Francis Francis.

By lake and river : an angler's rambles in the North of England and Scotland online

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Author of " A Book on Angling," $c., fyc.



All Rights Reserved.



THE object of the following pages is to tell the tourist
and angler where he may 'obtain fishing amongst the
glens and valleys of the border counties and Caledonia,
and what the fishing is like. To tell this as pleasantly
as possible has been, of course, also an object, and I
have ventured here and there to lighten the matter and.
to carry it out of the hard region of 'mere dry detail,
in order that those who run may not only read, but
be interested also, if possible.







The Start Morpeth The Wansbeck Mitford Rothbury The

Coquet Mountain Burn Fishing... ... ... ... page 1


Pepperhaff Spinning Brinkburn Crag End The Lower Coquet

Weirs, &c. 14


Good Farming Alwinton Sudden Spate Burn Fishing The

Thrum at Rothbury 22


Otterburn A Waterloo Eelic Alnwick The Laidley Worm
Wooler A Wrastling A Look at the Glen Ewart Bridge
Whitling ... 32


Wooler Wooler Water The Glen Old Poll of Bendor The Bow-
mont and College Burn A White Devil in the Coo-haugh
Heathpool Linns By Yeavering Bell The Glen at Coupland
A Muckle Whisky Flask 42


Ewart Bridge Whitling Flodden Field The Till at Etal Mid-
day Musings Dangerous Wading ... ... ... ... 51



Alnemouth Natural Upholstery Hulne Abbey The Alne

Midges Weirs, Ac. page 62


The Upper Till Bewick Bridge Chillingham Castle Lord Tanker-
ville A Novelty "Rabbit Fishing Ecce Iterum Vipera The
Chillingham Wild Cattle The Lower Alne The Kettles The
Pin Well The Hedley Kow ... 70


The Twelfth of August A Eainy Shoot The Tops of the Cheviots
Wooler Water A New Way of Poaching A Windy Shoot-
ing The Breamish Broom Park ... ... ... ... 80


Coupland Castle The Earl of Durham The Cauld Pool The
Twentieth Emancipation of the Blacks The Bowmont and
the Gipsies ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 90


A Back Day on the Till from Wheatwood to Doddington The Pike
of the Till Bob the Poacher The Voices of Evening Carham
The Tweecl Carham Wheel Jamie Wright, of Sprouston
The Troutin' Day A Day's Trouting on Tweed 99


Tweed Fisheries Muckle Sandie and the Bailiffs Jumping a Horse
out of a Quicksand Dan Thankless Kelso Melrose Ab-
botsford A Day at the Salmon ... ... ... ... ... Ill


Fishermen's Rights The Floors Water Mr. Fawcett and Salmon
Fishing Two Days at Kelso A Good Day at Carham Tweed
Flies The Salmon Fly Bamborough Castle The Three Idiots 122




The Start A Temperance Hotel A Temperance Dinner A Plea-
sant Evening Bag-nets on Dee and Don ... ... page 141


The Don Kintore Pisciculture at Aberdeen Cruives of Don
The Don at Inverury and Alford The Dee from Aboyne to
Cambus-a-May ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 148


Ballater Chalkley's Vagaries Abergeldie Balmoral Prince
Albert as a Sportsman Number of Deer Otters on Dee
Perils of a Dee Salmon ... ... ... ... ... ... 158


Loch Kinnord Crathes Castle The Baron of Leys The Feuch
Macbeth' s Cairn Dee Flies Ballater and Aboyne Fisheries
The Ythan, Inverness Macbeth Vitrified Forts The Ness
Mr. Snowie 169


Baptism in the Ness The Force of Fashion A Day on the Ness
Chalkley The Black Stream A Fish at the Two Stones
Another at the Black Stream A 20-pounder lost at the Two
Stones Kelts ! Kelts! Kelts! 179


Drummossie Moor The Battle of Culloden Ben Wyvis The
Rites of Baal Druidical Circle The Roman Walls on the
Ness A Monster Kelt The Switcher The Beauly A Death
at the Cruive Pool Eilan Aigas and the Falls of Killmorach . . . 190


A Last Day on the Ness The Eesults of Over-confidence The
Nairn The Hill of Clava The Phoenicians and Balaklava
Ness Flies Sir Alexander Gordon Gumming The Findhorn
Altye The Dungeons of Gordon Castle Incident at the
Soldier's Pool Trout Lochs The Sluice Pool Note on the,
Findhorn Flies for the Findhorn 202



