Charles W. (Charles Woodbury) Stevens.

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

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and net him, .all at the same time."

" I reckon some of our fellers would just like to
see her."

" Yes, but you should hear her sing and play the
flute, and talk eleven different languages : then you
would begin to think she knew something." And
so I went on like a villain, while his jaw dropped,
and his eyes rolled in wonder, until I began to
"eel that the earth might open and swallow me.
. After a while even this choice amusement failed
to amuse, and we plodded along in silence, up hill
and down, I quieting my conscience by the thought
that he couldn't possibly believe my Mimchau-
sens ; but I am afraid he did, for when at last the
dismal ride and walk had come to an end, and our
fares were to be paid, he pointed to the heroine
of rod, rifle, and rein, and said with an air of pro-
found veneration,

" I sha'n't take nothin' for her."

Then my conscience smote me so hard that I
insisted on full payment, and, as I bid the youth


good-by, remarked that perhaps I had somewhat
overrated my wife's sporting accomplishments ; but
he was, I fear, too firmly fixed to be shaken.

At Jackson Brook, a little village of probably two
hundred inhabitants, we dined.

The tavern was neat and comfortable. While
we were waiting for our dinner to be prepared, we
had ample time to rest, and make comments.

I will describe the furnishing of the sitting-room,
to the best of our united remembrances, as it may
bring to the recollection of the reader some room
similarly adorned where in bygone days he or she
may have passed a pleasant hour.

A rag-carpet ; two round braided mats ; a melo-
deon, on which lay several well-worn sacred tune-
books ; a high-backed, wooden-seated rocking-
chair; several straight-backed wooden chairs
painted in black, with yellow ornamentation \ a
Franklin fireplace filled with a tasteful collection
of green branches ; a high mantle-piece adorned
with two plaster-of- Paris parrots, in green and yel-
low plumage, a vase of lilacs, and one of syringas ;
above them, looking down upon the peaceful scene,
a highly colored print of Grant and his Generals ;
on the table, covered with a red embossed cloth.
a Bible, hymn-book, one or two secular volumes,
Robert B. Thomas's Almanac, and a copy of " The
New York Ledger."


Thus you will see a general air of neatness and
taste pervaded the modest apartment.

The bedrooms of these country taverns, one or
more of which are found in every little village, are
usually neat and tastily furnished : but the beds
are bad, the food and cooking, to the city taste,
abominable ; for which reason we prefer camp-life,
our bed of boughs, and our guide's proficiency in
the culinary art.

A rather stronger horse and a two -seated wagon,
with a change of horse at Topsfield, carried us the
rest of our journey to Princeton, about twenty
miles; not a pleasant ride, although the day was
fine, for we felt that we were too much of a load
for the patient animals.

The only object of special interest, aside from
being questioned by nearly every one we met, as to
the cause of a dense smoke which filled the air,
completely shutting out the scenery about us, and
which we knew as little about as they, was a horse-
man who passed us at a rapid rate, turned, came
back, and inquired the distance to a certain house
on our road.

"That man," said our driver, as he rode away,
" is as blind as a bat : he tunes pianos and melo-
deons, and he goes round this country as you see
him now."


Just then he turned his horse, a beautiful black
colt, out from the road, rode up to the door of a
cottage some little distance off, exchanged a few
words with a couple of girls, turned, and passed
down the road before us on a rapid canter, and was
soon lost to our sight.

It seemed hard to believe the evidence of our
senses ; but, after all, it was only another illustra-
tion of the acuteness acquired by the remaining
senses, when one or more are lost.

I suggested to the driver that his horse must
know him, and be strongly attached to him.

" Know him," he replied : " I guess he does ; that
hoss knows he's blind just as well as I do."

And perhaps he did.

Thankful and happy were we when just at dusk
we stepped from our " stage " upon the piazza of
the hotel, and were met by our Indian guide, whose
greeting was cordial and welcome :

" Here at last, Tomah."

In my first chapter I gave you two routes by
which you may reach Grand Lake : this is a third.

Shun it.



IJUST a few evenings since, I read in
my "Transcript " the following 'ex-
tract, which most readers would
have passed unnoticed ; which hav-
ing perused, I leaned back in my
chair, and laughed so heartily that I
had to explain myself, and so I read this,
aloud :

" The Passamaquoddy Indians are represented at
Augusta, Me., by their delegate Tomah Joseph, who
presented a petition for a road from Big Lake to
Grand Lake Stream, fifty dollars, a priest, a stove,
a chimney, and a dance-hall."

