[From Leech's Guide, 1861]
The Trout is a fish highly valued, both in this and foreign nations. He may be justly said, as the old poet said of wine, and we English say of venison, to be a generous fish: a fish that is so like the Buck that he also has his seasons: for it is observed, that he comes in and goes out of season with the Stag and the Buck. Gesner says, his name is of a German offspring; and says that he is a fish that feeds clean and purely, in the swiftest streams, and on the hardest gravel; and that he may justly contend with all fresh-water fish, as the Mullet may with all sea-fish, for precedency and daintiness of taste; and that being in right season, the most dainty palates have allowed precedency to him,
Of recreation there is none
So free as fishing is alone;
All other pastimes do no less
Than mind and body both possess; My hand alone my work can do,
So I can fish and study too.
I care not, I, to fish iuseas,
Fresh rivers best my mind do please,
Whose sweet calm course I contemplate,
And seek in life to imitate:
In civil bounds I fain would keep, And for my past offences weep.
* * * *
The first men that our Saviour dear
Did choose to wait upon him here
Blessd fishers were, and fish the last
Food was that he on earth did taste:
I therefore strive to follow those
Whom he to follow him hath chose.
As an open air exercise fishing with the rod has long been a favourite pastime with those who can command the requisite leisure, and who possess sufficient patience and skill to prosecute it successfully; and of the different kinds of fish thus captured salmon and trout occupy the first place. How many of our city merchants, poring over their accounts, lawyers examining their musty parchments, tradesmen groaning under their labours, and shopkeepers behind their busy counters, long for the hour when they shall be at liberty to start on their annual excursion, to wander along the sparkling streams of Wales or Derbyshire, the far-famed Tweed, the lovely lakes and rivers of Cumberland, or the more distant and wild lochs of Scotland and Ireland. Even senators, clergymen, and physicians, are fain to recruit their exhausted energies by the healthful and invigorating pursuit of the fish of ,qenus salmo in their various and interesting haunts.
The recitation of a screed of poetry descriptive of our favourite sport, may not be uninteresting whilst we are engaged in manufacturing a red hackle on the banks of the placid SulbyListen!
"When with his lively ray the potent sun
Has pierced the streams, and roused the finny race,
Then, issuing cheerful, to thy sport repair;
Chief should the western breezes curling play,
And light oer ether bear the shadowy clouds.
High to their fount, this day amid their hills,
And woodlands warbling round, trace up the brooks;
The next pursue their rocky.channelld maze,
Down to the river, in whose ample wave
Their little Naiads love to sport at large.
"Just in the dubious point, where with the pool
is mixd the trembling stream, or where it boils
Around the stone, or, from the hollowd bank
Reverted, plays in undulating flow,
There throw, nice judging, the delusive fly;
And as you lead it round in artful curve,
With eye attentive mark the springing game.
Strait as above the surface of the flood
They wanton risc, or urged by hunger leap,
Then fix, with gentle twitch, the barbed hook:
Some lightly tossing to the grassy bank,
And to the shelving shore slow-dragging some,
With various hand proportiond to their force.
if yet too young, and easily deceived,
A worthless prey scarce bends your pliant rod;
Him, piteous of his youth and the short space
He has enjoyed the vital light of heaven,
Soft disengage, and back into the stream
The speckled captive throw. But should you lure
From his dark haunt, beneath the tangled roots
Of pendant trees, the monarch of the brook,
Behoves you then to ply your finest art.
Long time he, following cautious, scans the fly;
And oft attempts to seize it, but as oft
The dimpled water speaks his jealous fear.
At last, while haply oer the shaded sun
Passes a cloud, he desperate takes the death,
With sullen plunge. At once he darts along,
Deep struck, and runs out all the lengthend line;
Then seeks the furthest ooze, the sheltering weed,
The caverud bank, his old secure abode;
And flies aloft; and flounces round the pool,
Indignant of the guile. With yielding hand,
That feels him still, yet to his furious course
Gives way, you, now retiring, following now
Across the stream, exhaust his idle rage:
Till floating broad upon his breathless side,
And to his fate ahandond, to the shore
You gaily drag your unresisting prize."
