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 6 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 6 of 18)
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is light, and stores in small compass ; for rough tra-
vel, doubtless, it is admirable, and, were we to make
long portages, would be better than china. After
all, the taste of tin must be more apparent than real ;
the metal cannot come off, or it would dissolve ;
and how, then, can it give a taste ? The pots are
large, but a man wants a good, long drink, whether
of tea or brandy, when exhausted with hard work


or exposure. After all, you will find many advan-
tages in tin caps, and, really, the plates are scarcely
objectionable ; before deciding, you must look at these
matters from both points of view. However, as we
cannot obtain china this trip, and as we are discuss-
ing improvements, there is one thing I insist upon
hereafter — we must have table-cloths and napkins."

" What !" I exclaimed, absolutely overcome at
this suggestion.

"Table-cloths and napkins. You have probably
heard of such things before ; they are customary at
a gentleman's table, and if a person does sleep in a
tent, he need not forget he is a gentleman. Look at
this table, made out of two rough boards that were
never even planed, transported in the bottom of our
boat, and walked over daily with dirty shoes and
occasionally with bare feet, sullied with the marks
of promiscuous bundles, half covered with grease,
and stained with tea, bilge-water, and fish-blood
gracefully intermingled."

" That is too bad ; they are two good, clean
boards that Frank washes regularly, aud which are
in themselves an unusual luxury ; for in wood's-lLfe
we usually dine off a log or a flat rock."

" They may be washed occasionally ; but as dead
fish are first gutted on them, and as tea and grease
are afterwards spilled on them till they are revolt-
ing with filth, I do not see, for my part^ how you
can eat your dinner off them."

" I don't eat off them ; I eat off my plate."

" That you may call a joke ; but hereafter I shall



have table-cloths and napkins. You carry towels,
why not napkins ?"

" Because you cannot stow a large number, and
if you have only a few, how are they to be kept
clean? The guides have enough to do without
trying to wash table-cloths with cold water and no

*' If that is so, I should take an extra man to wash

The next day we met with a loss. We had no-
ticed that the Indians, when they travelled, were
invariably accompanied by their dogs ; these were
rarely accommodated on board the canoes, and fol-
lowed along the shore, swimming the inlets or cross-
ing at the head, making often much longer journeys
than their masters, who passed from headland to
headland, but coming up with the camp at night to
partake of the frugal meal. Sometimes, however,
they strayed, and either lived on chance gleanings
from travellers or perished in the woods. There
were two ownerless dogs near our camp, and al-
though precautions had been taken by our men,
they succeeded in carrying off our only ham, leaving
us nothing to show for it but the empty bag.

Don's appetite had been sharpened by open air
and exercise, and he expatiated at length upon dis-
appointed hopes of fried ham, broiled ham, ham
omelets, ham plain, and ham and eggs, and sug-
gested many new and doubtless excellent dishes, of
which ham was to be the principal part. His advice
was valuable, but somewljat late.


Being already tired of the to me uninteresting
Batchawaung and its one pool of numberless trout,
and having a strong and favorable breeze, we broke
up camp, descended the river, killing a duck on the
way, and once out in the open water, headed for
the Point of Mamainse, which is Chippewa for stur-
geon. The wind, however, soon came out ahead,
increased to a gale, and drove us into Uanse aux
crepes^ or Pancake Bay, where we were detained
that day and night.

JOanse aux crepes is at the mouth of a little rivu-
let that tumbles over scattered boulders, and occa-
sionally contains some nice trout ; but the water
was low, and although we caught enough small fish
for supper, we did better with young ducks, hap-
pening to get a shot into a brood, and killing with
the two discharges seven plump, luscious, well-
grown little fellows, which replenished the gridiron

The temperature fell to thirty-seven degrees, and
with it the mosquitoes — a delightful change from
the oppressive heat and hungry hordes that had tor-
mented us. We camped for the night at the mouth
of the rivulet, and continuing our voyage early next
morning, soon reached the bold, imposing promon-
tory called by the Indian name Mamainse. The
shore is rocky and precipitous to such an extent,
that the fisherman finds difficulty in casting the fly,
or even pursuing his way along the steep cliffs.

