“That Captain's Throw is worth anything to us fishermen,” said the
Parson. “You seldom catch anything there, to be sure, because the rock
on which you stand overhangs the water, and the fish see you; but then, in
return, you see them, and your line, and your fly, and everything that takes
place. Many a good lesson have I got on the Captain’s Rock.”
“But supposing that you are right,” said the squire; “supposing the Parson genus of flies is intended to imitate the shrimp, ought it not to be common to all rivers? Whereas, to the best of my belief, it is peculiar to the Erne.”
“If it is peculiar to the Erne, it is only because it is not generally known,” said the Parson. “I have tried the fly in Norway, and to some purpose too, especially where the waters are at all tinged, or thick.”
“Have you seen that clever book by ‘Ephemera’?” said the Captain. “He has given the picture of a fly as like our Erne Parson as can be, to which he assigns the name of Goldfinch.”
“’Ephemera’ is mistaken,” said the Parson; “our king of flies was invented on the banks of the Erne, in the year 1836, as I can avouch. The real Goldfinch differs from it in many important particulars; it has a jointed body, backed with topping, or camel’s hair, and has a narrow stripe of brown argus in the wings; besides, it is exclusively a Shannon fly, and I believe is never seen off that river.”
“It is backed with other hair besides camel’s sometimes,” said the Squire, “and is used on other rivers besides the Shannon.”
The Captain began to grow red, and to look unconscious with all his might; while the Parson cast an inquiring glance across the room.
“Lady’s hair, I mean,” continued the Squire; “and I am sure I need not tell you who tied the fly.”
“Name! Name!” said the Parson. “We have no secrets about our flies at Belleek. Where did you get your material?”
“I will not tell thee whence ‘twas shred,
Or from what guiltless victim’s head,”
said the Captain, theatrically.
“I am sure you need not,” said the Squire; “all the world knows it was from the fair head of Mary Anne C..... .
“Were you short in fiery brown pig’s wool?” said the Parson, maliciously. “You should have come to me; I had plenty.”
“Fiery brown!” exclaimed the Captain. “If ever there was true auburn in this world ...... .”
“There, there; that will do,” broke in the Squire; “that will do. Of course it was auburn, that is the ladies’ colour; it is only men’s hair that is red. But what good did you do with your auburn fly? Was anything besides yourself meshed in the mazes of Neoera’s hair?”
“It is very odd,” said the Captain; “I am not at all superstitious, as you know; but the fact is – you need not laugh, Parson – that I never did have such success with any fly that I ever made, as I had with that.”
“Did not the consciousness of the value risked at the end of your line make your hand unsteady?”
“It did,” said the Captain; “you cannot conceive the state of mind I was in when I lost it at last; I hung it on the trees at Mois Ruah.”
“Why on earth did you not climb up after it, then?” said the Parson.
“So I did, and searched half the day; but I had broken my line short off, and could never get a glimpse of it; and as to making another, that was altogether out of the question. I had not the material; it is not so common as pig’s down.”
“By the way, Paddy,” said the Squire, “that big Irish rod, the fellow that I used with the pike the other day, did that get much damage?”
“Divel a hapor’th!” said Paddy Mooshlan. “I did not shorten it three inches at the splice. Your honour might have landed a schoolmaster* with it ten minutes afterwards.”
*Few salmon except the “lost fish” arrive at their native river singly. They cruise in companies technically called schools; each school is supposed to be under the command of an old and experienced fish, who is called the schoolmaster. In the Erne a schoolmaster seldom weighs less than twenty-two or twenty-four pounds.