Page images
PDF
EPUB

In bleak weather during these months I have ever found the stone fly to be the one on which most dependence can be placed; for a killer on rapid streams I would recommend its use, more especially as an end-fly. It is made on a large sized hook, with a grizzlecock's hackle and a dirty yellow body, ribbed with tarnished silver tinsel. This fly will frequently do execution when the fish will not look at any other. It should be allowed to sink a little below the surface of the water, as trout, when shy of springing, often take it freely in midwater, and wholly disregard its more elegant brethren that are dancing and bobbing on the tops of every ripple. Thanks to this fly, I have had two tolerably good days during April, one on the Ely, in Glamorganshire, where I killed about 10lbs. of fair troui, including a few salmon-pink; and the other on the Avon, in Devonshire, where I laboured long and hard to make up 8lbs. The fish on this latter stream were not in such season as those of the former, but they were larger generally.

Were it not for the quantity of brushwood with which the Avon is bounded and fringed, it would be as pretty a fishing stream as any in England; as it is, few surpass it. Poaching, however, by torchlight (burning the water as it is called) and spirt-nets have thinned its streams, and it is much to be deplored that some steps are not taken by the contiguous landowners or neighbouring gentry to discountenance and prohibit such practices. Were the river properly stocked, abounding as it does with sharps and stickles, every hundred yards of it would afford a day's diversion to the fair fisherman, and many a traveller would be induced to diffuse the contents of his purse in the neighbourhood, and to wander on its banks in his piscatory passage among very beautiful and picturesque scenery. Still, despite of the poaching and alder bushes, many a good day might be had in genial weather; and it may be as well to add, for the information of any passing pilgrim, that Brent, Diptford Cot, or Aveton Gifford, afford the best quarters on this river. The peel, which I look upon as identical with the tewin of Wales, is found here in great abundance, and, for the cuisine, is held to be superior in flavour to the king of the fresh waters. Salmon-pink, and what are called “white fish" (being, as I imagine peel-fry), are also abundant in the Avon, and assist in filling up the corners of one's creel most conveniently. Truly there are some noble rivers in Devon for throwing the fly.

so called from its headlong and impetuous character, is inferior to none; it affords a succession of streams and rapids, with gurgling pools from Cranmere on Dartmoor down to Dartington in the Vale, a distance of about thirty miles, in which space it falls no less than one thousand eight hundred feet ere it gain the level of the sea. Spenser (author of the “Faery Queen”) certainly took poetic licence when in his “Wedding of the Medway and the Thames" he described the Dart as

“ Nigh choked with sands of tinny mines.” The Dart is a rock-bound river, dancing and foaming for miles over masses of sparkling granite, which form its slippery bed; it meanders not in its course, but, like a mountain torrent, rushes on as though

The Dart,

the “flood-gates of heaven" were let loose to supply it. The fishing on the Dart varies much in its character; above Holne Chace, and on the Moor, the trout run small, but are very abundant; below that point heavy fish are very commonly taken. A good salmon, too, is occasionally caught during the season, and the uncertainty as to what comes next adds greatly to the interest of the fisherman, and increases his pleasure tenfold.

“ Voluptates commendat rarior usus." The salmon of the Dart is famous for its flavour, and well deserves the application of the following passage from Drayton's Polyolbion :

“ The lusty salmon, then, from Neptune's wat’ry realm,

When, as his season serves, stemming my tideful stream,
Then being in his kind, in me his pleasure takes
( For whom the fisher then all other game forsakes),
Which bending of himself to th' fashion of a ring,
Above the forced weirs himself doth nimbly fling,
And often when the net hath dragg'd him safe to land,
13 seen by natural force to 'scape his murderer's hand ;
Whose grain doth rise in Aakes, with fatness interlarded,

Of many a liquorish lip that highly is regarded.” The fishing alone, however, is a small part of the pleasure derivable from a tour on the Dart; the grandeur and wildness of its scenery is surpassed by none in England. With the Moor at its back and the Mead at its foot, let the lover of nature follow its course from Bear Down to Staverton Bridge, and he will not fail to express his wonder that tourists should go abroad to seek for beauties of scenery which their own country could so well supply. Many a mighty oak may be seen towering above the precipice on which it has cast anchor, and apparently, from its stag-headed brow, may be coeval with the rocks themselves. The black cock, the buzzard, and the kite impart an additional charm to this wild scene, and impress the traveller with a belief that he has now fairly escaped froin the haunts of man. Ere I close this sketch, I must be allowed to quote from a poem that has lately been published, and to the sentiments of the poet every pulse of my heart beats a wild response.

