[from Harry Druidale, Fisherman ..., 1898]
Now, Douglas in the centre of our land,
The best by far we have at our command.
The, second river in importance in the Isle of Man is the Douglas river, which is formed by the confluence of the rivers Dhoo and Glass. The junction of the two rivers is about three-quarters of a mile from Douglas. The name Dhoo signifies the black river, and the Glass the white river. Almost the whole of the Douglas river, or at any rate the part of it which flows through the Nunnery estate, is the property of Sir J. S. Goldie-Taubman, the Speaker of the House of Keys, and is strictly preserved; and the portion of the Dhoo which passes through the Kirby estate is preserved by Sir W. L. Drinkwater, Her Majesty's First Deemster.
The Dhoo takes its rise'in the neighbourhood of Crosby, a pretty village near the rocky slopes of Greeba, about four miles from Douglas, for which distance it is fishable. It passes through a low flat plain, and is consequently somewhat sluggish. It receives tributaries from Greeba and from the somewhat elevated land on the contrary side of the plain.
The trout in the Dhoo are dark coloured, and not nearly so handsome as those in the Glass, and this is accounted for by the peaty nature of the soil through which the Dhoo flows, and from the bogs wherein it rises. In order to fish the Dhoo, the angler should commence at Braddan Bridge and fish up. Between the bridge and the Union Mills there are some good streams and rather deep pools, and should the water be of fair volume, and the fish on, the sport will be good, and he will kill some good fish. There is a good chance of a few half-pound trout, and some chance of even larger fish.
The Union Mills are about a mile above Braddan Bridge. For a short distance above the Union Mills the river is not of much use, as most of the water is taken by the mill-race. Thence to beyond Crosby Station, about two miles, there is some good fishing when there is a good volume of water in the stream. It is advisable to fish with strong tackle, as the river Dhoo, unlike most other Manx streams, is very weedy, and the safest plan frequently is to yank the trout on to the bank at once. The banks of the stream are high in most places, so when the water is low it is difficult to keep out of sight of the trout. It is a much better stream for worm-fishing than for fly-fishing.
I well remember the two best days I ever had in the Dhoo. It was about the end of August or the beginning of September 1872. The rainfall in that year was excessive-the wettest year which I ever recorded. On the first day, I commenced above Braddan Bridge about. half-past nine o'clock. The water was of fine volume, but quite clear. I fished with worm up to Union Mills until about twelve o'clock, when I went to Glenlough for lunch, at which time I had 25 trout.
About two o'clock I went out above Union Mills and fished until about half-past five, and creeled exactly 25 more, making 50 for the day. I remained all night at Glenlough.
On the following day, as I was going to return to Douglas, I commenced to fish on the Glenlough estate, and fished down to Braddan Bridge. In climbing up a rather high bank out of the river near the bridge, I fell backwards into the river with such a splash that my head even went under water, and I had to walk to Douglas in a miserable plight. On turning out my basket I counted exactly 50 trout, making 100 for the two days. For the Isle of Man, they were remarkably fine trout, many being herring -sized fish and several more than half a pound. I have never since fished the Dhoo under such favourable conditions. They were all caught with the worm.
We will now ramble up the river Glass. The Glass is in all respects different from the Dhoo. While the Dhoo has a narrow confined bed with high banks, very much resembling a big ditch, the Glass has a broad stony bed with plenty of shore when the water is low, and there are alternately high and low banks so that the angler can always fish from a low shore. It is much more easy to capture. trout in the Glass than in the Dhoo. From the confluence of the two rivers to the junction of the East and West Baldwin Streams the Glass is much diverted by mill-dams, the consequence being that much of the bed of the river is in dry seasons almost dried up, therefore the nature of the fishing is not generally so good as it is above the junction.