The water is filled with broken rocks, as at other
parts of the coast, and wh^re these project above


the surface a good stand is obtained. At one spot
the waves had worn out a deep cavern, where a
dozen men could sleep, protected from the air, and
often under foot could be heard the smothered rum-
bling of the water as it rushed into deep holes out
of sight. Above the bare rocks, which are often
fifty feet perpendicular, stretch the sparse under-
brush, the stunted evergreens, and the moss-covered
granite of the mountains, till they reach an elevation
of a thousand feet. Frowning down upon the
water stands the Point of Mamainse, a rallying-spot
for the summer fogs and winter storms, a landmark
to the voyageur, a barrier to the fiercest commotion
of the lake, and the upper boundary of Tequamenon
Bay, as the confined portion of Lake Superior near
its outlet is called.

It is an extensive promontory, and point after
point presented itself to our wearied eyes ; we
landed, rose, and lost some fine fish, and killed seve-
ral of good size ; but as the wind was adverse, we
could not afiTord to waste time, and pursued our
journey till nightfall.

'Next morning we tasted a Batch awaung trout
that Frank had salted and smoked by hanging near
the fire ; inasmuch as it was green and had not lost
its original flavor altogether, it was quite appetiz-
ing ; but a smoked trout that has been dried suffi-
ciently to keep, is about as hard, unpalatable, and
indigestible a morsel as man can put in his mouth.
It has neither the flavor of the mackerel nor the
richness of the cod, and not the slightest pretence


to the delicacy of the salmon. Slightly salted and
smoked, however, it will remain good for several
weeks, and furnish a variety to the woodsman's
Spartan fare.

Unfortunately there is no way of preserving
trout ; these fish, so delicate fresh, are almost worth-
less pickled, soused, salted, or smoked ; while those
of a size to be worth catching are too large to pre-
serve by potting, in which way alone can their flavor
be preserved. They are pickled by being immersed
in water that has had sugar and salt boiled in it ;
they are soused by being cooked and preserved in
vinegar and allspice ; they are. smoked by being
salted for a night and hung in a smoke-house or
near the fire ; they are kippered by being rubbed
with salt and a little pepper, and hung in the sun ;
they are potted by being cooked and packed tightly
in jars, and having hot lard or butter with spices
run in and over them. Only when prepared in the
latter way are they eatable, and then only when
they are small.

This day we had our first really favorable wind
that bellied out our sail, and relieving the men from
the labor at the oars, drove us along at a famous
rate, enabling us to push boldly out into the lake
that was alive with the dancing, foam-crested waves,
and urging us onward famously in a direct course.

When far from shore and miles from the habita-
tions of a civilized being, we espied approaching
another barge similar to our own, and which proved
also to be carrying a party" of fishermen.


Our sail was hastily lowered, and the vessels being
laid alongside of one another, we held an interest-
ing conversation with our fellow-travellers. It ap-
peared they had ascended the Neepigon, and gave
glowing accounts of the number of fish, but not
much of the character of the fishing ; saying that
the trout, which were large on the average, were
collected in pools as we had found them in the
Batchawaung, and were so numerous as to ruin
the sport. They had had a long journey, and were
out of whiskey, a deprivation that we hastened to
supply ; and were glad to see civilized beings, and to
feel that they were once more on the confines of the
land of the white man.

With mutual good wishes we bid them farewell,
and watched their barge after we separated growing
smaller and smaller in the distance, till it was lost
to view. How suggestive are such meetings of
individuals who have never encountered one another
before, who form an acquaintance as it were in the
wilderness, shut out from the rest of mankind, and,
separated, never to meet in the wide world again ;
like a ray of sunshine through a storm-cloud, shining
for an instant across the surrounding darkness, gone
in a moment, and never to be re-illumined, leaving
nothing behind but a pleasant memory ! Not one
of the persons in either boat will ever forget that
meeting, and nevertheless no conceivable circum-
stances can bring them together again on the bound-
less waters of Lake Superior.