“ Enamoured by Nature, her charms I revere

In creatures of life on the mountain and mere;
The jetty black cock and the watchful curlew,
The loud booming bittern and harrier so blue-
Oh the buzzard's wild scream and the cataract's roar,

Are the sounds that I love on the rugged Dartmoor.
It may be well to know that Ashburton, Buckfastleigh, and
Totnes afford the most comfortable and convenient quarters for fish-
ing or viewing this river.

THE CUTITFAT HOUNDS.

BY BEE'S-WING.

'Tis pleasant to take up a London paper week after week, and see the fund of sporting information gathered together to suit all parties, whether they incline to hunting, racing, steeple-chasing, fighting, &c. From whence this information is gleaned we know not-care not: only as to one account of a run with a pack of hounds, which appeared in that paper, do we wish to deal. There are men who never enjoyed anything in the shape of hunting beyond a chase after a daring mouse under a counter, or at most a cat and terrier bunt; men who hold themselves forth to the world as “knowing" in the chase, the ring, or on the turf, but were it not for a London paper they would not know what a foxhunt was; it supplies them with accounts of " Brilliant Sport with the Vine Hounds," "A Capital Run with Mr. Meynell Ingram's Hounds,” or, “A Splendid Day with Lord Elcho's Foxhounds." These men, who never dreamt of leaps, barring it were a leap over a counter, or an office stool “ with the ledger on," or talked of scarlet coats except as to the value per yard of the cloth, get quite excited after reading a London paper, and taking " half-a-pint of stout,” which is done by a great many young gentlemen on Sunday mornings at houses where a London paper is taken in, they get confused with the sporting terms made use of, as to how the fox broke cover here, and took away for there ; when he was headed back to some place else, and after a fine burst over an open country he was run into and killed at another place. They think these terms queer, but as they are sporting, must be all right. Hear some of these young gentlemen in the middle of the day, when they have got a little time to spare, standing before the entrance to “The George,” just far enough off the door not to be ordered off for incommoding the gentry, but near enough for strangers to imagine they may be staying there; they have their hands in their coat pockets, and look “knowing," and when they see any one coming along whom they know to be a gentleman, they talk loud as to “The devil: of a fine day's sport with the Rattlepate hounds”-how Harry Daredevil-a gentleman they know by sight only, but familiarly term him Harry, as if he were their most intimate friend-how Harry Daredevil had a fine burst over the first hedge, but broke cover, and was headed back, and very nearly run into by a hedge stake, and so on, meaning, I presume, that this same gentleman, instead of going over, went through the first fence and was thrown upon his head, and nearly upon a hedge stake, or something to that effect. Now upon the surface of this island there are a great quantity of these gentssporting gents they may be called, in contradistinction to those “nice young men” at the drapers' described by Dickens, and whom he designates as "gents” to distinguish them from gentlemen. These

sporting gents may be known by their dress mostly; they wear“ cutaways," thick sticks, heavy shoes, cigars, gaiters, and tight pantaloons, and it is now the fashion to wear around hats” not over good. The specimens will be found about merchants' counting-houses, attorney's offices, and often in shops, and often, very often in public houses. We have known some of these sporting gents--but the instance is rare-after indulging to a great extent in a London paper, Menx's stout, and “bitter beer," muster up courage--having first mustered up cash-to hire a horse and go out for a day's hunting, and though they never saw anything of the hounds after they had gone away, yet it served them to talk about for a twelvemonth after, and they imagined it to be one of those “brilliant days" of which they had read in a London paper. The sporting gent writes confidentially to the Editor of a London paper, and asks him—if Miss Woolgar is married—how old Cerito is—or whether seventy is more than seventy and upwards; he is quite gratified to find, on looking over the “ Notice to Correspondents," that the Editor has condescended to notice the questions of “Tally-ho,” “Harkaway," or some such name as he assumes; and in time he fancies he is quite a friend of the Editor, and has a right to send him something to assist him to keep up the character of his paper. We were amused at finding, first in the local papers and then in a London paper, some short time ago, an account of a day's run with a pack of hounds; it has clearly been written by either some wag, or one of those sporting gents; for though it reads well enough upon paper, those who are in the secret know that it was a day's sport that no gentleman would like to have his name connected with. The account of the hunt ran something like this:

