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Little Rivers Henry van Dyke

IX. Trout-Fishing in the Traun

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But by far the best excursion from Hallstatt was an all-day trip to the Zwieselalp--a mountain which seems to have been especially created as a point of view. From the bare summit you look right into the face of the huge, snowy Dachstein, with the wild lake of Gosau gleaming at its foot; and far away on the other side your vision ranges over a confusion of mountains, with all the white peaks of the Tyrol stretched along the horizon. Such a wide outlook as this helps the fisherman to enjoy the narrow beauties of his little rivers. No sport is at its best without interruption and contrast. To appreciate wading, one ought to climb a little on odd days.

Isehl is about ten or twelve miles below Hallstatt, in the valley of the Traun. It is the fashionable summer-resort of Austria. I found it in the high tide of amusement. The shady esplanade along the river was crowded with brave women and fair men, in gorgeous raiment; the hotels were overflowing; and there were various kinds of music and entertainments at all hours of day and night. But all this did not seem to affect the fishing.

The landlord of the Konigin Elizabeth, who is also the Burgomaster and a gentleman of varied accomplishments and no leisure, kindly furnished me with a fishing license in the shape of a large pink card. There were many rules printed upon it: "All fishes under nine inches must be gently restored to the water. No instrument of capture must be used except the angle in the hand. The card of legitimation must be produced and exhibited at the polite request of any of the keepers of the river." Thus duly authorised and instructed, I sallied forth to seek my pastime according to the law.

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The easiest way, in theory, was to take the afternoon train up the river to one of the villages, and fish down a mile or two in the evening, returning by the eight o'clock train. But in practice the habits of the fish interfered seriously with the latter part of this plan.

On my first day I had spent several hours in the vain effort to catch something better than small grayling. The best time for the trout was just approaching, as the broad light faded from the stream; already they were beginning to feed, when I looked up from the edge of a pool and saw the train rattling down the valley below me. Under the circumstances the only thing to do was to go on fishing. It was an even pool with steep banks, and the water ran through it very straight and swift, some four feet deep and thirty yards across. As the tail-fly reached the middle of the water, a fine trout literally turned a somersault over it, but without touching it. At the next cast he was ready, taking it with a rush that carried him into the air with the fly in his mouth. He weighed three-quarters of a pound. The next one was equally eager in rising and sharp in playing, and the third might have been his twin sister or brother. So, after casting for hours and taking nothing in the most beautiful pools, I landed three trout from one unlikely place in fifteen minutes. That was because the trout's supper-time had arrived. So had mine. I walked over to the rambling old inn at Goisern, sought the cook in the kitchen and persuaded her, in spite of the lateness of the hour, to boil the largest of the fish for my supper, after which I rode peacefully back to Ischl by the eleven o'clock train.

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Little Rivers
Henry van Dyke

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