Copyright
Robert Barnwell Roosevelt.

Superior fishing; or, The striped bass, trout, and black bass of the northern states. Embracing full directions for dressing artificial flies with the feathers of American birds; an account of a sporting visit to Lake Superior, etc., etc., etc online

. (page 10 of 18)
Online LibraryRobert Barnwell RooseveltSuperior fishing; or, The striped bass, trout, and black bass of the northern states. Embracing full directions for dressing artificial flies with the feathers of American birds; an account of a sporting visit to Lake Superior, etc., etc., etc → online text (page 10 of 18)
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embrace and fling you torn and wounded down
among the shar2>pointed rocks. You must wear
water-proof clothes, and while you keep your eye
on the line you must not neglect the inrolling swell,
but avoid or brace yourself to meet its shock. And
when the bass seizes your bait, and you have fixed
the hook by one sharp blow, you must be gentle
and moderate, only using severe measures where
they are absolutely necessary. If the blue-fish
comes, and he does not carry away your hook at the
first snatch, reel him in as quickly as his indomitable
pluck and vigor w^ill permit. He is not game when
you are bass-fishing. If the ungainly flounder, ex-
hibiting unexpected activity, shall chase and grasp
your bait, lug him out by main force, treating him,
though excellent to eat,like the vulgar commoner-he is.
When the day is advanced, and the game has
grown wary, you may rest ; and looking out to sea,
perchance behold the blue-fish chase the menhaden
and the porpoise devour the blue-fish, and the
thresher shark plough his way through schools of
lesser creatures, killing with blows of his powerful
tail, and then devouring his prey at his leisure.
You may listen to the " wild waves singing," and
watch the continual change of the sky and water,
enjoying the refreshing breeze and pure air, or
amuse yourself by throwing in the head of a men-
haden, and noting how quickly the bass that refuse
your bai't will strike with a great whirl at the float-
ing object.



POINT JUDITH. 157

Two fishermen engaged with their sport were
once standing upon a rock together, when one struck
a very large fish supposed to weigh over seventy
pounds. The sea was high and wild, and made it
difiicult to gaif the fish, after a wearying struggle
had reduced him to submission. A favorable oppor-
tunity was watched when three heavy rollers had
passed, covering the rock with spray, and the other
fisherman darted to the edge of the surf to make
the fittempt. Unfortunately the bass, not being
quite exhausted, made a short run that delayed the
operation, till a gigantic wave, rolling in unheeded,
caught the preoccupied fishermen unawares, engulfed
them in its green waters, flung one down bruised
and sore, and carried oif the other who held the
gafiT, and was nearer the brink, into the deep water
beyond. Poor fellow, he could not swim, and the
terror of approaching death passed across his fea-
tures as he looked up beseechingly and tried to
cling to the steep and slippery rocks. The waves
tossed him about like a plaything, bringing him
close to the rocks, dragging him away, and then
cruelly hurling him against them. His friend was
powerless to save him ; but having a stout line, and
the fish now floating exhausted upon the surface,
shouted to the drowning man to catch the line and
support himself by it. This was accomplished, and
amid the dashing surf, alone with the shadow of
death upon the water, the skilful fisherman, work-
ing his way carefully among the rocks, giving to the
strain of the surging sea, but gaining every inch of



158 POINT JUDITH.

line the strength of his tackle would permit, led the
man and the fish, floating side by side, into a cove
that was in a measure sheltered from the fury of the
waves.

Slowly the line came in ; the man lived, and still
clung to it, and although occasionally submerged,
managed to sustain himself sufficiently. N'earer and
nearer he came, quite close even to the shelving
rocks, and twice during a lull could have climbed
them in safety, had not his strength been too greatly
exhausted. He made a feeble effort, still clinging,
however, to the line, but was carried back by the
receding current, and it became apparent his life
depended upon his friend's ability to help him.

This was no easy matter ; the strain upon the line
was excessive, the rocks were wet and slippery, and
the sea frequently swept across with resistless force.
Shortening the line as much as possible, the friend
crept down towards the edge, and taking advantage
of the first lull, called to the drowning man to cling
fast with his hands for a moment, and rushed down
to seize him. The instant, however, the line was
relaxed, the water carried away its feeble victim,
who was quickly beyond reach. Ere he could be
brought back a tremendous wave, resolute to devour
its prey, came thundering in ; it rose above points
that had projected many feet out of water, it dashed
in flying spray high up upon those that it could not
overwhelm, its crest gleamed and hissed, and with
one mad leap it sprang over the intervening ledges
and threw itself upon the fishermen with fearful



POINT JUDITH. 159

power. The one upon the rocks was beaten down,
and only by falling in a crevice and holding fast
with all his strength was saved from being carried
oif. When the wave passed he struggled to his
feet and looked down into the deep water for his
friend. The line was broken, and man and fish
were swept away together.