Proceeding from the Quarter Bridge up the river we go along Port-a-Chee meadow, and soon reach the village of Tromode, where there is a sail-cloth manufactory, in the neighbourhood of which there are some fine deep pools in which there are some good trout, and these pools are very favourable for fly-fishing. About a mile farther, passing through gorsy claddahs, we come to St. George's Bridge, a short distance above which there is a weir, and at the foot a deep pool in which a good trout may sometimes be caught. There is no doubt that sea-trout sometimes get above this weir, as I once caught one in the pool formed by the weir. It happened on this wise.
It was in the month of October 1861. There was a fresh in the river. My friend Ambrose and I had fished with the worm as far as West Baldwin. Towards the end of the day, as we were proceeding down the river homewards, the water began to clear, so I fished the pools down with fly. After getting several rises from good fish, to my surprise I hooked a good fish apparently of about 2 lb. in weight. He fought hard, but after about ten minutes of exciting play I drew him in on a shelving gravel bed and secured him. He was a beautiful fresh-run sea-trout, and weighed 1 lb. 10 oz. He had taken my tail fly, which was made as follows : wing, starling quill; legs, black hackle; body, blue silk ribbed with silver tinsel, a home-made fly which I called a blue-bottle. It was the largest fish I had ever caught. Mr. Arthur of Port-a-Chee, a veteran angler, was at my father's house on my arrival. Before I exhibited the contents of my basket he said, "I'll be bound that I have caught a bigger trout than you have to-day, Harry."
" I'll be bound that you have not," I replied, and I triumphantly produced the trout.
He said, "You've just beaten me; I've caught one which weighed 1 lb. 6 oz."
He caught his fish more than a mile farther down the river. A worthy man was Mr. Arthur. At that time he occupied Port-a-Chee farm, and preserved a nice stretch of the river, and he was very jealous of any one invading his rights, but he had given me leave to fish as much as I liked.
One day I was at it hauling out the trout, when I heard tremendous roars behind me. I turned round and saw Mr. Arthur, and coolly went on fishing. "Ah, he thinks he has caught a poacher!" thought I. The air resounded with highly seasoned language, and he advanced gesticulating wildly, brandishing a walking-stick. When he saw who it was he laughed and watched me fish, and he gave me a novel lesson in fly-fishing. I missed several trout in succession, and he said I was too sharp with them, that I did not give enough time for them to fasten on the hook. Innocent old Arthur.
I have ever thought that being too slow is my fault. The old gentleman insisted on my taking tea with him, and we discussed the whole subject of fly-fishing for trout. He was dead against the worm, as he considered it unsportsmanlike. A few hundred yards above the pool wherein I caught the sea-trout there is another weir, below which there is also a good pool, and in this pool there is always a chance of a nice fish or two with the fly. Above the weir there is an excellent stream which flows by the side of a plantation, a very good hold for trout, and into this stream there runs a mill-race, or rather mill-tail. We now arrive at the junction of the East and West Baldwin Streams, at which there is a good pool. Hereabouts a stone bridge conducts the road up the East Baldwin valley.
We will first walk up the East Baldwin Stream. For some two miles or so the bed of the stream is gravelly and stony, and the stream forms a happy combination of pool and stream. The vale is sweetly pretty, fairly well wooded, with plenty of the-in Mona-ever-abundant gorse and bramble, intermixed with honeysuckle, here and there wild roses. At the head of the dale there is Beinn-y-Phott with his green slopes and cone-like summit surmounted by a cairn. The mountain looks quite imposing from the vale. As we approach the mountain, the bed of the stream becomes rocky, and there are several cascades, and hereabouts there are some good trout. From the junction of the stream to the source is almost too much for one day's fishing, and especially so if there be a good water. In a nice water the fly may be used with success, but when the water is low and clear recourse must be bad to the up-stream worm.
We will now take a walk up West Baldwin Stream, which is rather larger than the other stream. Near the bottom of the stream on the left are a mill and miller's cottage, and as most of the water goes into the mill-race, we must before beginning to fish walk about two hundred yards or so through a meadow, or should the grass be long, make a slight detour on the left and walk on the banks of the mill-race, at the head of which we come to a shallow dam, below which there is rather a deep pool which may be fished with success when there is a fair flow of water over the weir. The stream is somewhat more winding than the East Baldwin Stream. To the left there are gorsy braes, and in front up the river we have a view of Garraghan Mountain, at the base of which lies, lovely Injabreck with its fir plantations.