The Blackwater The Alness The Carron Good Sport The
Oykel The Cassley The Shin Andrew Young " Ephemera"
The Fleet The Brora The Helmsdale Conon Angling-
Publics and Angling Hotels ... ... ... ... pnge 214


The Conon The Orrin Eeason for Superstition in the High-
lander Taffy and Sandy Flies for Conon The Spey Aber-
lour The Fiddich Burn 228


The Avon Ballindalloch The Legend of the Coo-Haugh Spey
Flies Grant Town The Pass of Killiecrankie, Perth Harry
of the Wynd Stormontfield Cargill Water The Isla Pearl
Fishing ... 242


Large Bull Trout The Stanley Water, Mr. Brigg's Adventure on it
Luncarty Water Glenalmond Bessy Bell and Mary Gray
Bleach Works The Bermoney Boat Hurling on Tay Tay
Flies 255


The Tweed again Sprouston Dub Mrs. Johnstone's A Fish in
the Dub Smolt Slaughter on Tweed The Teviot Ae mair i'
the Dub A very Holding "Prison" Tweed Flies Closing
Remarks 266



Hell Gate Inverary Dugald Dalgetty Loch Awe Port Sonna-

chen Claddock Kit Noith and his Friends ... ... ... 27G


A Pleasant Lunatic An Unpleasant Ferox Ard-honel One Good
Day Ecce Iterum Ferox Bock Agin General Fishing on
Loch Awe . ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 286



Loch Leven The Balbriggan Brothers Archy Macquoid High

Jinks Father Fairlicht ... ... ... ... ... page 296


Loch Lomond Its Tourists Luss The Macgregora Sir James
Colquhoun Fishing at Luss Rowardennan Inversnaid The
Head of the Loch ^ ...< 310


A Mysterious Stranger Loch Air an Dallanaich A Great Expedi-
tion The Mysterious Stranger absorbs and lies, and is left
lying 322


Loch Arklet Poaching and Pike Loch Katrine Trying the Pater-
noster The Waterworks Extension of the Loch How I went
up Ben An and Benvenue Loch Chon and its Pike, &c. . . . 332


Buchlyvie Bailie Nichol Jarvie and the Clachan of Aberfoyle Loch
Ard Causes of its Decadence Eob Roy Walter Scott's
Genius ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 345


The Clyde compared with the Thames The Sea Lochs Sea Fish-
ing at Row ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 358



The Start for Thurso A Gale The Cruive Pool and the First
Fish Strathmore The Linn of Skinnet A Brace of Fish
Bagged ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 366


My Snuggery at Strathmore The Linn of Skinnet again A Good
Day My Yankee Sir C. Blois and the Sauce Pool An Awk-
ward Predicament .. ... .376



The Moors about Strathmore Stalking the Wild Goose A Won-
derful Eel Loch Beg Disappointed of a Spate ... page 381


Durley Castle A Legend -The Pot of Gold and the Devil's Pool
Loch More A Sporting Fish Trouting and its Pleasures A
PracticalJoke A Real Big Day on the Linn ... ... ... 389


A Run with a Bull (not a Bull Trout) A Great Take in Loch More
Trout Flies and Salmon Shooting Blue Rocks from their
native Traps Thurso Flies 399


The Rivers on the North, North- West, and Western Coasts, with
some Notice of the Inland Lochs and the Rivers of the Solway
Firth... 405





I THINK Albert Smith, in by far his best work, Mr. Ledbury's
grand tour, makes the following expressive observation : " When
the clocks had done striking the hour, which in Paris usually
occupies about twenty minutes," <fec., &c. This remark occurred
to me at York, where I broke the journey North by stopping the
night, for the clocks there appear not to be actuated by any par-
ticular guiding principle, being much addicted to the aberrations
of those of Paris. Morpeth was the place to which I had resolved
to steer, and, having slept at York, to Morpeth I went. Mor-
peth is a dull little town, with a gaol big enough to accommodate
all the inhabitants, which may account for the dullness.

It was market-day when we reached Morpeth, but the market
was evidently by no means a brisk one, and there was but a small
irruption of farmers. The only striking object was a ragged
and beggarly British Fakeer, who strove to excite sympathy and
to promote the circulation of coppers by howling an astonishing
refrain, composed of "Oh, Hallelujah! oh, Hallelujah! oh, Halle-
lujah ! oh, Lord ! " prolonging the last word to a kind of Little-
Bethel-bellow that would have made him choir-master of the Eev .
Stiggins's congregation without competition. The variety of key s


and tones in which he managed to give the above words was very
striking, while he had a species of tremolo movement for the afore-
said bellow at times, specially applicable to benevolent old ladies.