Danger never deterred a sportsman, but rather
seems to enhance his enjoyment ; and there is just
sufficient risk and enough cold water to make fishing
from the rocks a pleasurable excitement. The
fiercer the storm and the wilder the water the bet-
ter the fishing, and the peril is more than counter-
balanced by the sport. Occasionally, at these times,
a fisherman will be lost, but more frequently he will
capture the gigantic fish that has been the ambition
of his life ; and if he does perish it is in a good
cause, and he has the sympathies of all his ardent
brothers of the angle.

Bass, like other fish, do not feed in a thunder
shower, but during the latter part of a north-easterly
or south-easterly storm, and immediately after when
the wind has hauled to the westward and made
casting easier, they are taken in the greatest quan-
tities. In fact it is hardly worth while to fish for
them at any other time.

At Point Judith there are some bay snipe and
plover after the fifteenth of August, and the quail
shooting which begins on the twentieth of Septem-
ber is quite good. Blue-fish or horse-mackerel are
not pursued for sport, but rather pursue the angler,



160 POINT JUDITH.

taking oif bis hooks and cutting his line with their
sharp teeth most unmercifully. In fact a story is-
told of one that deliberately bit through the line
above a large bass that had been hooked, and appa-
rently released him designedly, from fishy friendship.

That excellent but neglected fish the porgee,
which the inhabitants call a scup, is plentiful, and
also the tautog or black fish .; and the bergall, which
they denominate chogset or cunner, a worthless
fish, is so abundant as to try the fisherman's temper
by continually devouring his baits.

When the sea has subsided and the fishing is over,
and you have as many fish as you want nicely
packed in ice, you will have to drive over to the
depot behind the laziest horse, unless Anthony
buys a new one, that it was ever your misfortune
to ride after. The boyish driver, however, enter-
prising like his father, will poke and wdiip and utter
that peculiar word comprehensible only to horse-
flesh, "tschk,'' and if the animal does not absolutely
lie down in the ditch you will make the seven miles
in about two hours and a half, and be tliankful that
you have done so well ; having reached home, what
stories you will tell of the large fish you captured
and enormous ones you lost, of the dangers you ran
and how beautifully you cast, and your friends that
receive of the game will believe in you.



THE SOUTH BAY. 161



THE SOUTH BAT.

One cloudless day in the fervid month of July, a
handsome, bright-eyed youth of something over
twenty summers, opened the gate of the little yard
in front of Deacon Goodlow's house and strode with
an elastic step towards the side door. He was evi-
dently at home and felt no need of ceremony, for
without pausing to knock he turned the knob and
entered.

The deacon's house was one of those innumerable
romantic little white cottages with wings added after
the main structure, that dot the flat surface of Long
Island, or Mattowacs, as the poetical Indians once
elegantly named the wonderful sand-bar; it was
hidden in trees and almost covered with vines, and
had an air of superiority and taste somewhat un-
usual.

" Well, Katy," said Harry, addressing a sprightly,
rosy-cheeked maiden that he encountered inside,
busy at some pottering woman's work ; " what do
you think, now ? Your father and mine are going
fishing to-day. I left them talking it over, and
arranging that they were to drive over in your
father's buggy, as our solitary horse is needed for
other purpose."

" I am glad of it, Harry ; Mr. Hartley takes too



162 THE SOUTH BAY.

little recreation, and father does so like a day on the
Bay. He was speaking about it only yesterday."

" But how odd that they should go alone ; I
wonder why your father does not take you, you like
the Bay almost as well as he does."

" Pretty nearly," she replied with a laugh ; " I
love the breeze and the water, especially when we
run outside and plunge into the monstrous waves of
the ocean. It seems so fresh, and limitless, and
powerful."

"Yes, and you like to pull out the blue-fish; it is
not all poetry, for to tell the truth, I have always
felt convinced from your way of looking at them,
that every time you caught a fish you thought of
the pot and fancied how nice he would be on table."

" Take care, sir, or the next time we go I will
leave you to your own devices in the way of cook-
ing. Do you remember when I found you trying
to cook a big blue-fish on a long stick, over a huge
hot fire, without any salt or butter?"

