“Come along, Pat Gallagher! Hand us down Hooker’s works; we will
have a good course of study to-day, and nothing to interrupt us.”
The ponderous folio which the Parson had so designated, was a sort of cross between a book and a small portmanteau. In the early days of his fishing-youth he had had it splendidly bound in purple morocco, and lettered at the back with the above learned and appropriate title; and though, since then, rough journeys and frequent use had somewhat dimmed its earlier glories, it still was a goodly volume: but the interior was the Parson’s pride, and he gazed with fondness on it as he unbuckled the strap that secured it.
The first leaf contained six rows of parchment pockets, twelve in each row; these were filled with every variety of hook, from a to ccc, of genuine Limerick manufacture, for the Parson had imported them himself; and from 1 to 12 of their London imitations, together with lip hooks, double hooks, long-shanked hooks, midge hooks, and numerous other varieties; swivels for pike and trout labelled on the outside. Then came full thirty shades of pigs’ wool, by far the best material for the rough-bodied flies of the larger sort, as it is the only substance, besides fur, which completely withstands the water. The edges of all these pockets had been carefully painted in water-colours, so as to match and indicate their contents. Then came as many shades of floss-silk, each wound on its separate care; then the tying silks, of every degree of fineness. The next pockets contained the furs – the water-rat, the brown spaniel, the chinchilli, the sable, the bear, and the beaver. Then came the smaller feathers – the blue jay, the green-blue kingfisher, the yellow topping, the orange cock-of-the-rock, the crimson toucan, the copper-coloured golden pheasant, beautifully barred with black, and hundreds of other varieties; then large flannel leaves, extending across the whole book, for the larger feathers – the wing and tail feathers of the argus, the tails of common and golden pheasants, the black sock, the cock-of-the-wood, the grey mallard and barred teal, landrails’ and starlings’ wings, hackles, natural and stained, of every dye that nature or art could devise. On the end leaves, the pockets were of good stout morocco leather, and contained silkworm gut of every quality and hue, gimp for pike, a coil of brass wire, barbers’ silk, Chinese twist, a spare reel-line or two, and a case of instruments, consisting of penknives, scissors, files, pliers, and such-like, with a flat box for cobblers’ wax, leads, and India rubber.
The Captain was sitting on the head of the stair-cover before mentioned, applying himself to the choice of a cigar: he also had his material-book open before him, but it was very much smaller than the Parson’s ponderous tome, and contained not more than one-fourth part so much: it was, in fact, little more than judicious selections from the judicious Hooker. It was modestly labelled, “Elements of Fly-Fishing”, and was not so large but that it would ride comfortably in a fishing-basket, or, on an emergency, squeeze into a pocket: but, somehow or other, it was always at hand, which the Parson’s was not, and frequently supplied that worthy with necessaries; of which his own book contained, no doubt, a goodly store, only that, invariably at the very time it was most wanted, it was reposing securely some twenty or thirty miles from the scene of action, having been left behind on account of its bulk and weight. And no one could say that the Captain’s flies were less killing than those of his companion, or that the particular material required to produce any desired effect was ever deficient.
The Squire’s stores were contained in a walnut-tree box. They were intrinsically worth twice as much as those of both his companions’ put together, but their arrangement was something like that of a midshipman’s chest, where everything is at the top and nothing at hand; so that, with stores enough to have fitted out a tackle-shop, he was continually borrowing the commonest articles.
“I cannot see the use of your bothering yourselves with all these things”, said the Scholar, whose collection of salmon-flies, amounting to some hundreds, exhibited specimens of every manufacture in the three kingdoms. “Surely, those fellows whose business it is to make flies will make them very much better than you can. Why cannot you go to Bowness or Kelly for what you want?”
“I will tell you why”, said the Parson; “when I first handled the double rod, flies cost half-a-crown a-piece; and you know, by experience, that, if there is anything of a breeze, a young hand may safely reckon upon whipping off three or four every day of his life: now ten shillings a-day is a pretty fair rent. It was necessity that first drove me to fly-making, and what necessity commenced was continued from choice.”
“The necessity I sympathise with”, said the Scholar; “the choice I cannot understand. You do not whip off your flies now; your ordinary wear and tear does not come to half-a-dozen a-week; and, whatever was the case in former times, I can answer for it that you may now get from Edmondson as many flies as you like at nine shillings a-dozen.”
“Hardly that”, said the Parson, “if you want the more expensive sorts. These Erne flies, especially, you will not get worth anything at less than eighteen shillings a-dozen, taking one with another.