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William Senior
Lines in Pleasant Places

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LINES IN PLEASANT PLACES


Being the Aftermath of an Old Angler


by


WILLIAM SENIOR


("Red Spinner")


[Frontispiece: "Red Spinner"]



Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent &Co. Ltd., 4 Stationers' Hall Court London, E.C. 4


Copyright First published 1920



<p>INTRODUCTION.</p><br />


The half a dozen or so of Angling books which stand to my name were headed by Waterside Sketches, and this is really and truly a continuation, if not the end, of the series. They were inspired by my old friend Richard Gowing, at the Whitefriars Club, of which he was for many years the well-remembered honorary secretary, and of which I still have the grateful pride of being entitled to the name of father.


Gowing had become editor of the Gentleman's Magazine in 1874, and in his sturdy efforts to give it new life he looked round amongst the youngsters who seemed likely to serve him. The result was that he invited me to try my hand at something. He had read my Notable Shipwrecks, which the house of Cassells was at that time bringing out, and said that its author, known to the public as "Uncle Hardy" only, ought to be able to offer a suggestion.


The Stoke Newington reservoirs had about that time given me some good sport with pike, large perch, chub, and tench, and I had long been an angling enthusiast. Out of the fullness of my heart I spoke. I told him that fishing was my best subject; that if he would accept a series of contributions the direct object of which was to make Angling articles as interesting to non-anglers as to anglers themselves, I would be his man.


Verily I would not wonder if, in showing how botany, agriculture, out-of-door life generally might be woven into the warp and woof of the fabric, I became eloquent; for, as I have said, out of the heart the mouth spoke. So it was agreed, and for a while "Red Spinner's" articles graced the pages of the magazine, and they were by and by republished in Waterside Sketches. They afterwards gave me entrance to Bell's Life and to the Field, and a name at any rate amongst the brethren of the Angle, as to which I must not gush, but which is very dear to the musings of an old man's eventide. How much I owe to "Red Spinner" I shall never know. The name has followed me, and my brothers of the Highbury Anglers have adopted it, but last year, in honour of their always loyal, but I feel sure no longer useful President. I was much amused to find how it had also followed me to Queensland. During one of the Parliamentary recesses I went up country, the guest of a squatter who was afterwards in the Ministry, and he introduced me to a fellow squatter member in my surname as an officer of Parliament. Neither the name nor office meant anything to him. But when we were smoking in the veranda, and my friend mentioned, as an aside, that I was "Red Spinner," the visitor leaped to his feet, came at me with a double grip, and shouted a Scotch salmon-fisher's welcome, turning to my host and furiously demanding, "Why the dickens didn't you tell me so at first?"


On another Bush visit an officer in the Mounted Police showed me amongst his curiosities a copy of Waterside Sketches half devoured by dingoes, and found with the scraps scattered around the skeleton of a poor wayfarer left at the foot of a gum-tree. To fly-fishers the name had an intelligible story of course, and it puzzled those non-anglers for whom I tried always to write. The scores of times I was asked "What does 'Red Spinner' mean?" by ladies as well as gentlemen, told me how well I had kept the promise to the good Richard Gowing when those articles were arranged.


Journalism proper, now and henceforth for the rest of my life claimed me. It became my profession in fact; but it was always fishing that kept the longing eye turned towards the waterside. Somehow for a time the water was all round me, but I had not the means of learning the art at that time, nor of practising it. Somehow I was always being reminded that the fishing rod was to obtain the mastery by and by, but I had to wait a long while for the opportunity. At first I was in what may be called a good fishing country, but I seemed to have no say in it. I had no rod; no fisheries were open. Indeed, it was journalism that gripped me, and in those early days I followed the mastership of it very closely, for there was so much to learn, as I shall be able, I hope, to explain when any reminiscences that I am able to write call for it. That longing must meanwhile be kept open for some years to come.


