the spring and summer, and for
grayling all through the autumn and winter, that
the fish have grown suspicious of these deceptive
insects floating above them, and so devote them-
selves more and more to the insect larvae which
they find below, and hence the scarcity of natural
flies on the surface ? This little theory will at all
events serve to explain the fact of the tailing we
did see on that first afternoonyand of the rise we
did not see.

It has long since become an axiom that if you
have a fine Friday a fine Sunday will as surely
follow as night followeth day ; and, indeed, it does
so frequently turn out to be true that an exception
only proves the truth of it. Last Friday was one
of the loveliest, brightest, sunniest days I have
experienced during the days that have as yet passed
of this present changeful year 1898. On Sunday
morning we were actually weather-bound. All
through the night a strong south-westerly wind
brought up from the sea, not many miles away, a



EASTER FLY FISHING ON THE ITCHEN 3

thick, drizzling sea mist, now and again breaking
out into heavy driving rain.

I am getting ahead of my story, for I might have
said that not only was Friday a lovely day, but it
was not altogether an uninteresting day for fishing.
When our trout do condescend to rise, we have
already found out that it is between the hours of
eleven and one, and it was between those hours
that I got a fine trout and a brace of grayling.
These grayling, which, with their bluish-purply
sheen, can be seen in pairs on the gravel beds, the
one dark and the other fair, are always only too
ready to make a dash at a floating fly.

It is a nuisance to catch them, although they
give lively sport enough ; but the trouble and
damage to their constitution, in getting the hook
out of their mouths in order to return them to the
water, more than counterbalance the sport of catch-
ing them. It is quite amusing to watch a pair of
these amatory thymy shadows ogling each other
down in the water, billing and cooing like a pair of
turtle doves.

The Major caught a brace of trout and several
troublesome grayling ; the largest trout was about
1 1 lb., and by this trout there hangs a tale.

When I was fishing in the same meadow last
June I lost many a trout and many a May Fly ;
now it so happens that in the gill of this trout was
found, firmly hooked, a very perfect May Fly the
G.O.M. with six inches of gut. He has worn and no
doubt been very proud of this distinctive decoration



4 EASTER FLY FISHING ON THE ITCH EN

ever since. It seems to me to be a very remark-
able thing that fly and hook should have been in
that fish for more than nine months, and now as
perfect and fresh as if it had been in my pocket-
book all the time ; the gut is rather rotten. The
gold tinsel round the body is as bright as ever it
was, one wing is slightly mangled, as if other envi-
ous trout had tried to nibble it. I fully believe that
fly is mine, that I lost that fish on that particular
spot last June ; the only doubt I have about it is
that I then estimated the fish I lost as at least
\\ lb., whereas this one, after nine months' growth,
now weighs only ij lb. ; on the other hand, you
know how much larger are always the fish you lose
than those you take ! The fly is distinctly a G.O.M.
of Mrs. Ogden Smith's make.

Saturday, April 9, I may fairly call hurricane
day. Fly fishing, dry or wet, was hopeless, and
to have attempted to cast a fly over the billows
quite useless, because firstly, it could not be
done with any degree of accuracy ; and, secondly,
because there was nothing over which to cast.

We had too jauntily concluded, because many
months ago our nets had captured a large number
of big pike and little jack, that we had cleared
the river of these destructive pests ; but we ought
to have remembered that what were mighty little
jack then, and so escaped the net, have been all
the while growing, till now they have become fair-
sized pike.

" This windy weather," said " Piscator," " is just



EASTER FLY FISHING ON THE ITCHEN 5

the right sort for pike fishing. Suppose we have a
go at them." "All right," said I, but I had no pike
tackle or pike rod, or, for the matter of that, know-
ledge how to use them if they had been in my
possession. I did, indeed, make one attempt to
cast from the Nottingham reel, and a nice fizzle I
made of it. It looks uncommonly easy in the hands
of the Major.

The Major was but ill provided, but he had a
good stiff pike rod and an artificial bait or two.
We started, I carrying a walking stick. The Red
Phantom soon began to attract attention ; the first
that came was a small jack, and he quickly came
to grief then another, and, at length, spinning up
quietly under the bank on which we stood, dash
comes out what seemed to me a monster, but, of
course, a mere babe, when thought of in connection
with Mr. Jardine's 37-pounders. He struggled with
all the vigour and power of a fellow quite aware
that for him it is either death or victory. He came
in to bank at last ; but our small net was no good,
we couldn't get even his head into it, so I lifted him
out bodily on to grass. "Ten pounds," cried I.
" Seven pounds," said the Major.

