Charles W. (Charles Woodbury) Stevens.

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

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other wandering abstractedly through his curly
wool, he surveyed the vast array of empty dishes
spread before him.

Had his thought found utterance, we should
probably have heard a remark something like this :
" It's nuthin' to me, but it does beat de debble ;
dar's suthin' 'bout dese ar raountins, dat gibs um
all a big appetite, dat's shore."

To the piazza again, to our favorite corner ; and
as the blue vapors from my fragrant bowl float
upward in miniature resemblance to those which
are settling down upon yonder vales, as twilight
fades and night comes on apace, we fall into rev-
ery : silence becomes the rule, speech the excep-

But I do remember one slight diversion. We
were both gazing intently at a few fleecy flecks of
clouds that were chasing each other in seeming
playfulness across the pathway of the moon, then
at its silvery roundness; when, turning her face


from that of Cynthia to mine, the madam pro-
pounded the following question :

" Why are we like the moon ? "

Instantly my mind went travelling into the past,
seeking to recall a passage from some favorite poet
that should answer the question. But in vain : I
could find plenty of quotations ; but all were too
sickly sentimental, too " moony," for our time of
life, and at last I gave up in despair.

Turning towards me with a most self-satisfying
look, though breathing a contradictory sigh,

"We are like the moon, my dear," said she,
"because we are full."

. Whenever in simple truthfulness I have related
this little occurrence to a circle of listening friends,
it has always, by the madam, been emphatically
denied; and the last time, to prove the whole
story an invention of my brain, she triumphantly
produced an almanac of that year, and showed to
the listeners that on the evening in question there
was no moon, at least within range of our vision.

To say that I was dumbfounded, would convey
but a slight idea of my feelings. With the remem-
brance of Luna's silvery brightness as she shone
upon us that summer evening, and the sparkle of the
madam's eyes, as the practical answer to her own
query came from her lips, and to gaze into them as


she pointed with stubborn finger to the fatal page,
could I but blush, and stand amazed ?

Was it really a delightful fiction of my own, told
so often that I had come to believe it? I have
heard of such cases. In the language of the press,
" that powerful engine," et cetera, et cetera, the
tide of popular feeling was turning toward her, and
so rapidly that in the face of the proof I was power-
less ; when, in turning the pages of the yearly chron-
icler, I made a discovery. The artless ( ?) one had
privately pasted the covers of an almanac of that
year upon the fresher pages of the present one ;
thus seeking, by one bold stroke of generalship, to
banish once and forever all further aMusion to the

One cannot sit on the piazza all night, any more
than one can eat all day. The last pipe must be
smoked, and the last look taken ; and so, as I
knocked the ashes from my bowl, we took one
good-night look at the grand old hills, and sought
the rest that was needed after the sight-seeing of
the day.

" Tired nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep,"
" Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care,"

unknits rheumatic stitches, and the tangled meshes
of an active brain ; that many a conscience-stricken


soul would fain enjoy, but cannot ; that the beggar
finds with the closing of his eyes, while all the
courting of a kingly crown

" Can't woo her to his bed."

Sleep, that near sister to the silent grave, soon
spread her mantle over us, and brought sweet
dreams. I am not so sure about the dreams I
had forgotten the supper ; but, at all events, we
slept, I am sure of that, or we shouldn't have woke
in the morning, which we assuredly did, woke to
the realizing sense that we were to take an early
start, and that, if we wished to take any thing else,
we must be up and about it. As it was, we were a
little late, and the tangles came out of that back
hair in a hurry : the idea of losing our breakfast
"oh! monstrous thought " made nimble fingers
active fly.

Good-by to you, ye cloud-capped peaks ; good-
by to you, ye lesser hills, your tops new glistening
in the morning sun; good-by, foaming cataract
and purling streams ; good-by, sweet fields, that,

" Beyond the swelling flood,
Stand decked in living green."

Farewell ! but we shall meet again. Summer's
green shall change to autumn tints; winter shall


wrap with whitest covering, and chain with icy fet-
ters ; but a budding spring and another summer
shall unveil your beauties, unloose your bonds, and
bring the wanderers back once more to behold
your glories.

"Driver, we're ready : drive on."



O I suppose," said the madam, one
bright January day, as I entered the
library, with my favorite bamboo rod
in my hand ; " that Mr. McAtee's
coming to see you has, aroused your
enthusiasm, has it?"

