Fishing - Outdoor Skills
There is probably no subject connected with out-door sport so thoroughly and exhaustively written up as fly-fishing, and all that pertains thereto. Fly-fishing for speckled trout always, and deservedly, takes the lead. Bass fishing usually comes next, though some writers accord second place to the lake trout, salmon trout or land-locked salmon. The mascalonge, as a game fish, is scarcely behind the small-mouthed bass, and is certainly more gamy than the lake trout. The large-mouthed bass and pickerel are usually ranked about with the yellow perch. I don't know why; they are certainly gamy enough. Perhaps it is because they do not leap out of water when hooked. Both are good on the table.
A dozen able and interesting authors have written books wherein trout, flies and fly-fishing are treated in a manner that leaves an old backwoodsman little to say. Rods, reels, casting lines, flies and fish are described and descanted on in a way, and in a language, the reading whereof reduces me to temporary insanity,
And yet I seem to recollect some bygone incidents concerning fish and fishing. I have a well-defined notion that I once stood on Flat Rock, in Big Pine Creek, and caught over 350 fine trout in a short day's fishing. Also, that many times I left home on a bright May or June morning, walked eight miles, caught a twelve-pound creel of trout, and walked home before bedtime.
I remember that once, in Michigan, on the advice of local fishermen, I dragged a spoon around High Bank Lake for two days, with little result save half a dozen blisters on my hands; and that on the next morning, taking a long tamarack pole and my own way of fishing, I caught, before 10 A. M., fifty pounds of bass and pickerel, weighing from two to ten pounds each. Gibson, whose spoon, line and skiff I had been using and who was the fishing oracle of that region, could hardly believe his eyes. I kept that country inn, and the neighborhood as well, supplied with fish for the next two weeks.
It is truth to say that I have never struck salt or fresh waters, where edible fish were at all plenty, without being able to take, in some way, all that I needed. Notably and preferably with the fly if that might be. If not, then with worms, grubs, minnows, grasshoppers, crickets, or any sort of doodle bug their highnesses might affect. When a plump, two pound trout refuses to eat a tinseled, feathered fraud, I am not the man to refuse him something more edible.
That I may not be misunderstood, let me say thatI recognize the speckled brook trout as the very emperor of all game fish, and angling for him with the fly as the neatest, most fascinating sport attainable by the angler. But there are thousands of outers who, from choice or necessity, take their summer vacations where Salmo fontinalis is not to be had. They would prefer him, either on the leader or the table; but he is not there; "And a man has got a stomach, and we live by what we eat."
Wherefore, they go a-fishing for other fish. So that they are successful and sufficiently fed, the difference is not so material. I have enjoyed myself hugely catching catties on a dark night from a skiff, with a handline.
I can add nothing in a scientific way to the literature of fly-fishing; but I can give a few hints that may be conducive to practical success, as well with trout as with less noble fish. In fly-fishing, one serviceable ten-ounce rod is enough; and a plain click reel, of small size, is just as satisfactory as a more costly affair. Twenty yards of tapered, water-proof line, with a six-foot leader, and a cast of two flies, complete the rig, and will be found sufficient. In common with most fly-fishers, I have mostly thrown a cast of three flies, but have found two just as effective, and handier.
We all carry too many flies. Some of my friends have more than sixty dozen, and will never use a tenth of them. In the summer of '83, finding I had more than seemed needful, I left all but four dozen behind me. I wet only fifteen of them in a seven weeks' outing. And they filled the bill. I have no time or space for a dissertation on the hundreds of different flies made and sold at the present day. Abler pens have done that. I will, however, name a few that I have found good in widely different localities, i. e., the Northern Wilderness of New York and the upper waters of Northern Pennsylvania. For the Northern Wilderness: Scarlet ibis, split ibis, Romeyn, white-winged coachman, royal coachman, red hackle, red-bodied ashy and gray-bodied ashy. The ashies were good for black bass also. For Northern Pennsylvania: Queen of the waters, professor, red fox, coachman, black may, white-winged coachman, wasp, brown hackle, Seth Green. Ibis flies are worthless here. Using the dark flies in bright water and clear weather, and the brighter colors for evening, the list was long enough.
Sears, George Washington. Woodcraft. New York: Forest and Stream Publishing, 1884.
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