Several of the sketches in this volume have appeared in periodicals. “The Bloody Doctor” was in Macmillan’s Magazine, “The Confessions of a Duffer,” “Loch Awe,” and “The Lady or the Salmon?” were in the Fishing Gazette, but have been to some extent re-written. “The Double Alibi” was in Longman’s Magazine. The author has to thank the Editors and Publishers for permission to reprint these papers.
The gem engraved on the cover is enlarged from a small intaglio in the collection of Mr. M. H. N. Story-MASKELYNE, M.P. Such gems were recommended by Clemens of Alexandria to the early Christians. “The figure of a man fishing will put them in mind of the Apostle.” Perhaps the Greek is using the red hackle described by AElian in the only known Greek reference to fly-fishing.
The historical version of the Black Officer’s career, very unlike the legend in “Loch Awe,” may be read in Mr. Macpherson’s Social Life in the Highlands.
These papers do not boast of great sport. They are truthful, not like the tales some fishers tell. They should appeal to many sympathies. There is no false modesty in the confidence with which I esteem myself a duffer, at fishing. Some men are born duffers; others, unlike persons of genius, become so by an infinite capacity for not taking pains. Others, again, among whom I would rank myself, combine both these elements of incompetence. Nature, that made me enthusiastically fond of fishing, gave me thumbs for fingers, short-sighted eyes, indolence, carelessness, and a temper which (usually sweet and angelic) is goaded to madness by the laws of matter and of gravitation. For example: when another man is caught up in a branch he disengages his fly; I jerk at it till something breaks. As for carelessness, in boyhood I fished, by preference, with doubtful gut and knots ill-tied; it made the risk greater, and increased the excitement if one did hook a trout. I can’t keep a fly-book. I stuff the flies into my pockets at random, or stick them into the leaves of a novel, or bestow them in the lining of my hat or the case of my rods. Never, till 1890, in all my days did I possess a landing-net. If I can drag a fish up a bank, or over the gravel, well; if not, he goes on his way rejoicing. On the Test I thought it seemly to carry a landing-net. It had a hinge, and doubled up. I put the handle through a button-hole of my coat: I saw a big fish rising, I put a dry fly over him; the idiot took it. Up stream he ran, then down stream, then he yielded to the rod and came near me. I tried to unship my landing-net from my button-hole. Vain labour! I twisted and turned the handle, it would not budge. Finally, I stooped, and