Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Voices from the Past: Concerning Angling in Scotland (1882)

The following passage is from Robert Hall’s The Highland Sportsman, a classic Victorian work on fishing and hunting in Scotland. Note that 1800 pounds sterling in 1882 is the equivalent of nearly $4 million today. That’s a huge investment to secure some salmon angling!


Good salmon-fishing nowadays is almost as expensive a luxury as deer-stalking, and is quite as eagerly sought after and harder to get. For some favourite stretches of the rivers Tay, Tweed, Dee, and Spey fabulous prices are willingly paid, and the six beats into which the river Lochy and its tributary, the Spean, is divided, generally fetches £1800 a-year, being about £160 a mile. The Thurso is also a very highly-priced river, and so is the Naver. Of late years, however, the quality of the sport has fallen off very considerably, and an ugly fungus disease has become epidemic in some rivers, and threatens to spread itself everywhere if piscatory scientists do not discover the cause and, what is better, the remedy.

It is a good rule in fly-fishing never to remain very long at one particular spot. When you have the water, take the best streams and fish them carefully, but as quickly as you can.

The best and pleasantest, and indeed the only efficient, mode is to fish down river, no matter what may be said by many fishermen against it.

A salmon will rise again and again at the fly after it has once missed it, provided it is not pricked by the hook; but trout seldom do so. It is better therefore, when fishing for the latter, and a big fellow rises and misses your fly, to allow it a little time to regain its former position before casting again.

When the salmon takes a fly, the angler must immediately give it line, and bear particularly in mind that the slightest degree of rashness at this moment will lose the fish. It is only by giving it gentle tugs and letting it feel the weight and pressure of the rod and line that you can make it rush about until its strength is exhausted.

— Dr. Todd

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