" Shall I take him home and weigh him ? " says
our bright boy. Off he went, and presently came
back with the report that he only weighed 6 Ibs.
And so we piked on with more or less success till
we came down to our aquatic mansion, which is
at the limit of our tether ; there is a profound, if
not bottomless depth of water ; there our big trout



6 EASTER FLY FISHING ON THE ITCH EN

lie, and there also lurk, and always have lurked, a
big pike or two under the shadow of the now leaf-
less oak which spreads itself partly over our house
and partly over the water. There the Major, sure
of a fine run, made a long cast, the Red Phantom
spun through the air, but never again will it spin
through the water ! Yonder it hangs, suspended
on the topmost branch of that old oak, and there it
will hang and spin for ever.

And so home to lunch. Afterwards the Major
rigged up another and a smaller bait, which proved
no lure at all. He thought he had cleared the
river. I followed as a spectator for an hour or two,
but there is not much interest in such sport, so I
gave it up. No sooner had I departed than he
fitted up a rough old spoon-bait, and brought home
five large jack, so making eleven of this interesting
pike species out of our fancied immaculate stream.
If eleven could be caught in a few hours' fishing
with imperfect tackle, how many scores more must
there be lurking about in holes and corners and
carrier inlets. They must be looked after. This
finished our Saturday's work. Sunday, as I have
said, proved to be altogether terrible in the morn-
ing, but the sun came out in the afternoon, and
it was not unpleasant for a stroll in a still high
wind.

Easter Monday. " Heigho ! for the wind and
the .rain!"

No rain in the morning, nor, in fact, till about
four o'clock. I said the Red Phantom which had



EASTER FLY FISHING ON THE ITCH EN 7

spun out so many jack would spin on in the top
of the old oak for ever ; but the Major was of a
different opinion. For want of a better lure, he
ingeniously fastened two corks together and cut
them into a shapely minnow. He then peeled off
the gold leaf from the neck of a champagne bottle ;
this he gummed neatly round the cork, and
varnished it. Here was as glittering a gold fish
as ever swam in a glass bowl. To this he added a
strip of red stuff and affixed the tackle, and the
gold spinner was perfect. Necessity is the mother
of invention. Fly fishing on Easter Monday in a
sou'-westerly gale is not attractive, so he sallied
forth with his new impromptu invention, and
caught three jack before lunch. I followed after
with my rod and my flies, but really it was a
disheartening task. I never saw a rise from one
end of the water to the other, and I said I would
not come here again on Easter Monday. After
lunch, not feeling inclined to give in, I put on
a small Coachman, after failing to attract any
attention with Olive Dun and various other flies.
It is pain and grief to a dry-fly fisherman to
wander along by the waterside in a howling wind,
and to see absolutely nothing over which to cast ;
and it so happens that a south-westerly wind,
when it is blowing half a gale, is almost the worst
wind we can have on our side of the water, for
it is only at certain corners and twists and turns
in the river that one can have even a decent
chance, though I can manage to get through a



8 EASTER FLY FISHING ON THE ITCHEN

stiffish wind when I see any encouragement under
the opposite bank. And so I sauntered on down
to the pub. that place affords a somewhat sheltered
corner and there, knowing where a good trout
or two must certainly lie, whether on the feed or
not, I cast my Coachman over the spot, and to my
surprise, I may say my delight, a nice trout came
at me, and he came to grass. I threw again.
This time I allowed the fly to float down under a
barbed wire that crosses the stream (the Professor
knows it well), and there, two or three yards
below, one of those big fellows he wots of came
at me. I hooked him nicely, and I had to treat
him very gingerly, for it is no joke fishing under
barbed wire and dead against stream. He fought
like a true British trout (a rainbow trout couldn't
have fought better), and I gently manoeuvred
him up-stream for a long distance in fear and
trembling, for my boy was miles away with my
landing-net, peddling about among pink in a
carrier, never dreaming that I should do such an
unlikely thing as get hold of a fish. I had to
get him to a gravelly opening. All held well ;
and he came to grief, and to basket. He weighed
a pound and a half. Remembering my former
ill-luck, with which I had become slightly depressed,
I need not say I was now slightly elated. I fished
on lower down, and presently I caught another
trout nearly a pound. Then I heard "the band
play " in the village, two miles off, for the Easter
festivities were in full swing there, and then



