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ness of the island, are necessarily small, both skill and strength are requisite to keep your boat within the prescribed limits; but in proportion as the tide rises or falls, the current becomes less violent, and about half-tide is the most favourable time for sport.
At each end of the island, opposite those parts which stem the tide and occasion its precipitate divergence on each side, are the most favourite spots. These, from the narrowness of the island, are small; but, when fish are abundant, they afford sufficient space for the successful operation of three or four boats, as the fish, when well disposed to take the fly, do not appear to be in the slightest degree alarmed at any number of boats, but continue playing on the surface close to the boats on all sides, in the midst of all the hostile movements against them.
At half a mile distance from the island there is another equally favourite spot, of a couple of acres in extent, more or less, where there is a perfect calm between two powerful currents, the cause, which is not immediately perceptible, being a reef of rocks, concealed beneath the surface, and only discernible at low tide. It is rather a singular sight to witness a dead calm out in the open sea, with a violent tide on either side carrying everything before it; and when one approaches this tranquil, mirror-like, glassy surface, for the first time, ascending through the opposing current, it is not without a secret and uncontrollable emotion of dread, so treacherous and unnatural is its appearance. The violence and the strength of the tide in the Sound of Jura is readily explained by the narrowness of the channel, and the fact of its waters being influenced by the weight and pressure of the vast Atlantic Ocean. In like manner, in the German and the English Ocean the tide is found to be strongest in those places which are narrowest; a large body of water, in each case, being driven through a small passage. Another effect of this relative disposition of circumstances, is the tides rising to a very great height.
Having given this slight sketch of the scene of piscatorial operations, I will endeavour to explain the manner in which they are successfully carried into effect. The mode of proceeding is similar to that adopted near the coast for taking small seith, leith, and herring. The principle is precisely the same; but as the fish at a distance from the shore are much larger and more powerful, stronger tackle is required; the rods and lines must be stouter, the hook's larger and stronger, and the white feather, of which the fly is formed, longer. The fish taken in the vicinity of this island average from one to three pounds. Sometimes fish as large as four or five pounds are caught; and when larger ones take the flies, the tackle is broken; but at this season of the year the young fish of the previous year are chiefly those which congregate together in these localities, and are taken.
When the autumn arrives, these fish become heavy and powerful, and a different style of fishing is adopted, and different tackle brought into requisition to secure them. They are then known as steinloch; but I have explained, in a former chapter, the method of taking these. Those from one to three pounds give capital sport, being remarkably strong for their size, and vigorous in their resistance. Three persons in each boat will suffice—one to manage the rods, and one to each oar. Six rods may be used effectively. They ought to be from 12 to 15 feet in length, threefourths alder, and one-fourth, i.e. the top, of hazel, which must be firmly spliced on. By this combination you have a light, manageable rod, with strength and flexibility where they are each required. The line must be of the same length as the rod; on no account longer, as your continuous sport depends much upon your expeditiously lifting your fish into the boat with the strength of the rod and line with the first impulse, without the fish being allowed to strike the side of the boat; which would be the case with too long a line, involving a loss of one-third of tbe fish hooked, and interfering with your prompt attention to your other lines, on each of which there may be fish, as it is no uncommon occurrence to have a fish on each line at the same moment. Dispatch, therefore, is essential to success, and he is the most skilful fisherman who can bring his fish most readily into the boat, unhook them, and replace his rod and line, and accomplish this without interfering with the other rods and lines lying closely in juxtaposition: and as the fish follow the boat, attracted by the flies, the more quickly you can get your lines into the water, after having secured your fish, the less liable will you be to lose the shoal which is following you, as, strange to state, the hooked fish which are plunging about in the water do not in the slightest degree alarm those which are following your flies.
Your line must be made of strong horsehair; the more joints and fastenings in it the better, as these, in meeting the current, make seams and marks in the water, which attract the attention of the fish to your flies. At the end of your line one piece of gut, to which your fly is attached, will suffice; and this must be of the best quality, as it must be recollected that this is intended to bear a fish of three pounds weight, there being no time for the use of gaffs or landing-nets. The hook must be the size of a salmon-hook; a white tin one; black hooks do not answer so well. The fly is formed of one feather, of about three inches in length, fastened firmly on the upper side of the shank of the hook; not all along it, but only at the extreme end, so that almost the entire length of the feather is at liberty, keeping parallel with the hook as the boat advances through the water. The feather must be a perfectly white one, taken either from under the wing of a large white sea-gull, or from out of one of the tail feathers; if from under the wing, three inches of the fine end of the feather; if from a large tailfeather, it will be a part selected from the side, of the same length. This feather is supposed to imitate a small young fish.
The person who manages the rods will sit on a plank across the bows of the boat, as near the stern as he conveniently can, with the ends of the rod inserted into a small faggot tightly fastened underneath the plank on which he is sitting, so that he will have all the rods within his immediate control; the gentle and regular progress of the boat keeping the lines at full stretch, so that the fish on taking the flies hook themselves. When the fish take very freely, two persons will do more execution with the rods than one.
The amateurs of this exciting sport in fine weather generally assemble on the island an hour