It is true that the streams of Mona are little celebrated in piscatory lore, or valued by distant anglers, but it may be asserted that most of them contain a goodly number of trout, and that it would be difficult to find one, however small, that will not afford fair sport to the angler. Full grown salmon are very scarcethey do however come up such rivers as the Sulby to spawn, are sometimes captured, but not nearly so often as the old countrymen of Lezayre tell us used to be the case in times of yore. During the spring months white trout, which are understood to be young salmon, are taken plentifully, both with fly and bait, in the Sulby and Coraca, near Ramsey, and in similar rivers in other parts of the Island. As regards common trout, the Sulby river, from its superior size, ought to be the best, but lately the unsportsmanlike and reprehensible practice of netting has greatly thinned their number. This does not exist however to any extent above Sulby bridge, and good fishings may be had in that part of the river. In fact the Sulby may be followed up successfully to its several sources in the mountains, that flowing from the south-west side of Snaefield being perhaps the best; and it may be remarked that the largest fish are usually to be taken out of the pools high up the streams, where they are caught rip to a pound weight. It will be found however, that owing probably to the boggy nature of the water, the fish found there, although in good condition in summer, are of a dark colour, and inferior in flavour to those caught lower down.
It will not be expected that in a notice like this there should be any thing like a treatise on trout fishing, but a few cursory remarks may not be altogether unacceptable, being the results of experience. As to the flies to be used, anglers have generally their own favourites, and they must be varied according to the season and weather, but it will be found that no flies take better, at almost all times, in the Manx rivers, than the red and black hackles, which have the advantage also of being easily made. Some use "gentles" with the fly, and assert that they take twice as many with them as without, but they are not always procurable, and have the disadvantage of easily coming off the hook, causing extra trouble and loss of time. It is difficult to cast the fly at all in many of the streams, by reason of their banks being covered with brushwood, and in such situations bait must be used. In general it is found that the largest fish are taken with bait, but the greatest number with fly; and the latter method ought always to have a preference with the true sportsman, although the locality or state of the water may compel him to resort to the more ignoble one. It may be useful to the young angler to caution him against allowing himself to be seen by the fish, for they are "wide awake" if he is not, and his chance of catching is utterly gone if his unwelcome presence is detected, which is generally manifested by some of them being seen swimming about very fast. Another practical hint is to get to work as early in the day as possible, for the chance of good sport is greatly diminished if another has gone before him; remember the old adage, "the early bird catches the worm." As to the streams that may be resorted to near Ramsey, the Sulby has been already alluded to, and the Corna stream, beginning at the bridge about three miles from Ramsey, and following it down to the sea, will be found a good one, as also a branch of the same further off. Very fair fishing may be had in Glen Aldyn river, which has the advantage of being near town, but for the same reason is more frequented than some of the others. It may be unnecessary to add that there are romantic waterfalls, lovely dells, and solitary recesses, which none but anglers reach, and none can more fully appreciate and enjoy.
Tnu chief amusement to visitors at Ramsey are the healthful recreations of boating and sea bathing, and for both these enjoyments the place affords abundant facilities. Comfortable and safe boats, either for rowing or sailing may be obtained at all times, at moderate charges ; the boatmen are careful, civil, and uvell-skilled in the management of their craft. Rowing is a healthful exercise, and not attended with the same risk as sailing, and we would here remark, that it is very imprudent for the visitor to venture on sea excursions under canvas, without the attendance of experienced boatmen, as the bay is betimes liable to squalls of wind from the mountains, which otherwise would cause perplexity, if not danger. The visitor will also find the boatmen, without any exception, fully acquainted with the different methods of sea fishing. To them must be left the setting and hauling of long lines for catching of cod, haddock, and turbot, the work being laborious and comparatively uninteresting, although profitable. Great sport however may be indulged in even by the novice in fishing for mackerel and whiting. The former are caught by hand line whilst the boat is passing rather fast through the water. The best time for this sport is the early morn, but at any time of the day, during the summer months, a fair number may be taken; no fish can be more beautiful in appearance than the mackerel, as it comes sparkling with its brilliant and varied colours from the deep. Whiting are caught whilst the boat is anchored. Abreast of Maughold head the largest are taken, but shoals of them are to be found in almost any part of the bay. Ladies may thus sport as well as gentlemen, and only a couple of seasons since we witnessed one of the fair sex capture some round dozens of these delicate fish, Ten to twenty dozens are often taken at a fishing. The boatmen supply the tackle and bait, when timely notice is given. Let it be remembered that in all boating excursions warm clothing should be selected, for an occasional sprinkling of sea water is, generally speaking, inevitable. It is consolatory however to know, that getting wet with salt water has not the same tendency to produce a cold which fresh has.