Shades of the departed ! whose mantle has fallen
upon thee, Tomah, that we should thus behold thee
in this new sphere of usefulness ?

Whence the vaulting ambition that led thee to


forsake thy happy hunting-grounds for the halls of
legislation ?

And now, forsooth, instead of "Joe, you Injun,
pass the net," it must be : " Will the honorable gen-
tleman from Peter Denis's Point assist me to land
this salmon?"

But one thought affords me consolation in this
trying affliction.

It was my boots that trod those legislative halls.
It was my waistcoat that swelled with natural pride
when the speaker recognized the delegate from the
Passamaquoddy tribe.

Tomah Joseph, the son of his father who still at
an advanced age occasionally acts as guide, is now
about forty years of age, is himself father of several
embryo guides, and as 'cute an Indian as ever pad-
dled a canoe. To enumerate his several accom-
plishments in his particular line, would require
more space than we can afford to give him at this
time. In casting a fly I have never seen him ex-
celled, scarcely equalled. In mending rods he is
an adept. I think, after seeing him run the rapids
on the stream, Mr. Murray would preach a sermon
from that text.

The flute is Joe's evening companion ; and to its
sweet music the dusky maidens and their haprty
partners move gayly in the merry dance, or the tired


fisherman reposing upon the bank after a day of
pleasant toil is often soothed to rest by its softest

If it should ever happen that Joe should read
this allusion, which he probably never will, for two
reasons ; first because he can't read, and secondly
being too old to learn, he would, I fear, never for-
give me for saying that he was a trifle lazy : such,
however, is the fact. I don't mean to say that he
would shirk any real duty ; but if he had any heavy
job on hand he would somehow manage to make
you see that it were best not to do it at all, or sug-
gest some plan by which a somewhat similar result
might be reached with less manual labor.

It is rather amusing now, to look back and think
how he had his way on many of our little excur-
sions when I fondly supposed I was having my

Willing to indulge in a little " fire-water " when
asked, I never knew him to ask for it, or to obtain
it elsewhere when acting as my guide.

Quick to take a joke, good at repartee, and
withal brighter than the average white man in
" those parts," Tomah not only fulfilled every thing
required of him in his position, but was always the
best of company.

When in deep thought he has a habit of stroking


his chin with his thumb and fingers, as if feeling for
whiskers which he never found.

He was doing this about eight o'clock the morn-
ing after our arrival at Princeton, as we stood on the
little wharf at Louis Lake with quite a pile of traps
lying about us.

"That's a stove, you say, in that canvas, Mr.

"Yes, that's a stove, camp-stove."

" And that big canvas bag's got your bedding in
it, humph?"


" Ugh ! Twouldn't do to get them wet, would
it ? The birch might leak goyig up, and it might
be " (scratching his head a little) " safer to "

"To what, Joe?"

" I was thinking, we might send 'em up on the

"What will it cost?" '

" Oh ! a quarter."

" All right : take them over to the boat." Which
he did not exactly do, but went over to where the
boat lay, and returned with the captain and engi-
neer who compose the crew ; and they transfer all
our plunder, with the exception of my rods and a
small satchel or two, to the deck of the steamer.

"How's this, Tomah?"


" Got him to take it all for a quarter." Now, that
was a fair illustration of Joe's shrewdness. He
knew that if he had proposed to send all our bag-
gage up by boat, I should have thought him lazy,
and the expense greater than it was, and unneces-
sary. The upshot was, that the luggage got to the
top of Missionary Hill, where we were to camp,
without his handling twenty pounds of it.

The day was fine, and we had before us twelve
miles of canoeing. Our route lay through Louis
Lake, Long Lake, and Big Lake. Very prettily sit-
uated on the shore of the latter is one of the vil-
lages of the remnant of the Passamaquoddy tribe
of Indians, the resic^ence of Joe, and many other
guides of note.

I have been a good deal of a traveller in my life,
and have journeyed in many different conveyances,
both by land and water, on business or pleasure. I
hardly think you could mention one in use in our
country in which I have not travelled more or less,
from a canal-boat to an ocean-steamer, from a
buckboard to a Pullman car. Once in my life I
tried ballooning, but only for the matter of a couple
of thousand feet with a good stout cable attached
to the air-ship.

