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We remember in our own time, and in the short space of ten years, the perfect extirpation of trout from two waters in the county of Mayo; and in others the numbers are so diminished as to have become now purely nominal. One lough was surrounded by moss and bog, and might be half a mile in circuit. Its trouts were all gilleroos; and you would rarely raise a fish under a pound weight, and many of them reached to five. I have caught a stone weight of a summer evening; but now, were Anagh drained, pike, perch, and eels would be found its only occupants. Another water, called Lakeland, was alto. gether different; it was rocky bottomed and reeded at the banks. The trouts there seldom reached balf a pound; but they were lively and well shaped; and often have I had three at the same time upon my casting-line. It was the merriest water, barring some of the tributaries to the Tweed, I ever angled in; and many a basket I have filled there in two hours, when the sky and wind were favourable. I am - told that there, too, trouts are no longer seen, and that pikes of enormous size are in full possession of the water.
There is, in the immediate vicinity of both these depopulated lakes, another lough that is interesting to a trout fisher; inasmuch as it is most tenanted by fish of immense size, which will never be cajoled by the cunningly constructed fly, and can withstand all bait temptation. The lough lies under a bluff hill; and, as the country people say, its depth of water is profound. The Irish peasant is imaginative, and his statements must be received cum grano salis ; but the herdsman on Carramore will tell you that, on a warm summer evening, he has seen these huge trouts rolling along the surface “like water dogs.” No art, however, will manage to insinuate a hook : flies, baits, nightlines-all have been tried and found wanting. I never essayed the forlorn hope myself; but I have been assured by others that they tried frequently, varied their means of mischief, and yet never could succeed. Now, that these misanthropic fish do exist in Carramore cannot be doubted. Its waters debouch upon a mill; and, at seasons, the net placed at the tail-race to catch eels in their annual migrations frequently enclose a ten-pound trout. There is, in this Carramore case, an anomalous distinction. In Lough Corrib and in the Shannon, trouts of equal and superior size occasionally rise freely; but in Carramore the piscatorial charmer can throw no spell over the finny community, “charm he never so wisely."
The size to which, in the great inland waters of Ireland, pikes will attain, would in England be much doubted. The pride of an English pond may probably turn the scale at ten pounds ; while an Irish herds-boy will bring one of fifteen, five-and-twenty--nay, five-andthirty pounds to his master, or to the market. It is on record that, at Portumna, a pike weighing seventy pounds was taken; and, on Lough Corrib, many a one on the right side of twenty is every year secured.
In the pike's rapacity, no one is an unbeliever. At all and every thing he has a shy; and frog, mouse, or duckling are equally acceptable. In some of the western waters, the duck casualties are extensive; and they will tell you that a whole brood, one after another, have been annihilated by this river pirate. Proof was not wanted ; for conclusive evidence was found in the caitiff's maw.
I shall narrate an anecdote of pike rapacity, which will be considered as apocryphal, but which I conscientiously declare was told to me, and tollidem verbis. I dinned with a Connaught gentleman of large estate, upon a Friday; and a better landlord or better Catholic is not within leagues around him. It was a Lent day, and ours was, consequently, a fish dinner. To a fair supply from Galway, of turbot and whitings, a pike of some eight pounds weight was superadded; and, as it turned out, it had been taken the night preceding by a herds-boy, with a night line.
“He's a wonderful devil for catching them," said the host. “Since one of them pulled him into the river when he was a boy, he's after them day and night.”
“Pulled him into the river?”
“Aye; he was washing his feet, and it was well he was not drowned.”
I burst into a roar of laughter, and soon perceived that my host was not quite pleased with my incredulity.
“I would rather encounter a bull-dog than a pike,” he remarked.
“And I would much rather buckle with a pike than a bull-dog," was the reply.
“I could tell you a story, but I suppose you would only laugh at it and me.”
“ Let us have the story, at all chances.”
“ Have you ever seen the black-hags (cormorants of a lesser size) that are always fishing on the river of Minola ?”'
