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 12 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 12 of 18)
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localities, and either spawn from time to time as
fancy dictates, or postpone the performance till
winter's frosts have driven profitable visitors to their
city homes. The proprietors of the frontier taverns,
where sportsmen congregate in search offfinny prey,
boldly assert that there are several kinds of brook
trout, of which one variety spawns in September,
another in October, and so on in such manner that


it is always right and proper to fish for them. Na-
turalists have, as yet, failed to discover this pecu-
liarity or describe these varieties ; and although they
know that individuals may diifer casually or delay
the act a few weeks, they recognise one well known
spawning season. The ova of trout are largely
developed in September, and, except in the colder
latitudes and where they are extremely abundant,
these fish should be exempt after the first of that
month; but in October and November, pressing
hunger should be the only excuse for killing them.

The laws, however, are not so much to blame as
the neglect of their enforcement ; perfect statutes
will not answer if they are not carried out, and the
first duty of sportsmen's clubs and of individual
sportsmen, a duty to humanity, to themselves, and
to their fellow creatures, is to enforce the game
laws. By game laws are not meant those barbarous
statutes of England that made it more criminal in a
poor man to slay a hare than a human being — sta-
tutes that are deservedly odious to free men, and
Avhich by no possibility could be introduced into the
New World ; but provisions for the protection and
preservation of the wild inhabitants of our woods
and waters, a common heritage of beauty and sus-
tenance, and the property of our citizens indiscrimi-
nately. These creatures are a considerable source
of wealth, worthy the most careful attention ; they
breed and increase of themselves without care or
expense ; and constitute a large portion of the stock
of our markets. It would be an interesting iavesti-


gation to ascertain how mucli money is paid yearly
in the City of New York for the wild deer and
game birds of the west, the sea fishes of our coast,
the finer varieties of our inland waters, and the sal-
mon of Canada. The latter, alone, amounts to
hundreds of thousands of dollars, and is a severe
tax paid to a foreign country for the fatuity that
drove those noble fish from our own rivers.

This vast source of revenue will, however, disap-
j)ear, unless precautions are taken to prevent the
untimely slaughter of these unprotected creatures.
If their periods of incubation are disregarded, their
nests and spawning-beds broken up, and themselves,
when engaged in the duties of maternity, disturbed
or slain, they will diminish rapidly till the forests
shall cease to be vocal with their harmony, and the
water animated with their gambols.

In England not only do game ^^reseiwes produce
a good rent from enthusiastic sportsmen, but the
fisheries, particularly of salmon, are extremely valu-
able as commercial enterprises. At present, in our
our country, we only recognise the value of these
advantages by their loss. The Tay produces a
rental of $70,000 yearly for the salmon fisheries,
and so profitable have fishing rights become, that
several rivers that were once exhausted have been
restored, and now yield large revenues.

If we would have salmon at our own doors, we
also must restock the Hudson, the Connecticut, and
the numerous other rivers that were once frequented
by them. But the trout and the black bass are still

192 pr6tection' of fish.

with us, and by decent care and treatment may be
plenteous, for the pleasure and support of ourselves,
our children, and our children's children. Consi-
derable attention has been expended upon some of
the ponds and streams on Long Island ; and although
the poacher makes occasional depredations, and
Im-king through the bushes ]3lants his net, or with
wriggling worm draws forth his imseasonable prey
during the forbidden periods, the improvement
already is remarkable. Ponds that were once empty
of fish are made beautiful by the splashes of the
playful trout, and streams that were deserted are
replenished. Enforce the law thoroughly, and dis-
continue unreasonable slaughter, and fish, from their
enormous fecundity, must increase immensely.