" Well, partly that, and partly Edward Seymour's
paper on ' Trout-Fishing in the Rangeley Lakes,' in
the February 'Scribner.' The fact is, last year's
strain on this old friend was a little too much for
its strength ; and it has got to visit the maker, and
be overhauled."

As I drew from the case its several joints, and
gazed upon them with the air of satisfaction and
pleasure which a sportsman feels when handling
some tried and trusty companion of his joys, was
it at all a wonder that the good times associated



with this silent though lifelike friend should come
thronging through my memory, and awake once
more the slumbering past?

Faithful friend ! what wonder that these slender
joints should weaken with your last season's work,
fifty land-locked salmon, with their twenty times
fifty runs and leaps, captured with thy aid, in a
single day ! Is it not asking and expecting quite
too much from eight and a half ounces of split
bamboo ?

"And did it accomplish such a feat?" I hear you

It did ; and the memory of that day's sport, with
many others akin to it, has tempted me once more
to take up the pen, and, by the warm fireside, look
through the frosts and snows of January back to
the sunshine and showers of June.

The locality of which I am about to write is no
new sportsman's elysium. The shores of " Grand
Lake Stream " had been trod, and its surface
paddled over, by the ardent fisher and his Indian
guide, long before the writer stumbled over his
A B C's ; and, if ever a shadow of discontent
flitted before me as I have cast my flies upon its
rushing waters, it was that I could not have visited
its sylvan shores before the hand of civilization had
shorn its surroundings of many of its beauties.


There is and in our day and generation there
will be at least good fishing and hunting far
away from the haunts of men ; but little can be
found, even at this day, near enough to the man of
business, combining every thing in its surroundings
and its sport to make glad the heart of the true

I think, had I not been lured from the salmon
trout of the Rangeleys, by stories of the leaps of
the land-locked salmon of Grand Lake Stream, the
steamboat's purring now heard breaking the stillness
of those charming waters would have finished me.
And yet I have been to Grand Lake for the past
four years, and actually have swallowed two steam-
boats and on horror's head horrors accumulate
one tannery every year.

I reason like this : had the steamboats followed
me, as much as the fishing delights and charms, I
should probably have " folded my tent," as many a
disheartened sportsman has done before me, " and
quietly stole away ; " but, expecting them and their
accompaniments, I tolerate them, as many others
are willing and obliged to, for fishing that cannot-^
I say it with due deliberation be excelled in the
United States.

I do not believe there is a true sportsman but
that enjoys the companionship of nature nearly, if


not quite, as much as'the fishing itself. One with-
out the other would not be sufficient ; and for
myself, though I love fly-fishing next to my wife
and children, I am free to say that I would better
enjoy a vacation, with them about me, among the
hills of New Hampshire, leaving the rod behind,
than taking the most gamesome fish within a dozen
miles of the Hub.

You that have had the sweet experience of the
angler's haunts need not be told how much the
solitary dip of the paddle, the unbroken lines of
forest-trees, their clear-cut shadows in the placid
lake, and the cry of the startled loon, add zest to
your enjoyment. And now, if you will excuse me
for so much apparent digression, induced, I fear,
somewhat to apologize for my acquaintance with
the before-mentioned steamboats, I will tell those
of you who do not know, as well as those who do,
the whereabouts of these famous fishing-grounds,
and how you may go there and enjoy only a bowing
acquaintance with Robert Fulton's addition to our

The St. Croix River forms a part of the boundary-
line between the State of Maine and the Province
of New Brunswick. It has two branches, each
rising in a chain of lakes called The Schoodics,
though now more familiarly known as the Eastern


and Western Grand Lakes, the largest lake in
each chain being called Grand Lake. Johnson,
however, on his map, gives the name of the larger
Eastern lake as The Schoodic, or Grand Lake. In
the waters of all these lakes, and the beautiful
streams connecting them, are found, in goodly
numbers, that mettlesome and much-discussed fish,
the land-locked salmon.

The eastern chain are reached by the North-
American and European Railroad, from Bangor,
which crosses the river at a small station called
St. Croix, where, I understand, outfits and guides
can be procured.

It is, however, with the western chain that I
propose to acquaint you by the aid of my map,
designed and executed by that experienced guide,
scholar, though his studies have been from
Nature, not books, and sportsman, Tomah
Joseph, added to my own information, picked up
in five seasons of sporting on its waters.