I can truly say that I know no manner of loco-
motion more exciting and exhilarating, more restful


and refreshing, as the case may be, than canoe-

You sit in the bow of the birch, on comfortable
robes, with one at your back, with your face to the
front, a trolling- line in your hand, your rifle or re-
volver within easy reach, your pipe in your mouth,
and you are ready for repose or excitement.

A bend in the stream or lake unfolds new beau-
ties to your view ; you gaze dreamily upon the far-
away mountain-tops and the unbroken forests with
their different shades of green. You are recalled
to your senses by the cry of an erratic loon : you
scan the calm surface of the lake until your eye
seeks him out ; but the quick-sighted Indian has
seen him before you, and a few strong sweeps of his
paddle send us flying towards him.

He is down, he is up again, and a bullet goes
whizzing after him ; it misses, of course, and down
he goes to be greeted with another when he rises :
after an exciting chase and a few more harmless
shots, we permit him to rest, and pursue our onward
course. And now a strong pull from behind gives
us a new sensation ; and with an " I've got him," we
pull alongside a handsome salmon. The guide
slips the net under him, and we feast our eyes upon
this king of the waters. Oh ! this is unalloyed hap-
piness : care comes not here. With a clear con-


science within, bright sunshine without, the sparkling
waters below, and God's pure sky above, one can
almost say with the sacred poet,

" There can I bathe my weary soul

In seas of heavenly rest,
And not a wave of trouble roll
Across my peaceful breast."

We are now in sight of our landing, have enjoyed
every moment of our sail. Just as we pass from
the lake into the stream, Joe, who sees every thing,
stops paddling, says, " Sh ! look," and pointing with
his paddle we descry, at the top of a decaying tree
of immense size, " the proud bird of our country,"
an American eagle. He sees us at about the same
moment, but does not like the cut of our jib, for he
stretches his wings, and soars away.

We were glad to see him in repose, but his flight,
grand and majestic, was a more sublime sight.

" A good omen, Joe," said I, as the canoe
touched the bank, and we prepared to disembark.

" Yes, that means plenty salmon."

Getting out of a canoe, and preserving your equi-
librium, is no easy matter to the uninitiated ; and
my advice to such is, don't hurry, take it coolly.
The madam hurried once, or made a misstep, and
when I turned to assist her she lay on her back by


the shore of the stream, but no harm came of it :
two strong Indians fished her out, and I Well,
I'm afraid I stood on the bank, and laughed " shuste
a leetle bit."

The stage, this time a lumbering two-seated
wagon with two strong horses, is awaiting us ; our
luggage, having reached here before us, is snugly
stowed, all but one box of stores which we left on
the steamer at Portland to follow us. Our canoe
is firmly lashed to the side of the wagon ; we
mount to our seats, and rattle off at a comfortable
pace, on our ride of three miles to our headquar-
ters at the foot of Grand Lake.

We decide to pitch our camp on "Missionary
Hill." Why missionary, I don't know. We select
this spot because Tomah says, " Good breeze, few
flies." I am inclined to think that if Joe were
engaged to cook a fortnight for a party expecting
to encamp there, he would now say, " Bad place,
sun hot, flies thick, mosquito he bite, midges, ugh ! "
The fact is, Joe found it too much up-hill, and I
think we all did. Jim Coffin's front yard is a better

Camp " Prouty," a name familiar to all lovers of
the angle, as that of a gentleman well versed in the
fisher's art, built by a gentleman from Calais, Mr.
Sawyer, now occupies the summit of the hill, and


with its out-buildings covers what was the best
camping-ground ; so that the white canvas of the
fisher's tents, with floating flags, so pretty a sight to
one coming down the lake, will in future be rarely

Here we are at last at our journey's end ; and
now to getting into camp. We have two tents, one
with a fly for sleeping, and the other our mess-tent,
also a canvas canopy to protect our stove.

Twelve miles of paddling in smooth water is play
for an Indian ; but now, Joe, you have got to do a
little work

But Joe knows what to do first ; finds his axe,
leans on it a few minutes, strokes his chin, scratches
his head, looks at each point of the compass, sur-
veys the ground, gives us a bit of advice where to
pitch our tents, whistles, and disappears in the
woods close at hand.

While the driver, "Son" Ripley, unloads, we
survey the ground, unroll the tents, and bring to
light our new camp-stove. Soon Joe returns, drag-
ging after him enough poles to establish a good-
sized hop-garden, and our work commences.