EASTER FLY FISHING ON THE ITCH EN 9

the rain came down in torrents, and I sought
shelter in the hut. I pitied the Easterlings.
Meanwhile the Major had not been idle. His
golden spinner worked admirably, but it did not
attract like that old Phantom swinging on the top
of the oak tree. He longed for that destructive
machine, and he was determined to have it. Our
good friend the farmer carried down a light
ladder, and between them they managed, by the
help of the rod, to break the branch, and down
came the Phantom, and, of course, sank at once
into six feet of water. " Now," said I, " although
your Phantom was not doomed to be hanged
after all, he certainly was to be drowned ; " but
the Major was not to be so done. From his perch
up in the tree he could see the glittering Phantom
deep down in the water, so he determined to
fish for him. With his rod up in the tree he
let down the well-weighted Golden Miracle, and
by skilful angling caught hold of the little branch
in which the Phantom was fixed, and hauled it
up triumphantly. That Phantom pike slayer has
more work to do yet.

The rain was still pouring, or, rather, driving
before the gale. I went home, and left them to
further devices.

An hour or two later the Major turned up with
a 6-pounder and two smaller pike, making in all
seventeen of these destructive brutes for two days'
work.

Easter Tuesday. If a south-westerly gale is bad



io EASTER FLY FISHING ON THE ITCH EN

for our water, a north-westerly is worse. It finds
its way into every nook and corner ; it is impos-
sible to get away from it. This being my last
day, I made a final effort to get a fly on the
water, but up to lunch time nothing came of it.
Fishermen cannot control the weather ; they
must take it as it comes, and always look for
better luck next time. I do not complain ; far
from it. I came here with a bad cold, and now I
am quite well, and equal to any exertion befitting
one of the ancients.

It seems but yesterday, and yet it must be ten
or twelve years since our old friend, the doctor,
first drove me and the Major over to this river.
Ah ! what a pleasant time we had here in those
days. What a sumptuous luncheon he used to
provide for us in the dulce domum under the
blooming may tree ; what jokes he used to crack ;
he had long since retired from active practice, but
he used to call on his way here from Southampton
on several of his old patients, just to cheer them
with his genial presence ; his pockets were usually
crammed with sweets, and every child on the road
knew him, and looked out for a pat on the cheek
and a lump of barley-sugar.

The Major finished up his Easter fishing with
seven more pike, all lured by that wonderful
battered old Red Phantom.





CHAPTER II

THE KODAK FOR ANGLERS

Kodak, which has become so very
popular of late, is a pleasant little weapon
for an angler to put into his holster with
it he can constantly take shots which will be
interesting reminders.

In this way the Major got about two dozen of
such objects as presented themselves most of
them very sharp and perfect representations of bits
of river, meadow, and woodland scenery, or objects
about the farm. I am enabled to give a few speci-
mens here, not because they are in themselves of
any particular interest, only as showing what this
beautiful little instrument is capable of producing.

Sorry I am that we did not Kodak the Major
when he was up that tree angling for his
" Phantom " in that upper branch, and then fishing
for it from the same position in the deep water
over which he was suspended.

There on the seat beneath "the May" is the
Major, resting after his successful climb. 1 Here is
a picture of the G.O.M. May Fly imitation, after
it had been worn in the gill of a trout for over

1 See Frontispiece.



12 THE KODAK FOR ANGLERS

nine months as described in the last chapter. Of
course there is no particular novelty in finding a
fly in a trout's mouth ; but it is somewhat of a
novelty to be able to identify the fly, and also to
find it in such a perfect state of preservation after
so long a time of wear and tear.




This does not confirm Charles Cotton's experi-
ence, who says :

' ' But I am very confident a trout will not be troubled two
hours with any hook that has so much as one handful of line
behind with it, if it be in any part of his mouth only ; 1 nay,
I do certainly know that a trout so soon as ever he feels
himself pricked, if he carries away the hook, goes immedi-
ately to the bottom, and will there root, like a hog, upon the
gravel, till he either rub out or break the hook in the middle."

This was written almost two hundred and fifty
years ago.

Another example of the work of an idle moment,
when the weather was cold and windy, and the
Kodak came into action. The old man on the
bridge looks as though he were waiting for a rise ;
he was, in fact, admiring the grayling at play on
the gravelly bed of the stream.

1 Mine was fixed outside the gill.





CHAPTER III

ANGLING THAT " PREACHETH PATIENCE"

June 1898

|NCE a year our housemaid assumes do-
minion over our entire household : when
she opens her mouth no dog is allowed
to bark. We have to pack up and be off. Spring-


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