Catching a sight of the Wansbeck as I entered the town over
the bridge, I saw that it was dead low, and yet dirty, which did
not speak much for the chances of fishing. There had been a
heavy thunderstorm a day or two before, which had just sufficed to
send all the ditch-slushings and road-washings into the river, but
had increased the supply of water infinitesimally. I determined,
however, to do my possible to fish it, and selecting a very com-
fortable inn (Braithwaite's), took up my quarters there.

I applied to one or two gentlemen whom I knew to be sports-
men, or rather fishermen, who dwelt there, but beyond advising
me by all means to move on, they appeared to be unable to
render me any assistance, so I trusted to my own resources.
There are five or six miles of open or non-preserved water about
Morpeth ; and no doubt, after rain, sport may be obtained. From
what I saw of the river, I should say there is not much good fish-
ing below Morpeth, though there is a sprinkling of good fish.
The water, however, is very pretty, and but for the constant
penning back by the mills, when the bed of the stream is left in
many parts almost dry, it is capable of holding plenty of good
trout. It would make a nice little breeding-stream, too, for
salmon ; but there are insurmountable weirs, and, save in very
heavy floods in the winter, few fish ever do get up.

Above Morpeth the river belongs to some three or four prin-
cipal proprietors, and here the river is very pretty indeed, in
alternate stream and pool, and is generally well stocked with
bright and lively trout of excellent quality, and running about
three or four to the pound, and in some of the waters it is not
difficult to fill a good creel. The chief desideratum is a little
rain, without which sport is indifferent. At this period of the
year, too (Midsummer), water is especially desirable, because, the
sheep-washing being but lately concluded, the pools and streams
are loaded to such an extent with the sickening and poisonous


refuse that the fish are extremely averse to food. I stayed but
three days at Morpeth, on two of which I fished. I might have
stayed longer; but it was the fashionable time of year, and Mor-
peth, which is much resorted to by visitors, owing to its healthi-
ness, and the beauty and variety of the walks about it, was rather
full, and lodgings were not to be had.

The first day I fished below the town, in the open water. The
walk was delightful, the river running through a ravine graced
with hanging woods and rocks, interspersed with ferns and wild
flowers in great profusion and variety. But the water and the
weather were as bad as bad could be. Added to this, although
the stream is well adapted to fly fishing, nothing is done here
but bait-fishing, and constant minnow and worm much damages
fly-fishing. That I did nothing did not at all surprise me,
particularly as on my return I found the mill below the town
had penned back the water, and there was no stream, and only
water in the small holes and pools. I had written to one or two
of the proprietors above the town, but none of them were
at home, so some days would elapse before I got an answer.
Fortunately, however, the steward of Admiral Mitford, of
Mitford Castle, happened to come into the town, and he
very kindly gave me permission to fish. Just, as I was starting
the post came in, so that I did not get away until rather late.
However, at length I ascended my vehicle, and I drove to
Mitford, a distance of some two or three miles. It is a lovely
spot, the scenery being similar to that below the town hanging
woods and deep ravines, with the crystal river now a mere
thread at the bottom, winding a tortuous course between the
steep wooded banks. The ruins of the old castle, which in the
days of bows and arrows must have been a place of strength,
frowning down upon the children whose great-great-great-grand-
fathers have played beneath its walls even as perchance their
grandchildren may do, while not far from it stands the last
ruined arch of Newminster Abbey, carefully railed in and, oh !

how carefully preserved ! Archaeologists, rejoice ye that such a

B 2


delightful antiquarian feeling should exists in this out-of-the-
way spot. No ruthless hand is suffered to be lifted against
those sacred stones ; and cursed and anathematised indeed would
he be by his fellows who should dare to remove one block of it.
For know, ye lovers of the things of eld, that while one portion
of the abbey stands (and this is the only portion that does
stand), the parish is held ever tithe free. Here is a motive, then,
for respect to the remains of the past. Can stronger motive or
more effective be, think ye ? Alack and alas, were it not .for
this, I am forced to confess and believe that long ago the
dust of its prelates might have "stopped a bunghole," and its
inullions and architraves have graced a multitude of pig-troughs.
While putting my *od together, the keeper made his appearance,
and offered to show rne the water.