" But the old folks will be sure to fall out over
politics or polemics, and come home in a dudgeon,
as they have been near doing before this, your
father is so fiery ; I hope, for my future peace, his
daughter does not take after him."

" Now, Harry ! " accompanied with a deep blush,
was all the answer, and Katy was turning away,
knowing instinctively how to punish her saucy lover,
when Harry hastily continued :

" I think I have prevented that, however."

» Have you ? How ? "



THE SOUTH BAY. 163

"I suggested something else for them to talk
about, that will occupy their thoughts most of the
time."

With a shy, sidelong glance, like a bird alarmed
but uncertain of the danger, Katy replied :

" And what subject was that, pray ?"

" Our love, Katy."

"A very silly subject, that need occupy nobody
any time at aU. You had better say your love,
sir."

" N.ow, darling, don't tease, I have only a moment,
or I shall be too late for the cars."

"Then, why not go at once? I am full as busy.
Was not that Jane calling me ? " She made a great
show of leaving, but managed to remain, evidently
anticipating something of importance from her
lover's manner, and in a female way dreading
though desiring the disclosure.

" Wait one instant ; I need not repeat how I love
you, you have heard that often."

" Yes, indeed."

" But to-day I am to be admitted to a partnership
with my old employer, who kindly offered it, with
some complimentary remarks, so late as yesterday."

" You deserved it long ago."

" Not at all, I was well paid for my services ; but
now" — having drawn the willing but skittish beauty
towards him, he whispered — ^" now I can keep a
wife."

Her lips were close, her cheeks were tempting,
her eyes turned away, her hands busy with the but-



164 THE SOUTH BAY.

tons of his coat, it is not certain he took advantage
of these opportunities ; but suddenly starting into
life, she gave him a gentle tap on the ear, pulled
away, and turning to hide her blushes, called out, as
she darted from the room :

" You must catch her first, and the train starts in
twenty minutes."

" So it does," he muttered, as the delighted look
of admiration with which he had regarded her
faded slowly from his eyes; " what a darling witch,
it is so full of fun, and yet, as the neighboring poor
can testify, so gentle, generous, and sympathetic."
A thousand thoughts of all the loving acts he would
do for her came into his mind as he hastened towards
the depot.

"Well, friend," said Mr. Hartley, as the two
deacons were journeying along at a sober gait in
the old-fashioned but comfortable buggy of the
wealthier, " what a beautiful day it is, not merely
for our sport, and it could hardly be better, but to
admire the beauties of nature ! The summer foUage
looks truly gorgeous in the broad sunshine."

" Yes, indeed, and the influence of such a day
must be felt by the moral nature of man. Even upon
man debased by vice, I believe in the country as a
moral purifier, and think a system should be devised
by which criminals would be thrown in contact with
it as much as possible."

" I agree Avith you fully, and had an evidence this
morning how it opens the heart and emboldens the
affections. You know Harry has long been atten-



THE SOUTH BAY. 165

tive to your daughter Katy, and I believe they have
had a sort of halt' understanding."

" A fine fellow is Harry ; true, honorable, and
energetic," said Mr. Goodlow, heartily.

" He is so, and I, as his father, am proud to admit
it ; but Katy is a noble girl, and worthy of the finest
fellow in the world."

" Well, we start the subject with a hearty
accord," replied the friend, smiling ; " I can readily
imagine w^hat will follow, and have no doubt we will
be equally of accord on that."

" The short of it is, Harry has just been placed in
a position that authorizes him to marry, and he
wants you to trust Katy to him. On the subject of
support he was satisfactory, and on that of love en-
thusiastic. He hoped your favorite minister would
perform the ceremony."

This last remark was uttered very slowly, for it
must be known the two deacons belonged to rival
churches and different persuasions, and had had
many a contest over form and ritual. _

" That is a matter of small moment," was the
response, " but if any form should be simple it is the
marriage ceremony. I really think it had better be
performed in your church, where there is less regard
for formality." ^

" And for that reason I coincided in my son's
selection ; our church teaches us that while we are not
to insist upon forms as the essence of religion in any
of its departments, we are not to indulge prejudice
against them. That they are immaterial either way."



166 THE SOUTH BAY.

*'A strange view, indeed," responded the oj^pos-
ing deacon, warming to the question ; " strange that
any one could conceive that the form in which he
expressed his adoration was unimportant ; in all re-
ligion, prayer takes the form of the bowed head and
bended knee. Unseemly postures and acts are
themselves irreverent, not to advert to the effect
they must produce upon the mind that indulges in
them on serious occasions. We owe to our fellow-
men respectful deportment on solemn occasions, how
much more so to our Creator. Form is the embodi-
ment of the spirit of true worship, and partakes of
its essence and beauty."

