All night long we assisted at the lumbermen’s difficult enterprise. We heard the steamer snorting and straining at her clumsy, stubborn convoy. The hoarse shouts of the crew, disguised in a mongrel dialect which made them (perhaps fortunately) less intelligible and more forcible, mingled with our broken dreams.
But it was, in fact, a fitting close of our voyage. For what were we doing? It was the last stage of the woodman’s labour. It was the gathering of a wild herd of the houses and churches and ships and bridges that grow in the forests, and bringing them into the fold of human service. I wonder how often the inhabitant of the snug Queen Anne cottage in the suburbs remembers the picturesque toil and varied hardship that it has cost to hew and drag his walls and floors and pretty peaked roofs out of the backwoods. It might enlarge his home, and make his musings by the winter fireside less commonplace, to give a kindly thought now and then to the long chain of human workers through whose hands the timber of his house has passed, since it first felt the stroke of the axe in the snow-bound winter woods, and floated, through the spring and summer, on far-off lakes and little rivers, au large.
“Those who wish to forget painful thoughts do well to absent themselves for a time from the ties and objects that recall them; but we can be said only to fulfil our destiny in the place that gave us birth. I should on this account like well enough to spend the whole of my life in travelling abroad if I could anywhere borrow another life to spend afterwards at home.”—William Hazlitt: On Going a Journey.
The peculiarity of trout-fishing in the Traun is that one catches principally grayling. But in this it resembles some other pursuits which are not without their charm for minds open to the pleasures of the unexpected—for example, reading George Borrow’s The Bible in Spain with a view to theological information, or going to the opening night at the Academy of Design with the intention of looking at pictures.
Moreover, there are really trout in the Traun, rari nantes in gurgite; and in some places more than in others; and all of high spirit, though few of great size. Thus the angler has his favourite problem: Given an unknown stream and two kinds of fish, the one better than the other; to find the better kind, and determine the hour at which they will rise. This is sport.
As for the little river itself, it has so many beauties that one does not think of asking whether it has any faults. Constant fulness, and crystal clearness, and refreshing coolness of living water, pale green like the jewel that is called aqua marina, flowing over beds of clean sand and bars of polished gravel, and dropping in momentary foam from rocky ledges, between banks that are shaded by groves of fir and ash and poplar, or through dense thickets of alder and willow, or across meadows of smooth verdure sloping up to quaint old-world villages—all these are features of the ideal little river.