He told me, and told me truly, that the water was so low and
clear, the day so breezeless, that I should do nothing with the
fly ; and, to be ready for all hazards, he put a bag of worms in
his pocket. I don't like large stream worm-fishing, although
to use a woma properly in very low and clear water requires
a good deal of skill. About a mile of the water above the house
is preserved strictly for friends, and to this I cast a longing
glance as I noted the many trout that dimpled the surface of
the little pools as we walked along. It is evidently a trout
paradise, and not often invaded by the angler. The upper part
however, to which we wended our way, enjoys no such immunity,
but shows a very decided difference. As we walked on, a good
deal of game made itself evident. I almost stumbled over one
hen pheasant with a nide of eight, all of whom could fly well.
This has been an excellent breeding season for all kinds of game
indeed the keepers hereabouts say they never remember a
better. I commenced fishing with the fly, but there was not a
breath of wind to aid me. The fish were jumping out of the
water ; a score or more of them came at the fly sometimes,
making an apparently fine rise at it, but they did not shut
their mouths on it ; sometimes following it for yards without


attempting to seize it. The fly fisherman who is up to his work
knows well enough what this means ; particularly when, with a
scorching sun and no wind, a heavy bank of oppressive cloud
conceals the distant heavens to windward. Nevertheless, I worked
on for some two or three hours, refusing the keeper's offer of .a
worm ; but, at length finding that there was really nothing to
be done, I took to the worm. It was of very little more use
than the fly, for I only took three or four small fish with it ; and
even the keeper, who tried his hand for a pool or two and made
nothing of it, was fain to confess that "he didn't thenk I should
make up just a dish of fish thot day." I got tired of it at
length, and, after trying the stream up for a mile or two of
very awkward scrambling among the thick underwood along the
banks, with now and then a slip and a stumble off the slippery
stones into the stream, I gave it up, and returned homewards
lightly loaded. With three or four inches of water in the
stream, all this would have been very different, and twilight
would probably have found me with a heavy creel still hard at
wttrk. I saw enough of the stream to convince me that it is at
times well worth fishing, and that a very nice dish may easily be
picked out of it. The fish, though small, are very bright, well
made and flavoured, and extremely game and lively. There
are " several small feeders of the Wansbeck, which give good
fishing at times, and where there is no difficulty in getting
permission. Indeed the angler, if the weather and water suits,
may do well at Morpeth for a day or two, though he will have
perhaps often to drive to his ground some six or seven miles.
On the succeeding day I bade adieu to Morpeth, and packing my
belongings in the trap, was conveyed to Eothbury, fifteen miles
off, to fish the Coquet. On the journey I passed over the Coquet
at Wheldon-bridge. an excellent station for the angler, where
there is a comfortable angling inn. The Coquet is a much more
considerable stream than the Wansbeck, and quite capable in
parts of affording salmon-fishing. It was very low when I
reached Eothbury, but, as luck would have it, as I got there it


began to rain, and continued at intervals heavily even into the
next day, so that on the Sunday it was running well, and of that
fine porter colour which anglers love to see in salmon rivers.
While it was raining an old woman passed. " A saft day, sir,"
said the old dame on passing. "Delightful weather," answered
I, beaming and getting wet through with the most cheerful
complacency. "Ehow! " quoth she, looking at me as if I were
last from Hanwell, "Ehow, sirs," slowly shaking her head,
" F'hats to become of tha ha (hay) crap if 'tbides ? " " F'hats to
become of the fusshin if it disn't ? " I asked in turn, with all
the best of the argument, having the rain to back me. The
query routed her. " Fussh'n ! Fussh'n ! Lord help us ! " May
difference of opinion never alter friendship.

Eothbury, at first sight, is a straggling, uninteresting-looking
village, but it grows upon one for, in whatever direction we
look, the views are fine ; and, however we may approach Eoth-
bury, it looks picturesque and pretty. Situated in an indenta-
tion amongst the rocky Simonside hills, prettily embowered in
trees, with the sparkling Coquet wimpling round it, with the
fresh clear air of mountains abounding in wild thyme and fra-
grant shrubs sweeping down its street, it is indeed a healthy
and desirable little spot, as the troops of well-dressed, cherry-
cheeked, laughing children that meet one at every step abundantly
testify. Eothbury is a great resort at times, for the smoke-dried
denizens of Newcastle and Gateshead ; for, added to its other
attractions, there is a stretch of some fourteen miles of excellent
trout-water of the Coquet here, which is open to all. Tt is aa
pretty and varied a water as heart of trout fisher could desire. It
is tolerably well stocked with fish, which run from three or four
to the pound to a pound weight. Trout have been caught up ta
61b., and there are a few caught yearly of 31b. and 41b. ; half-
pounders, and even three-quarters, being no rarities. The trout
are very strong, and, for their size, show great play ; while, such
is the nature of the pools and streams, that very few of them,
and those mostly of little account to the angler, can be netted ;


