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 5 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 5 of 18)
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island in the centre. Numerous little rills branched
off from the main stream, and forming innumerable
fantastic miniature water-falls, sought different paths
to the lower level. The rocks were bare and mostly
of a dull brown, constituting a strong contrast to
the green fringing of the mountain sides, and were
worn away by the immense volumes of water and
ice that forced their way through in early spring
and swept them clear of vegetation.

At the foot of the lower shute there was a seeth-
ing cauldron, white with foam near the fall, and
black from its great depth in the centre ; below, the
wearied stream rushed down a stretch of rapids, and
sought temporary relief in a broad, quiet basin that
reached to the first of the cascades, close to our
camp, and in which the water seemed absolutely

Hardly giving ourselves time to note and enjoy
the beauties of this most romantic spot, and urged
on by the sportsman's instinct that looks to the at-
tractions of nature, after having tried for game, we
commenced casting in the rapids. Our efforts were


rewarded, and we landed some fine fish of from one
to two pounds, and had grand sport Avith them in
the current and eddies. Putting on for a tail-fly a
large, full, brown hackle with scarlet body and sil-
ver twist, I at last advanced cautiously towards the
black pool below the shute, and keeping well out of
sight, cast it across the boiling water ; it fell among
a mass of whirling foam, but being swept down,
passed over a portion of the dark water, and was
ravenously seized by a fine trout.

Astounded at the unexpected consequence, the
frightened fish darted hither and thither about the
pool until, finding his efforts to free himself vain, he
rushed towards the rapids below. Here the rod and
line were powerless to restrain him, and he made
the reel spin as I followed along the rocks. How-
ever, with care he was guided through the dangers
of the foaming current, strong eddies, and project-
ing rocks, and was led after a long battle into a spot
of comparative quiet, near an old dead tree that
projected over the water.

Being myself prevented from approaching by the
branches of this tree, I instructed Frank to watch
a good chance and use the net ; but never shall I
forget his look as, after two or three vain attempts
— for he was not altogether skilful — the upper fly
caught in his shirt, and the trout, which must have
weighed at least three pounds, made a furious dash,
parted the leader, and escaped. As though it was
my fault, instead of his awkwardness, Frank turned
towards me with a most reproachful expression,


and without a word came to have the hook cut from
his shirt, intimating that if I would hook him, I
could not expect to land large trout.

The fishing below the falls of the Harmony was
absolute perfection ; although the fish were not
large, that is, not of monstrous size, and rarely ex-
ceeded two pounds, they invariably after a short
struggle took to the rapids, and compelled us to
follow them, at a pace and under difficulties that
brought salmon-fishing vividly to our recollection.
The steady roar of the falls and the picturesque
wildness of the scene added to the intensity of the
enjoyment, and served to occupy our minds when
not employed upon our sport. Of easy access from
our camp, we afterwards ordinarily visited them
alone, leaving the men to attend to numerous house-
hold duties, and had the advantage of being able
to wait upon ourselves.

The hours passed quickly by, and when the calls
of appetite could no longer be resisted, we found
ourselves with two dozen splendid trout, which
were the selection from nearly a hundred. Well
satisfied, we hastened back to our camping-ground
which Charley had been busily arranging, and while
the men were preparing dinner, we tried the cascade
near by.

This was certainly a fortunate day, for Pedro
soon hooked a splendid black bass and landed him,
after a vigoi-ous struggle of half an hour ; he
weighed three pounds and three-quarters, and was
thoroughly game, and established a fact that Pro-


fessor Agassiz seems to doubt — that black bass in-
habit Lake Superior. The guides recognised him
at once as an old acquaintance, and called him by
the familiar name of achigon.

After a hearty dinner we descended to the mouth
of the river for the residue of our camping articles,
and while returning I trolled with a small Buel's
spoon. Unfortunately happening to espy a duck
upon the water, I laid down my rod to take the
gun, when a black bass struck, nearly jerking the
rod out of the bo-at, and with a mad spring carried
off my bait and casting line, while the duck, alarmed
at the noise, flew away amid the confusion.

