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 16 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 16 of 18)
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the waterside — and which is the source of so much
delight in inspecting, replenishing, and arranging
during the season that the trout are safe from hon-
orable i^ursuit, is at present one of the most un-
gainly and inconvenient things that he uses. It is
either of mammoth size and filled with flannel
leaves in which the moth revel, but in which the
hooks will not stick, or it is so ingeniously arranged
that the flies on one page entangle themselves in a
remarkably complicated manner with those on the
other, and whenever the book is opened do their
best to tumble out and carry with them such leaders
as may be within reach of their obstinate barbs. It
has places for articles that are not wanted, and none
for those that are; the disgorger, an instrument
about as useful to the angler as a jack-plane, is
always present, while a piece of India-rubber to
straighten gut, or even silk and wax, is never to be
found. The pockets and slips are so arranged that
the flies cannot be got at without much difliculty, or
else fall out with perfect ease, and are invariably,
when released, found with the gut so curled up that
it cannot be straightened for some time. In fact,
the present style of fly-book is a disgusting mon-
strosity. The true plan is to so arrange the pockets



FLY-FISHING. 263

that those of one page will come opposite tlie hooks
on the other in such manner that there can be no
entanglement ; of course the snells of the stretchers
cannot be kept straightened, but the droppers, hav-
ing shorter snells, may be secured under strips of
paper, and left at full length, the alternate flies
being at each extremity of the leaf; and on the
adjoining leaf in the pockets may be similar flies
dressed for stretchers. Or the droppers, all having
the gut tied, of the same length by measurement,
over two pins stuck into the table, may be secured
on both sides of a separate sheet of pasteboard upon
hooks and eyes, the fly-hook being fastened into the
eye and the loop upon the hook. The latter is
attached to a short piece of elastic, and will hold the
gut straight and safe. The boards thus prepared
are carried in long pockets between the leaves. The
book, when filled and ready for use, should not be too
large to be carried in the breast pocket, should be
composed of stout parchment or ass skin that will
resist the effect of dampness, covered, with leather
or morocco, and closed with a neat clasp.

The best implements will not make an angler, nor
enable him, without skill that can only be obtained
by patience and perseverance, to perform his duty
creditably at the river-side. Especially must he
learn to cast his flies far, lightly, and accurately, for
of all the angler's qualifications this art is the most
necessary. To do this every writer on fishing has
given particular directions, but in reality no plan or
formula can be made that is not subject to great



264 FLY-FISHING.

modifications ; the following, probably, is as nearly
correct as any: After the line is lifted from the
water, which is done with a quick upward motion
of the wrist, the forearm is slowly and steadily
raised until the line has described the necessary
curve and is extended almost directly behind the
angler, when a fresh impulse from the wiist changes
the direction to a forward one, the arm following
the motion until the line has nearly reached its
limit, when it is checked by an almost imperceptible
motion of the wrist, and the flies are made to drop
on the water gently and quivering with almost the
tremor of life. This is the rule when the cast is
down wind and unobstructed, and the breeze light
and equable, but in practice each cast must be
adjusted to the peculiar circumstances under which
it is made ; the force that will drive out the line in
a heavy breeze will not be vigorous enough if it dies
down at the next cast, and the line must be stopped
short or it will not extend itself; on the other hand,
if the wind suddenly increases to a gusty flaw, the
flies will be driven into the water with a splash, un-
less the arm is extended to exhaust the additional
force. If the cast is across a strong wind, the line
is lifted against it and makes almost a complete cir-
cle, and if well managed can be made to so resist it
that, in the roughest weather, it will go out its full
length and fall with beautiful delicacy. In a hard
blow the difiiculty will be in raising the line, and at
times it will not be found necessary to lift the flies
entirely from the water before casting, as the wind,



FLY-FISHING. 265

by its pressure on the bag of the line, will carry
them out of itself. In fishing a stream there is
much to be learned in the art of jerking the flies
under the bushes, and tossing the back line directly
upwards to avoid entanglements, instead of behind
the angler ; proficiency should be obtained with the
left hand as well as with the right, and in right and
left casts, that is to say, where the line is raised
on either side and the flies brought over either
shoulder. This last point is essential if two anglers
are to fish from the same boat, for each should
invariably keep the tip of his rod over the shoulder
opposite to his neighbor.