But Tomah's quick eyes have discovered the
stove, and he drops his axe, and goes down on all-
fours to interview it ; he soon has it apart, and han-
dles every piece, from the lifter to the oven.


When he sees its contents, pails, pans, legs,
funnel, plates, knives, forks, spoons,- toaster, coffee-
pot, tea-kettle, covers, and all which were packed
within it, now lying about covering a world of
space, we know he is surprised, excited ; but he
does not show it, the same stolid Indian gaze,
every bit of it.

"Well, Joe, ever seen the like of that before? "

" Never ! "

" What do you think of it? "

" Can't cook with that ; don't believe it'll work ! "
another stroke of the chin. " Guess I better use the
old fireplace, and let Mrs. Stevens and you run

" Not much, you ignorant Injun : you'll swear by
that stove before you get through, old boy."

" Swear at it, I reckon."

But when as the sun went down we were enjoy-
ing our first good meal for three long days, fried
salmon, fried potatoes, bacon and eggs, with a
splendid cup of tea, and the minor accompani-
ments, all cooked in a superior manner, by that dis-
trusted stove, Joe relented.

Instead of a quarter of a cord of fuel, he had
used but a few pieces of hemlock-bark, and as
many sticks of wood. He surveyed the object of
his distrust for a moment, walked about it, gazed


upward at the thin, curling smoke issuing from the
funnel, strode to the tent where we were eating,
with a bread-pan in one hand, and the toaster in
the other, and thus unbosomed himself :

" Mr. Stevens, I give it up : that just beats any
thing I ever saw ; I could cook for ten men with
that stove ; she's a ripper."

And Joe told the truth.

The afternoon was spent in preparing camp, and
by the time that darkness came we were ready for
it; our bed in order, with the mosquito-canopy
spread. " Good-night, Tomah : we have done a
good afternoon's work, and you may sleep in the

And he did sleep : I believe he would sleep till
the Day of Judgment if you would let him. How
he can ever wake, rolled up in his blanket, head
and all, to all appearances a mere bundle of woollen,
is more than I ever expect to know : he must rise
to explain.



O longer sits the wind in the east.
For three and twenty days, almost
without intermission, had that scourge
of our New-England spring ( ?), the
east wind, been blowing upon the

Like colors nailed to the mast, the vanes of
orthodox and heterodox churches alike seemed
firmly fixed, and unalterable as the laws of the
Medes and Persians.

We went about through the fog, mist, and rain,
poor "demnition moist bodies : " it penetrated our
pores, it ached our joints, it froze our marrow, it
made us wheeze, it made us sneeze ; and only by
thinking of its source, and its refreshing coolness
on a hot July afternoon, could we refrain from
wrathful words.



And now what wonder that we feel the blood
rush tingling through our veins, as we stand on the
brow of Missionary Hill this glorious June morning,
and drink in the invigorating draughts of a freshly
rising western breeze ?

The lake feels its influence ; and at our feet its
rippling waves dance with delight, and mingle their
low murmur with the rustling leaves.

Up comes the sun, dispelling the mists, driving
the shadows far back upon the hills.

We hail the new-born day : we rejoice in the
glad sunlight ; the clear atmosphere makes us light
of heart ; we stretch out our arms to embrace dear
old mother Nature, and we exult in our freedom.

We shout, and the wooded hills send back their
echoes ; we sing (the madam), and the warblers of
the wood assist in the chorus ; we snuff the odor of
the hemlock and the pine : and, oh ! human na-
ture, something else.

" Bacon."

Bob Southey's "Jacob" would ne'er "turned up
his nose in scornful curve at yonder pig,'' had he
breakfasted on " Joseph's " bacon.

With each foot firmly planted on its parent soil,
Joe stands a statue ; the frying-pan upon the stove
before him, the bacon sizzling and gurgling in its
fatty bed. An egg in his hand is ready to be brok-


en, and add its country freshness to the^ sportsman's
morning meal. But Joseph moves not ; he has
caught the savory smell ; his nostrils expand under
its bewitching influence ; his chest upheaves as he
draws in each willing breath ; his

"Joe, will you turn that bacon? "

The statue moves, and the egg falls to the ground
lost to us forever.

Excuse me, gentle reader, for dwelling upon this
subject ; but health and happiness depend so much
upon a good appetite and proper food, that, should
you decide to test the enjoyment of camp-life, do
not neglect to provision yourself before starting.