Having landed our load, and leaving the men to
complete the camp, Don and myself hastened back
to the scene of our morning's sport to renew, and
even surpass, our previous enjoyment ; for after kill-
ing several fine fish in the strong water in splendid
style, I struck one of great weight in my favorite
pool. He soon took to the rapids, and stopping in
an eddy, fouled the line without escaping. In vain
all means were tried to clear the line without alarm-
ing the fish ; it had caught on the further side of a
large stone, and could only be reached from a rock
that projected its smooth, slippery surface above the
current at some distance from the shore. Rendered
desperate, and summoning all my courage, I crept
out into the rushing stream, and, supported by the
handle to the landing-net, succeeded in reaching
this dangerous location.

No sooner was the line free than the fish again


darted down stream, taking out the line at a tremen-
dous rate. I turned to follow, but what was my
dismay to find that, although I had managed to get
from the shore to the rock, the current followed
such a direction that I could not return. On went
the fish ; in vain I sounded the bottom with the
handle of the landing-net, or felt for a safe footing,
or essayed to jump ; the water was too threatening
and the risk too great. Still the fish kept on, and I
had just made up my mind to take the leap for his
life or my own, when the line became exhausted
and the leader parted. Slowly I wound in the line,
sadly picturing the supposable weight of the escaped
fish, and depressed in spirit, managed with Don's
assistance to regain terra firma. The only consola-
tion was in the thought that we had secured full as
many fish as we could use.

That night was extremely warm, and one of the
most trying I ever endured in the northern woods ;
not only were mosquitoes abundant and ferocious,
but that terrible pest, the sand-fly, existing by my-
riads in the sandy soil, made merciless attacks upon
us. The shores of Lake Superior are unpleasantly
prolific in all the minute torments that are most
.dreaded by the sportsman. During the day the
black-fly absolutely swarms, in the evening the sand-
fly arises from the sand in invisible millions, and at
night numberless mosquitoes continue the pursuit ;
repelled, but not dismayed by ointment and lini-
ment, they wait till it is dried or rubbed ofl", and
dart upon the exposed part ; they far exceed in


numbers their brethren of Kew Brunswick, where
the rocky soil is less suited to them, and, in spite of
all defences during hot weather, inflict much misery.
Don's first idea was to despise their attacks, and,
disbeUeving the virtues of pennyroyal and creasote,
stoically to endure the discomfort of the woods
as a necessary accompaniment to enjoying the
pleasure; but by the time tea was over he had
changed his mind, and at bedtime carefully enve-
loped himself in his veil.

The thermometer rose to eighty-six in the tent,

^ and being little lower at midnight, the veils were
found to be rather suffocating. The moderate tem-
perature of the northern climate is the great protec-
tion of the sportsman ; ordinarily in a trip of a
month there will not be three oppressive days, but
when the weather is warm and insects numerous, a
good chance is offered to exhibit courage and jollity.

• Next morning, when the heat continued, and the sun,
rising above the hills, shone through the dense fog
like a globe of fire, Don wore a solemn but patient
expression of countenance, and fully justified my
confidence in his endurance.

The weather during the early season had been
warm and dry, and the lake was two feet below its
ordinary level, and although its main body retained
a cool temperature, the shallows were heated. The
rivers, on the contrary, that flow into it from the
north, taking their rise from swamps and shallow
ponds, not only are tinctured with decaying vegeta-
tion and are of a rich amber hue, but had absorbed


the heat, so that the fish which in our latitude are
in summer accustomed to desert the lakes for the
cool spring brooks-, had mostly left the rivers for the
cooler lake. Only where the water was cooled and
aerated by a fall, or at the mouth of some trickling
spring, were they to be found in any numbers.

I have said that opposite the camp there was
such a rivulet, and at its mouth, crowded together,
each striving to get his nose nearest to it, was a fine
school of large fish. The water of this rivulet must
have been not far above the freezing point in tem-
perature, and was delicious drinking, while the main
stream was nearly tepid.

