« AnteriorContinuar »
worms (for such only will bear the strong current and rough bottom of the Tweed), which we procured, of the best quality, and at little expense, from a dealer at Edinburgh, and preserved in jars filled with damp moss frequently renewed. These ensured us good sport in the above state of the river; but, I believe, that with minnows, we should have caught an assortment of larger and choicer fish, for there appeared to be as many varieties of trout as there were tributary streams. I recollect catching one which bore on one side of it the exact impression of the substances against which it had lain in its winter retreat; thus affording evident proof that it must have remained a considerable time in a fixed position and place.
The flies we used were of the simplest kind, and were made by ourselves of feathers from the wings, chiefly of woodcocks, grouse, starlings, and larks, with the addition of a little appropriate dubbing. Early in the season, when the river was full and not over clear, the grouse wings furnished us with our best materials, and we found it by no means difficult to adapt the size and hue of the flies, according to the force and colour of the stream, to the sight and taste of our customers. The great secret in Tweedfishing, I might say in all fishing, but in the ever-varying Tweed especially, consists in using the right bait at the right time. I have heard Mr. Fenwick say, that early in the year, when, with the par-tail, he has loaded himself with fish, he has often met a forlorn Angler who had been unable to get a single trout to rise at his fly. Yet this mode of fishing (namely, with the par-tail,) appeared to be by no means common. I had sprained my ancle; and to give it rest, was sitting alone in the little parlour of our Inn, when a handsome coach-and-four drove up, to my no small surprise, and stopped to bait the horses. Seeing a single gentleman in it I invited him to alight and partake of some refreshment which then happened to be on the table. This he readily did, and we were soon engaged in active conversation on the subject of fishing, he being a professed angler, and moreover the intimate friend of "a Mr. Scott," whom I mentioned as being with us. He had never seen the trouling tackle adapted to the par-tail, which Mr. Fenwick had taught us to prepare, and was so much pleased with it, that I made him a present of some as a pattern, which he gladly accepted.
The gentleman in question proved to be the well-known Lord Somerville. My short interview with this accomplished nobleman was most agreeable. I subsequently traced him in his intercourse with the agricultural world, but I never again had the pleasure of seeing him; and he has long since departed from this earthly scene. So has Scott! So has Collins! How grateful ought I to be for my prolonged and happy life! How sensible of the mercy of that dispensation of Providence which enables us to associate, with the memory and warning of departed friends, the most pleasing recollections, and teaches us, in fact, that, whilst time is ever on the wing, the uncertainty of life, by keeping out of sight the day of our own departure, serves but to put us on our guard, without disqualifying us for the enjoyment of the passing hour. Here, also, I cannot help remarking, that courtesy, like honesty, is good policy, and none will find it more so than travellers. Had Collins and myself been otherwise than accommodating, we should have lost the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with one of the greatest men of our day; and the very trifling attention paid by me to Lord Somerville would have procured for us, as we subsequently understood, many welcome attentions, had we remained a longer time at the Tweed; his Lordship's residence being sufficiently near to have admitted of it. Indeed, the above maxim cannot be too strongly impressed upon Englishmen in their travels, their cautious and distant manners being known, not unfrequently, to lead them into the opposite extreme. I shall, therefore, interrupt my narration to mention what once occurred to me at Paris. My friend P— and myself were at the door of the "Couvent des petits Augustins," where a vast number of interesting, but scattered monuments, preserved from the ravages of the Revolution, had been collected and arranged, and were purchasing a catalogue raisonne of their treasures, when two ladies, with a liveried footman in attendance, approached, and were evidently at a loss for the few franks required in payment for a similar catalogue. Seeing their dilemma, I stepped forward, and, presenting at the same time my card, offered to pay the required sum, which was readily accepted; and we together viewed the contents of the convent. The following day there came a laced valet to our hotel with a small packet, having a magnificent seal on it, with arms indicative of princely rank, addressed to me.. I did not at the moment recollect the little adventure of the precedingday,and proceeded to investigate the arcana of the billet with no small curiosity, when I found my debt repaid, and a most polite invitation to my friendandmyself, from the Margravine of Anspach, to her evening parties, mentioning on what evenings she was at home. I was then on the eve of departure from Paris, and therefore never waited on her Highness there; but a year or two afterwards she renewed her civilities, by sending me an invitation, through my cousin, the lady of the late General Hughes, to attend her private theatricals at Wanstead House, which I once did, in company with Mrs. Hughes.
These are very trifling anecdotes, it must be confessed; but they may serve to point a moral, without making pretensions to adorn a tale. The last, however, has drawn me further than I intended, from my tale of Tweedside, with which I will now proceed.
I have no doubt of Mr. Fenwick's being right in saying that, early in the season, the par-tail is a most certain and deadly bait. But to ensure its success, it is necessary to be acquainted with the different fords, and best and safest reaches of the Tweed, for you must be prepared to dash into the middle of the stream, taking care to be well and roughly shod; and then, wading with the current up to, and sometimes even above, your middle, you have to cast your bait at some distance before you, and spin it from side to side. Fish, from one to two pounds, will soon be in action and strike boldly; and, if your tackle be of the best description, none need escape, for they are sure to hook themselves fast, and with very little management, you may bring them, by mere strength of gear, first to the surface, and then within your grasp. Then on again—slowly and steadily—for the Tweed is never a stream to be trifled with. It is apt to rise, rapidly and unexpectedly; and even in the month of June I was once not a little perplexed at a usually very safe ford. It was with great difficulty that I could keep upon my legs, and was rejoiced to regain the bank from which I had descended. On another occasion I have reason to believe that I was the means of saving my friend Collins's life. We crossed the river in the morning, and had been fishing for several hours up the stream, without being sensible of much, if any, increase of its depth. But there must have been a heavy fall of rain, higher up, which occasioned the Tweed to swell rapidly, and to roll along with considerably increased force; for, on re-crossing, I found that the waters had risen a foot at least. Still there seemed to be no danger, and I never thought of waiting for my companion. His screams, however, soon caught my ear. He was taken by surprise, and, when he had scarcely reached the middle of the stream, became panicstruck, and cried out lustily for assistance. I hastened back to him, and found him motionless, and in the utmost alarm; but, the moment he could seize my arm, his fears ceased, and so ended what had nearly proved to him a fatal adventure.