The stream is a nice combination of pool and stream at a distance of about three-quarters of a 'mile we reach the picturesque little village of West Baldwin. Here there was in former days a little public-house of old-fashioned Manx type, where good bottled Bass could be obtained by the thirsty angler, kept by one M'Clure, who probably in his day accounted for as many woodcock as any other man on the island, for the glen is famous for woodcock when snow lies on the mountains. At this little village a small stream from the slopes of Greeba and Colden Mountains joins the main stream, and on the banks and braes of this little stream many a cock fell to M'Clure's gun, for he was wont to say that there was no place about like it for the long bills, snipe also in the bogs. What a charming combination of words cock, snipe, trout!
Should the angler have commenced at St. George's Bridge, he ought to have had about enough of it, but if not, he may wander on, and after passing through a green meadow above the tiny bridge across the river the nature of the stream changes for about half a mile, and it becomes rocky with frequent deep pools and cascades overhung by trees; then the stream resumes its gravelly nature, and in a mile or so, passing through lovely scenery, we arrive at Injabreck Bridge, and hereabouts the stream diverges. The lover of ferns may wander about and gather ferns of several kinds, maidenhair, heart's-tongue, and other kinds to his heart's content; and he may rest under the cool shade of the trees, and be alone with nature, listening to the music of the stream as it ripples over the stones, and the song of the birds. He may hear the raven's croak as he passes overhead, or he may watch the sparrow-hawk hovering over his prey, and in the early summer he may hear the cuckoo's song all the day long, for the cuckoo delights in this secluded vale; and as the shades of evening fall the crake, crake, crake of the landrail in the long grass, and if he lingers long enough he may watch the bats flitting under the trees, and the heron flapping to his evening meal.
The heron is not at all an uncommon object in the Isle of Man. There are not any heronries ; the birds appear to nest among the rushes in secluded places. Sandpipers, wagtails, and the fly-catchers are common objects by the streams. Kingfishers are rare. The hooded crow is common, and nests either among the rocks or in trees. The sparrow-hawk and the kestrel are also common, which may be accounted for by the almost total absence of the gentlemen in plush. Many times have I fished both the East and West Baldwin Streams, but my first record was in 1873, when I fished in company with my brother Charlie. It was on the 1st of September. It came on to rain in the afternoon, and the trout took like mad, and we left off with the fish taking. Charlie caught 55, and I 47. Charlie was a boy for the worm; he did not believe in the fly, and it was hard to make him leave the river. At one time I confined myself to the fly, and I used to consider about 30 a day fair sport with the fly. With worm it was easy to catch from 40 to 50; it was simply a question as to how long one cared to fish. I generally began from about nine to ten o'clock, and as a rule the trout went off the feed about two o'clock, and few were caught after the latter hour. My best day in the East Baldwin Stream was 50 trout caught with the worm on the 30th of May 1878, and on the 2nd of July in the same year I caught with the worm in the West Baldwin Stream 52 trout. Between 1878 and 1891 inclusive I had seven days' fishing in the East and West Baldwin Streams, and killed 268 trout.
I had my best day in West Baldwin with the fly on the 4th of September 1891, when I killed 58 trout. There had been a thunderstorm during the previous night. I commenced fishing at St. George's Bridge about ten o'clock. The weather was lovely, alternate cloud and sunshine; the water was big, but quite clear. The trout took keenly until about two o'clock, when they began to slacken, and I ceased fishing at four o'clock at West Baldwin village. The killing flies in order of merit were yellow partridge, yellow snipe, and blue dun, all tackled, and I fished with a bair cast, and up stream. This day's sport shows what may be done in the little Manx streams with the fly when the water is in good order. I fished frequently in the Baldwin streams for many years before 1878, but did not keep any record of the captures save in a very few instances.