Being informed by our guides that there was a
second fall above the first, and good fishing near it,
we proceeded, after taking a few fish and a good
drink from our spring- water rill, to ascend the river.
We were compelled to make our way through the
brushes and undergrowth, over the dead ti-ees,
and among the rocks that covered the shore, and were
hardly repaid for our labor ; the fall proved to be only
a small cascade, and though there was a deep fine
pool at its base which Frank assured us contained
trout of five pounds, we could not persuade any of
them to rise. As no fish above the main fall could
have access to the lake, I felt convinced there were
none of large size, and the weather continuing warm,
we returned early to the camp.

That evening was again devoted to the black
bass, which took both the fly and spoon greedily,
and which, when captured, were deposited alive in


a pond-hole in the rock, where their appearance and
motions could be studied to advantage. They were
not handsome fish, with their broad backs, deep
bodies, and thick heads ; their extended fins were
peculiar and characteristic, and their general form,
fierce red eyes, and large mouths were more indica-
tive of ferocity than grace. Those that we opened,
although it was in the month of July, were heavy
with spawn, and the ova had the appearance of
being almost ready for deposit, — suggesting the pos-
sibility that these fish differ from those of the eastern
country in their spawning season. It is hardly con-
ceivable that they would carry their eggs till April
or May of the ensuing year, in which month black
bass spawn elsewhere ; and if not, their habits must
be entirely dissimilar.

The long walk through the sand and mud had
made our shoes rather unpresentable, restoring along
the edges the original russet of the leather ; and as
he was about retiring, Don suggested to me the pro-
priety in our next trip of bringing with us blacking
and brushes.




ISText morning, the weather being cooler and the
wind favorable, we took our departure, after having
captured some fine fish at the falls pool, for the
Batchawaung River. It was but a short journey
round a sandspit that projected into the bay, where
we took a single trout, and we were soon in the
mouth of the deep dark river. The banks were low
and of course covered with * trees, most of which
were of the deciduous character; the water was
sluggish, and the interval between the bay and dis-
tant mountain extended several miles.

We passed an Indian paddling a canoe loaded
with bark, the sole occupant besides ourselves of the
quiet stream, and our guides conversed fluently with
him in the musical Indian tongue. Occasionally a
brood of ducks, alarmed at our approach, broke the
oppressive silence with their vigorous efforts to
escape, and Don, trolling with Buel's spoon for black
bass, struck and landed a small ill-favored pickerel
—esox horeus — of some four pounds weight.

The Batchawaung is the favorite resort for anglers
who visit the north shore, and being within easy
access of the Sault — not more than a day's sail with
favorable weather — is fished to excess. It is a large
stream, filled with rapids and pools, and usually


crowded with trout of immense size ; but the water
is dark and easily heated, so that the fish often desert
it for the lake. There is a sameness about the
Batchawaung, and a want of picturesque effect, that
is altogether different from the Harmony ; we missed
the noise of the falhng water, the sight of the pretty
cascade, when we came to pitch our tent about four
miles fi-om the mouth, at the first shallow rapids,
and throughout our whole trip we never saw the
equal of the romantic Harmony.

There are but two rivers emptying into Batcha-
waung Bay that are generally laid down on the
maps — the Batchawaung and the Chippewa — ^but
the guides assured us there were four fine streams.
The location usually given to the Chippewa applies
well to the Harmony, and it may be they are the
same river under different names. Our ordinary
maps of the northern shore of Lake Superior are
altogether imperfect, and even the charts of the
Hudson's Bay Company are not entirely accurate.

Anxious to explore the stream, no sooner was our
camp pitched and dinner over than we embarked
and continued the ascent, being poled against the
current by the two guides, and trying every promis-
ing spot as we passed. Fish, however, were no-
where to be found, and disgusted with the heat
that not only annoyed ourselves but had destroyed
our sport, we were about giving up, when Frank
stojDped the boat over against the mouth of a little
murmuring tributary brook. There were a quantity
of small stones and large rocks where the rivulet


joined the river, and the cast being a long one, I
extended my line and dropped the fly just where
the two currents met. It was taken instantly by a
fish that, after fifteen minutes' vigorous play, was
landed and found to weigh two and a half pounds.

