Charles W. (Charles Woodbury) Stevens.

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

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more in your mind's eye among the glories of
those cloud-capped mountains.

But, as I have said, this fishing story is at an end ;
not for want of material, for there are other scenes
and other times of equal pleasure that crowd my
memory as I write these lines. And so will it ever
be to you, my friend, should you, even in your
later years, take up the angler's art : it grows with
its growth, and strengthens with its strength, and,
if uncurbed, may perchance, with many of us, be-
come a passion.

But, for all that, it will fill the storehouse of our
memories with many a scene of unalloyed pleasure,
which in the sunset of life we may look back upon
with fondest satisfaction.

If in the minds of any one of you who as yet
are ignorant of the charm of fishing, as it has here
been revealed, I have induced the desire for a test,
"stand not -ipon the order of your going, but
go at once," provided it be the season, and, the
word of an old fisherman for it, you will thank
me for these random pages.

If you do not, the pleasure it has been to talk over
past experiences as I write, with the one to whom
these pages are dedicated, has been sufficient, with-



out the additional satisfaction of fresh converts to
the gentle art.

" Charlie, I hear the whistle : for a few days, fare-
well ; and remember, for it's worth your while,

Should cutters cut up like the deuce,

And customers gang fail,
You've interviewed the gamesome trout,

And thereby ' hangs a tale.' "

" Good-by, Mrs. S , and old Stevens, and be

sure you don't, tumble down the mountain."
And so we parted.



[ROM my boyhood days I have been
taught almost to reverence them ;
not taught, but naturally, from early
association, I looked up to them,
literally so ; for from the windows
of my home I could, on a clear
spring day, see the snow-clad peak
of Mount Washington glistening under the warm

And, to be more practical, the first real feast of
apples I ever enjoyed was from a barrel, all my
own, sent to me by a good woman of North Con-
way, who said it was a pity "the boy couldn't,
for once, have all the apples he wanted." Could
I ever forget her, dear Susan Hanson, aftenvard the
wife of the late celebrated portrait-painter of our
city, Albert Hoyt?



Her mountain home was under the shadow of
those lordly hills. Then the pictured story of the
Willey family, as seen in our early geographies,
telling in such vivid language the story of their
sudden destruction : these, and oft-repeated stories
of our New England hills, the sight of the well-
filled and top-crowded stage-coach, driven by that
pioneer of mountain travel, Joseph Smith, the
veteran whom all old Portlanders will well remem-
ber, united to fix indelibly in my young mind the
wish that I might soon be old enough to be indulged
with a nearer view of what, to my youthful imagina-
tion, seemed a world beyond my ken.

And so I grew up to love and revere these
" Hills ; " and from my first ascent of Mount Wash-
ington, by bridle-path from Crawford's, to later
ones by rail, from the same starting-point, and by
carriage-road from the Glen, till now, when with
past memories fresh in my mind I look forward
with fond anticipation of renewed enjoyment, I
feel, as it were, that these hills were a part of the
better part of myself.

And for far more than what I have written, for
the remembrance of those excursions includes the
memory of a brother, a wife, and a mother, who
shared the excitement of the ascent, and the
rich return in the sublimity of the scenes spread


out at ope's feet, whether in sunshine or in storm,
when from the heavy clouds below came the crash-
ing of the artillery of heaven, and the mutterings of
the tempest, or when the glad sunlight lit up the
distant hills, and made the countless lakes and
streams beneath to sparkle and glow like sheets of

But it is forward, and not backward, we must
now look ; and our landlord informs us that the
train is about due which is to take us to Gorham.
It soon appears ; and we are seated, not in com-
pany with the multitude, but, through the courtesy
of the engineer, we are allowed the " first seat in
the synagogue," and place ourselves by his side in
the cab of the locomotive.

" With pleasure, if you will take your own risk,"
was that gentleman's reply to my request for the
privilege of a seat beside him. I do not think,
aside from the novelty of the situation, the change
from the accustomed seat was a favorable one.
There was a little satisfaction in being ahead, but
not so much in being jolted from side to side in a
manner strongly suggestive of getting a little too
far on one side, and not getting back in season.

