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constantly employed. The quicker you can get your fish into the boat and unhook them, and throw your line into the water again, the better, as you will constantly have a fish on each line at the same time; therefore despatch is advantageous. You must sit near the stern of the boat, on a plank across the bows, under which you will insert the ends of the rods, some bushes having been previously fastened to the under part of the plank so as to keep the rods firmly in their place, —by which means the fish will hook themselves as your man continues gently rowing onwards. You will always be more successful when going against the tide than with it; and if the tide be rising at sunset, that will be all in favour of good sport. At low-water your chance is not so good. The leith and seith which you will take in this manner will be from a quarter of a pound to a pound, and sometimes heavier.
The leith are an excellent fish, something of the flavour of whiting; in fact, they are the rock whiting. The seith are not quite so good. Both are a very handsome-looking fish when small. Both seithe and leith out in the open sea are sometimes taken of a very large size. The seith, after leaving the lochs and going into the open sea, becomes a very large weighty fish, and is then called steinloch; it is in great request amongst the poorer inhabitants of the sea-coast, and is taken in great abundance in the autumn, and salted for winter consumption. It is then a very dark-looking, coarse fish, anything but a delicacy, and, when salted, very inferior to cod : it is caught out in the open sea, near any small islands where there is a strong current. Very strong tackle is required to secure it: a large hook covered with cotton or wool is the bait generally used; the line is very strong and lengthy, wound round a common reel. This does not, however, always answer the purpose effeciently, as the fishermen frequently have their hands much damaged by the rapidity and violence with which the cord passes when a large fish is first hooked, as he generally goes off at a tremendous pace,—so that a large strong multiplying reel would be the proper article for the purpose.
But to return to the rod fishing: in addition to leith and seith, herring, when they come into the loch, may be taken in the same manner in great abundance; I have taken 100 in one evening. Sometimes small cod and mackerel will also rise at the white fly; but there is a better and more successful way of taking mackerel, which I will explain in another chapter. I have also occasionally caught small salmon-trout with the white fly. When the herring come in large shoals near the coast in the west part of Scotland in the month of June, they not only give wonderful sport to the amateur fisherman, but afford a large and useful supply of food to the poor inhabitants of the vicinity. On these occasions every boat is brought into service; and it is rather an interesting sight on a fine summer's evening, just at sunset, to see from twelve to fifteen boats afloat, each containing four or five persons with eight or ten rods out at the stern, drawn up as it were in line, like so many horses ready to start for a race, on the tranquil surface of some bay contiguous to the ocean, awaiting the disappearance of the sun below the horizon and the arrival of the herrings on the surface.
This wished-for event takes place immediately after the sun has gone down, and if the tide has begun to flow, is instantly indicated by thousands of bubbles upon the glassy surface of the deep; every boat is in motion, and all the oars in a state of activity to reach the wished-for spot. One person rows the boat, and two or three manage the rods; and these will be kept in a continual state of activity for one or two hours, when the herrings in an instant disappear to the bottom without any apparent reason. The boat must be rowed gently over the spot where the herrings are in motion. No number of boats appears to disturb the herrings, or prevent them taking the fly when they are in the right humour. If the night be exactly favourable, and the herrings in the best mood for taking
the fly, three rods will be as much as one person can manage, as he will frequently have a fish on each line at the same time; consequently he who can exercise more skill in expeditiously bringing his fish in, unhooking him, and throwing out his line again, will catch most fish. The line ought not to be longer than the rod, so that you can readily swing the fish into the boat without his striking the sides of it; in which case he would fall off, as the least thing disengages a herring, his mouth being very tender.
A light macintosh is a very desirable garment for these occasions, as, in swinging the herring in, nine out of ten come against your body; in fact, you ought, for the purpose of expedition, give exactly that impulse to your line that the fish may just reach you and drop between your legs; in which case the macintosh acts as a protection from the scales of the herrings, with which you would be otherwise covered. Sometimes the herrings, although numerous, will not appear upon the surface. You must then immerse your rod perpendicularly in the water, as far as you can; this will often succeed. When the herrings are numerous, they will take the white hook without any feather upon it as readily as they will take a covered one.
MACKEREL FISHING WITH LEADED LINE.
When mackerel are abundant, and the day suitable, they afford excellent sport with the leaded line. The day must not be too bright; in fact, the less sun the better: and there must be a slight breeze, just sufficient to fill the sail of a small boat, so that you may pass over the places where you see the mackerel playing at a moderate pace, having your lines out at the stern of the boat. The line may be about fifty feet in length, with a yard of strong gut at the end; the hook of moderate size; the lead must be about three yards from the end of the line, five inches in length, of sufficient weight just to keep the line under the water when sailing with a steady breeze.
The best bait is a small piece of the under part of the mackerel, about two inches in length, and a quarter of an inch in breadth, tapering towards one end, the hook merely run through the wider end. The end of the line may be fastened to the side of the boat, for better security; and this ought to be done in the first instance, to prevent the line from slipping through your fingers as you are letting it out; you will, of course, hold the line in your hand, occasionally drawing it gently towards you and then gradually letting it out