These observations are probably all that can be
placed on paper with any advantage, for complete
knowledge can only be obtained at the brook or
pond under the guidance of those skilful teachers,
patience and perseverance ; and after the line has
been neatly cast and the trout lured from his lair
under the bank of the stream, or his mossy bed at
the bottom of the pond, the art of striking him, that
is, fixing the hook firmly in his mouth when he has
grasped it, can only be acquired by actual experi-
ence. All written directions on this subject maybe
reduced to two — it is done with a motion of the wrist
and as quickly as possible; and yet if this art is not
mastered, the rest will be in vam.

There are few matters connected with fly-fishing

that have been more discussed, and about which

there has been more difference of opinion, than the

length of line that can be cast with the ordinary

12



266 FLY-FISHING.

tront-rod. Assertions are common, and certificates
even have been given at public contests that compe-
titors have cast one hundred feet of hue, and many
persons, especially those not thoroughly initiated,
imagine that they can readily manage seventy, eighty,
or ninety. But this matter was brought to a defi-
nite issue at the convention of tlie Sportsmen's
Clubs of the State of New York, held in 1864, at
the City of New York, when a handsome prize was
oflTered for excellence in casting the fly, and rules
were carefully prepared to govern the trial. These
rules are given at length hereafter, and provide an
allow^ance, for length and weight of rod, and pre-
scribe certain distinctions as to whether the contest
is only as to distance, or as to delicacy and accu-
racy in addition. In the instance referred to, it was
determined that all these points were to be included.
No rod was admitted that weighed over one pound
or exceeded twelve feet and six inches in length ; a
gut-leader of not less than eight feet was required,
and to this three flies were to be attached. The
tackle and rods used by the competitors were, in
every instance, those that they were accustomed to
use in actual fishing, the lines being generally of
plaited silk, covered with the ordinaiy water-proof
preparation. The water was without a current, but
ruffled by the effects of a light breeze that died
away entirely ere the contest was over, and the stand
was a floating platform, level with the surface, and
upon which the weaves occasionally washed so as to
wet the feet of the contestants. The distance was



V FLY-FISHING. 267

measured along the water by a rope stretched laiit
and marked at every foot of its length with buoys ;
l^arallel with this, and close to it, a staging was
erected, on which the spectators could stand and
observe accurately the quality of every cast. The
contestants were required to use both hands, and
were restricted to five minutes' time. The judges
were three of the most experienced fishermen of the
State, one of whom is celebrated for his proficiency
in, and devotion to casting the fly.

It will be observed that several customary advan-
tages were lost by this disposition, or brought to an
equality ; there was no elevation above the water,
which is always difficult to measure, and which, of
course, adds immensely to the distance that can be
covered ; there was little or no wind to add to the
forward motion of the line, and no current to
straighten it out, or assist, by a slight resistance to
the rod, in recovering it, which, after all, is the main
difficulty, as the line that can be lifted and extended
behind the fisherman will readily reach its full
length in front of him ; and the distance cast was
measured, not along the line, which will invariably
sag more or less, and may have its length consider-
ably augmented by an irregularity in delivery, but
along the water. Moreover, the Competitors were
required to make a neat as well as long cast, lest
they should be ruled out for want of delicacy, and
had to prove their thorough proficiency by dexterity
with the left hand.

The rods used were respectively of ash, with a



268 FLY-FISHING.

split bamboo tip ; of cedar, with a lance-wood tip ; and
of split bamboo throughout ; and were all of the best
Avorkmanship and perfect representatives of their
kinds; the contestants were some of the best anglers
of the State, and nothing occurred to mar the plea-
sure of the contest or to disparage the correctness of
the award. The prize was won by the cedar rod,
which was twelve feet three and one-half inches
long, and weighed, with heavy mountings, fourteen
ounces ; and the greatest distance cast with the right
hand was sixty-three feet, although the allowance
carried the official return to sixty-eight feet ; and
with the left hand the absolute distance was fifty-
seven feet. The author cannot help adding that the
cedar rod was in his hands, and that the prize is
now in his fire-proof safe, as he thinks that success
at such a trial and against such competitors is legi-
timate ground for no little vanity.