Salt pork and Indian meal are indispensable :
bacon is a luxury. Calculate, to a nicety, just what
you think your party will need of each : multiply
the quantity by two, and then double the amount
of bacon.

" You don't like bacon ? "

Why, man alive ! your education is incomplete :
improve it. If you must go down to your grave
unhonored and unsung, pray do not go unbacon-

On a par with bacon, and not to be overlooked
or forgotten, are Bermuda onions.

Oh ! reader, turn not up in scorn thy sensitive
nose ; confess to me now, that you do sometimes


eat them at your own table. I am sure I do, but
not with beefsteak : either in themselves, but not

In camp, slice them raw, cover with vinegar, and
add a little pepper and salt ; they are better than
all the fancy pickles that ever Crosse & Blackwell
stamped with their signature : and those, you know
are good.

One day, a friend of ours from the city, an old
Umbagog fisherman, dropped in upon us, and right
glad were we to greet him. He had secured board
and lodging at one of the few villagers near our

In the afternoon of the first day, a little girl from
the house called upon us, with the request,

"Would you sell my mother some onions?"

" No, my child, but we will give your mother a
few ; " and she thanked us with maiden simplicity,
and departed.

As the shadows of evening fell, our friend came
to us to talk over the result of his first day's sport,
to say " Good-by, Umbagog," and to tell us how
his lines had fallen in pleasant places, what a cap-
ital house he was staying at, how well he fared.

" Yes, boys ! the living is just splendid ; for sup-
per we had fried salmon, boiled salmon, fried pota-
toes, baked potatoes, good bread, and would you


believe it, way down here* in these woods, what do
you think? sliced Bermuda onions."

The mistress of that modest mansion knew a
fisherman's tastes. Take all you require, my friend,
and a few to give away. Injun, he like 'em, too.

You would not forget your coffee, Mocha and
Java equally mixed, I hope suits your taste ; it does
mine : but you might not think of condensed milk.

" What ! go to the country, and use condensed
milk ! "

Yes, for your coffee ; try it at home or abroad,
and you will find that it's much better than milk,
and better than city cream ; and, besides, you can't
often get milk when in camp.

" Now, Joe, be careful that you keep that can
covered ; for though we might not object, at times,
to our lemonade with a stick in it, we don't want
black flies wading round in our milk."

" All right : I'll keep him covered up. Go down
stream this morning?"

" Yes ; but wash the dishes first, and the madam
will wipe them, while I smoke my pipe and joint
my rod."

" Bring plenty wood-duck-wing fly, yellow

" Child of the setting sun ! degenerate aborigine !
attend to your culinary duties, and waste not our
precious time with idle curiosity."


I turn to my work. Does the browned son of
the forest do likewise?

No : he has discovered my fly-book by my side ;
a satisfied grunt attracts my attention ; I look behind
me, and see the work of Sarah McBride's delicate
fingers passing under the examination of his critical

"Those good flies, Mr. Stevens, McBride ?"

"Yes, Sarah's."

"Sarah she make good fly; that fly made like
one I sent you ; salmon take that fly, sure."

"Undoubtedly, Tomah, she made these from
your sample ; but will you be kind enough to
take that dish-cloth and proceed to business?"

" I suppose, Mr. Stevens, a wood-duck-wing, and
yellow body, will kill more "

" I suppose, if you don't get at those dishes, you
lazy Injun, I'll kill you, and serve you out to the
fishes. You'd make splendid food for suckers."

At last, by threats and entreaties, our household
duties are performed, and Joe shoulders his paddle,
reaches for the landing-net, and is happy.

The middle gate of the dam is up, and the water
is rushing on its down-hill course, feathery white.

" Do you think you can take us through the gate,
Joe, or shall we take the birch below? "

" Run that ? That's nothing, white man run
that easy, if he knew how."


" Yes, if he knew how ; run himself and birch
upon the other shore of the Styx if he didn't."

"Sticks ! No sticks in the channel."

" Oh, unclassical, untutored Indian ! let us see
you ' go it alone/ and, if all is well, come back for

The words were scarcely out of my mouth, when
Joe, standing in his canoe, straight as an arrow, is
cutting the water of the lake ; a moment more,
and the birch is in the boiling vortex below the
dam, having passed over the swiftly-running cur-

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Online LibraryCharles W. (Charles Woodbury) StevensFly-fishing in Maine lakes; or, Camp-life in the wilderness → online text (page 7 of 11)