[from Harry Druidale, Fisherman ..., 1898]
And the fair isle shines in heauty,
As in youth it dawned on me,
My own dear Ellan Vannin,
And its green hills by the sea.
Ellan Vannin, by Mrs. E. C. GREEN.
AFTER the Sulby and the Douglas rivers, the river Neb may be classed as the next in importance from a piscatorial point of view, but this is a matter which may be taken exception to by some. If the Foxdale branch of the river were unpolluted, I should be inclined to give the Neb the first rank among the insular rivers; but, alas, the Foxdale branch is so much polluted by the operations at the Foxdale lead-mines that nothing will live in the river from Foxdale to Peel harbour, the consequence being that the only fishing is in the Rhenass branch of the river Neb, which joins the Foxdale Stream about half a mile from St. Johns Station. The best plan is to proceed from St. Johns to the bridge across the river on the Peel road, only a few hundred yards' walk, thence to the junction and fish up to Swiss Cottage, now a hotel, a distance of about three miles, which is quite sufficient for one day, and in that length the angler will generally have no difficulty in treeling from thirty to forty trout with worm or fly, according to the condition of the water. Should the water be in fair volume, the fly will be successful; if low, the deadly up-stream worm. The scenery may fairly be described as beautiful. Below the bridge the vale is open, steep Slieu Whallin to the south, Greeba and Colden Mountains to the east, and Peel Hill with its Folly to the west. Above the bridge the valley narrows, and the banks of the river are gorsy.
Near the pretty grounds of Glen Moore, the residence of Mr. Mathews, a mill-race joins the river, a short distance above which there is a deep pool under a high bank on one side, which is a good place for fine trout. In about half a mile we come to Moore's Mill, and above the mill the best fishing commences; thence until the top of Rhenass Waterfall is reached the vale is very narrow with steep sides, in some places planted, in others the gorse and bramble luxuriate. The missel-thrush rejoices in this vale, and the nest is common, also the nest of the magpie, usually built near the top of a tall thin ash tree so slender that no boy dare venture up. About the upper end of Cronkykilly woods there is a pool under a shelving rock, where there is almost certain to be a particularly fine trout on the look-out, but I have always been unlucky there. I get a great tug and he is off.
Proceeding up the vale we come to an old picturesque corn-mill, Quine's Mill. This part of the vale is called Glen Mooar, the word Mooar signifying in Manx "big." A short distance above the mill there is a high weir, and beneath the weir a deep pool which is good for the fly on a windy day. Above the weir there is some very nice fishing, and especially in the neighbourhood of the suspension bridge across the river, which the angler should direct particular attention to. This may conclude the day's sport.
In order to fish in Glen Helen it is necessary to obtain permission at the entrance gates. The fishing is very difficult in consequence of trees, rocks, and huge boulder-stones. Glen Helen is considered to be the prettiest of Mona's glens. The right-hand side of the glen is well wooded, and the other contains a blend of trees, gorse, and heather. From the road which leads direct to the waterfall, beautiful peeps of the river are obtained through breaks in the foliage, as it rushes and bounds over its rocky course, with numerous cascades, and at their foot deep rocky pools in which the water looks blue under the blue sky. The roar of the waterfall can be heard at a considerable distance.
The water-worn rocks are a study, and make the observer speculate as to what length of time has elapsed since the waterfall was twice as high as it is now, and what length of time will elapse until the rocks will be so much worn that there will be no waterfall. After we admire the waterfall, a winding walk ascending on the left through a larch plantation conducts us to a fence which forms the boundary of the Glen Helen estate. Hereabouts there are two more falls with deep pools, but the scenery is quite changed. The valley is much more open and comparatively free from timber. The air becomes more bracing after the confined glen below, and the region partakes of a mountainous character; we are amid gorse, heather, and bracken. Here one feels the solitude intense, particularly during the season when the glen swarms with tourists, who dance to the music of a brass band. Would that the dancing-platform, band-stands, pagodas, and so-called rustic bridges could be swept away, and the glen restored to its sweet simplicity of forty years ago, when the contemplative man could feel alone with nature in the lovely glen undisturbed by the strains of a band and the noise of the whirling crowds.