From Bryant's Pond to Gorham, where we take
stage for the Glen House, the distance is about
twenty-five miles ; and at four in the afternoon we


reach that well-known locality. Here at that time,
but which has since been burned, was a fine hotel,
the Alpine House, where the traveller from a
distance would often stay for a day or two, to re-
cover from the fatigues of his journey, and enjoy
the fine view of the mountains to be had at this
point. But the stage-coach, and a nearer view of
the hills, had more charms for us ; and so, amid the
rush of happy tourists, we climb to our lofty outside

The fall before our visit, Mr. J. M. Thompson,
who for many years had been the proprietor of the
"Glen," was drowned during one of the greatest
freshets that had occurred for many years, and
which completely changed the course of many of
the mountain streams.

His sons were this year keeping the hotel, in
company with Mr. Stephen Cummings of Portland.
The care of the horses and carriages devolved
upon Mr. Whitney Thompson, and the office
duties upon another son, Charles, all old school
acquaintances. That the stable duties required a
person of energy and experience, may be under-
stood when I mention that something like three
hundred horses were usually required to supply
the demand : they were employed on the stages
between the Glen and Gorham, in ascending the


mountain, both by carriage and under the saddle,
and for the private use of the guests. A finer lot
of animals is seldom seen ; and, if I have digressed
a little, it is because my thoughts are taking me
back so vividly to that afternoon stage-ride. Six
coal-black horses, as smooth and sleek as can be
found in any city stable or making the tour of
Chestnut Hill, composed our team.

A dozen outside passengers, and a happy party
we were. Being a steady ascent for ten miles, our
ride was not a rapid one : still the changes of the
scenery, the bracing air, and the constant expecta-
tion of something new to wonder at, made the time
pass rapidly and pleasantly ; and so we rattled on,
until, all too soon, the journey was at an end, and
our proud steeds stood impatiently pawing the
ground, as we descended in front of the broad
piazza of the " Glen."

As I look vacantly about me, collecting my
thoughts for the next passage, my eyes rest upon
the centre-table in our library, where I am writ-
ing: there are seven books in the rack, display-
ing the different literary tastes of the family ; but,
as I remember my feelings at that time, the book
to which I should turn to describe my emotions
is not among them, no, nor is it in my library ;
yet such an one there is somewhere about the


house ; my impression is, that it will be found in
the kitchen-table drawer, sandwiched between sun-
dry napkins, newspapers, flatiron -holders, and per-
haps a few stray love-letters to Bridget. Oh ! you
can guess now, can you? you are right, it's the
cook-book. And though I am fully aware, dear
reader, that you would have gone without your
supper to have gazed upon those grand and lofty
peaks as they faded in the decline of day, yet the
truth shall be spoken if we forfeit your regard : we
left them, and sought the dining-room. We were
hungry : we knew the mountains would keep, but
the supper well, there were doubts about that.

We did not have Harvard or Yale students to
wait at table in those days, but we needed no
college lore to teach us our method of procedure :
in the language of Uncle John Merrill of Andover,
we " took hold," and did full justice to our hosts
and our appetites.

And after supper, how pleasant it was, having
lighted my cigar, and taken my chair to a lone cor-
ner of the piazza., and with only one beside me, but
that one's every pulse beating in unison with mine,
to gaze up, far upward upon the shadowy peak of
Washington, to see the sunlight fade away, the twi-
light come, and one by one, the stars appear ! One
does not feel like talking much under such influ


ences. I am inclined to think that I just sat and
smoked, and listened to the stillness about me;
and that my companion of these glories was alike
silent and thoughtful.

If I could only write how self-satisfied I feel at
such times, at peace with all the world, and for-
getful of all its rough, hard edges ! but it is no use
attempting it : you have appreciated the feeling, of
course you have ; if not, you would have laid aside
this book long before you came to this ; for, if you
are not such a lover of nature, you can never have
journeyed with us thus far.

Then the darkness came, a darkness that you
could almost feel, very different from that of the
half-lighted city or the unlighted village ; a dreamy
darkness, not so unlike but what we knew that it
meant, to tired mortals, bed-time. We took the
hint, and retired, hoping the clouds would dispel,
the morrow be fair, and our ascent of the mountain
a favorable one ; and it was.

