Charles W. (Charles Woodbury) Stevens.

Fly-fishing in Maine lakes; or, Camp-life in the wilderness online

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Fling out their branches to the sky,


Now sighing with the morning breeze,

Now echoing to the cuckoo's cry.
The air is filled with sweet perfumes

Of fragrant mosses, and of vines,
Mingled with odors grand and full,

From hemlock, balsam, and the pines.

Charming retreat from haunts of men,

And city's busy, bustling strife,
I long to tread thy shores again,

There to renew my " lease of life."
The bracing ride on stage-coach top,

The murmuring stream, the village bell,
The shadow on that range of hills

Whereon my eye delights to dwell ;
The throwing off of every care,

The easy lounge, and grateful rest,
Stanch buckboard, way-side spring,

Each in their turn give zest.

I long to joint my tapering rod,

And cast the bright and tempting fly ;
To see them float upon the stream,

Or hover 'twixt the lake and sky;
To watch the rise, to swiftly strike,

To feel the breath come hard and thick,
To press my fingers on the reel,

And hear the music of its click.


" Come, see ! the west is tinged with red,

The cove is gently rippled o'er ;
There's waiting sport for us to-night,

We'll net, my boy, at least a score."

" Just one more cast, I yet can see

That miller's white and dainty wing;
Hold ! there he comes, strike quick and hard;

Oh ! don't he make that leader sing !
He's doubling on you, look out, sir !

He knows the game, just see him cut !
I'll risk my rod to save that trout:

Stand by now Frank, he's got the butt."

Jt bends almost a circle now,

There's music not another inch ;
Good-by, old rod, you're stanch and true,

But yet ha, ha! Sir Trout, you flinch.
"He's winded, sir" "The net, please, Frank."

(Head first, my beauty, if you please.)
He'll turn the scale at four, sir, sure ;

Well, that's not bad for joints like these.
Up anchor, boys ! the shadows fall,

The mist is slowly settling down ;
Said one, as trudging to our camp :

" God made the country, man the town."


ET it be first stated, that, in writing
the foregoing pages, I avoided techni-
calities as much as possible, conced-
ing that my readers would be one of
two classes, those who understand
and enjoy fly-fishing, and those who
do not, and might not care to learn, but would
read my sketches for the amusement of an idle
hour. The question has, however, several times
been asked me by those, it seems, who would learn
the "gentle art:" "Why didn't you tell us what
kind of flies to use, and how to use them? "

In response to these queries, it will give me
pleasure to add a short chapter to this new edition,
which may be of some benefit to novices in their
selection of rods, flies, snells, &c. ; but I sadly
fear I shall fail to impart much information that
will be of great service in the art of fly-fishing, for



an art it certainly is, my gentle reader. I have yet
to see the scholar who could acquire proficiency in
painting or sculpture from books alone, or the offi-
cer who could manoeuvre his brigade or regiment,
even though he could repeat Upton's Manual from
cover to cover. Practice you must have, with your-
self at one end of the rod and a trout at the other.
But I can give you some idea of what imple-
ments to select for your outfit. First, the rod. A
split bamboo eleven and a half feet in length, of
three joints, nickel or German-silver mountings,
and weighing ten ounces, is my favorite ; though
I use lighter rods when the trout are not supposed
to run much over a pound in weight. Such a
rod, and to all appearance they have stood the
test for three years, can be had of Messrs. Brad-
ford and Anthony of Boston, for fifteen dollars,
with extra tip and tip-case. They are made by
C. R. Wheeler of Farmington, Me., and they are
a work of art. H. L. Leonard of Bangor, Me.,
makes also a beautiful bamboo rod, but I think at a
higher cost. You should always carry a second
rod, and a greenheart of nine or ten ounces is a
reliable one. It is a good plan to change your
rods in fishing, resting them as it were. Do not
stand them on end when not in use, but lay them
upon wooden pins prepared for the purpose : they


should be kept well varnished ; use copal varnish.
Don't, pray don't, call your rod a " pole." For a
line I prefer a tapering braided silk : forty yards is
sufficient. The reel should be German-silver, nickel,
or rubber ; either is good if well made : don't pur-
chase a cheap one, and avoid what is called a
" multipler," they are a nuisance. Your leader, or
casting-line, should be six feet in length, made of
good strong snell, and capable of sustaining a dead
weight of five pounds.

For trout-fishing three flies are ordinarily used :
though generally I prefer two ; they cast much bet-
ter, and work better on the water. When three
are used, the hand-fly (that next the hand) should
be thirty inches from the middle fly, and the mid-
dle thirty-two inches from the tail fly. When only
two, the second should be thirty-four inches from
the tail fly. As regards the size of hook, that
depends upon the size of the trout. Tell the party
of whom you purchase where you propose to go,
and he will select the proper size. A landing-net
is indispensable.

The flies which are illustrated upon the frontis-
piece are those commonly used in Maine waters, to
which may be added the scarlet ibis and brown
hackle, and are quite sufficient for ordinary sport,
and all practical purposes. Three dozen is enough,



though your artist will have as many different varie-
ties as that in his fly-book. It is not a good plan to
have many to carry over : the sneil is apt to weaken
with age, as I have before said in these pages.

Now you have your implements, step out on that
rock, and begin your casts, first looking behind you
to see that your flies don't go " up a tree." Do not
attempt to get out too long a line : twenty or thirty
feet will be all you will be able to handle at the
start, increasing as you become more expert in the
art. An experienced fly-fisherman will cast seventy
to eighty feet under favorable circumstances. Now
draw your flies gently over the surface of the water,
and at the proper time, as the flies near you, raise
your rod, throwing your line back of you, giving it
plenty of time to straighten. I accustomed myself,
in learning, to count one, two, three, four, moder-
ately, and found the practice quite a help ; remem-
ber all novices fail in not taking sufficient time for
the back cast. The act of casting should be made
from the elbow, and not from the shoulder ; and it
is well to learn to cast with the rod in either hand.

When the fish rises to take the hook, give your
wrist a sharp inward turn, quick, but not too hard :
this is called " striking." If you miss, and the
trout has riot been pricked, he is likely to come
again. Now is the time for coolness : if you fail


to show it, you will probably have a tangled line.
When you have hooked your fish, which you shall
do if you have "ye patience and ye haunts of
ye trout," let your coolness continue. Give him
time and line ; check him gently ; when he is
stubborn give him the butt, which is done by push-
ing the butt end of the rod out toward the fish.
Five minutes is about the time required to land a
pound trout, though you may frequently be ten. It
does not always depend upon the weight of the fish ;
though, naturally, the larger the fish the longer time
required to bring him to net. If you are fortunate
enough to strike a pair, which is often done, the
lower fish should be first netted. If you should
have three, let your guide remove the upper one
with his hands, after tiring him : the trout should be
netted head first.

Let your guide advise as to changes of flies,
which need not be often, for if the trout are in a
rising mood they will take most any of the before-
mentioned flies. It is well to have a different cast
prepared, which you may wind about your hat, to
be in readiness for use. Always soak your casting-
lines before using.

Finally, remember this : that the sport is in the
pitting of your best endeavors against this wary fish ;
and, could you take them as rapidly as you would
naturally desire, the sport would soon grow tame.






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Online LibraryCharles W. (Charles Woodbury) StevensFly-fishing in Maine lakes; or, Camp-life in the wilderness → online text (page 10 of 11)