Now, however, came the time when, as I have always considered, my real life began. It was my fate to be appointed representative of the Lymington Chronicle in 1858, when I was duly installed in its office in that town, engaged to look after the local news, the advertisements, the circulation; and especially it was my business to see that not a single paragraph was ever missing from the budget which I duly sent to the head office in Poole at the end of every week. But still there was no fishing, save in the river, where bass came occasionally to my hook in the tidal portions; and one of six pounds I remember as the best that came to me on the hand line. There was some talk once of a visit that I was to pay to a trout river at Brockenhurst; but practically nothing came of it, nor did a casual chance which Lord Palmerston gave me at Broadlands, which was too far from my beat and altogether above me in its salmon runs. As for perch, which I had fished for as a boy, there were none to be heard of in the district.


In due time I was transferred from Lymington to Southampton, where I remember catching smelts, and nice little baskets of them, from the pier at the bottom of High Street. Next I went to Manchester, where there was less of such fishing as I required than before; and on a daily paper like the Guardian, journalism soon proved to be real business to engage my attention, and left me without the slight opportunities I found even with the Lymington Chronicle or Hants Independent. In due time fortune, as I thought, beamed upon me when I got an appointment on the London Daily News, which was then in its prime. Here I began to find what fishing meant, for very early, thanks to the kindness of Moy Thomas and his friend Miles, the publisher, who was one of the directors, I got a ticket for the famous New River reservoirs. I was here introduced to many members of the fishing club-men of the place-and became a member of the Stanley Anglers, where I won some prizes, and of the somewhat famous and somewhat high-class True Waltonian Society, which met at Stoke Newington. The general result of this was that wherever there was fishing to be secured I got it, and was seldom without opportunity of turning that longing eye of which I aforetime spoke to the waterside. I made pretty rapid progress too, for I became a well-known pike fisher at Stoke Newington, got large chub and much perch, and generally took various degrees in the piscatorial art.


Best of all, by means of my membership of the True Waltonians, I had the run of the Rickmansworth water. It was here that I learnt fly-fishing, even to the extent of catching my first trout, and here that I went through a course of practice at some large dace which then existed in the Colne; and they very freely, to the extent of half a pound or so weight, took the dry fly, which in later years they did not. As a very active travelling member of the special correspondence staff of the Daily News I went here and there on various errands, and was soon known never to travel without my rod and creel. Then the introduction to my old friend Gowing of the Gentleman's Magazine, as I have already described, made me as eager to write as I was to fish; and, in a word, this was how "Red Spinner" was manufactured.


Now I have explained how I became a practical angling writer, and the half-dozen or so of books which I inflicted upon my brethren of the Angle gradually came into existence. It is necessary to mention this to account for the fact that the majority of what I write has appeared before the public from year to year. Indeed, I did not allow the grass to grow under my feet. My voyage to Queensland gave me a book, and a series of the Gentleman's Magazine chapters gave me another; and so it went on from time to time, as I had the opportunity, in magazines and papers, finding what I may call even a ready market for all I chose to publish. The reader will understand, therefore, that after these half-dozen books, if any of them are to be found registered against me, there was not a great deal left for gathering together; and that is the excuse for this volume which I have ventured to call the Aftermath of Red Spinner. Indeed, just before the war broke out I had agreed to supply a book to my old friend Mr. Shaylor, to be published by Simpkin, Marshall &Co. It was to contain just what had been left over by Bell's Life, the Field, and various magazines, and this I have described as the "Aftermath." I therefore publish it, and I do so, if I may be permitted, just as an old man's indulgence. Will the reader be so good as to let it stand at that, and will my old friends accept a humble plea for that indulgence? I make it very sincerely, and with a grateful heart for long years of brotherhood and kindly comradeship.


There are obligations which must, however, be clearly and promptly acknowledged with thanks most cordial: to the proprietors of the Field, (now the Field Press, Limited), to Baily's Magazine, the Windsor Magazine, and many others who kindly gave permission to select what was required for my purpose. I hereby thank them one and all, with apologies to others not mentioned through inadvertence.