That inaugurated our sport, and was followed by
the capture of at least two dozen magnificent trout,,
that were not only immense in size, averaging nearly
three pounds, but were extremely beautiful and un-
commonly vigorous. Their tints were rich and dark,
difiering as greatly from the lake fish as the trout
of the Canadian rivers difier from those of the salt
water. They fought with great courage and per-
severance, requiring skill and patience to land ; and
anxious as we were to take a large one, that is to
say, one of over four pounds, those of two and
three pounds were so numerous and voracious that
we could not effect our object.

"We landed some by hand and threw many back
into the water, but, notwithstanding, soon had
more than we could possibly use. There being no
reason for our taking any more, and Don having com-
plained that the cast was inconveniently long on
account of the imperfections of his rod, I assured
him I could cast entirely across the pool, and to
prove it, lengthened my line, and at the first cast
hooked fast in the rock beyond. N"ot caring to
break the line, we dropped the boat across the
stream, and while passing over the pool, beheld the
bottom literally black with fish. If we had been
inclined to wanton destruction, we could doubtless


have killed a hundred ; but having no means to pot
or souse them, and knowing that they are com-
paratively worthless salted or smoked, we had re-
solved not to kill more than we could eat.

On the way back to camp we took a long, lean,
poor, sickly fish, that, if in good order, would have
reached six pounds, but in its unhealthy state only
weighed two and a half.

At supper that evening Don made a formal pro-
test and complaint, insisting that he would drink no
more tea till he had white sugar; he entered at
some length into the characteristics and peculiarities
of sugar in its various stages, questioned the advan-
tage of using brown sugar at all, intimated that white
was the best, most economical, and least bulky,
advised me in future to take none other, and finally
having disposed of every conceivable case but his
own, inquired why, when we had abundance of
both, he was not allowed the one he preferred, by
which time I had it out and ready at his hand. He had
evidently braced himself for a terrible argument,
seemed somewhat surprised at the want of opposition,
and after a moment or two began to call in question
the propriety of opening a new package, when the
brown sugar was already in use ; that, in fact, al-
though some people preferred white, and he must
confess he was among the number, others liked the
flavor of the dark colored; that little inconveniences
were the natural concomitants of a sportsman's life ;
that when a number of bundles were opened they
were more exposed to dampness — a serious injury to


sugar — and there were more packages to look after,
and that he was decidedly of opinion it was unadvisa-
ble, and that he was entirely willing to go without
his. tea. By this time the tea was drunk and supper

It is a delightful thing of a cool summer evening
to sit round a rousing fire that casts its variable
glare upon the trunks and lower branches of the
stalwart trees, and gives a ruddy glow to the white
tent, the dense underbrush, and the kindly faces
of the honest guides. At such times, while listening
to wild stories of woodsman's life, that are doubly
interesting when repeated upon the ground where
they occurred, a pipe is absolutely delicious. Every
member of the temporary household selects a rock
or log, fashions a seat to his satisfaction as best he
may, and recalls the events of other similar expe-
ditions for the. edification of his associates. On
such occasions cigars, which are cumbersome at all
times, do not seem to answer, and recourse is had to
the little pouch of Killikinnick which every one
carries with him; under the joint influence of story
and tobacco, the time passes quickly away, and the
hour of bedtime arrives too soon.

Notwithstanding the summer evenings are usually
cool above the line of the British Provinces, we
happened to have fallen upon a hot spell ; and
although the fire was not disagreeable, the mosqui-
toes, which are benumbed by cold, were lively and
plentiful. Under these circumstances our mode of
proceeding was to close the tent and then with a


candle carefully burn them one after another. To
do this successfully requires nerve and skill ; the light
must be approached quickly enough to catch the
nimble fellows, and just far enough not to scorch the
tent; the operation gave Don decided pleasure,
especially as they are consumed with a loud " pop."
In course of the proceeding he incidentally re-
marked : "Their galleys burn; why not their cities,
too ?"