We reached the Agawa that night. The stream


was sluggish at its outlet, near whicli a change in
its course had left a small pond in the sandy shore,
and was not altogether inviting, with its shallow, dis-
colored, heated current. It has a high reputation
among those who have explored it, but flows into
the lake in a commonplace manner. A neighbor-
ing swamp encouraged the growth of mosquitoes ;
and the black flies, which seemed to be of an un-
recognized and indescribably vicious species, were
annoying in the extreme. There was a small settle-
ment of Indians near by, and hardly had we com-
menced pitching our camp, which had to be located
some distance from shore on account of the pebbly
beach, ere they appeared.

There was an old man, the embodiment of harm-
less idiotcy, who turned out to be a patriarch and
not the fool he looked ; two fine-looking, straight-
featured young men ; two boys, a little girl, and
three dogs. The latter evidently belonged to the
family, for they all, dogs included, stood in a row,
the latter fully as intelligent as the former, and
none of them ofiering the least assistance while our
men and ourselves raised the tent. The old man
wore a conciliatory expression of imbecility, the
young men a confirmed air of vacuity, and the dogs
and children seemed imbued with a few sparks of

They made no motion and uttered no word till a
fire was lighted, when they instantly crouched round
it. As a race, living in the rudest manner, and de-
based from their native simplicity by contact with


the white man, they have small claims to intelli-
gence ; but to their credit, be it said, they are ordi-
narily honest, and unless grossly outraged, perfectly

They are readily moved to laughter, greatly
enjoyed the appearance of our hats, which were
stuck round with flies, and shouted with delight
atthe noise made by Don's chck reel, when he
took a trout in the small pond previously men-
tioned, and throughout our intercourse with them,
proved themselves pleasant, trustworthy compa-

While our guides were preparing supper, Don
proceeded to explore the neighborhood, and made
his way to the wigwams, where he found more of
the same family. Immediately on our appearance,
the women, after peering furtively through the
chinks, retired into obscurity, ignorant, probably, of
our high delicacy towards the female sex ; and in
fact throughout, betrayed a disgusting want of con-
fidence ; the three favorite wives of the silly old
patriarch, wives that we were told were both young
and pretty, having fled into the bush before our
canoe had touched land. During our entire stay
we had nothing but dissolving views of female
charms — ^loveliness that was not arrayed in crino-
line—although Don devoted every spare moment to
persistent visits.

A young man appeared promptly from under the
blanketed door of the first wigwam, and Don com-
menced an instructive conversation on the subject


of numerous dogs that were howling round in un-
pleasant proximity to our calves.

" You have a large number of dogs ?"


" I suppose you use them in the chase ?''


"They accompany you in your journeys V*


" What do you chase with them ?"

" Ya."

" I asked what do you chase with them ?"


" Oh, I see you speak French."

" Ya."

" QWest ce que Von chasse aiiec Us chiens .^"


Don now began to doubt whether his new friend
spoke either French or English, and had recourse to
Chippewa, at least as near Chippewa as he could come.

" Vat you chase, chassy, vis the doggees ?"


" You chase les cerfs the deer, the elks, the moose ?"
gesticulating freely.


"The beaver, the— the— castor.?"

"Ya." .

" The rabbit, the— the— ze rabeet ?"


"Don," I burst forth at this stage, "he does
not understand a word you are saying."

" On the contrary, he evidently understands per-


fectly, how else could he answer so intelligently ; of
coarse he does not pronounce yes accurately, but is
entirely comprehensible."

" Well, then, ask him about the canoe he is build-
ing ; how many it will hold, what those strings are
for, and where he caught that large trout yonder ?"

" You build ze canoe ?"

" Ya."

"Howmany it hold?'*


"It hold one?"


"It hold two?"


" You see he says it holds one or two."

" Well, now about the strings."

" Zese strings, what for ?"


" ]Si o no ; what for yese strings ?'


" What zay use for ?" raising his voice.


" You no understand ; what for, what for ?"

" Ya."

" Leave the strings and ti:y the fish ?"

" You see ze trout, truite .^"

" Ya."

" Where you catch him ?"


" Up ze river ?"



"Or near by?"


" No, no ; where catch him ?"


" Here or zere ; here or zere ?" very loud, as
though the savage were deaf.

" Ya."

" That will do ; and after this instructive conversa-
tion we had better seek our camp and supper."