It is reported that there was a contest of a simi-
lar nature in England ; but while the length of rod
was restricted to twelve feet, there was no allow-
ance for weight. The contestants stood several feet
above the level of the water, and the distance
reached was seventy-two feet. This, therefore,
scarcely furnishes a ground for comparison, as a rod
may be made so heavy at the top and limber in the
middle as to cast a prodigious line, but which would
be utterly unwieldy at the river side ; and for every
foot of elevation several feet ol additional length are
gained. In public trials attention mustbe paid to these
particulars, or they will furnish no satisfactory test.



FLY-FISHING. 269

The writer once cast seventy-two feet with the
same cedar rod that won the prize ; but this, al-
though without the assistance of any wind, was
done from a sUght elevation with the aid of a cur-
rent, and was measured by the length of line. It is
undoubted, moreover, that sixty-three feet is not
the limit that can be attained where no attention is
paid to delicacy in delivering the flies, or where but
one fly or none whatever is used. The line can be
cast considerably farther without a fly attached than
with it, and the length and taper of casting-line
should accord exactly with the weight and taper of
line. This has to be regulated in a measure by
practice, and should be carefully determined before
a public trial is undertaken.

The author of the American Angler's Book re-
commends that the largest fly should be used as the
stretcher. This is all wrong, and no one that does
so will ever deliver his flies far and neatly. It is
contrary to the principle of tapering the line, and
has no advantage whatever to recommend it. The
largest fly should be the upper dropper or bob, and
the next in size the second dropper, while the
stretcher should be the smallest. Then not only
will the taper be maintained, but if a trout rises at
the droppers there will be more probability of strik-
ing him. One of the contestants at the trial above
mentioned delivered his line so delicately that the
flies often could not be seen to strike the water or
make the least disturbance on its surface, although
the spectators were close to the spot where they fell.



270 FLY-FISHING.

He was on a previous occasion ruled out of a con-
test because the judges could not see where his flies
alighted. He is especially careful to maintain the
true taper of line, casting-line, and flies, and would
scout the idea of using a cast with its largest fly at
the stretcher. This is as gross a heresy as putting
a shot in the fly-hook, which, while it may tend to
break the rod, instead of increasing will diminish the
distance reached.

The author of the work referred to, although
doubtless a hearty participant in the angler's plea-
sures, and fond of the free life in the wild woods by
the side of the secluded stream, shows, by his pre-
ference for common flies and coarse tackle, that he
does not appreciate the higher development of his
art in its purity ; content rather to fill his basket with
a stout hackle from the well-stocked brook of the
rarely visited forest, than to tempt the dainty trout
■with finer imitations from the well-fished pond of
the cultivated country. Not only are large flies,
especially at the stretcher, difiicult to cast, but the
hackles which he especially recommends are, from
the resistance to the air ofiered by their numerous
bristles, by far the most difiicult. It is almost im-
possible with a light rod to cast a large hackle deli-
cately to a distance ; and when three are used, it is
entirely so. In clear pools such an apparition
would frighten the trout from their "feed" for
a week. But in a boisterous, roaring, foaming
mountain cataract, where the fish cannot see the
fisherman at all, and find difiiculty in seeing



FLY-FISHING. 271

their prey, hackles and palmers are perfec-
tion.

The foregoing match was governed by the follow-
ing rules, which have been permanently adopted by
the New York Sportsmen's Club, but the allowance
of time is not sufficient where delicacy and distance
both are to be determined ; and the better plan would
be to allow each contestant first to extend his line
as far as he can, and then to restrict him to five
minutes as to the other matters at issue.

Rules of the I^Tew Yoek Spoetsmen's Club, eor
Contests in Fly-Casting.

No Bod shall be allowed over twelve feet six
inches in length, nor more than one pound in weight,
and it shall be used with a single hand.

A practicable Line and Click-Reel shall be at-
tached to the rod.

One Stretcher Fly must be used, and a Casting-
Line or Leader^ of single gut, of not less than six
feet in length.