All mountain parties are merry ones ; and it does
not take long for the front seat to get acquainted
with the rear, or all to become on free-and-easy
terms with the driver. True, the romance is some-
what taken away, as we go up by carriage-road
instead of the old bridle-path ; but there's lots of
fun left, nevertheless. The chances are, you will


have among your number a talkative man, a fright-
ened woman, and several gushing misses : we did,
had them all, and managed to extract fun from

It is perfectly astonishing how familiar one gets
to be on a short acquaintance, and the largest lib-
erties are allowed on these occasions. It is not
rapid locomotion, this ascent of mountains, even
if in this day of improvements you do, if you are so
inclined, travel by rail ; and we had ample oppor-
tunity to' study character on our way up. I do not
propose to attempt a description of the beauties
of the scenery that greeted our sight as different
turns in our upward march constantly brought new
scenes before us.

" Isn't it just charming? " " Don't you think we
are going too near the edge, driver? " " Oh ! how
lovely ! " such were the exclamations, varied some-
what, from time to time, by a comparison from the
talkative man who had travelled abroad, and who
apparently knew more about foreign countries than
he did about his own.

And now the call for shawls and overcoats tells
us that we are reaching the end of our upward
journey; and the black and scurrying clouds,
which are close above our heads, bid fair to give
us a little wetting before we reach the summit.


But no, only a few flakes of snow, just enough to
remind us of winter, and the clouds pass on, and it
is sunshine again, and we are at the top of the

Such a chattering of teeth, and such a rush for
the stove, by the ladies ! such drawing of pistols
(pocket ones) by the gentlemen ! " It's so ab-
sur-ur-ur-d," said one young miss, "to be shiver-
ing in July : I suppose down below they're fan-an-
anning themselves."

But it did not take long to warm up ; and, hun-
ger succeeding to cold, dinner was the next thing
in order. Whoever, among my readers, has dined
at the "Tip-Top," will agree with me, that, al-
though in one sense the meals are of a high order,
and the price demanded in the same category, yet
there is a wonderful chance for improvement in the

Perhaps the worthy proprietor may have thought,
that, the mind being well fed, the body could get
along for one day on cold victuals and bad coffee ;
but that is poor logic, particularly when you are
charged for a good dinner. I am told that it is
better now, and hope I am told the truth.

" Hold on to the iron rods, or you will be blown
away, my dear ! Yonder pile of rocks is Lizzie
Bourne's monument : you shall go to it, and add
your stone, when the wind lulls."


Our view is better than the average ; and after
gazing with rapture and awe upon the many peaks
beneath us, and the winding streams which are
flowing onward to the distant ocean, upon the
boundless forests stretching far away into the dis-
tance, the little villages scattered here and there,
with their white cottages, and church-spires pointing
heavenward, we prepare for our descent.

Words fail to convey the satisfaction felt by every
one ; and even the ladies are silent amid so much
grandeur and glory. But they soon find their
tongues as our sure-footed horses break into a trot,
and our carriage rattles over the well-built road.
The brakes are strong, and the driver knows his
business ; and, unheeding the " Oh, dears ! " we
rapidly journey downward ; and, in less than half
the time that the ascent required, we are at the
door of the " Glen," where an excited crowd are
waiting to receive us. Then our experiences are
told to those who go up to-morrow, and every one
is happy. A short time after our arrival, the rain,
which had threatened us going up, began to fall ;
and the fair ones sought the shelter of the house,
or needed rest in their rooms.

As there were several hours of daylight yet, and
my rubber coat being handy, I could not resist the
inclination to try a few casts in the stream which


flows by the house ; so, jointing my lightest rod, and
selecting my smallest flies, I was soon in readiness
for business.

" Follow the stream down to the mill-pond, and
fish that," said Charlie Thompson, as I started out :
" you will find larger trout, and you may meet Mr.
Arthur and his friend ; they went out a little while
ago." So, without stopping to inquire who Mr.
Arthur might be, I directed my steps to the stream,
and "followed it to the mill-pond" some half a
mile below, now and then stopping for a cast, and
being rewarded by the capture of several youngsters
of about a finger's length, but losing more than I
was taking, owing to my flies being too large.