*' We fear," responded his associate, " that form,
from its very beauty, may distract the heart and
engross the attention to the neglect of the essentials
of devotion. Pleasing forms are beautiful to our
senses, but God looks to the pure heart and humble
mind ; the formalities of religion too often hide an
aching void of real principle, and while they quiet
the conscience produce no good fruit in the soul.
Therefore, we dread them, lest though the sepulchre
be whited on the outside it hide rottenness within."

They were both intelligent men, devoted to their
sects, which although in belief almost identical, in
forms were dissimilar ; and they enforced and illus-
trated their views with great vigor, learning, and
eloquence, and with the ordinary effect of religious
discussions, that- each was finally more firmly con-
vinced that he was in the right. The hopes of theu'
children were forgotten for the time, an occasional



THE SOUTH BAY. 167

sharp innuendo added spice if not acerbity to the
argument, and before their destination was reached
a feeling of coklness, approaching dissatisfactiom,
had sprung up between the two friends.

There were no blue-fish running, and it was deter-
mined to try the striped bass that, although small,
had begun to be plentiful, and in case of their
absence to tempt the flounders, sea bass, black fish,
or other like plebeians. In silence they pulled off to
the fishing ground, and silently they cast overboard
the anchor-stone and baited their hooks. Fishing
has a calm, soothing influence incompatible with
anger or estrangement. Occasional remarks were
made which would doubtless have soon led to a per-
fect reconciliation had not the Fates prominently in-
terfered. Mr. Hartley, who rowed the boat, had
stationed himself in the bow, and strange to say
began to take fish as fast as he could land them,
while Mr. Goodlow, in the stern, usually the favorite
location, caught nothing.

Fishing is a contemplative amusement, but when
one contemplates his associate catching all the fish
the amusement vanishes. Deacon Goodlow was a
devotee of the gentle art, fancied himself an expert,
and never doubted his far excelling his less expe-
rienced brother ; had great faith in skill as opposed
to luck, having often expatiated upon the fact that
he rarely found an equal, and felt fully convinced
that in skill he was not excelled.

Now skill is a very necessary thing and wdll tell
in the long run, but luck is sometimes, doubtless for



168 THE SOUTH BAY.

a wise purpose, permitted to triumpli over it. In
vain did the unfortunate deacon renew his baits,
change the depth of his sinker, fish on the bottom or
near the top ; the result was the same. His irritation
increased and broke forth into ejaculations of impa-
tience, and a sudden desire to move to some other
spot.

"There seem to be no fish here, we had better
try a new place," he said pettishly.

" I am doing very well, and doubt whether we
could better ourselves," replied his associate with
that hilarity that success engenders, landing two
bright little bass at once.

" You do not call that good fishing, they are mere
sprats. I have taken many a bass of twenty-four
pounds, and two of over fifty."

" But you know the run is always small in this
month."

" Of course I know that ; but I never saw such
luck, you must have taken twenty, such as they
are."

" More than twenty, thirty at least ; but perhaps
we had better change places, I have taken more
than I want and you had better try your hand."

After some demur and a coquettish but half sulky
refusal to deprive him of his " good luck," Mr.
Goodlow complied with his friend's suggestion, but
wonderful to say the luck changed at the same time ;
the fish all fled to the sterri of the boat and were
landed there fiister than they had been previously
over the bow. In fact, one line seemed to be



THE SOUTH BAY. 169

bewitched as though the fish were in a piscatorial
conspiracy. Even when the unfortunate fisherman ex-
tended his line and allowed his float to swing round
beyond the stern and even alongside of his compa-
nion's, that of the latter would be dragged under at
every moment, while his would remain undisturbed.

"Well, I have seen luck before," he began,
fiercely, " but never such luck as this ; how deep are
you fishing ? "

This question, as betraying the possibility of infe-
rior judgment, fairly stuck in his throat.

" About three feet."

" Mine is the same. No, it is mere luck, that is
all." Anger was making his language slightly un-
grammatical.

Mr. Hartley replied, as he landed another brace :
" Of course it is, and now let's change seats again
and see if we cannot outwit the fish."