<p>AN OPEN LETTER TO WILLIAM SENIOR.</p><br />


MY DEAR RED SPINNER,


Only the other day I found in a bookseller's catalogue your Waterside Sketches with the word "scarce" against it. I already possess three copies, one the gift of the author, but I very nearly wrote off for a fourth because one cannot have too much of so good a thing. What restrained me really was honest altruism. "Hold," I said to myself, "there must be some worthy man who has no copy at all. Let him have a chance." For it is a melancholy fact that Red Spinner's books have been out of print an unconscionable while, only to be obtained in the second-hand market, and even there with difficulty.


I am not surprised at this (failing new editions at rather frequent intervals), but as a friend of man, and especially of man the angler, I am sorry. I believe I have read almost everything that has been written on the subject of fishing which comes within ordinary scope, and a certain amount which is outside that scope, and I have amassed fishing books to the number of several hundred. There is, however, comparatively little of all this considerable literature that I keep on a special shelf for reading and re-reading, a couple of dozen volumes maybe-and a quarter of those Red Spinner's. Realising what a pleasure and refreshment these books are to me and how often one or other of them companions the evening tobacco, I can the better appreciate the loss occasioned to other anglers by their gradual removal from the lists of the obtainable.


But not very long ago I heard the good news that you had another volume on the stocks, and I felt that the situation was improving. And now I have had the privilege of actually reading that volume in the proof sheets and can report the glad tidings for the benefit of my brethren of the angle. At last they will be able to procure one of your books by the simple process of entering a bookseller's and asking for it. I do not propose here to say much about the new volume except that it will certainly stand beside Waterside Sketches on that special shelf and that it will take its turn with the others in the regular sequence of re-reading. It is the real article, what I may call "genuine Red Spinner," hallmark and all. I must express my satisfaction that you have given in it some further record of the angling in other lands which you have enjoyed in your much-travelled experience. The Antipodes, Canada, the United States, Norway, Belgium before the tragedy-you make it all just as vivid to us as those cold spring days on the rolling Tay, the glowing time of lilac and Mayfly, or the serene evenings when the roach float dips sweetly at every swim. Whatever one's mood, salmon or gudgeon, spinning bait or black gnat, Middlesex or Mississippi, your pages have something to suit it.


Ever since I first met you, on a September evening at Newbury now nearly twenty years ago, you have consistently given me ever-increasing cause for gratitude. Whether as accomplished journalist and Editor of the Field, as writer and author of books, as a man with a genius for friendship, if I may quote the phrase, or as an expert with rod and line-in whatever guise you appeared I had cause to thank you for allowing me "to call you Master." That I am able to do so now thus publicly means that one at least of my ambitions has been realised. And I will take leave to subscribe myself with all affection, "Your scholar,"


H. T. SHERINGHAM.


LINES IN PLEASANT PLACES




<p>CHAPTER I. ANGLING AS A REAL FIELD SPORT</p><br />

One of the commonest misconceptions about angling is that it is just the pastime for an idle man. "The lazy young vagabond cares for nothing but fishing!" exclaims the despairing mother to her sympathetic neighbour of the next cottage listening to the family troubles. Even those who ought to know better lightly esteem the sport, as if, forsooth, there were something in the nature of effeminacy in its pursuit.


Not many summers ago a couple of trout-fishers were enjoined by the open-handed country gentleman who had invited them to try his stream to be sure and come in to lunch. They sought to be excused on the plea that they could not afford to leave the water upon any such trifling pretence, but they compounded by promising to work down the water-meads in time for afternoon tea under the dark cedar on the bright emerald lawn. As they sauntered up through the shrubberies, hot and weary, the ladies mocked their empty baskets, and that was all fair and square; but a town-bred member of the house-party shot at a venture a shaft which they considered cruel:


"You ought to have joined us at luncheon, Captain Vandeleur," said she. "I can't imagine what amusement you can find in sitting all day watching a float."