It is probable that the localities in the neighbor-
hood of our large cities have passed their worst
days, and that the beautiful lakes and rivers, en-
sconced in the wild woods and amid the green hills
of our unopened country, are in the most danger.
A cockney sportsman, by which we mean not a city
sportsman, but him who, wherever born or bred,
fishes only for quantity, and from a vain-glorious
spirit of boastful rivalry, is, indeed, a ruthless thing ;
he spares neither fish, flesh, nor fowl, whether he
can use them for food, or must leave them to
putrify, and regardless of the means or implements
he employs. This merciless biped invaded Moose-
head lake one year, armed with fly and bait rod,
and with two additional trolling rods projecting
from each side of his boat as he moved from place


to place, murdered thousands of glorious trout ;
supplying his own ^Yants, the public table, and the
hog-pen — for the latter was separated from his feed-
ing place — till the pigs, disgusted at his brutality,
were surfeited, and bushels of putrescent fish had to
be buried or thrown into the lake. Others, almost
as murderous, roam the north woods of the State
of New York, and even penetrate as far as the un-
broken shores of Lake Superior, threatening anni-
hilation to our game of every kind. The man who
kills an animal, bird, or fish, knowing that it must
be left to spoil, justifies the charge of cruelty
against our class, and deserves the scorn and con-
demnation of all right-thinking men.

Wanton injury to public property, in game,
should be punished precisely as similar injury to
public property in grounds or buildings, by incar-
cerating the ofl[ender in prison ; for of the two, the
latter is less injurious in its ultimate results. A
building may be replaced, but who can restore life
to the fish that bears a thousand undeveloped young
in its bosom, or can give back to the starving fawn
the mother that has been slain at its side ? Mere
pecuniary fines are an insuflacient punishment ; the
poaching criminal is the poorest, as he is the mean-
est, of offenders, and laughs at any attempt to col-
lect penalties that are not enforced by imprison-
ment ; while the wealthy cockney is willing
to run the risk of fine if he can, by taking the
advantage of honest sportsmen, have the chance
of boasting of his wonderful prowess and suc-


cess. A few months in jail would cure the reck-
lessness of the former and cool the ardor of the

A still more murderous proceeding, so infamous
that it is rare even with professional poachers, is to
cast poison into the water, thus slaying, by one fell
process, large and small, young and old. Condem-
nation of such a practice is unnecessary; and were
it otherwise, fit language could hardly be found to
depict its enormity.

By the introduction of unsuitable fish much injury-
is occasioned, more frequently through ignorance
than wilfulness. Perch placed in a sluggish trout
pond, like many of those on Long Island, Avill
devour the young fry, and soon diminish the yield ;
and pickerel, which are especial pets of our farmers,
although nearly worthless for food or sport, have
devastated some of the best ponds in the country.
The former are devotedly fond of minnows or small
fish of any kind, and such bold biters as to give rise,
in England, to the story of a country gentleman
who enticed an ardent angler to his house by stock-
ing one of his ponds with several dozen perch, all
but one of which the visitor captured on the day
after his arrival, before breakfast. The pickerel is
exceedingly voracious, and also right fond of his
smaller fellow fish for dinner.

To meet these cases the ponds must be drawn ofiT,
as neither perch nor pickerel remain in running
water, and the waters must be re-stocked. In fact,
wherever, from any cause, the drain is greater thah



the supply, the deficiency must be made good by
artificial means.

By these means can the seductive Httle beauties,
whether of the feathered, furred, or scaly tribe,
that aUure us to the great woods, the pleasant mea-
dows, or the sparkling brooks, be preserved through
endless time in undiminished abundance, furnishing
the incentive that leads us away from our dull books
or wearying cares, the crowded streets, the congre-
gations of eager men, the trials and excitements of
business, to gentle communings with the hills and
skies, to contemplative musings beneath the leafy
forests, or by the noisy water-falls, strengthening
our nerves, renewing our hold of life, and elevating
our moral nature.



Before making an artificial fly, it is essential to
ascertain and select the best materials, and the neces-
sary implements for the purpose. In the Game Fish
of North America the author has explained the sim-
plest and easiest mode of tying a fly, and if there be
any person who has no't read that work he sliould
procure it at once. The instructions there contained
must be first mastered before the follov/ing are
attempted, lest discouragement should result ; and
no one that does not desire great accuracy and
finish need waste the time and labor of understand-
ing and executing the ensuing directions. There are
a few persons who wish to tie a fly handsomely ;
this chapter is written for them. The fish probably
care little whether the fly is made at Conroy's esta-
blishment, of the finest materials and from the most
approved patterns, or by some unknown German
wholesale dealer, of any. chance feathers.