*'Just as you say; he evidently does not fully
understand the last question, although I think we
might obtain some valuable information from him.
We certainly want to know where he took that fish,
which must weigh four pounds."

"We certainly shall not find out, as baby talk
evidently is not Chippewa, although I wish it was,
and will need Frank's aid in our communications."

The other Indians were still seated near our fire,
and received with apparent thankfulness the rem-
nants of our supper, of which we took care that the
little girl should have her share, after we had
finished. As the river was low and could not be
ascended with our barge, nor without much labor on
foot, it was necessary to hire canoes; but unfortu-
nately we had nothing but United States money,
which was about as worthless as white paper.
Frank took ground that we should pay them in
stores of pork and biscuit ; but as he seemed utterly
regardless of our anxiety to make a positive bargain,
and but little mindful whether they were paid or
not, Don felt it necessary to approach the subject


cautiously, and having read of the pipe of peace,
thought the opportunity a good one for its introduc-
tion. Taking out his pouch, he gave them enough
tobacco to fill their pipes all round, having learnt
from Frank that it was not necessary to pass his
own from mouth to mouth, which he had considered
imperative, but which was not altogether plea-
sant. He was solicitous about their having their
pipes well lighted, and being pleased with the
tobacco, and when reassured on that head, and
satisfied that genial smoke was producing its natu-
ral effect, he permitted Frank to give a few gentle
hints suggestive of our desires to ascend the river,
our possession of quantities of pork that we did not
wish to take back with us, and our anxiety to be
satisfied that canoes could be had.

The subject being skilfully launched, Don ex-
pressed great interest in the little girl, whose name
he found was Wajack^ which being interpreted,
means Little Rat, and finally made his great point
by the production of his picture. This had hung
in our tent night after night, had been carried in
our basket day by day, and -had smashed its score
of eggs ; but now it repaid us. The hearts of the
savages were won, their delight was rapturous,
expressions of admiration were universal, the highest
encomiums were passed upon it, and the little chil-
dren, whose likenesses were really extremely pretty,
were as the perfection of loveliness as Frank
interpreted it, pronounced to be " so nice and



This we felt to be oiir moment of victory, and
Frank was directed to improve it. Standing before
the fire, with a gridiron in one hand and a dish-cloth
in the other, he burst into a strain of unequalled
eloquence. Without understanding a word, we
could imagine him painting our desolate condition ;
how we were strangers from a far-off land, had left
the pale-faces, our wives, our little ones, bringing
with ns only their faint delineation on paper, in
order that we might see the beauties and grandeur
of the Indian's home — to sleep in the woods, to
float upon the lakes, to wander through the forests,
to explore the rivers. How we felt the red men to
be our brothers, and wished to know them better,
wished to stay long with them, to voyage in their
company and under their guidance ; that we were
great men in our own land, but knew little of the
wilderness or the manners of savage life ; that we
were rich in corn, in pork, in flour and biscuit, but
had not thought to bring our purses, which were
filled to overflowing, with us ; but that we felt our
brethren of the great Chippewa tribe would befriend
us, would supply us with canoes and guides, and
help us on our way. That the great universal
brotherhood of man demanded it, and that the time
might come when they would be in our land, penni-
less and ignorant, and might have to look to us for
canoes and guides ; and would be glad to remind
us of the time they helped us uj) the Agawa.

At the end of every sentence and at every pause,
the Indians all, big and little, broke in with a simul-


taneous m-m-m, a sort of grunt that became more
vigorous as Frank became excited, and grew louder
as his arguments grew stronger ; till before he was
through, the listener would have supposed that the
entire party was suffering in the agony of what
children know as the stomach-ache. The grunt was
not in the least like the conventional humph, was
uttered without opening the mouth, which would
have been an excessive and unnecessary labor, and
ivas capable of great expression. . It began sympa-
thetic, grew appreciative and confirmatory, and at
last became wildly enthusiastic^ evidently taking its
origin from the Greek chorus, which is of a similar
appropriateness ; it was the strangest accompaniment
to a public speech we ever heard.