Being patronized by an inferior fisherman is
almost unbearable, it implies triumph with nothing
to justify it ; and an assumption of. superiority will
be suspected if not intended. So Mr. Goodlow held
out for a time, saying slightingly : " Oh, it was a
mere question of luck, mere luck that must soon
change ; " but as it did not, and as his friend's man-
ner was soothing and even submissive, he at last
consented, with the air of conferring a favor, to re-
sume his old place in the stern.

At the first cast which Mr. Hartley made after
returning to his seat at the bow, he hooked and
landed the largest fish yet seen. This was too much,
8



170 THE SOUTH BAY.

and if people swear inwardly it is greatly to be
feared the unfortunate deacon will have to report
hereafter one of the commandments broken on that
occasion.

" Come," he said, " we will go home ; another
time perhaps I can have a little luck. I used to
think there was something like skill ia fishing, but
there does not appear to be in catching these misera-
ble little fish."

*' Why, my last one must have weighed two
pounds."

"Two pounds! Kot an ounce over one. I have
had enough for this day, and the sun is remarkably
hot."

" Oh, I cannot go just yet ; here comes another,
nearly as large as the last."

"I insist upon it," Mr. Goodlow continued, having
reeled up his line and taken apart his rod. " I ^vill
not stay longer, my horse must be fed, and it is
late."

" When a person comes out fishing," replied Dea-
con Hartley, growing irritated, " it is a poor way to
be wanting to go home because another catches the
fish, especially as 'I am perfectly willing to divide
equally."

" What do you think I care for those puny little
fish? You may keep them all, in welcome."

" I suppose I may if I wish ; they are mine be-
cause I have caught them, or nearly all; but I will
give you half if you will cease grumbling at what
you call your luck."



THE SOUTH BAY. 171

" Well, what is it if not luck ! Perhaps you think
you surpass me in skill and experience," answered
the other sneeringly. " I tell you I am going home.
It is ray horse, and you may come or stay, as you
choose."

With that he seized the oars and shipping them
into the nearest rowlocks, commenced furiously
rowing the boat stern first. But the anchor-stone
was down, and although he dragged it a few inches,
he did so slowly and with great labor. Mr. Hartley
went on deliberately fishing, but of course could
catch nothing while the water was being disturbed.

" Pull up the anchor-stone, sir," said Mr. Goodlow
fiercely, the perspiration streaming down his face.

" I will do nothing of the kind," responded Mr.
Hartley.

The tugging at the oars was resumed, but when
Mr. Goodlow was nearly exhausted, whether by
accident or not will probably never be known, the
oar slipped along the surface throwing a shower of
water over the quondam friend, fairly taking away
his breath. Without a word the latter dropped his
rod, and seizing the bailing scoop, a sort of wooden
shovel with a short handle, dipped it full of water
and threw the contents in his companion's face ; the
latter replied with a fresh douche from the oar.

The water fairly flew in mimic cataracts for ten
minutes, till both parties were wet to the skin ; ori-
ginally, scoop had the best of it, but as skin and
clothes will not take wetting beyond a certain de-
gree, oars caught up, and the two irate lights of the



172 THE SOUTH BAY.

church were as well drenched as if they had fallen
overboard. Mutual exliaustion produced a cessation
of hostilities, and after a moment's pause, Deacon
Hartley slowly drew up the anchor-stone, and Dea-
con Goofllow rowed silently to shore. Without a
word, without a glance, the latter stepped to bis
buggy, untied the horse, jumped in and rode off.

Mr.^'Hartley had to secure the boat, collect his
fish, unjoint his rod, and walk four miles home. The
day was hot, the road was dusty, the fish were
heavy, and tired enough he would have been, if an
acquaintance passing in a wagon had not taken him
up. The dust having covered him from head to
foot helped disguise what had happened, and he
allowed the gentleman to think he had slipped into
the water.

The thoughts of the two deacons on the way
home were not enviable. One had to meet a son, the
other a daughter, and the latter dreaded the inter-
view most ; not that he admitted he was most to
blame, but fearing more her sharp eyes and re-
proachful countenance.

" Oh, Harry," said the pretty little girl usually so
gay, now with sad-looking tearworn eyes, as she
encountered her astonished lover on his way home
from the railroad, " your father and mine quarrelled
dreadfully to-day, so much so that they would not
ride home together."

" Just as I expected," replied Harry, triumphant-
ly ; " your father is so easily excited."


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Online LibraryRobert Barnwell RooseveltSuperior fishing; or, The striped bass, trout, and black bass of the northern states. Embracing full directions for dressing artificial flies with the feathers of American birds; an account of a sporting visit to Lake Superior, etc., etc., etc → online text (page 10 of 18)