To men whose shoulders and arms were aching after five hours' greenheart drill at long distances, and who prided themselves upon being above every form of fishing lower than spinning, the truly knock-down nature of this blow can only be imagined by those who understand the subject. The captain, who is reckoned one of the worst men in the regiment to venture with in the way of repartee, was so amazed at the damsel's ignorance that he answered never a word, leaving some of her friends in muslin on the garden chairs around to explain the difference between fishing with and without a float-a duty which they appeared to perform with true womanly relish as a set-off against the previous scoring of the pert maid from Mayfair, who had borne rather heavily upon them from a London season elevation.


Allow me to recommend angling as a manly exercise, as physically hard in some of its aspects as any other field sport. During the lifetime of those of us who will no more see middle age this recreation has become actually popular, and it is generally supposed that the multiplication a hundredfold of rod-and-line fishermen in a generation is explained by the cheaper and easier modes of locomotion, the increase of cheap literature pertaining to the sport, and the establishment of a periodical press devoted to it amongst other forms of national recreation. These reasons are undoubtedly admissible. Yet I venture to add another, namely, the great and beneficial movement which has opened the eyes of men and women to the importance of physical exercise.


When the young men who had in their boyhood been taught to regard almost every form of recreation as a sin to be guarded against and repented of, were taught another doctrine, a new impulse was given to cricket, football, and all manner of athletics, and angling was quickly discovered by many to offer exercise in variety, and to carry with it charms of its own. To-day it is therefore so popular that anglers have to protect themselves against one another if they would prevent the depletion of lakes and rivers, and salmon and trout streams are quoted as highly remunerative investments.


Let us see, however, where exercise worthy of the name is found-the inquiry will at the same time indicate the nature of the fascinations which to not a few good people are wholly incomprehensible, if, indeed, they are not a mild form of lunacy. We may take for granted the antiquity of the sport, though probably the first anglers had an eye to nothing nobler than the pot. Angling has never been worth following as an industry, for one of the first lessons learned by the rod fisherman is that there are superior devices for filling a basket if that alone is the object. "Because I like it," is the least troublesome reply to one who asks you why you will go a-fishing. Happy he who can go a little further and aver, "Because I find it the most entrancing of sports." And with equally sound sense may it be urged by old and young alike, "Because it is splendid exercise."


Angling in truth is often made much severer than it need be. The American fishing-men, in their instinctive search for notions, discovered long ago that the rods which they had copied from us were too long and heavy, and the necessary tackle altogether too cumbersome. They seldom use a longer salmon-rod than 15 feet, and frequently kill the heavy trout of their lakes and rivers with delicate weapons of 8 and 9 feet.


In Scotland and Ireland, where the best of our salmon fishing is, you may still meet with anglers who will have no rod under 18 or 20 feet. Only big strong men accustomed to it can wield an implement of this calibre through a hard day's casting without extreme fatigue. They have a sound justification for their choice on such streams as Tweed, Dee, and Spey, where the pools are of the major size and the getting out of a long line is a necessity. They are not on such sure ground when they urge that a heavy salmon can only be landed by a rod of maximum dimensions. I saw a friend last autumn produce a 15-foot greenheart rod on Tweedside. The gillies shook their heads incredulously at the innovation, but honestly unlearned what they had always believed to be infallible dogma when he killed his twenty-three pound fish as quickly and safely as if the cause had been the 18-foot rod which they had implored him to substitute for his most unorthodox concern. It is true that there are "catches" which can only be covered by long rods, with their undoubted advantages in sending out the fly, picking the line off the water, and settling a fish with the promptest dispatch.


The young salmon-fisher should learn to handle a rod that is sufficient for his height and strength and no more. For ordinary purposes 17 feet of greenheart or split-cane are ample, and the modern salmon angler has come to look upon even this-which our forefathers would have pooh-poohed as a mere grilse-rod-as excessive. The secret of comfortable and successful angling, as an exercise no less than as a sport, is in the choice of a rod. Some men seem to be unable to make the right selection; they seem to lack the correct sense of touch and balance. Others suffer from love of change; disloyal to the old friend which fitted their hand to a nicety, they discard it for the passing attractions of some newly-advertised pattern.


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