And now a word of warning to the angler during the tourist season. Let him so arrange his day's fishing as to be out of the glen by twelve o'clock. After that hour tourists swarm like locusts; some jeer at him and throw stones into the river, and ask if he has seen that big fish jump; others beg him to try and catch that big fish which they have just seen in a pool. He will be safe either above the waterfall or below the hotel. The angler should commence at the bottom of the glen about nine o'clock and fish up to the waterfall, and he may expect to capture about thirty as pretty trout as any in Mona, but he must be prepared for hard work, and know how to switch under trees and avoid getting hung up in the maze of trees and undergrowth on all sides of him.
The last time I fished the glen was on the 27th of May 1878 (alas, how time flies!) when I captured thirty-six trout, the largest of which weighed ten ounces, and a game fish he was, and I really had enough of it. It is a charming place for a boy to roll about in, but when a man has put on weight, oh dear! oh dear!
I daresay that I am not the only reader of angling works which treat of fishing excursions, who has searched in vain in some works for the result of the fishing; what sport the author has really had; whether he has had good sport or not. He describes the beauties of nature, the birds he sees, the flowers, the gambols of the water-rat, and the other common sights by the river-side; he gives charming extracts from our Father Izaak, and contrives to conceal the results of his excursion from a piscatorial point of view. Now I think that the angling author should tell his readers what he has done in the streams he describes, not merely what has been done or may be done by other anglers. I therefore give my readers the results of my fishing excursions, and they can then judge whether the game is worth the candle or not. Were I silent as to the results, they would be no wiser than they were when they commenced to wade through my meanderings.
My best recorded day in Glen Mooar was on the 7th of August 1880, in company with my friend Joe, when I caught fifty-two trout-thirty with worm and twenty-two with fly. What a jolly day we had! We began at half-past nine o'clock above Moore's Mill. From about twelve to four o'clock heavy rain fell. After fishing up to Glen Helen Hotel we skipped Glen Helen and passed above the waterfall. The water was coming down thick, and as we did not find the fish on, we retraced our steps, and got on the feed ourselves at the hotel ; and what a feed we had !-roast lamb and some more good things, and some really good claret. I do not remember how long we wasted at the hotel, but when we resumed fishing the real sport of the day began. I located myself at the beautiful half run and half pool just above Quine's Dam, and fished with the fly. The water was a little discoloured and the trout were on and no mistake. I threw by the side of a wall on the opposite side and hauled out trout after trout in quick succession. There appeared to be no end of them, and any fly would do. On the way down I tried the pool under the shelving rock, as I knew the big one was there-he had given me the usual big tug in the morning. But no, he was otherwise engaged. It was not to be. Shall I ever get that big trout? I have had a big tug in that place for thirty years and that is all.
The best day which I have had with the fly only was on the 27th of September 1891, when I killed 43 trout. I commenced at Moore's Mill at ten o'clock and fished up to the suspension bridge, where I wound up at three o'clock quite satisfied with my take. There was a good clear water and the trout rose well. The killing flies were orange partridge, blue dun, and yellow dun, all hackled, and I fished with a hair cast.
On the 27th of August in the same year, I commenced fishing at Ballaleece Bridge near St. Johns, at ten o'clock, and wound up at Cronkykilly a little after three with 42 trout, 25 of which were caught with fly and 17 with worm. It rained nearly all the time I was out, and I only put on the worm when the water became too thick for fly. I have only fished on five days in the Neb since, and including the year 1878, the result being 198 trout, 104 of which were captured with worm and 94 with fly.
We will now bid farewell to the bonny Neb, and live in hopes that all the lead in the Foxdale hills will ere long be exhausted, or that the Foxdale Mining Company will mend their ways, and do unto others as they would that others should do unto them; and in conclusion it may be stated that the poisonous water pumped from the mine, and the polluted water from the washing-floors, might easily be conducted to the sea in pipes. What an enormous advantage it would be to Peel, which is now situated at the mouth of a ruining sewer, and the riparian proprietors, if the Neb could be restored to its pristine purity ! Cattle might again drink of its pure waters, which would once more abound with the salmon and the trout.