Trout
Illustration from “Prairie and Forest: A Description of The Game of North America, with Personal Adventures in their Pursuit” by Parker Gillmore, “Ubique,” 1874.

I have not had much experience fishing, save a particularly embarrassing crawdad incident in my youth, but thought that some of you out there might enjoy this episode about fly fishing and a colorful tale about catching a trout as relayed from “Prairie and Forest: A Description of The Game of North America, with Personal Adventures in their Pursuit” by Parker Gillmore, “Ubique,” 1874.

A large river trout

The fly rod, like the gun, cannot be too light, as long as it possesses the requisite strength. For while fishing it is incessantly at work, the respite for loading not even being granted; thus if a heavy gun after a hard day’s work will make you undershoot your game, a heavy rod will have a greater tendency to make you a sluggard at evening in striking your fish, and the result will be about similar in both instances. For the trout fisherman—he, I mean, who fly-fishes burns and rivers—from twelve to thirteen feet is quite sufficient length for his rod to be (lake fishermen frequently use longer, but what they gain in reach they lose in quickness, a loss, in my estimation, of most serious importance), and such a rod should not exceed in weight eight or nine ounces. I can imagine I see many cast up their eyes and exclaim that such is impossible to procure, but let me say they are mistaken. I have owned several of that weight, and with them, days in succession, have taken baskets of fish, of not only all the ordinary sizes, but on one occasion killed a trout nine pounds in weight. As I cannot help regarding this as a performance to be proud of, I will relate how it took place.

A couple of companions and myself were encamped on the margin of Mad River, in Oxford County, State of Maine. Our guns had failed to provide dinner, so taking a hazel wand I essayed to capture sufficient chub to make a chowder, a description of olla podrida stew. Having hooked a small fish, I was about lifting it into the canoe when a large trout rushed from underneath the birch-bark, seized the chub, and although I gave him both line and time to pouch what had not been intended for a bait, on taking a pull the chub came away, and I was free from the larger antagonist. Having caught sufficient small fry I went home, brooding over my misfortune, but keeping the adventure closely locked in my bosom (selfishness again).

About the hour that the sun began to dip behind the giant pines, I had made up my mind to the course I would pursue, which was to take my pet rod, mount a cast of two flies, and carefully whip the pool from end to end. As if it were but yesterday, I remember distinctly the flies. The trail one was ginger-coloured cock’s hackle, with light corn-crake wing, tipped with silver; the dropper a large-sized moth.

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“For work at that hour,” I hear some internally mutter, “the moth did the business.” No, it did not; cock’s hackles of all shades may invariably be backed against the field, and the cock’s hackle on this occasion kept up its reputation. Down on my knees in the bow of the canoe, the camp-keeper holding her back by a pole in the stern, slowly and cautiously I fished the throat, from thence down into the less angry but widerspread current, when just as my flies passed over an eddy that divided the downward flow from the backwater, there was a splash rapidly responded to by a nervous quick movement of the wrist, which planted the hook firmly home. I doubt if I exaggerate, in fact I think I scarcely state enough, when I say that thirty minutes elapsed before my trophy could sufficiently endure the sight of a landing-net to have it placed under him. Thus was taken the largest river trout (salmo fontinalis) I ever caught.

But to my rod; it was made out of cedar from butt to tip, did not exceed nine ounces, and was the most lively, quick, light casting treasure I ever used. Cedar fly-rods I have heard objected to, because they are brittle; doubtless you may find them so, and your casting-line also, if you change its use into that of a whip-lash. However much I admire a cedar rod I do not think it suited for a tyro, but when the beginner has gained experience, and is able to offer an opinion and use a fly rod as it should be, I doubt not he will perfectly agree with me. A cedar rod can seldom be purchased ready made, as tradesmen dislike the job; so if any reader should wish to possess one, he had better go to the very best workman he knows of, and give him an order. Even then I doubt if he will get it.

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