Finding Bait – Outdoor Skills
Finding Bait – Outdoor Skills
At the commencement of the open season, and until the young maple leaves are half grown, bait will be found far more successful than the fly. At this time the trout are pretty evenly distributed along lake shores and streams, choosing to lie quietly in rather deep pools, and avoiding swift water. A few may rise to the fly in a logy, indifferent way; but the best way to take them is bait-fishing with well-cleansed angle worms or white grubs, the latter being the best bait I have ever tried. They take the bait sluggishly at this season, but, on feeling the hook, wake up to their normal activity and fight gamely to the last. When young, new-born insects begin to drop freely on the water, about the 2oth of May, trout leave the pools and take to the riffles. A.nd from this time until the latter part of June the fly-fisherman is in his glory. It maybe true that the skillful bait-fisherman will rather beat his creel. He cares not for that. He can take enough; and he had rather take ten trout with the fly than a score with bait. As for the man who goes a-fishing simply to catch fish, the fly-fisher does not recognize him as an angler at all. When the sun is hot and the weather grows warm, trout leave the ripples and take to cold springs and spring-holes; the largest fish, of course, monopolizing the deepest and coolest places, while the smaller ones hover around, or content themselves with shallower water. As the weather gets hotter, the fly-fishing falls off badly. A few trout of four to eight ounces in weight may still be raised, but the larger ones, are lying on the bottom, and are not to be fooled with feathers. They will take a tempting bait when held before their noses—sometimes; at other times, not. As to raising them with a fly—as well attempt to raise a sick Indian with the temperance pledge. And yet, they may be taken in bright daylight by a ruse that I learned long ago, of a youngster less than half my age, a little, freckled, thin-visaged young man, whose health was evidently affected by a daily struggle with a pair of tow-colored side whiskers and a light moustache. There was hardly enough of the whole affair to make a door-mat for a bee hive. But he seemed so proud of the plant, that I forbore to rig him. He was better than he looked—as often happens. The landlord said, "He brings in large trout every day, when our best fly-fishermen fail." One night, around an out-door fire, we got acquainted, and I found him a witty, pleasant companion. Before turning in I ventured to ask him how he succeeded in taking large trout, while the experts only caught small ones, or failed altogether.
"Go with me to-morrow morning to a spring-hole three miles up the river, and I'll show you," he said.
Of course, we went. He, rowing a light skiff, and I paddling a still lighter canoe. The spring-hole was in a narrow bay that set back from the river, and at the mouth of a cold, clear brook; it was ten to twelve feet deep, and at the lower end a large balsam had fallen in with the top in just the right place for getting away with large fish, or tangling lines and leaders. We moored some twenty feet above the spring-hole, and commenced fishing. I with my favorite cast of flies, my friend with the tail of a minnow. He caught a i}4 -pound trout almost at the outset, but I got no rise; did not expect it. Then I went above, where the water was shallower, and raised a couple of half-pounders, but could get no more. I thought we had better go to the hotel with what we had, but my friend said "wait;" he went ashore and picked up a long pole with a bushy tip; it had evidently been used before. Dropping down to the spring-hole, he thrust the tip to the bottom and slashed it around in a way to scare and scatter every trout within a hundred feet.
"And what does all that mean?" I asked.
"Well," he said, "every trout will be back in less than an hour; and when they first come back, they take the bait greedily. Better take off your leader and try bait."
Which I did. Dropping our hooks to the bottom, we waited some twenty minutes, when he had a bite, and, having strong tackle, soon took in a trout that turned the scale at 2 pounds. Then my turn came and I saved one weighing iy2 pounds. He caught another of 1 pounds, and I took one of 1 pound. Then they ceased biting altogether.
"And now," said my friend, "if you will work your canoe carefully around to that old balsam top and get the light where you can see the bottom, you may see some large trout."
I did as directed, and, making a telescope of my hand, looked intently for the bottom of the spring hole. At first I could see nothing but water; then I made out some dead sticks, and finally began to dimly trace the outlines of large fish. There they were, more than forty of them, lying quietly on the bottom like suckers, but genuine brook trout, every one of them.
"This," said he, "makes the fifth time I have brushed them out of here, and I have never missed taking from two to five large trout. I have two other places where I always get one or two, but this is the best."
At the hotel we found two fly-fishers who had been out all the morning. They each had three or four small trout.
During the next week we worked the spring-holes daily in the same way, and always with success. I have also had good success by building a bright fire on the bank, 'and fishing a spring-hole by the light—a mode of fishing especially successful with catties and perch.
Sears, George Washington. Woodcraft. New York: Forest and Stream Publishing, 1884.
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