The most northerly of the chain is Duck Lake,
about twenty miles from Winn, Me., a station on
the railroad before mentioned. Near the shore of
this lake resides Mr. Albert Gowell, a sturdy
farmer, and the fisherman's friend, who by ap-
pointment will meet you at Winn, and take you
to the lake ; or Mr. Gates, the proprietor of the


village hotel, an obliging and agreeable gentle-
man, will perform for you the same service.

Just overlooking this charming sheet of water, a
camp has been recently built, owned, and occupied,
in the season, by the Messrs. Barber, Davis, and
others, of Boston and vicinity, where a sportsman's
welcome is always given when the occupants are
"at home."

Duck Lake about a mile and a half in length

connects with Junior Lake, six miles in length,
by Duck Lake Stream ; at the left of Junior lie
Scragby and Pleasant Lakes, both beautiful sheets
of water. On the right of Junior, and approached
through Junior Stream and Compass Thoroughfare,
lie Compass Lake and the two Sisladobsis, known
more familiarly as the Dobseys, where the well-
known " Dobsey Camp " is situated.

Passing through Junior Stream, about two and a
half miles in length, we enter Grand Lake, a beauti-
ful sheet of water, twelve miles long ; again, Grand
Lake Stream, three miles in length, connects with
Big Lake, Long Lake, and Louis Lake, where rises
the West Branch of the St. Croix, and where is situ-
ated the village of Princeton, Me.

Here one can take the railroad twenty miles

to Calais, steamer to Eastport, and the Inter-
national Line of Steamers to Boston, making, in



good weather, a very pleasant way of returning ;
or, at Calais, you may take the all-rail route through
Bangor to Boston, time, twenty-four hours.

Now, you have been there and back, in your
imagination ; if you are willing to follow me still
farther, or rather over the same ground, or water,
as you may prefer, at a somewhat slower pace, I
will tell you how I once went, with whom, and, by
" an honest count," the net result of our trip.



jOUGHLY blew the wind, the rain
poured in torrents, "the waves
rolled mountains high," and the
madam lay in her state-room, oh !
so sick.

" Shall I bring you a cup of tea ? "
" Oh, no, no ! "
" Or a lemon, or "

" No, nothing, nothing. Oh ! who would have
thought yesterday that we should be tossed about
in this way?"

And indeed who would ? It was the eighteenth
of June, eighteen hundred and seventy-five, the day
after the grand Bunker-hill centennial celebration ;
and we had driven to the International steamer,
through streets hung with banners wet and droop-
ing that but yesterday waved in the bright sunlight


as thousands of the flower of the volunteer militia
of the United States passed under them.

I had been in the saddle ten hours on that event-
ful day, spent the evening in packing camp luggage
for our annual fishing-trip to Grand Lake, and
retired thinking that our pleasant sail on the mor-
row would give us ample opportunity for much-
needed rest and recuperation.

But, alas ! the highly old and respectable firm of
Pluvius and Boreas put their heads together ; and
the latter so stirred up the former, that rest and
comfort to us poor landsmen was one of the lost

We were pitching along through a heavy sea, a
stiff easterly gale blowing, the rocky coast outline
being scarcely perceptible through the mist and

I had been gazing out of the stateroom-window
at the any thing but inviting prospect, occasionally
administering a few crumbs of comfort to the limp
specimen of womanly beauty and equal rights who
lay so quietly in her narrow berth ; when at her
feeble request to consult the officers of the boat as
to whether there might be or was a presumptive,
presumable, plausible probability of the storm let-
ting up a little, " For," said she, " if I've got to
stand this all the way to Eastport I "


and then she quite gave out, I opened the
stateroom-door, and with a graceful skip and a
bound landed under the saloon-table in search of
the captain.

He was not there, however ; and so I picked up
a modest little pin, and stuck it into the lappel of
my coat, and came up smiling. One old chap, who
stood as firm as though he was planted, smiled too,
a sarcastic smile as though he doubted that I was
really after that pin : it irritated me, and I felt dis-
posed to be pugilistic ; but my better feelings tri-
umphed, and I rushed into his arms, and embraced
him like a long-lost brother.

