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Little Rivers Henry van Dyke

IX. Trout-Fishing in the Traun

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For it must be remembered that every stream in these over-civilised European countries belongs to somebody, by purchase or rent. And all the fish in the stream are supposed to belong to the person who owns or rents it. They do not know their master's voice, neither will they follow when he calls. But they are theoretically his. To this legal fiction the untutored American must conform. He must learn to clothe his natural desires in the raiment of lawful sanction, and take out some kind of a license before he follows his impulse to fish.

It was in the town of Aussee, at the junction of the two highest branches of the Traun, that this impulse came upon me, mildly irresistible. The full bloom of mid-July gayety in that ancient watering-place was dampened, but not extinguished, by two days of persistent and surprising showers. I had exhausted the possibilities of interest in the old Gothic church, and felt all that a man should feel in deciphering the mural tombstones of the families who were exiled for their faith in the days of the Reformation. The throngs of merry Hebrews from Vienna and Buda-Pesth, amazingly arrayed as mountaineers and milk-maids, walking up and down the narrow streets under umbrellas, had Cleopatra's charm of an infinite variety; but custom staled it. The woodland paths, winding everywhere through the plantations of fir-trees and provided with appropriate names on wooden labels, and benches for rest and conversation at discreet intervals, were too moist for even the nymphs to take delight in them. The only creatures that suffered nothing by the rain were the two swift, limpid Trauns, racing through the woods, like eager and unabashed lovers, to meet in the middle of the village. They were as clear, as joyous, as musical as if the sun were shining. The very sight of their opalescent rapids and eddying pools was an invitation to that gentle sport which is said to have the merit of growing better as the weather grows worse.

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I laid this fact before the landlord of the hotel of the Erzherzog Johann, as poetically as I could, but he assured me that it was of no consequence without an invitation from the gentleman to whom the streams belonged; and he had gone away for a week. The landlord was such a good-natured person, and such an excellent sleeper, that it was impossible to believe that he could have even the smallest inaccuracy upon his conscience. So I bade him farewell, and took my way, four miles through the woods, to the lake from which one of the streams flowed.

It was called the Grundlsee. As I do not know the origin of the name, I cannot consistently make any moral or historical reflections upon it. But if it has never become famous, it ought to be, for the sake of a cozy and busy little Inn, perched on a green hill beside the lake and overlooking the whole length of it, from the groups of toy villas at the foot to the heaps of real mountains at the head. This Inn kept a thin but happy landlord, who provided me with a blue license to angle, for the inconsiderable sum of fifteen cents a day. This conferred the right of fishing not only in the Grundlsee, but also in the smaller tarn of Toplitz, a mile above it, and in the swift stream which unites them. It all coincided with my desire as if by magic. A row of a couple of miles to the head of the lake, and a walk through the forest, brought me to the smaller pond; and as the afternoon sun was ploughing pale furrows through the showers, I waded out on a point of reeds and cast the artful fly in the shadow of the great cliffs of the Dead Mountains.

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Little Rivers
Henry van Dyke

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