Reaching the pond, I had rather better luck, and
took out several of nearly a quarter of a pound ; but
this was tame fishing after the glorious rises and
magnificent play of the older members of the fami-
ly with which I had been regaled. As the rain
increased, I reeled up, and started for home by the
road. Half way to the house I met two young
gentlemen in Scotch suits, their rods over their
shoulders, apparently oblivious of the rain which
was then coming down in torrents. Naturally sup-
posing this might be " Mr. Arthur and friend," I
saluted them, and put the usual question, " Well,
boys, what luck?"


"We have just started out," was the answer.
" What have you done ? "

By way of reply, I put my hand into my coat-
pocket, and brought out a handful of small fry ; re-
marking that I might have had many more, but that
I had been fishing for larger game, and found my
flies were too large to do good service.

This brought a very kind offer on their part to
furnish me with a supply of a suitable size : telling
them I should probably have no further use for
them, thanking them kindly for their offer, and
pointing out the direction to the mill-pond, I wished
them good luck, and started for the house, which
was then in sight. As I entered, I met Charlie T.,
who said,

"Well, I see you met the Prince."

"Met who?"

" Why, Prince Arthur : that was he and his friend
Col. Elphinstone, that you were talking with just
now ; that's who I meant by Mr. Arthur and friend.
Didn't you know they were here?"

" No, I did not."

And so I had been keeping a scion of royalty
standing in the rain to hear me expatiate on two-
pound trout ! Well, for once the plebeian had the
advantage, for my skin was dry, and his must have
been a trifle wet; but I imagine it did him little



harm, for does he not come from a reigning family ?
We had our little brooklets cooked for supper ; and,
after a pleasant chat over the incidents of the day,
retired at an early hour to dream perchance of the
glories of these everlasting hills.



RS. THOMPSON says we must
stay over one day more, and she
will take us to Glen Ellis and the
Crystal Cascade. She says we
shall have the finest turnout in the
stables : now won't you stay to-morrow, dear ? You
know this is my first visit ; and, besides, I haven't
seen the Prince, either, and"

"Oh, good-night! do go to sleep, I'm so
sleepy ! "

" Well, that's a good boy ; won't you ? "
" Oh, yes ! a week, a month any time, any
thing, so you let me go to sleep. Good-night ! "

And so in the morning, the first thing I heard
was, " You are real kind to stay another day."
"Who's going to stay another day?"


" We are : you know you said so last night."

Then it flashed upon me, a faint recollection
that I had said something of the kind ; and, before
I could fully recall the conversation, it was all set-
tled on the part of my better half, and the plans
for the day fully arranged, all I had to do was to
submit gracefully. I had long since learned to re-
treat in good order, and I flatter myself that I can
move off the field with as much dignity as though
I had won the battle.

Meeting Prince Arthur in the reading-room after
breakfast, we renewed our fishing chat ; and he
again offered his flies so politely that I accepted a
few, one of which I keep in my fly-book as a
reminder of our pleasant meeting, and as a souve-
nir of his visit.

It was the unanimous decision of both gentle-
men and ladies, that he couldn't have been any
more of a gentleman if he hadn't been a prince ;
for a more modest, well-informed, and agreeable
young man (he was then about twenty), one seldom

During the forenoon we fished the stream in the
vicinity of the house, and caught some twenty or
thirty little shavers ; but none of any great size, the
river being so constantly whipped by the guests of
the house, that the trout have but poor show for
attaining any growth.


After dinner our four coal-black horses were
driven to the door, and as the guests of Mrs.
Thompson we started for Glen Ellis and the Cas-
cade. A beautiful drive, and then a charming
walk through the woods, brought us to the former.
Long and lovingly did we watch the dashing waters,
as they leaped from rock to rock in their rapid de
scent. The Glen Ellis is not an abrupt fall, bui
rather a succession of rapids, whose foaming waters
seemingly gather strength as they press onward for
their final plunge into a pool of crystal clearness.

We viewed them from their commencement ; then
we descended by staircases to the rocky bank, where
I left the ladies, and, climbing over the huge masses
of rock, followed the cataract in its descent till the
rushing torrent had again become a peaceful river,
and was murmuring onward, onward, to the sea, so
far away.

