Page images


The unseen Guide.

helpless be deserted—and it would not be in man's

power to show how they could be cared for again—yet the right comforter and protector will come, guided by a spirit whose ways we cannot

cannot explain, but only receive and bless.


OUR grand salmon-killers turn up

their noses at us, but we don't care.

Look at those little boys coming home in full chatter after a half-holiday's catching sticklebacks. Most of their

it is true, has died, from having been handed about too long for inspection ; still, they have got one alive in a physic-bottle, poor beast !-probably as much perplexed as a mermaid would be in a water-butt; but its captors are happy as Scrope when he shot his biggest stag. Don't those boys recall your days of triumph when you caught sticklebacks ?-when you took a worm, tied him round the waist with a thread, and let him down into the middle of a shoal ? Didn't they bite, one at each end! not so much of a bite, though, as a shameless gobble. Often the worm, excusably enough, threw them off when they had got half an inch of him stowed away inside; but your stickleback is a bold feeder, and soon gets over a


It was


Catching Sticklebacks. check. One at each end, the rest fussing about, and trying to help, the two lucky fellows persevere, and swallow on till their noses meet in the midst; then you gently lift them out, and draw them off their dinners, the worm doing the same service over and over again, till he grows limp and white.

From these early essays, to the finished diplomacy employed with shy, heavy carp, Pond-fishing has held its own as the favourite pursuit of thousands. Look at the floats in the tackle-shops, where a varnished pike swims in mid-air, like Mohammed's coffin between heaven and earth. Look at the floats, I sayfat, tapering, transparent. Do not they recall pleasant visions of the days you spent by the weedy moat, where the water-hen crept under the hollow bank, and the dragon-fly sat upon the bulrush? of the dark hole beneath the willow, where the conscious cork made circles in the still water, and then sailed sideways off, or sank with unequivocal decision ? Talk of the small skill needed in any humble sport. I should like to see a deer-stalker catch moles. No, no! We grant you all the respect you ask, ye fly-fishers; but do not suppose every tench caught with a float is a fool, or that it is easy to fix a hook in his leather jaws, because

Picking up Worms on ye Lawn .93 you hide it with a worm instead of a hackle. In the first place, worms are not all alike; and if you

will listen for a minute, I will tell you how best to provide this first essential in pondfishing. Take a spade, you suppose.

No such thing. Wait for a clear dewy night, and then, provided with a candle and a pot of moss, step quietly on to the lawn; there, as you hold the flame low down, you will see the subterraneous population of the soil taking the air. With the tip of his tail left inside his door, Mr. Worm stretches himself out at full length in the cool wet grass. Some, you see, are large, coarse, and dark; let them lie; they might be of use, if you wanted to catch eels, but to other fish they offer small temptation. Look again : there is a superior animal, made altogether of finer clay, and quickened with purer blood. Notice his form -head elongated, tail flat, colour pinky, with a dark line running down his back. Pick him up; he is the right sort. Yes, I thought so. You laid hold of his head, and he slipped through your fingers quick as thought, back into his hole. No—press his tail first just where it dips into the ground; then gently taking him by the body, he will lose his presence of mind and gripe of his threshold at


The Weather for Fishing. the same time, and come up easily enough. There; put him in the moss, and go on. Thus hundreds may be taken. But mind you don't stump about like Rumpelstilskin, or you will jar the ground, and frighten the worms back into their holes before they can be touched.

To-morrow we will try for some tench.

Which way is the wind ? East. Then you might as well fish with a bare boot-hook, for not a fin will you touch. No; not east-southwest. Ah, well! then we will try; but I fear the sky is too bright, even though the wind is in the right quarter. What I like to see is a soft gray underflight of clouds slipping slowly along; or a warm rain; or a mass piling up ammunition for a thunder-storm, while the horses stand head to tail beneath the chestnuts, with mutual civility, whisking off the flies, and pounding the dusty grass. No; the day will be too bright—the sun reigns; the hot shimmer rises from the heated soil, making the hedges tremble, as though quivering with wind; the mown hayfield is slippery beneath the soles of your shoes, and the grasshoppers raise their strident chorus as you brush them up with your feet. No fishing to-day—we will look over the tackle, and try in the evening.

« PreviousContinue »