By means of forced marches, sudden halts, and
an occasional "double-quick," I succeeded in
reaching the forward deck, where I found less rain,
but more wind and sea. Here I also found 6ne
solitary son of the sea, pacing up and down, seem-
ingly very comfortable in his oil jacket and sou'-
wester. He cast his eyes in such a knowing man-
ner at the clouds and round the various quarters
of the globe, that, although I felt convinced that he
was not the captain, I was sure he was my weather
chronicler. Having secured a place in his track,
and found something to lean against, I waited till
he bore down upon me, then hailed him.

"What do you think of the weather, sir? "




" And nasty."

This was certainly a very decided and correct
answer to my question ; but wasn't exactly what I
was after, having come to the same conclusion my-
self, though I don't think that I could have worded
it quite so expressively.

Waiting till he bore down again, I sent him
another hail :

" Do you think she'll clear up, sir? "

Somehow I had the idea that "she " sounded a
little more sailor-like ; but when he stopped short,
and looked at me, I wished I hadn't : he read me.

First he took off his sou'wester, shook.the rain off
it, put it on, then hitched up his trousers, shifted
his quid, looked at me again, down at the water,
up at the clouds, then nowhere in particular but
everywhere in general, and finally delivered himself
of this opinion :

" Why, you see, sir, it's liable to be a nasty night,
sir : the wind's piping it strong from the east'ard ;
blowed so all last night, and them 'ere low clouds
'long there looks ugly. If it works round a little
more to the nor'ard and east'ard, sir, I reckon 'fore
we gets into Frenchman's Bay cups and sarcers
will rattle sum."


With this comforting intelligence, I returned, by a
circuitous route, to " Stateroom B," and proceeded
to deliver my information to the afflicted one, in
truly nautical style ; embellishing it, however, suf-
ficiently to have it appear to my own mind, that it
would be " extra hazardous " for us to continue on
the boat farther than Portland, which city happily
we were now approaching.

. Wishing to be left alone to try and sleep, I left
the feeble one, and returned again to the deck, to
cultivate the more intimate acquaintance of my
" nor' east by nor' " friend.

I found he had been joined by another " salt,' r
who was pointing to a low ridge of rocky coast,
which we were passing within easy hailing-distance.
Seeing they were both somewhat excited, I man-
aged to get near enough to overhear their conver-

" Now Bill, 'spose 'tis : do you really b'lieve 'tis
buried there? "

"B'lieve it! thar's no sort'er doubt on't. I've
seen the cap'n p'int it out ter passengers time and
time ag'in ; and I heard him tell somebody one
night when I was on watch, that he'd had a man
digging there for a month ; the chap he told it to,
asked him if he commenced to dig on the full of
the moon ; and Cap. said he didn't know 'bout that ;


and the man told him that 'twas no use, unless he
did : he was sure not to find it."

"The captain ought to knowed that," responded
the new-comer.

" Knowed it, of course he had ! everybody
knows Cap'n Kidd al'ers buried his money on the
full 'er the moon. Cap'n ought'er know better."

" Ain't you goin' to try your luck some time? "

"Ain't I? Ain't I savin' all my wages, just for
that? there ain't no sorter doubt, there's a million
dollars buried there, it's sure as truth ; I'm
watchin' for signs, and, when they come right, you
bet I'll be there a-diggin'."

The appearance of the mate, with an order for
the sailor, interrupted the conversation at this
point ; but I had heard enough to interest me. I
had seen another locality where the late Capt.
Kidd had buried his treasure. When I was a boy,
I used to visit with awe a certain spot on the back
of Munjoy Hill, in Portland, where many a man
had dug and dug for the ^supposed hidden ducats
of this, to my now thinking, much over-estimated
"bold privateer."

As I write these lines, I read in the papers of
the day, that the people in the vicinity of Coffin's
Island, near New Jersey, have gone stark-staring
mad over a rumor, a report, a tradition, or a clair-


voyant's vision, or a something or a somebody, who
has discovered that this island is full of the cap-
tain's gold.

A company has been formed, and I read they
intend digging up the entire island. I hope they
may find "millions in it," but have my doubts.
Two hundred years is a long time ; and Capt.
Kidd might have been a mythical character, or at
all events, if he was not, there is not much doubt
but what his buried treasures are a myth. If those
Jersey men will devote themselves to planting and
then digging sweet potatoes, and such other com-
modities as their climate encourages, they will
probably be both happier atid richer in the end,
than if they dug up Coffin's Island, and shovelled it
into the Atlantic Ocean.