“ To be sure I have," I replied. « Well, last autumn little Morteeine''“ The young gentleman half drowned by the pike?" I enquired.
“The same. Well, he set night-lines ; and, faith, in the morning he found one of them had a wopper on it. We weighed it. How many pounds, John ?" The appeal was to the butler.
“ Ít was three-and-twenty pound, good weight; and divil a better fish ever went into the kettle, as the cook said.”
“ Go on," I said, smiling.
“I know you'll laugh; but it's true for all that. Morteeine beg (little Martin) brings it home upon his shoulder in a cleave, and Aings it on the floor, besides the potatoes that had been boiled for breakfast. The wind was strong upon the door, and so it was closed, of course. Well, the herd's family drew their stools, and began to help themselves from the skibt, when, by the Lord! they heard a fluitering noise from the corner where the pike was stretched ; and out of his mouth had come a black-hag two pound weight.”
" Dead ?"
“ No more dead than you are. It took the whole family five minutes to poke him from under the bed, and a cleave of turf afterwards to knock him on the head.”
“ Se nonè vero, è ben trovato," I replied. “ Damn it, man, speak English or Irish.” “I only mean, my dear friend, to say that the story is a good one."
* A turf basket.
“It's true," said the master.
“ Lord preserve us !” I ejaculated. “I have heard of Kilkenny cats; but, after this warning, I would rather encounter a saw-pit full, than dip a toe into a Mayo river that held a pike.”
The scarcity of grouse in Ireland is referrible to many causes--neglect of protection and the squatting system, that sends the exuberant population from the low country to the Highlands. The kite and the cur-dog are equally destructive; and probably, for one brood matured, a dozen perish in the shell. I know more than one expanse of moorland, on which, in my boyhood, twenty brace could have been slot; and now the chances are that the walk of a summer's day would scarcely secure a couple. Rifled by birds of prey ; robbed by half-starved urchins, in a few years more a grouse in Ireland will be looked upon as a curiosity.
It will hardly be credited, but it is the fact, that the extirpation of the red deer in “ the far west” may be dated to a political causenamely, the landing of Humbert at Killala. The mountain peasantry, until that epoch, in the wilds of Erris, neither possessed nor understood the use of fire-arms. The French invaders brought with them an extensive supply; and numbers of Republican muskets found their way to strath and hill, where never a gun had been seen or heard before, except when some gentleman-and only now and then-traversed these wastes, in the scason when grouse are shot. In deer-stalking, the sportsman's chances of success, from the alpire country the aniinals could fall back upon when alarmed, were very few ; but when the resident mountaineers were armed when the snow covered every high ground, and winter and bad weather had forced the red deer to leave their fastnesses, and the grouse to seck the berdsman's door-then the fatal gifts of the French invaders proved destructive; and the brass-clasped musket of the peasant did nuore mischief in a stormy week than all the qualified shooters had effected in a season.
The old priest of confessed to me, “sub sigillo” of course, and, I may add, over a stoop of as good diluted potceine as ever issued from a still, that within a snowy month, a year or two “after the French," he had obtained in presents more venison than kept his house.
We have lost sight of the Erris bighlands for ten years; and we have doubts whether a cloot-mark of a red deer has been traceable among them for half that period. Often in our boyhood have we numbered half a score antlered heads in a single herd. Ichabod ! The sporting glory of “the far west” has departed.
In the west of Ireland there are extensive warrenries ; for the large expanse of sandy billocks that occasionally friuge the Atlantic, although irreclaimable for the uses of the plougḥ, produce bent-grass extensively, and afford the rabbits a facility for burrowing, that they particularly delight in. These sterile districts have sometimes drawback; for a gale of wind, and that, too, lasting as it does fre
quently for a whole week, sands up the burroughs; and I knew one case occur between Louisburgh and the Killeries, where a rabbit community of thousands, which colonized a league of sand, were, by a gale of wind and tremendous spring-tide, absolutely exterminated; there are sand-rabbits and bush-rabbits. You can ferret the one, and now and again can shoot the other; but there was one settlement in a mountain gorge in the Western Highlands, called Loughtey, which set all human expedients at defiance.
