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Little Rivers Henry van Dyke

IX. Trout-Fishing in the Traun

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For the future I resolved to give up the illusory idea of coming home by rail, and ordered a little one-horse carriage to meet me at some point on the high-road every evening at nine o'clock. In this way I managed to cover the whole stream, taking a lower part each day, from the lake of Hallstatt down to Ischl.

There was one part of the river, near Laufen, where the current was very strong and waterfally, broken by ledges of rock. Below these it rested in long, smooth reaches, much beloved by the grayling. There was no difficulty in getting two or three of them out of each run.

The grayling has a quaint beauty. His appearance is aesthetic, like a fish in a pre-raphaelite picture. His colour, in midsummer, is a golden gray, darker on the back, and with a few black spots just behind his gills, like patches put on to bring out the pallor of his complexion. He smells of wild thyme when he first comes out of the water, wherefore St. Ambrose of Milan complimented him in courtly fashion "Quid specie tua gratius? Quid odore fragrantius? Quod mella fragrant, hoc tuo corpore spiras." But the chief glory of the grayling is the large iridescent fin on his back. You see it cutting the water as he swims near the surface; and when you have him on the bank it arches over him like a rainbow. His mouth is under his chin, and he takes the fly gently, by suction. He is, in fact, and to speak plainly, something of a sucker; but then he is a sucker idealised and refined, the flower of the family. Charles Cotton, the ingenious young friend of Walton, was all wrong in calling the grayling "one of the deadest-hearted fishes in the world." He fights and leaps and whirls, and brings his big fin to bear across the force of the current with a variety of tactics that would put his more aristocratic fellow-citizen, the trout, to the blush. Twelve of these pretty fellows, with a brace of good trout for the top, filled my big creel to the brim. And yet, such is the inborn hypocrisy of the human heart that I always pretended to myself to be disappointed because there were not more trout, and made light of the grayling as a thing of naught.

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The pink fishing license did not seem to be of much use. Its exhibition was demanded only twice. Once a river guardian, who was walking down the stream with a Belgian Baron and encouraging him to continue fishing, climbed out to me on the end of a long embankment, and with proper apologies begged to be favoured with a view of my document. It turned out that his request was a favour to me, for it discovered the fact that I had left my fly-book, with the pink card in it, beside an old mill, a quarter of a mile up the stream.

Another time I was sitting beside the road, trying to get out of a very long, wet, awkward pair of wading-stockings, an occupation which is unfavourable to tranquillity of mind, when a man came up to me in the dusk and accosted me with an absence of politeness which in German amounted to an insult.

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Little Rivers
Henry van Dyke

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