Then I bathed my forehead in its cooling stream,
and drank of its liquid clearness ; and as I looked
back to where in its mad career it seemed to be
impatient to reach its goal, and was beating itself
against . its mighty barriers, I thought : Yes, it is
just so with humanity ; we rush forward in the
struggle for supremacy, we beat against impassable
barriers, now catching our breath for a fresh start,
now borne onwaid by the passing wave of popular


applause, again, like yonder silent eddy, turning in
at the wayside to get a little rest before we leap into
the unknown beyond.

" Mister, your coat-tails are getting wet ! " This
salutation from a barefooted urchin below me who
with a sapling as youthful as himself was flinging
his line across the stream aroused me from my
meditations, and caused me to take a more literal
look at things present. Wringing the moisture
from my garment, I retraced my steps to the less
hazardous position where I had left our party, and
who were patiently awaiting my return.

Retracing our steps, we were soon again seated
in our mountain wagon, and bowling along at a
rapid pace for the Crystal Cascade. Here a much
longer walk, but for which we were well repaid,
awaited us; and following the well-trodden path,
with an occasional rest on a wayside seat, we were
soon within sound and sight of this beautiful fall.

What a contrast ! here no rude, rushing, rioting
waters plunge seemingly on to their own destruc-
tion ; but gently as the April shower falls upon the
thirsting earth the sparkling waters pause upon the
precipice's brink, break into a thousand crystals,
and, as if fearing to disturb the calmer depths
below, toy with each other in their slow descent,
reflecting rainbow glories as they pursue the pris-
matic gems that have preceded them.


" Oh ! how restful, how soothing ! " came from
the lips of the one I had been closely watching, as
she turned from the silvery sheen, and looked intc
my eyes. " Could any thing be more beautiful?"
The dancing, happy streamlet waited not my an-
swer, but sang its song of welcome, and dashed its
foamy fleckness at our tired feet, bringing sweet
repose and an upward thought to Him who at crea-
tion's birth formed these glories, and gave us the
sensibilities to appreciate and reverence them as
the work of his hands. And so we gazed in silence,

" Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her,"

until the shadows of evening fell upon our pathway,
and reminded us that we were far from home.
Gathering a few mosses from the river's bank, we
bid good-by to the laughing waters ; and, with
hearts brimful of thankfulness for the enjoyment
which we had received, we sauntered back to the
roadside where our impatient horses were pawing
the ground, eager for our coming.

Our homeward drive was joyous and happy ; and
to the question, as we alighted upon the piazza, of
" Now, sir, aren't you glad you staid another day? "
I could only reply, as I looked into those gleaming
eyes, "Yes, very."


It is wonderful how naturally one takes to their
food, and what a relish it has, on these vacation
trips. I remember how many times I have come
back to the table, after finishing my hasty meal, to
find Charlie passing the madam another bit of cold
chicken, and the madam reciprocating with a deli-
cate slice of cold beef; then I would indulge in
another smoke, and come again to find them gossip-
ing over the third cup of tea : stanch tea-drinkers
they, would have concealed a little in their stock-
ings, had they lived in the rebellious times of our
forefathers. But, Charlie having left us, I was
obliged on this occasion to remain, and do the
honors at the supper-table long after my own
slight ( ?) appetite was appeased. " How can
you?" said I, as one choice morsel after another

" How can you, after witnessing such beautiful
creations of nature, descend to the common vulgar
habit of eating?"

" How can I ? Should not the mind and the
body maintain a just equipoise? (Another trout,
please.) If the soul is filled to overflowing with
the grandest scenes of nature, should not (the dry
toast, thank you,) the body be strengthened to
sustain the weight of so much mental excite-
ment? What time do we breakfast?"


My answer was anticipated by our watchful
waiter; and I fancied I noticed the faintest sus-
picion of a smile lurking about the corners of his
ruby lips, as he removed our chairs. I would not
say positively ; but I think, as we left the supper-
room, I saw that smile expand into a grin, as with
one hand in his pocket, and the fingers of the

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Online LibraryCharles W. (Charles Woodbury) StevensFly-fishing in Maine lakes; or, Camp-life in the wilderness → online text (page 5 of 11)