Additional Flies may be added in the discretion
of the contestants.

No attached weight of any kind on the line or fly
shall be permitted.

Allowance of distance shall be made according to
the length and weight of each rod of five feet for
every foot of length and two feet for every ounce of
iceight^ and at that rate for a part of a foot or ounce,
deducting for a hollow butt or the omission of the
customary mountings.



272 FLY-FISHING. -^

Each contestant shall be allowed ^^ye minutes for
casting, and in case of accident, such as the parting
of the fly, or entangling of the line, the referee may
once allow additional tinie^ in his discretion.

No cast shall be valid unless the line be retrieved.

The character of the contest, whether as to dis-
tance^ accuracy^ or delicacy, shall be stated at the
time of making the terms, and, if not so stated, shall
be only as to the distance, Avhich, if practicable, shall
be measured along the water.

In case delicacy and accuracy are to be considered,
the casting shall be done with each hand, across,
against, and with the wind, in over and under casts,
and not less than three flies must be used on a leader
of at least eis^ht feet in length.

Salmon Fly-Casting. — The above rules shall gov-
ern, unless it shall be distinctly agreed that the con-
test is to be with double-handed rods, in which case
they shall be modified as follows :

The rods shall not be over twenty feet, and the
casting-line or leader not less than ten feet in length.

Allowance of distance shall be made for length,
but not for weight, and no more than one fly shall
be used in any event.



In addition to the imitations of the natural fly,
efibrts have been continually made to use artificial
representations of the other food and baits for fish ;
exact and beautiful copies of grasshojipors and fi-ogs
have been constructed, and painted of the proper



FLY-FISHING. 273

color, but either from the nature of the composition
or some other cause, entirely in vain. Indeed it is
doubtful whether any fish was ever captured with
such delusions as grasshoppers, crickets, or frogs, and
although they are still retained in the shops, tliey no
longer find a place amid the angler's paraphernalia.
Squid and spoons are usually supposed to imitate
minnow, and have always been to a greater or less
degree successful, but the imitation fish itself has,
until late years, invariably proved a failure. With
the discovery of the proper prej^aration of gutta-
percha, and its application to the innumerable pur-
poses for which it is now employed,, came the sugges-
tion that it might in various ways serve the angler ;
as wading-boots and water-proof clothing, of course,
but also for bait-boxes, rods, and finally minnows.
A little fish made of this material is not only a fault-
less imitation of the original, and is even curved in
a way to produce the most perfect spin, but being
soft to the teeth, seems absolutely to convince the
trout in spite of their palates that it is wholesome
and appropriate food. This imitation is used with
satisfactory results, not only for trout to which it is
peculiarly adapted, but also for snapping mackerel
and lake-trout ; it is so admirably prepared that the
eye cannot detect the deception, and it has about
the same consistency as fish itself. The back is a
delicate mottled green, changing to yellow on the
sides, where there are a few vermilion spots, while
the lower part is brilliant and sparkling with some
preparation of quicksilver. There is a gang of three
12*



274 FLY-FISHINa.

hooks near the head and another at the tail, wliich
is of tin, and the whole is attached to double gut.
A modification of the same article is made by fasten-
ing two tin flanges at the head of the same minnow
and leaving the body straight, but by the change
more is added to the weight than to its effectiveness.
This invention is extremely light, being hollow,
can be cast even with the fly-rod, and has been
known to do great execution. In its present per-
fected form, it is a foreign production, but the origi-
nal discovery was American. It is especially success-
ful with lake-trout, even more so than with brook-
trout, but is too delicate to trust in the hungry jaws
of a savage pickerel. When the snapping mackerel
first appear, and before their increasing appetites
have made them as ravenous as they subsequently
become, and when they will not condescend to the
leaden squid, they will readily take this gutta-percha
artificial minnow. One of its great recommendations
is its lightness ; no imitation bait that falls with a loud
splash into the water can do other than terrify the
timid trout ; and to make castings pleasure, the rod
must be delicate, which cannot be if the bait is heavy.
The squid is usually supposed to be the original
imitation of a minnow, and has held a prominent
pLace among the angler's delusions for many years;
in bass-fishing, in trolling for blue-fish, and even for
lake trout, it is worthy of all praise. For bass, it is
true, the natural squid is far more tempting, but
this queer monstrosity is difticult to obtain, and its
substitute has often captured enormous fish ; for blue-



