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II.

CARP FISHING

WELL can I remember, during a bird-nesting foray, when a chosen friend and I had rambled far from the town, up beyond the waving uplands into the heart of the Welsh border hills, coming upon a lonely tarn from which a heron slowly flew at our approach, and gazing with a feeling akin to awe at the black water, the tall rushes and flags, and the belt of fir-trees that encircled three sides of it. The feeling of awe was changed to one of wonderment and delight as we saw, circling about and breaking the calmness of the water, dozens and dozens of big brown back-fins projecting above the surface. We had little difficulty in seeing that they belonged to mighty carp. I am not usually a good hand at keeping a secret, but the secret of that pool and its denizens we kept to ourselves for many a year-even

until the fear of rheumatism forbade us to fish it often ourselves, for it could only be fished by wading kneedeep among the rushes. Strictly speaking, we had no right to wet a line there; but, from visiting it often without interruption, we came to look upon the tarn as our exclusive property.

What heavy burdens we oftentimes carried home!never a fish under a pound and a half, many up to four pounds, but few beyond that weight. The pool, I suppose, had never been fished except by us for the last thirty years, and the very abundance of the fish prevented them growing to any enormous size; although now and then, out at the end of the flags, where we could never reach, a head would pop up to suck some insect down, with a sounding gulp that would make our hearts beat faster with excitement than they have ever done since.

Our tarn was situated in a hollow on a top of a hill, and had a very boggy and treacherous bottom. More than once have we stood in one place too long, till the flooring of matted roots has sunk lower and lower, and at last, with a horrid swirl of black mud, has given way, when one or other of us, but for the ready hand and active help of his companion, might have found himself fattening the fishes without hope of recovery. Once we set some night-lines there. On a Friday evening

in June we laid two dozen of them down, baited with

large lobworms. On the Saturday half-holiday we

took them up. Seventeen carp, from 2lbs. to 4lbs. in weight, lay gasping on the soft carpet of fir-needles. We caught seven or eight more with the legitimate rod and line, and, what is more, we actually carried the whole of them home. We were a bit ashamed of that exploit, though. It was all very well once in a way, but too unsportsmanlike to be repeated often. It became a question what to do with the fish after we had caught them; but the avidity with which our poorer neighbours received the present of a few decided the use to which to apply our spoil. To tell the truth, we didn't much care about eating any ourselves. They had a muddy taste, which we found very disagreeable. After such wholesale slaughter, it will be a relief to the reader to see a picture of an ordinary day's sport. We always found that a dull, warm day, with now and then a shower, was the best, and that thunder in the air rather improved our chances. On such days, if we could procure a half-holiday, we would set off at a long, swinging pace (our wind and muscle were in capital condition then), and in due time reach the tarn. As I have said, on three sides it was surrounded by a wood, and on the other side was so shallow and muddy that it was "unfishable." Having reached the tarn, pray,

reader, accompany us in imagination as we dive into the wood and rig up our tackle two rods each, long and slender, with fine lines, light porcupine-quill floats, no shot, and a moderate-sized red worm for bait. Off with our shoes and stockings, tuck up our trousers, then cautiously and quietly pushing through the underwood, we enter the water and wade through the flags, which reach as high as our heads; then, fixing each foot firmly on a root, we drop the lines as gently as possible into the water. How quiet everything is! A heron stands patiently on the shallows, and another is trying, with ludicrously unsuccessful efforts, to perch on the slight topmost branches of a fir. A wild duck leads her brood by the rushes, while nodding water-hens and white-headed coots intersect the water. What curious little black balls the young water-hens are! Hillo ! what's that? A splash that echoes through the woods, and a little black ball has gone down the hungry maw of a pike, the only one in the pool, I think-at least, I could never hook one of its descendants or brothers and sisters, although I have tried early and late, and the haunt of that monster is too far for me to cast. He lies cheek by jowl with the big carp. No bites yet, and the floats lie as still on the water as if there was never a fish in the pool, and we fall into a reverie, as we gaze up at one, two, aye, three kestrels hovering above us.

How very still it has suddenly become, and how dark, as the thunder-cloud throws its shadows on the pool! I am actually afraid of breaking the stillness by shouting to Campbell over yonder to ask what sport he has had. All the water birds have sought the shelter of the rushes, and I begin to feel quite uncanny, when I am startled by a sudden twitch of the loop of running line which I am absently twisting about my finger. See the float has disappeared; strike! and up comes the line-no fish. In with it again! We must be more watchful; but we shall have no more bites until the storm is over. A weird rustling goes through the firs, and the water is caught by sudden flaws of wind. We reel up and seek the shelter of the wood. A flash and a rattle, another and another, and the water is whitened with the wind and the rain. Then, as the storm passes away, we run to the brow of the hill, to see it sweeping through the valleys and glens. How dense the cloud seems! The flashes dart to earth and return to the cloud with almost equal brilliancy.

As soon as our lines are in the water again, the fun begins. The ripples are still on the water, and we can scarcely see the tiny floats. As it gets calmer, one moves a little; then, after a while, a little more, and then walks off quietly along the surface. I tighten my line; no need to strike hard. The carp is a soft, though

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