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

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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 8 of 18)
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crowded with myriads of the speckled beauties ;
and the rapids at the outlet furnish trout of the
largest size.

The true mode of enjoying the sport is by camp-
ing out, when the adventurous sportsman roams
from point to point and river to river, from camp-
ing-ground to camping-ground, at his own unre-
strained will, varying the sights and sounds of
beauty that are ever present in the wilderness ; but
excellent fishing can be had at numerous places,


united with comfortable accommodation. At the
Sault St. Marie, at Marquette, at Grand Island, and
at Bayfield public-houses are to be found, and so
plentiful a supply of fine fish that the heart of man
cannot fail to be satisfied ; but the finest sport is to
be realized along the Canadian shore, where camp-
ing-out is a necessity ; for while on the southern
coast the trout average a pound, on the northern
they will run fully two pounds in weight.

To reach Lake Superior from the Eastern States
the angler must either take the steamers at Cleve-
land upon days advertised in the local papers, or
join them the next evening at Sarnia^ by the Grand
Trunk or Great Western railroads of Canada. He
will reach the Sault in three days from Cleveland,
and can save twenty-four hours in going by the way
of Sarnia. At the Sault he will find unequalled bait-
fishing, and occasionally excellent fly-fishing ; but
here, on account of the depth and strength of the
water, the bait will kill the largest trout. At this
thoroughly American village there is a well-kept
hotel, the Chippewa House, and nearly all the re-
quisites for camp-life, except the tent.

A few miles below the Sault the Garden River
affords good sport and fair-sized trout, but is a diffi-
cult stream to ascend, while the first promontory
on the southern shore of the lake, called White Fish
Point, has long been famous as a fishing-station.
At Marquette, which is a regular stopping-place for
the steamers that traverse the lake, the waters are
somewhat fished out ; but about thirty miles to the


eastward, within an easy clay's sail, at Grand Island'
there is splendid fishing, magnificent scenery, and a
passable boarding-house. Here are the famous Pic-
tured Rocks, ornamented with the fantastic hues of
many-colored sandstone, and worn by waves and
storms into a thousand odd shapes and strange re-
semblances, hollowed out into caverns, washed away
into pinnacles and spires, at one place representing
a yacht under full sail, at another a turreted castle
of the olden time.

About sixty miles beyond Marquette are the
Dead, the Yellow Dog, and Salmon Trout rivers,
which are apt to be encumbered with drift-wood
and underbrush, but which are filled with fish, and
from one of which a brook-trout of six and a half
pounds was taken. The photograph of this fish, or
another of about the same size, is preserved at the

At Bayfield, the further terminus of the steam-
boat route, named after the first American explorer
and surveyor of this region, is the best of fishing,
united with good hotel life. In the neighborhood
of this village two hundred and fifty pounds weight
of speckled trout have been killed in one day by
one good fisherman and one poor one ; fish of two
and three pounds are common, and in the sheltered
channels, between the Apostle Islands, the namsG-
goose are taken in unlimited quantities. The Brule
River, and the many streams that empty into the
lake in the neighborhood, although often choked
with drift, are filled with fine trout.


On the north shore, amid the interminable forests
that stretch in primeval solitude to the northern
sea, enlivened only with the voice of the Peebiddy
bird and one other melancholy warbler, beautified
by a rare sprinkling of native wild-flowers,

" In the kingdom of Wabasso,
In the land of the white rabbit,"

and along the Canadian shore of the lake, is the para-
dise of the fly-fisher. Every river swarms, every bay
is a reservoir of magnificent fish that find their
equals in size, courage, vigor, and beauty only in
the salt waters of New Brunswick and Lower
Canada. The entire coast is one long fishing-sta-
tion, the rivers are stew-ponds, and the lake one
vast preserve ; at every step the angler may cast
his fly into some eddy of the discolored stream or
over some rocky shoal of the limpid lake with a fair
prospect of alluring from the depths a glorious em-
bodiment of piscatory power that shall struggle and
fight, leaping from the water, and making many
fierce ruslies for a good twenty minutes, till he
yields himself to the embrace of the net, exhibiting
amid its brown folds the glorious silver brilliancy of
the loveliest inhabitant of the liquid element. As
he advances along the shore, an endless variety of
water and land, continuous changes of rock and
tree, and dark, bottomless depths or light gray
shallows, present themselves to his eye ; at one mo-
ment he is clambering along the steep, rough side
of a precipice, whence he can scarcely toss his line


a dozen paces, at the next he is walking securely
upon some flat rock whence the receding hills per-
mit him to cast to the utmost limit of his ability, or
he may ascend the nearest stream by the aid of his
strong barge, or in the light canoe, or else wading
waist deep against the rushing current, and there,
overshadowed by the hills and shrouded amid the
waving trees, he can visit pool after pool, try eddy
after eddy, till he and his men and the boat are
loaded, and satiety bids him rest.