Feeling the importance of the case, we endea-
vored to keep our countenances ; but what with
Frank's bursts of eloquence, his graceful and im-
pressive gestures with the gridiron, the vehement
grunt in chorus at every pause, our strange
position congregated in the wild woods round a fire
with a parcel of unkempt savages, begging to swap
off, as our Yankee brethren would say, a quantity of
biscuit for a passage in a canoe, we could not con-
tain ourselves, but rolled over in convulsions of

At first the Indians did not know what was the
matter, then they joined with us, and when we
attempted to imitate their grunt they shouted louder
than we had done. Frank felt that aspersions were
cast upon his eloquence, and seemed to have his


feelings hurt, but unable to resist the general hilarity,
at last joined the

That echoed along the shore."

What Frank had really said I never could find
out, but believe that he mentioned the subject we
had at heart no farther than merely to order the
young men to bring their canoes. Although half-
breed himself, he was influenced by the general
contempt for the rights of a savage, and determined
in his own mind to have the canoes and pay for
them as he pleased. Doubtless also he was more or
less controlled by a dread of self-depreciation in
acknowledging that he served penniless employers.
To our persistent questions he would respond laco-
nically that it was arranged, but would say nothing
as to particulars. As we were entirely in his hands,
having discovered that not a word of our language
did the Indians understand nor we a word of theirs ;
and as, although our desire to do justice was great
and might have been strong enough to induce us to
give up the idea of obtaining the canoes, we were
utterly unable to communicate it, we were com-
pelled to submit to Frank's course.

The Chippewa language is beautiful, easy, flowing,
graceful, full of vowels, expressive, capable of
vigorous impression, and, were it more generally un-
derstood, pleasant to acquire ; but above all is it
advantageous when an entire ignorance of its mean-
ing enables you to take what you want and pay for



it as you please. And if the native is dissatisfied he
cannot vituperate or abuse you, a^ the strongest word,
leplus vilaiii mot^ as Frank expressed it, fortunately
is ^^ chienP




The canoes arrived on the following morning ere
our breakfast was clispatclied, and having stowed
into them our fishing-gear and the requisites for a
simple meal, we were about embarking when Don,
who was directed to sit on the bottom of one, be-
tween the two Indian boys, entered a violent protest,
and seating himself on a log instead, announced he
should either not go at all, or should be allowed to
pole and have sole charge of one end of the canoe.
This proposition astounded all who could under-
stand, and would have astounded the others still
more if they had understood it ; but ere we had
recovered our breath Don commenced exj^laming
his views :

" For many years I have heard of voyaging in a
canoe ; have thought it the chief pleasure of the
wilderness, and have been anxious not only to learn
hoAV, but to do it. Of course, you will hardly ex-
pect me to know how to manage so frail a boat
without practice, and yet if I never practise, how
am I to learn ? It is self-evident I must commence
some time. If you admit that, and you can scarcely
dispute it, what better time could I have than the
present ? You propose to take the bow of the other
canoe, and although you are probably not as expert
as the savages, you did not acquire such skill as you


possess intuitively, but by experience. You will
probably suggest that I may upset ; if so, the con-
sequences fall only on myself. You have put no
stores in this canoe, and the ducking will be mine.
Let one of the Indians stay behind, for I have counted
upon this as my greatest pleasure."

" But, Don," I reasoned mildly, somewhat appalled
at the prospective consequences, "you will smash
the canoe."

" Oh, no ; you did not do so when you commenced ;
and if I do, it is not woi*th over fifteen dollars, and
I can pay for it. We have stores enough, and I can
make up the difference to you."

" But you will never succeed "

" Pooh, pooh ! You succeeded, why not I ? I do
not ask you to give up the pleasure which I see
plainly you are bent upon, but we can leave one of
the Indians here ; I wiU go with the other, and you
with Frank. That will make the load lighter, be-

" Has ononsieur ever poled a canoe ?" asked Frank,

" ]N"o ; but I must commence. Of course, I will
have difficulty at first, but it will come ; do not
trouble yourself about me."

" The work of poling against a strong current is
tremendous, and the river being low, the rapids are
unusually heavy. You will be entirely exhausted
ere you have gone half-way."

" Do not worry yourself about my sufferings ;
although your argument is evidently defective, as


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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 6 of 18)