tlie streams being so sharp and the bottom so rough, and the
holts and roots so cavernous, that the river may be said to pre-
serve itself. Here and there there will, of course, be a pool which
a few large boulders or a stout stake or two would improve ; but,
generally speaking, not a great deal can be done with the net,
and hence the greater part of the river is always well-stocked ;
and how delightful it is to feel, while pulling the trout out of the
streams, that there is no leave to ask, and no keeper to fee 1 No
wonder that Eothbury is popular. For the information of
anglers and families, there is a comfortable little angling inn
The Three Moons with a snug parlour and good attendance,*
and there are plenty of clean, comfortable lodgings, with a coach
from and to Morpeth daily.

Walking down the village, I could not but be struck by the
march of civilisation. I was looking for the baker's, and found it
difficult to find there appeared to be but one, and that of a
very retiring, unobtrusive nature ; but of drapers and milliners,
a round half-dozen at least. There, I believe you, we had
the fashions i' faith. There were your crinolines, any quantity
of them, like enormous parti-coloured parrot cages, in rows.
There were your fardingales, and lappets, and tuckers, truly ; and
I could not help comparing the cases, and thinking, with Prince
Hal, over Falstaff 's tavern scores : " What, all these sacques to
one poor pennyworth of bread ? Oh monstrous !"

The rain, which I mentioned in my last, brought a foot of
water into the river, which was much needed, as it was very foul
from the sheep washing, so that the fish were quite sick and
shy. The spate did not, however, half suffice to clean the river,
though it certainly did some good ; but from the rise taking
place on a Sunday we were unable to take advantage of it. The
trout-fisher of experience knows well that the time to make a
good bag is when a flood is beginning to come down, and the
water is rising. That is the time when the fish, on the look out

* This has since been rebuilt, and is now a comfortable and spacious


for the insects and other food brought down by the rising waters,
feed most ravenously. The day after the fish are usually so
gorged that they will hardly move at all ; and this I found to
be the case when, on the succeeding day, I went forth armed
with my spinning-rod and a favourite old Allies' minnow. I
chose to fish up, and at the first three streams I fished, to my
surprise, 1 got a trout from each. I then met a brother angler,
who told me the fish were taking badly. I certainly had not
had cause to think so, and was prophesying a heavy bag. I,
however, soon found that he was correct enough, for I went a
long way without getting another fish or a run. Not knowing
the water, I had chosen about the worst that I could have
selected, having started about a mile above the town, just below
the little village of Thropton, above which the water becomes
very indifferent for a space. I worked on perseveringly, however,
but only got five or six more trout, and those I fished hard
for. This was a lamentable failing from what I expected. At
length it came on to rain, and that so heavily, that I thought it
worth turning homewards and I got home at length, after a
tiring walk in the rain, wet through to the skin. Northumber-
land is a fine county for rain when it is a wet season, which is
pretty often. Mackintoshes partake of the nature of. a delusion,
and there is no means of dodging the drops.

On my return, I found Mr. Mavin, a fisherman, and a real one
too, who had been sent to me by an acquaintance to show me the
water ; he advised me to go down below the town in the evening
and try the fly, as the river would then be clear enough for it.
I took his advice, and had an hour's pretty sport in a very nice
piece of water, taking more and better fish than I had caught
all the morning thanks to a fly which I mounted, and which
turned out a regular killer. This fly was one made by Martin of
Brecon. It is a general killer, and, as I believe, one of Martin's
own invention buff crewel body, honeydun hackle, and light-
coloured hen pheasant wing and had I chanced to mount it
earlier, I should have doubled my take.


The next day with Mr. Mavin to cicisbeo me, I went down
the water about three miles, and fished up ; we got away too
late, however, and, although I began well, the fish soon went off.

Online LibraryFrancis FrancisBy lake and river : an angler's rambles in the North of England and Scotland → online text (page 1 of 35)