Along the lake there is scarcely a choice of local-
ity ; from the sandy beach at Point aux Pins to the
outlet of the Pigeon River — the boundary of two
nationalities — at every point, in every cove, trout are
to be taken, and often in abundance ; but probably
the best as well as the most accessible spots are
Gros Cap and Mamainse. Of the rivers the most
famous is the Neepigon, where barrels of trout,
avei-aging four pounds, have been taken in one day ;
but the Biitchavvaung and the Agawa are nearly as
good, and within a more convenient distance, while
tlie Hnrmony is unequalled for wild and romantic

The fish of Lake Superior excel those of the other
inland waters, either in flavor or game qualities, and
sometimes, as with trout, in both. The lake-trout
and whitL'-fish bring a higher price in the Detroit
markets than those of Erie and Ontario, have a more
brilliant color and firmer flesh, and the trout in-
finitely surpass in appearance, strength, and endur-
ance the dull, logy productions of the Umbagog or


Mooseliead Lake. On taking the fly and experienc-
ing the astonishing disappointment, they make one
rush like their fellow-sufferers the salmon, and find-
ing the pain clings to them, they leap with the
energy of grilse with wild repetition, in the vain
hope of shaking the tormenting barb from their lips.
"Kov do they resign themselves after a feeble strug-
gle, but retain strength for many a rush when the
ugly net is exhibited, often smashing tackle, carry-
ing off leaders, and breaking tips in the course of
the contest. Their colors are exquisitely delicate,
their backs transparent mottled green, their sides
of pearly whiteness, marked with brilliant carmine
sjDecks and faint blue spots, and their fins of the hue
of clouded cream. Their flesh is flaky and rich,
seamed with curd, and delicious to the hungry

After having fished from Labrador to the Missis-
sippi, and killed trout in every State where trout
are to be killed, I am satisfied that the fishing of
Lake Superior surpasses that of any other region on
our continent, and is, as a natural consequence, the
best in the world.

There are several remarkable peculiarities of scen-
ery, among which are the pictured rocks and the
sand dunes ; and the sparkling lake, when stirred by
a gentle breeze, is beautiful in the effulgence of the
vertical summer sun ; but the forests are gloomy
and sombre, nearly impenetrable on account of fixllen
trees, and in the lower lands grown up with vast
ferns, those evidences of the antiquity of our conti-


nent ; so that the sportsman is mainly confined to
his canoe and the narrow strip of lake shore between
the beating waves and the impending hills. Beneath
his feet are the hard rocks, seamed with yellow veins
of copper, or wave-worn pebbles sparkling with a
hundred varying colors, only less beautiful than the
glistening fish that the skilful angler entices from
the lake and lands among them. From this narrow
strip he surveys the broad expanse of the Big-Sea-
Water, and dreams of the countless myriads that
rest in its liquid depths.

He travels with ease and comparative comfort ;
in the commodious barge he stows the innumerable
articles that fill the measure of a sportsman's luxu-
ries, including among them a roomy tent, appetizing
delicacies, abundant clothes, and whatever else foncy
dictates. With the barge, which, although twenty-
two feet long, is light and draws little water, he
ascends the larger streams ; or he hires some pass-
ing Indian and his birch canoe, that wonderful
structure so beautifully and accurately described by
Hiawatha :

" Lay aside your cloak, Birch-Tree,
Lay aside your white-skin wrapper,
For the summer-time is coming,
And the sun is warm in heaven,
And you need no white-skin wrapper.

Give me of your boughs, Cedar,
Of your strong and pliant branches
My canoe to make more steady,
Make more strong and firm beneath me.