Remember, however, that he who strives not
after perfection never attains mediocrity, and the
improvement of himself is one half of the angler's
pleasure. If we are content with an ungainly fly,
we will be satisfied with inferiority of rod and tackle ;
and although the fi^h may not see the diflference, the
angler may become, from neglecting one point,
slovenly in all. A well-made fly is a beautiful


object, an ill-made one an eye-sore and annoyance ;
and it is a great satisfoction both to exhibit and exa-
mine a well-filled book of handsomely tied flies.

Nothing can be thoroughly done unless strict
attention is given to minutiae. The material must
be selected and protected mth the greatest care, the
scissors and knife must be sharp, the spring pliers of
suitable strength, and the nails of the workman must
be long and his hands scrupulously clean. Here-
after the table-vice, the use of which was recom-
mended in the Game Fish of North America, and
which will be found both convenient and for extreme
neatness necessary, will be dispensed with, and the
hook held in the hand during the entire operation.
This at first may appear awkward, require more
time, and give an inferior result ; but sad would
be the case if the loss of a vice were to diminish a
man's capabilities.

The selection of the hook depends mainly upon
the fancy of the fisherman, and partly upon the
locality of its destined use. If fish are scarce and
shy, select one that will insure striking ; if they are
abundant, but strong and vigorous, choose one that
will hold. In trout-fishing there are two that bear
the palm in striking, the sneck bent and the Kirby
bent Limerick ; in holding a fish after he is struck,
my preference is for Warren's Lake-trout hook,
which, however, does not make a handsome fly ; for
salmon-fishing, the O'Shaunessey Limerick is the
general favorite. The objection to the straight or
hollow-pointed Limerick, is that it may be drawn


over a flat surface without catching, Avhile the point
of the O'Shaunessey, by projecting, catches and

Fish-hooks of the best quality of home manufac-
ture, of all shapes and sizes, may be obtained at
from twenty-five to seventy-five cents a hundred,
and will be found equal if not superior to any Eng-
lish hook at double the price, or they can be
manufactured of any shape desh'ed.

So few persons make their own flies in this coun-
try that none of the tackle-makers sell the mate-
rials, and hence the amateur will have to collect
the latter as opportunity offers. Gut, of course, can
be purchased anywhere; but the strongest kind of
that suitable for salmon-fishing is often difficult to
obtain, if not entirely out of the market. In trout-
fishing, select fine, round, transparent strands, and
pay from one to two dollars per hank of one hun-
dred strands ; for salmon choose the strongest and
roundest, and pay from three to four dollars. Gut
is imported from Spain and Italy, and is made by
drawing out a dead silk-worm till it is of the proper
fineness ; and none imported from the East, and no
imitation of grass, sinew, or the like, is worth using.
The quality can be determined by its hardness ; if it
resists the teeth well, it is good ; age weakens and
finally decays it.

The best wax, although it is by no means perfect,
is made of one part of resin, one of beeswax, and
four of shoemaker's wax, the two former melted
together and poured into water, and then worked in


with the latter. It should be kept in a small piece
of leather. Shoemaker's wax itself is the strongest,
but is sticky in warm weather and hard in cold.
The best silk is the finest sewing-machine silk,
marked with three O's on the spool ; but for very
small trout-hooks the better plan is to twist two or
three strands of spool floss-silk together and wax
them carefully.

Tinsel of a superior kind is difficult to obtain ; the
silver should be both variegated and plain, and the
yellow either gold or well covered with gilt, and
both flat and wound over fine silk. A mixture of
both sorts of a poor quality is used to tie linen
goods, and can be obtained at the furnishing stores,
but a better article is to be had from the importers
of gold and silver braids. The proper kind of floss-
silk comes in spools, and can be wound off by the
single thread over the hand till a proper thickness
is attained, and will work much better than the
common floss skeins. If the latter are used, they must
be divided uito several strands and are apt to bunch.