“Cutitrat Hounds. This celebrated pack of foxhounds met on Friday last at Drubhem Hall, where there was a brilliant field assembled. They drew Brydone Wood, and found immediately; raced him past the Hall and Farm Woods, along the bottoms to Aylford Hall, to the village of Aylford, Parson's Gate, Ironstone Wood, over Bushy Hills. He then took the River Deepe, and away to Flat Plantation, and then to Boke House to Henly Wood. The hounds pressed him so close that he remained in this large cover but a short time: he took for Henly village, but was headed, and made for the River Deepe again, which he recrossed at Stopford, and then ran to Hedgewood, and thence to Catchem Dean, where he was run into and killed, after one of the fastest runs on record in this part of England, not a single check intervening between the find and the finish--the pace killing-time, one hour and a quarter. There were only three gentlemen in at the death, viz., the worthy master of the hounds, Edward Stumble, Esq., M. Pill Thickset, Esq., and another gentleman.” This reads plausible, but we will describe the real day's sport for the benefit of the public, and show how newspaper editors and the readers of their papers are gulled with“ brilliant runs.” It may be necessary to give a short history of the “celebrated” Cutitfat Hounds, as they call them, so that our readers may have an idea of the respectability of these celebrated hounds in the first instance. A few years ago there resided in a coinfortablelooking farm-house at Aylford, a jolly old gentleman, who lived upon and farmed his own property, which was not very extensive, but sufficient to enable him to enjoy his glass at his ease; he was what in the north of England and Scotland, we believe, they call a “ Laird." He was fond of hunting, and kept some six or eight couple of hounds amongst his cottagers, for an occasional run with a hare upon his own estate ; or if he found a stray fox, they would run him either, for his dogs had no objection to run either hares or foxes, though they seldom killed any of the latter. The laird was a fat, comfortable-looking old gentleman, and his hounds were fat drowsy, looking dogs-dogs that had once had spirit in them, but ease and good living had nearly driven it out of them. The laird's hunting was like a gentleman's we once knew, who kept a pack of beagles, and he sometimes ran a hare a whole day without killing her; he would then stick up his stick where they left off, and commence upon her there next morning. Mr. Stumble— Laird Stummel, as the neighbours called him, had a son who was fond of hunting as well as his father, but he did not admire the slow work his father made of it-he was a steeplechase gentleman, the young one, and when his father “ went to the dogs" and left him heir to the property and the hounds, he remodelled his pack, mounted an old thorough bred, and "sported the pink.” He went fast—in the now general acceptation of the term-exceedingly so; "the pace killing," and in a short time he found he was in the situation of a certain Irishman who boasted of having a thousand a-year, but it was spent. The young laird, or, as those who wished to flatter him called him-Squire Stumble, hit upon the scheme of turning his pack into a subscription one; the only difficulty was about the subscriptions. At last a few gentlemen -gentlemen in the proper sense of the word, who resided in the Squire's neighbourhood, came forward willing to support a pack of hounds if properly managed : some sporting gents also, who had no objection to make acquaintance with an “openhanded good fellow like the Squire." A good huntsman was engaged, and the pack ran a season; modest but fair reports of their success occasionally appeared in the local papers, and every thing about the new subscription pack appeared to prosper; but the Squire--we do not wish to be taken for those who fatter him, but as that is now his most usual title, we have called him so through this sketch-a man who, as long as you let him have his own way, and don't disturb him over his glass, is good-tempered; but contradict him, and the devil won't drive him) would be not only master of the hounds, but huntsman, sole proprietor, and occasionally he would like to have had the field to himself. The gentlemen grumbled, and finally withdrew their subscriptions, being disgusted with Stumble's overbearing manners ; the huntsman left him, and he had nobody but a few sporting gents left to keep him in countenance. Another season opened, and as the Cutitfat Hounds were not expected to commence hunting, overtures were made to Mr. Stumble by the members of the Tunstall Hounds to take his hounds off his hands, along with his country, although it was only the country they wanted; this annoyed the "worthy master,” and he swore terrific oaths, as “was his custom in the after

« PreviousContinue »