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A trusted and trustworthy guard, if thou hadst life like me, What pleasures would thy toils reward beneath the deep-green sea!
O deep-sea diver, who might then behold such sights as thou?
Then deep in tangle woods to fight the fierce sea-unicorn,
And send him foiled and bellowing back, for all his ivory horn; To leave the subtle sworder-fish, of bony blade forlorn,
And for the ghastly grinning shark, to laugh his jaws to scorn.
O broad-armed fisher of the deep, whose sports can equal thine?
O lodger in the sea-king's halls, couldst thou but understand Whose be the white bones by thy side, or who that dripping band, Slow swaying in the heaving wave, that round about thee bend, With sounds like breakers in a dream, blessing their ancient friend;
O, couldst thou know what heroes glide with larger steps round
Thine iron side would swell with pride, thou 'dst leap within the
Give honor to their memories, who left the pleasant strand
O, though our anchor may not be all I have fondly sung,
O where you will, with rod in hand, wherever you find a trout, you will find Nature in her loveliest and most genial mood. Even in the sluggish waters of the verdant South, with the long bulrush and the water-lily mirrored in the stream, and the rude palisade, the village stile, the old hawthorn hedges reflected on its bosom, a kingfisher now and then darting by like a gleam of radiance, and the rustic bridge, festooned with ancient ivy, spanning the full flood-even here is a world of romance and beauty. How fast, as you ply your sport, the panorama changes!
2. Tennyson knew something of the charm when he wrote "The Brook;" but although he does speak of
"Here and there a speckled trout,
And here and there a grayling,"
I doubt, judging only from his poem, if he be a true disciple of Izaak Walton.
3. But the streams of the North for me. No sophisticated, well-trained river or rivulet, afraid to lift up its voice and let its gurglet be heard in good society, with a bed so smooth, and a course so noiseless, that not a pebble ripples its surface, nor a rock lashes into foam the decorous current of its course. These have their charms. Yea, they have their trout also,-large, yeoman-like, wary, well-fed denizens, not at all to be despised in capturing, or when captured. But give me the streams of the North,-dashing from the uplands, or springing to liquid life from the cliffs and mountain-peaks.
4. Study a stream closely. There are books to be found in the running brooks. How musical that ever-sounding, ever-varying voice! Loud or low, its full sonorous note fills but never grates upon the ear. It speaks in tones of unnumbered meanings,-doleful or joyous, as the mood of the listener may be.
5. Light and shadow hold revelry on its bosom, reflection
doubling the beauty on its margin. Now, beneath the shadow of that somber crag, with the mountain-ash nodding from its crest, the very darkness of despair inspires it. Anon it leaps into the daylight with a merry bound, mocking the old gray rocks with perennial laughter; now it relaxes its headlong pace, assumes a grave and stately march, widening and expanding its crystal surface with meek and composed dignity; then, bidding all proprieties adieu, rushes in frantic cataract into the very pit of Avernus, and seems to leave sight and hope behind. It is the very pain of Nature's beauty, so suggestive of pure enjoyment, that the earth-born fancy moves too slowly, and the forms crowd so swiftly by that they elude our grasp.
6. All very fine, you will say. But what is all this to trout-fishing? Do you really think that these charms are only disclosed to a stick and a string, with a hook at one end and yourself at the other?
7. Thus I reply. In the first place, but for trout-fishing I should never have seen them; and as you never fish, you have never seen them. But were you a brother of the rod, you would know that between the man who walks and the man who fishes along the bank, there is as much difference as between one who lives with a great man and one who only knows him to bow to. One knows his bodily presence; the other, his ethereal spirit.
8. The angler knows his stream as a friend,-knows him in all his moods of temper, catches responsive wimples and familiar becks which the world wots not of,—
"They may escape the courtly sparks,
They may escape the learned clerks,
which indicate the falling flood.
9. But you speak of the claims of humanity, tenderness to the dumb animals, the mute fishes. I am, you say, a brute and a barbarian, because with
I lure the incautious troutling from the brook."
I deny the charge, and shall disprove it by better logic than your legal brain can command.
10. Confront me with my adversary. Come out, you old speckled hypocrite, from that deep, dark den, overhung with alders, on the evil deeds of which no sunbeam ever shone. Nay, I have thee fast. Plunge not, wriggle not, jump not. It is all in vain. There-now I stretch thee on the stones. Come up the bank, and before I bestow on thee the fatal whack, and consign thee to the basket, plead for thy wicked life.
11. How sayest thou? Is it cruel to tear thee from thy home, to delight in thy despairing struggles, to butcher thee to make a holiday? All very fine, thou scourge of thy race. Tell me, with thy dying gasp, when thy maw shall be opened by remorseless cooks, what will be disclosed? A coil of red worms, many May-flies, and oh! monster of the deep, a young trout, one of thine own family, the dainty on which thou didst dine. And pratest thou to me of humanity? Nay, when lured by my skill thy fatal bound was made, didst thou not mean to extinguish a bright young life, reckless of its sufferings, and forgetful of the surfeit of the morning? What! It is your natural food? And thou art mine, thou canting destroyer. Take that-I shall eat thee for my breakfast.
12. Let no man, however, presume to fish with a ruffled temper, or a mind ill at ease. With sun, wind, and water propitious, the angler is as nearly angelic as humanity can become. Complacent kindliness beams from his countenance and warms his heart. But sometimes, I cannot deny. he is sorely tried. Not because he fails to catch the fish; that, by itself, is only part of the game in the eyes of the true angler. The trout win one day, and he wins the next.
13. But I will tell you what an angler's temper is, could I only be with him when, descending the hill in the morning to his favorite pool, the stream brown and clear, the wind soft and southerly, the clouds dark, and the
temperature genial, he sees, just a hundred yards below, the waving of a rod; and, looking down the stream, descries another a quarter of a mile off, jerked to and fro like the wand of an insane musician. I am no friend to deeds of violence, but such things tempt to homicide, and the man who can, unmoved, survey such a scene-never caught a trout.
14. Even, however, in the most complete isolation, when he is monarch of all he surveys, will temptations come. The desert is no preservative. You have taken up your position, wading nearly waist-deep, so as to command the deepest and most attractive swirl in the stream. throw back your line for an artistic and light-dropping cast, when―misery-your fly has fixed its barb in yonder nodding beech. Or the breeze is blowing shrewishly up the water, the current is swift, and your footing precarious, when the line twines round you like Laöc'oön's serpents, and the hook is fast to your fishing-basket. Such trials are intense to the most placid of anglers; to the perturbed spirit, they are unendurable.
15. A bad temper is thus a sad drawback to fly-fishing. But a bad conscience is worse. The thoughts which haunt it mingle with the voices of the waters, and people each turn of the stream, each bush and rock. A mind ill at ease finds no recreation there. Black Care moves beside him, and moulds her dull, monotonous promptings into something of a never-ending chant. The evil spirit must be excrcised, or the Elysium of sport will become a Pandemonium.
16. I have done. I speak not of the rapture and the fame of landing, after an exciting and not unequal struggle, the spotted Triton of the pool; the beauty of his bright and shining side on the emerald sward; the long-drawn sigh of successful excitement, and the golden color of your thoughts for many a day thereafter. Scoff at the river-gods