Worsted of all colors can be obtained in the
rough, or the yarn may be picked or used intact ;
the former is the best plan, and rivals mohair in

Mohair may be purchased from the importers of
woollens, while it seems impossible, except by direct
Importation from the English tackle-shops, to obtain
either pig's hair or seal's fur. For salmon-flies the
two last are infinitely preferable, having a gloss that
no other material possesses.


Mohair and camlets are the finest selection of
goat's hair (the former being carded and the latter
combed), and work beautifully. The most elegant
flies are those with silk bodies, but they are rarely
so effective as those of mohair. Many of the wild
animals of our woods furnish a fine fur, such as the
grey, red, and black squirrels, martin, mink, rabbit,
and others.

A golden pheasant is indispensable for salmon-flies,
and a spoiled skin can be obtained from the taxider-
mists at from two to five dollars, according to their
scarcity. Hackles for salmon-flies should be large
and from matured cocks, those for dyeing delicate
colors pure white ; while for trout-flies they should
be small, either from hens or from cocks not over
two years old, and taken from the upper part of the
head. They must taper well to the point and not
have a stiff stem, and should have the fibre about
the length of the hook shank. For wing-flies they
must be smaller than for hackle-flies and palmers,
and the superfluous fibres are to be stripped off be-
fore the feather is tied on. Small neck feathers of
almost any bird will make a hackle sufiiciently large
for the midge flies. The natural colors afford
abundant variety for trout-flies, but for salmon the
gayest must be dyed. The necessary colors are red,
claret, blue, orange, purple, and yellow ; and by suit-
ing the dye to the natural color, so that the latter
shall shine through, a fine effect is often produced.
Considerable practice nnd experience will be neces-
sary in selecting hackles to distinguish the weak


from the harsh, and to determine the proper size and
elasticity. Collect all varieties of dimension and
color, and tying each selection round the roots with
a thread, keep them in separate papers. After a
while, those that experience shall have proved to be
unsuitable may be discarded.

The feathers of small birds make good wings for
trout flies, and there is not generally much difference
in their color. Our brown thrush is nearly the
shade of the English land-rail ; the robin furnishes a
fine and cohesive feather ; the woodcock's tail makes
a pretty fly, .while the mallard and wood duck are

There are two distinct feathers from the mallard
which are used for different flies ; the brown and
grey mallard feather, both taken from the drake,
the former from the back near the wings, and the
latter from the body beneath the wings. The bird
must be in good plumage, and under the most favora-
ble circumstances they are both, except in simple
wings as hereafter described, difficult feathers to tie ;
the fibres, although very fine, being apt to separate.
Another light feather, much easier to handle than
the grey mallard, is taken from the back of the can-
vas-back, but is of rather too pale a color ; that from
the red-h,^ad is of darker grey. For salmon flies a
larger range is requisite. The turkey of all shades,
but especially the black and brown of the wild bird,
is the main-stay ; the golden pheasant's tail is some-
what similar ; the peacock gives us excellent feathers
of many shades, and the finer herls from the eyes of


the tail add lustre to a mixed whig. Peacock and
ostrich herls are used for the heads and bodies of
certain specimens. Ibis, macaw, guinea-fowl, blue-
jay, king-fisher, parrot, are all necessary ; while the
Argus pheasant, although injured by the water,
makes an exquisite wing, and the silver pheasant is
used with effect in black bass flies.

For dyed feathers the pure white of the swan
furnishes an excellent material, while crossing colors,
such as yellow over ibis, produces great brilliancy.
The mallard and canvas-back are also favorites for
dyeing. The principal shades are yellow, blue, and

We will now proceed to make a salmon-fly after
the simplest plan on a large hook, and remember
that the point is held down, and when the further
side is spoken of, it refers to it in that position ; the
head is always towards the right and that is called
the upper part, and towards it is above.