FLY-FISHING. 275

fish no other bait is ordmarily used, and for lake-
trout the ivory squid can hardly be surpassed. The
ordinary kinds are of lead, pewter, bone, which
are often hollow, and admit the insertion of a large
hook; and of pearl, the latter in its most killing
shape having flanges and spinning like the minnow.
For blue-fish and their young — the snapping macke-
rel, lead is the favorite, while for lake-trout and
pickerel, ivory is preferable, although this rule is
not invariable ; and on dark days the light-colored
material will be occasionally preferred by all these
varieties.

As the trolling-spoons resemble no known crea-
ture, they also are supposed to be intended and
accepted for the minnow, although it is difficult to
conceive why fish with their sharp sight, that can
distinguish an almost microscopic midge upon the
surface of the water twenty feet above their heads,
should mistake a piece of revolving tin for a living
fish. The first of these contrivances were manufac-
tured and named from the bowl of a pewter spoon,
the handle being broken off and holes drilled in each
end, so that the line and hooks could be attached ;
this bait was found to revolve and glitter in the
water in an attractive way. It is now almost super-
seded by other modifications ; but still, Avhen made
of bright tin and painted of a dark color on the con-
vex side, and rather more elongated than the ordi-
nary pattern, it is successful with lake-trout and
Mackinaw salmon. The first alteration in shape v/as
by fitting two flanges or wings on a long, hollow



276 FLi^-nsHiNG.

body, upon the principle of a screw, and named
after Archimedes, by which a rapid revohition wns
produced ; but aUhough this inveiition seemed to
man nearly perfect, it did not satisfy the fish ; for a
very small spoon it will answer, but when lai'ger is
not so attractive as other kinds. Several alterations
and combinations of these two plans were produced
from time to time ; they proved to be merely changes
and not improvements, until an invention was made
that is usually called Buel's Patent Spoon — although
it has been said that his patent only covers the
application of three hooks instead of two, and that
the invention has long been in use among the picke-
rel fishermen of the St. Lawrence. Tlie blacksmiths
on the banks of that river certainly manufacture
them unrestrainedly of such material as they prefer,
but only use two hooks; and this would not proba-
bly be permitted if the patent was broad enough to
prevent it.

Be that as it may, however, it is known as Buel's
Spoon ; it is made by fastening two or three hooks
back to back, and attaching a piece of tin nearly
elliptical in shape, so that it can revolve freely round
a collar at the shank. This is its simplest form,
and the one preferred for mascallonge, for w^liich
two strong tliick hooks are used, firmly soldered to-
gether ; and for pickerel, black-bass, and lake-trout,
it is safer to have the hooks either soldered into one
piece or attached by wire, as the fierce struggles
and sharp teeth of these species wWl soon destroy
thread or silk. The tin is painted of various colors,



FLY-FISHING. 277

or even replaced with brass, and should be kept
well burnished on the bright side. Feathers of
gaudy colors, such as ibis, golden pheasant neck,
mallard, and wood-duck, interspersed with plain
white, are often fastened along the shank ; spoons
thus prepared are favorites of the black-bass, but
have no advantage for mascallonge over the bare
hooks ; they are also used successfully for trout,
especially those captured in salt water, and the fea-
thers as well as the coloring of the tin may be
adapted to the state of the weather. On clear, sun-
shiny days dull colors are preferable, as with artifi-
cial flies ; and in dark or rainy weather the lightest
colors answer best. Three additional hooks are
sometimes added, and allowed to dangle loosely be-
low the others ; although these occasionally capture
a fish that has missed striking the spoon fairly, they
are more frequently bitten off; they are really no
advantage, and if once imbedded in the bristling
jaws of a gasping pickerel, their extraction is both
difiicult and dangerous.

Of the different varieties of artificial bait, not of
course including the artificial fly, the most general
and successful is Buel's Spoon ; it is taken by all tlie


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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 16 of 18)