A narrow valley, walled in by steep, bold hills, opens there the moorland with the low country. A mountain stream flows through it; and its sheltered advantages have induced the ultra population, for fisty years, to squat, partially reclaim, and cultivate poor crops of potatoes, and miserable ones of oats, The eastern hill has all the evidence of a volcanic origin. The whole face presents a mass of disrupted rock, the stones lying disjointedly one upon the other. The chasms shattered into a thousand rents, and extending under ground, Heaven knows to what extent. There, in 1820, a wild colony of rabbits had established itself; and, in
the numbers had increased enormously. The founder rabbits had shown admirable military tact. No shooter could approach them within a hundred yards without being discovered ; and from the lateral communications--a whole hill-side, and perforated at every yard--a ferret was altogether useless. Of a summer evening, in their rocky outlets you could see them by the dozen, lying basking on the ledges of shattered granite. On the valley below they fed after night-fall; and at last, from their spoliations, the human colony had to move on, and abdicate in their favour.
Neither net nor gun could be employed to check their annoying fecundity ; but another and more deadly enemy invaded a fortress proof against human artifice. A female cat disappeared from a herdsman's house, and was accompanied by her feline brood. A year afterwards, the rabbits showed symptoms of rapid diminution ; and, occasionally, cats of enormous size were scen now and again among the rocks. I saw one huge animal myself, and splintered with a bullet the rock on which she lay. No living thing, however, could get within shot-range. They were ever on the qui vire ; and the last time I madle enquiry, I was assured that, from the immense increase of the cat tribe, Loughtey would be rabbitless within a year or two.
CAPTAIN PIGSKIN'S VISIT
BATII AND BRISTOL STEEPLE CII A SES;
Having visited the metropolis for a few days on matters of businessthe sole cause which would ever induce us to travel even to that most splendid capital at this walnut-cracking season of the year-chance led us through the street in which an ancient military friend has for years inhabited bachelor apartments; that is to say, a comfortable second floor in the west-end-for Pigskin, being a man of taste, prefers to breathe the breath of life in an aristocratic atmosphere ; and although to hear him talk of the mountain and the flood, the wood and the vale, you would imagine him to have been born a shepherd or bred a gamekeeper, he nevertheless clings to the smoky air of the city for ten months out of twelve, passing the remaining two, generally the first of the year, in country rambles similar to those we are about to relate.
Being alive to Pigskin's peculiarities, as well as to the delight he ever experienced in detailing his little sporting rambles to an acquaintance, and having an idle hou” on hand, we called at our friend's abode, and, as we had reason to believe would be the case, found him at home ; we therefore quickly mounted to his retreat, and were duly welcomed. As we have already said, Pigskin was, or professed to be, a man of taste ; moreover, an ardent lover of the country, and a practical sportsman in all matters appertaining to the chace. We greatly fear, however, our good friend's practice was in reality theory ; for we question if he ever shot four brace of birds in his life, or ever witnessed the killing of a fox after a fair run in the open, however frequently he may have been at the death of a chopped one. However, as the world goes, he knows more than many, and, to take him at his own word, more than most.
On entering his snug apartment, which was decorated in half metropolitan and half sporting style, yet containing all the comforts of bachelorship—which infers abundant, selfish, snoozy, after-dinner armchairs, a good lounging sofa, well-polished boots by the fire-side though his bedchamber opened into his sitting-room, with sundry hats, sticks, &c., without one accompanying elegancy supplied by female hands. Here we found our friend Pigskin warmly clad in a Scotch plaid dressing-gown, with his slippered feet on the fender—for the morning was a rainy and foggy first of November-reclining in his easy chair, with paper-knife in hand, enjoying the perusal of the Sporting Mag. that morning received. On our opening the door he arose and gave us a hearty shake of the hand, and we were soon in friendly chat, having reference to the county and its sporting neighbourhood, from whence we