Arriving in Portland we find the storm increas-
ing; and, as the prospect of the steamboat pro-
ceeding farther that night seemed a faint one, we
go to the Falmouth Hotel ; and on the morrow
take the cars for Bangor.and Forest Station, dis-
tant about two hundred miles, where we were told
a stage would be found to take us across the coun-
try to Princeton, distant thirty miles.

We arrive there at noon ; and find the station
and the forest, for which it is so happily named,
and nothing else. Oh ! yes, the stage and its


If I should ask you, my reader, to stop here for
a moment, and describe that stage, you would prob-
ably reply, " A Concord coach with yellow trim-
mings, with four well-groomed horses pawing the
ground, impatient to begin their labors." You
wouldn't ? Oh ! you know better, do you ? You
have seen some of these country coaches, have
you? Then you would say, "A clumsy, well-
muddied, two-seated wagon : said seats covered
with buffalo-robes strongly reminding one of Tom
Hood's poem of 'The Lost Heir,' with but two
horses 'hitched' to it, not 'pawing,' and not at
all impatient to start ; " and now you think you
have got it, don't you ?

Well, you have not, with all your wisdom. " Sea-
son your imagination for a while," and I will de-
scribe that conveyance, its driver, what it was
expected to carry to Jackson Brook, and how near
it came to fulfilling its mission.

The stage was an ordinary one-seated wagon ;
imprimis : the body old and rickety, the seat droop-
ing and shaky ; the forward axle sprung, the rear
apparently about ready to spring ; the wheels way-
worn and weary, and oh ! so tired. The motive-
power, one horse, a modern Rosinante ; the har
ness, from bridle to crupper, like that which cov-
ered Petruchio's steed when he went to woo the


fair Katherine. The driver, a veteran of some
eighteen summers, bold and self-possessed, firm,
but modest. There you have them.

The passengers to be carried, a lady resident
of Princeton, a commercial traveller, madam, and

The baggage, one medium-sized trunk, one
small ditto, one canvas tent, one stove in canvas,
one box, one case of fishing-rods, several hand-
bags, and one package of samples.

The commercial traveller and the samples re-
mained at Forest Station : the balance of animate
and inanimate freight went to Jackson Brook, and
in this way. The seat was moved forward to the
very front of the wagon, the baggage was all stowed
away in the rear : the two ladies mounted the seat ;
madam handled the ribbons, and thus we started.

"Yes, but yourself and the driver?"

" Oh ! we walked behind the wagon."

The road was poor, and the load a reasonably
heavy one for one horse ; and had it not been for
the rear-guard, who under the most favorable cir-
cumstances could hardly have been expected to
trot, any thing faster than a walk was positively out
of the question, and we walked.

I have always held that the writer of travels
should lean decidedly towards the truth, and saving


in some harmless imagination never o'erstep its
boundaries; and truth compels me to state that
there was nothing on this ride of three miles, in the
way of scenery or of rural homes, to excite our
admiration or turn our thoughts from the discom-
forts of the situation. Truth also compels me to
say that I beguiled my time by lying to the driver.
It was rather a mean advantage, considering his
age, I admit ; but I was drawn into it by a flattering
remark from the youth, and the fact that

" Satan finds some mischief still,
For idle hands to do."

The madam had very dexterously avoided a
mud-hole on one side, and a huge stone on the
other, which caused the lad to say,

" She kin drive, she kin."

" She ought to, brought up to it, sir ; broke colts
when she was young ; can ride any horse in the
world, do any thing with them ; born to it."

" Sho ! " (walking round to the side of the wagon
to get a good look.) " Is she your woman ? "

" My wife, sir."

"What else can she do?"

"Shoots a little."

" You don't say so !"

" On the wing entirely, sir ; bags her game every


time, rarely misses. It would make you open your
eyes to see her handle a rifle ; got a natural instinct
for shooting."

" Well, I swow ! Can she fish ? "

" Fish ? you ought to see her : that's her best
hold. Why, she can paddle a canoe, strike a trout,

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Online LibraryCharles W. (Charles Woodbury) StevensFly-fishing in Maine lakes; or, Camp-life in the wilderness → online text (page 6 of 11)