Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

What more can be said in praise of angling than that which the good and quaint old father of anglers has so charmingly discoursed? What more delightful picture of an angler's life and pleasures—of the scenes 'mid which he wanders, and the poetry which shines in his heart and illumines the mental atmosphere in which he lives —can be presented than that which Walton has bequeathed to us in the delightful book which he designed as “a picture of his own disposition,” and which is described as having “hardly its fellow in any of the modern languages?” Who, on reading, or recalling to his recollection, the beautiful scenes and dialogues in that exquisite production, will not fancy himself the delighted companion of Piscator, Auceps, and Wenator?— will not be carried away for a while from the stern realities and corroding cares of the world, to the quietude and poetry of nature — to the flower-spread banks of a lovely river in some sequestered vale embosomed by its tree-clad hills? —will not feast, in imagination, upon the glorious and ever-varying scenes through which an angler roams, and taste the indescribable enjoyment which is peculiar to his fascinating pastime 2

“God never did make a more calm, quiet, innocent recreation than angling,”—let cavillers and those who have no acquaintance or sympathy with rural recreations say what they will to the contrary. It delights, by bringing its votaries into direct and intimate communication with nature in her loveliest guise; it instructs, by compelling them, if they would pursue the art successfully, to acquire a knowledge of some of her most interesting productions; it soothes and elevates, by the habits of “calm, quiet, and innocent” contemplation which it induces; it interests, by the triumph which skill and perseverance enable them to effect in the capture of shy and cunning creatures by elegant and scientific means — by art and reason over instinct; and it invigorates, mentally and physically, by the active exercise which it demands, and by the agreeable excitement which it produces. “That undervaluer of money, Sir Henry Wotton, the late provost of Eton College — a man,” says Walton, “whose very approbation of the art ought to be enough to convince any modest censurer of it,” was wont to say of angling that it was “an employment for his idle time, which was not then idly spent; for it was, after tedious study, a rest to his mind, a cheerer of his spirits, a diverter of sadness, a calmer of

unquiet thoughts, a moderator of passions, a procurer of contentedness; and that it begat habits of peace and patience in all who professed and practised it.” It is universally admitted, that of the different branches of angling the most scientific and interesting is that on which this unaspiring treatise is written. In preference to any special enumeration of its claims to that distinction, we shall endeavour to convey an idea of their nature, and at the same time of the attractions of this delightful art, in an off-hand sketch of a day's fly-fishing on one of the most celebrated streams of “the

[ocr errors]

west countrie;” and this perhaps will prove a not unfitting introduction to our more dry, but we hope not useless, chapters. Down far, far into one of the most picturesque parts of the country — away from the bustle and gaiety of city life—is nestled a quiet and secluded valley, through which a clear and dancing stream pursues its devious way, and on every side diffuses health and freshness. This valley is enclosed and sheltered by ranges of high hills which the hand of Cultivation (the arch-enemy of landscape beauty) has not yet quite denuded of their wood, although its approach is everywhere manifest. Among them, branching away in different directions, are snug little combs into which the eye

can penetrate to the dimmest distance, and trace among their windings the glistening brook which each contributes to the larger stream; while downwards, at the valley's mouth, washing the craggy cliffs with which the boundary hills terminate, is seen the broad bosom of “the deep and dark blue ocean,” into which the waters of the valley-stream are poured. * # # It is a fine, fresh, April morning. The valley was full of mist when the sun peeped over the eastern hill; but it soon gradually dispersed, like the rolling aside of a vast filmy curtain, and allowed the early beams to twinkle in the myriad dewdrops on blade and spray, while a chorus of nature's music sent up a joyful welcome from a thousand feathered throats; and even the surface of the glittering stream, in quiet nooks under sheltered banks and overhanging bushes, was occasionally broken by the rising of some hungry trout at the grannams and hare's flaxes which were thus early called into existence. But as the morning advanced, a southerly breeze sprang up, and sundry clouds appeared in the horizon, gradually overcasting the entire sky, and betokening a favourable day for the sport. * * * The hour is now nine, and three anglers may be imagined wending their way along a pleasant road, leading from a certain town, which still lies buried in the mist and smoke behind them, to a tributary of the main river, a mile or so distant. This they mean to fish down to its mouth (for the distance is short), and afterwards continue fishing the main stream downwards, as far as their inclination may lead them. No solitary, selfish anglers are they, as is manifest by their going in company, and by the presence of a couple of canine favourites, who are evidently accustomed to the sport, for they partake of their masters' excitement, and withal are admirably “behaved.” Our anglers are well caparisoned, without being encumbered. No superfluous landing-nets, huge books, and other gear, which usually betoken “ the pretender,” can be found on them. They have only necessaries. Their rods and baskets are the only outward and visible signs of their craft, and small side pockets suffice to contain their stores of “glittering glories.” You can see at a glance that they are worthy disciples of our patriarch, – evidently “slaughterers” of the first degree, - and enthusiastic, from the gusto with which they relate and listen to old exploits, and anxiously and joyously trudge on. At last they arrive at their ground. Their tackle is very soon arranged; and now they are

« ForrigeFortsett »