Select a piece of stout gut a little longer than the
shank ; pare down the ends with a knife ; double
them together so that one shall extend beyond the
other; insert the picker between them, bend at the
top and shape it by twisting and pinching the ends.
If the hook is very large it is well to take several
strands of gut and first twist them together by means
of a vice fastened to each end, while they are wet
and before shaping them over the picker. When
the gut is prepared lay it down and take a well
waxed piece of silk about six inches long, and hold-
ing the hook in the left hand, wind a number of


separated coils from the lower towards the upper
end of the shank, but not quite to the head. If the
silk is well waxed it will remain in its place while
you pick up the gut with your right hand, and lay
it along the under side of the shank upon these
coils. Hold it there with your left while you wind
firmly and closely toward the bend ; catch the last
turn beneath the gut or pass a half hitch, and cut
off the end. Take a fresh piece of silk, always
thoroughly waxed, and pass a few turns over its end
so as to fasten it ; then hold a piece of tinsel four
times as long as the shank between your left fore-
finger and the further side of the hook, just project-
ing above it, and nearly vertical ; pass three turns
over it, and wind the silk in separated or loose coils
towards the head and let it hang there. Fasten the
spring pliers on to the lower end of the tinsel length-
ways with it, and holding the shank in the right
hand, with the left forefinger in the pliers, twist
several turns down and then back to form the tag,
covering the edges of the first turns with the second
carefully and neatly ; let the pliers hang ; pass the
hook to the left hand; unwind the silk with the
right down to the tinsel ; fasten off with three turns
and cut the tinsel close to the hook. Unwind from
the floss-spool over your right hand a dozen strands,
and smoothing them evenly together and holding
them against the hook with the left, tie in the ends
firmly, and again coil the tying silk toward the head
out of the way. You may wind the floss with either
hand or with the pliers as you please ; if you wind


witli the right hand, hold the hook in the left and
press the second finger on each turn as it is pas^^ed;
this is called stopping it or using the stop. Aftei-
covering about one sixteenth of an inch, seize the
end between your second and third or third and
fourth fingers, and hold it firmly while you bring
down the tying silk and pass three turns ; holding
the silk in that way is called using the catch, and is
difficult to acquire with facility. Cut the floss off
neatly, and selecting a feather from the golden
pheasant top-knot, lay it on its face, — the side of the
feather which lies nearest the bird from which it is
taken, is the inside or back, and the contrary side
the outside or face, — -and secure it firmly. Stop the
tying silk and take up your hackle, which should
have been previously prepared by stroking back and
pulling out a few fibres toward the point, and hold-
ing it by the point Avith the right hand, lay it on its
face with the butt towards the left so that the bare
spot shall come at the upper end of the floss silk tip,
and pass two turns of the flying silk ; insert a piece
of tinsel in the same manner parallel to and just
over the hackle, and having fastened it, hold the
tying silk with the catch ; take up the dubbing of
mohair with your right hand and spin it over the
tying silk towards the left, having agnin taken tlie
latter into the right as soon as you have caught the
end of the mohair with the stop. Sliape the mohair
so that the body shall taper and twist it evenly
togetiier with the tying silk towards the shoulder,
using the stop all the way, and do not carry it too


close to the head ; pull off the superfluous mohair
with the fingers of the right hand and pass the silk
four turns over the upper end of the body, and
winding it towards the head slip it between the
gut and the hook. In this way you can always
secure the tying silk when you wish to lay doAvn
your work. Spring the pliers on to the tinsel, and
with the right forefinger pass four^ even open coils
carefully and regularly ; unwind the silk, and having
secured the tinsel replace it. If these coils are im-
perfect or irregular, neatness cannot be obtained.
Having cut off the tinsel, catch with the spring pliers
the butt of the hackle and follow the edge of the
tinsel ; rolling the hackle on its back so that the
fibres shall point down the shank. When you reach
the shoulder pass several turns of the hackle close
above one another, and bringing down the tying silk
secure the butt. If one hackle is not sufiicient, and
it rarely is, introduce a new hackle close above the
first, precisely as you did the other, only on its back,
and wind a sufficient number of close coils and again
fasten it. The second hackle, if weak, may be fas-
tened in on its back by the butt, and wound with the

The silk being hitched under the gut cut it off and
apply a new piece as you did the second, and wind
it towards the shoulder, letting it hang close down
to the hackle. Prepare the wings by cutting with
a sharp knife a few fibres from each of two mated
feathers, together with a little of the stem, so that
the fibres shall not be separated, and taking one


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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 12 of 18)