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Original Issue

English agencies arrange the renting of pheasant shoots and salmon streams

The British sportsman out for a roving tour with a bundle of assorted fishing rods, and wanting to know where to fish, does the sensible thing and consults a volume called Where to Fish, which is published annually by the Harmsworth Press and sold at $3.50. But, although the 400-odd pages are packed with details of the most readily available waters, they do not attempt to deal with the higher-cost streams owned by the large estates. Consequently, the prospective visitor from, say, Omaha who wants to have a week or a month of superlative sport is often at a loss to organize it; and this is where the agents come in.

A shooting and fishing agency is usually combined with an estate agency or a gun-smithery or a fishing-tackle shop. In Scotland, P. D. Malloch of Scott Street, Perth handles a great number of boats on the lower Tay, which yields the largest salmon in Britain. The Malloch waters are something of a closed shop, with old customers getting priority; however, there are occasional cancellations or sublets that can be picked up at short notice, and the cost is likely to be from $25 to $60 a day, for four rods plus two boats and two gillies.

Wing-Commander S. J. Carr has a gun-smith-and-agency business at 28 Sackville Street, London, W.l. Carr likes to deal only with the best, including a selection of pheasant shoots at $1,000 per gun per week, when the bag between six or eight guns ought to reach four figures. Carr also has one beat on the Spey that he lets for $5,000 in the best spring month, and the four permitted rods usually end up with about 350 salmon which, when sold, will bring the cost down to about $100 a rod a week. But one year, in a poor spring, the catch was five.

Strutt and Parker, Lofts and Warner of 41 Berkeley Square, London, W.l. report that shootings have been easier to get in the past year. With tighter British taxation, there has not been the money to spend. They can, given three months or so of warning, fix up grouse or pheasant driving. A typical case occurred last August, when a party of five guns shot an excellent moor for a week, with the full complement of beaters, keepers and dogs and accommodations in a great mansion. The total charge was $4,500, and the only extras were ammunition, tips and drinks. S&P, L&W deal with fishings, too, and quote examples of one rod, one week on the Dee in May or June at $200 or two rods for a week on the Sutherland Naver in March or April for the same sum, with the curious stipulation—doubtless intended to prevent overfishing—that one of the rods must be wielded by either a boy or a woman. In dealing with this firm, as with most others, both owner and tenant pay 5% commission to the agent.

The lettings at Curtis and Henson of 5 Mount Street, London, W.l. are in the slim but efficient hands of Miss Penelope Fuller. After five minutes in her presence, only a cad or a churl could refuse to put down $6,000 for nine weeks in a Caithness castle, complete with two gardeners, two gamekeepers, 10 dogs and an expected bag of 200 brace of grouse, 30 salmon and 25 stags. Other estates letting through Curtis and Henson can offer first-class grouse driving with or without accommodations. Many landowners, however, will not take guests who have not shot grouse before or who cannot produce written references to vouch for their safe behavior and knowledge of the form. "But it is seldom any good arriving in August or September," says Miss Fuller, "and asking for immediate grouse shooting. It all needs several months' notice. One of our landowners even insists on meeting guests before he will take them on."

For fishing, C&H cover any part of Scotland from Dumfries-shire to Sutherland and can produce lettings that cost anything from $35 to $200 a week. There are two and a half miles of the Brora in Sutherland where the 1965 bag of salmon was about 600, with even greater numbers of sea trout that can be fished for all day and all night. This costs $3,000 for three weeks, including a fully staffed lodge; any number of rods may fish.

Nearest of all to the source of Scottish sport is the firm of C. W. Ingram of 7 Walker Street, Edinburgh. Ingram's can fix up visiting sportsmen with grouse or pheasant shooting, deer stalking and all kinds of game fishing.

Paul Ingram recommends a look at a seasonal let, which may prove less expensive than the short-term affairs and gives as an example Grouse Moor X in the heathery highlands, where there is a 750-brace moor and a lodge with 10 bedrooms, three bathrooms and all the usual accommodations. From August 12 on, this costs $7,500 a month. Twenty days' shooting (half walking, half driving) would work out at $50 per gun-day. There would be some extra expense for a cook ($30 a week) and help ($12) and beaters ($45 per day's driving).

There is also a selection of salmon and sea trout fishings at between $60 and $180 a week, plus a boatman's wage of $6 a day, when required. "But," warns Ingram, "all gillies and boatmen thrive on whiskey; the brand is immaterial.

"Bookings should be made in November for the next year, but it is a time-honored custom that last year's tenant be given the first chance. All sport is exceedingly difficult to rent, and if offered a grouse moor or a salmon beat, always be ready to cable a firm decision within 48 hours."