Next day we ascended the river to the falls, which
were about three miles from camp, and were found
to be attractive neither to the fisherman nor the
lover of nature. The water was warm and Ashless,
the shute was small and unromantic. We dined at
its foot, and descending, fished the pool that the
day before had rewarded us so satisfactorily. Our
prey was still there, eager as ever for hook and fea-
thers, and soon covered the bottom of our boat
with their glistening forms. My line after some
time happening to become fouled in the bottom, and
skilful fishing appearing to be out of place, I laid
down the fly-rod, and taking the bass-rod, cast the
troUing-spoon with some efibrt and a loud splash
into the pool ; instead of alarming the fish, it was
eagerly seized, and I kept on catching fish with it at
every cast, till Don became disgusted with such
unsportsmanlike procedure, and insisted upon re-
turning to camp.

That day was made remarkable by the advent of
a thunder-storm, a rarity in the northern clime,
and the only one that occurred during our entire


trip. It was not violent, and had none of those
terrible characteristics of similar phenomena in
southern latitudes, and even in our regions would
have been considered a tame affair.

As, however, it drove us within the tent, and gave
us a little unemployed leisure, my attention was
attracted to Don's baggage, which consisted of an
incongruous assortment that would hardly have been
thought of by any other amateur backwoodsman,
and would certainly have astounded a professional.
Of course there were abundant clothes of various
colors and kinds, of which a buckskin under-jacket
suitable for severe winter weather, but hardly
necessary in a summer-trip, and a handsome dressing-
gown, were prominent articles; also his shaving
materials, very neat and elegant, that were not used
till he returned; a thermometer that kept ns in-
formed as to the amount of suffering we were
entitled to feel from the condition of the weather ;
a picture of his two extremely pretty children, set in
2. passe-partout frame, with a glass over it that was
in daily danger of destruction, a bundle of tooth-
picks that would have lasted us both a year, a new
and effective patent portable boot-jack, a clothes-
brush and whisp, a bottle of eau de cologne^ a pair
of flesh-brushes, and many other things that might
be classed as "odds and ends."

Most of these articles were jumbled together in a
large water-proof bag, from which he was never
known to be able to obtain any specific article with-
out emptying the whole on the floor ; but the pic-


ture, his looking-glass, comb, hair-brush, and soap
he kept among the eggs. The eggs suiFered con-
siderably from the association, and their injury was
felt by myself as head cook; but Don could never
be persuaded to cliange his habits, producing abun-
dant arguments to prove that that was their only
appropriate place.

At supper he announced his firm conviction that
china cups and plates were a necessity to existence,
that tin was an abomination, and that on all future
tiips he should be properly supplied. He was in-
dignant at a suggestion that they might be broken,
and burst forth :

" You are so set in your ways that you think no
one can have any ideas but yourself, or make any
improvement on your plans. Here you are, drinking
high-priced tea, and even brandy-and-water, out of
tin cups that hold a quart," — this was an exaggera-
tion, as they were only pints — "have a disgust-
ing taste that absolutely destroys the flavor, and are
of such a shape that you have to dip your nose into
the fluid before you can swallow any of it. With
hot tea this is painful, and with brandy, or even
water, far from pleasant."

"Glass or china would be more agreeable on
some accounts " was the mild reply.

" I should think so," he interrupted. " Allow me
to ask what you paid for this tea ?"

" One dollar and fifteen cents a pound."

" And what does it taste like ?"

<' Tea."


" Tea ! Well, there are some people that can
hardly tell wash-basin slops from the best Bohea."

"But, then," I hurriedly explained, to moderate
his disgust, " china is so liable to be broken ; I had
once an entire case of liquor smashed by my guides."

" Yes, and that liquor-case is a case in point ;
because that was lost you do not give up carrying
liquor, do you ? Then why cease using china cups,
not that they have been, but only from fear that
they may be broken ?"

" They are so much heavier than tin," I remon-

" As if the weight of two cups, one for you and
one for me, and two plates, was so serious. Let's
dispense with something else ; take less to eat, if
you please, but have it decently served."

Convinced by this eloquence, I meekly promised
to comply on our next expedition, but Don was not
altogether satisfied, and continued :

"I do not wish you to consent to these views
merely to suit my wishes. I want you to be con-
vinced. I dare say there are advantages about tin ;
it may be knocked about, is always ready at hand,

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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 5 of 18)