Give me of your roots, Tamarack,
Of your fibrous roots, Larch-Tree,
My canoe to bind together.
So to bind the ends together
That the water may not enter,
That the river may not wet me.

G-ive me of your balm, Fir-Tree,
Of your balsam and your resin.
So to close the seams together
That the water may not enter.
That the river may not wet me.

Give me of your quills, Hedgehog,
AU your quills, Kagh the hedgehog,
I will make a necklace of them.
Make a girdle for my beauty
And two stars to deck her bosom.

Thus the Birch Canoe was builded
In the valley by the river.
In the bosom of the forest.
And the forest's life was in it,
All its mystery and its magic,
AU the Kghtness of the birch-tree.
All the toughness of the cedar.
All the larch's supple sinews ;
And it floated on the river
Like a yellow leaf in Autumn,
Like a yellow water-lily."

And in this thing of life and beauty the fisherman
finds his way to the head waters of the smallest
brooks or crosses portages from one river to ano-
ther, feeling for the time the joys of independence
and savaoje life.


The gaudy flies known as the Irish lake-flies,
dressed on a small salmon-hook of about ISTo. 1^, are
successful throughout the entire length of the lake ;
but in the rivers a common brown or red hackle on
the same sized hook, dressed with silver tinsel, scar-
let body, and very full, long hackle, is decidedly the
most killing, and in the lake answers full as well as
the more expensive articles. Yery small flies are
not desirable, owing probably to the depth and
occasional turbulence of the water in the lake and
its discoloration in the rivers, which prevent their
being perceived by the fish. Stout tackle and a
heavy rod are better than lighter gear, as no one
wishes to waste time on small fish, and the rises are
so frequent that the angler will not become weaiy
by continued casting. A gaff is necessary for the
Mackinaw salmon, and a large landing-net for trout,
but otherwise nothing is required different from
that which the sportsman would take in a day's trip
to the classic haunts of Long Island.

As the region around Lake Superior is well to-
w^ards the Arctic zone, the weather is cool, and
blankets, overcoats, and warm clothes are necessary ;
but there will be frequently several successive days
of extreme heat, when the thermometer will rise to
ninety in the shade. The great drawback to this
section of country, in fact to all our unopened lands,
is the immense number of mosquitoes, bhick-flies,
and sand-flies. These pests are found numerously
everywhere in our woods, but nowhere are they so
plenty or combined so equally as along the shores


of Lake Superior. All day long the black-flies watch
their chance to find a bare spot of human flesh to
sting and tear ; immediately on the falling of the
shades of evening the almost invisible sand-flies, the
"no see 'ems" of the half-educated Indian, make
their appearance in countless millions of infinitesimal
torture, and all night long the ceaseless hum of the
hungry mosquito drives sleep from the wearied
sportsma!i's eyelids. Veils and ointments are, there-
fore, a prime necessity, without which a visit to this
section is an impossibility ; and even with the best
protections, the warm days that give these insects
unaccustomed activity are scarcely tolerable. But
in spite of these petty discomforts it is a noble lake,
beautiful in all its moods, silent and waveless in the
warm sunshine, rippled and sparkling in the gentle
breeze, or lashed to anger by the storm, when it
rages along the shore and bursts in furious sui-f
upon the rocks. Ko where else can trout-fishing be
had in greater perfection and more endless variety,
nowhere else can the fisherman find purer sources
of enjoyment or finer opportunities to exercise his
art, and nowhere else can the lover of nature dis-
cover more to amuse or instruct him. It lies in the
heart of an almost unbroken wilderness, the largest
lake in the world, one huge spring of the coldest
ice-water, and filled with trout that the painter can
scarce find colors to imitate, and that will dwell in
the angler's memory for ever.





Namaycush — Salmo Ametliystus,

Of all the varieties of Salmonidce that perma-
nently inhabit the fresh water, this fish, although
atterly destitute of game qualities, is alone entitled,
on account of his great size and excellence upon the
table, to the honored name of Salmon, is found
throughout the northern lakes, being prevented by
the impassable barrier of Magara Falls from descend-
ing to the sea, occasionally visits Lake Erie, but
attains his finest condition around the cold, clear
depths of Lakes Huron and Superior. He is named
after one of his favorite localities, and reaches the
immense weight of nearly or quite one hundred
pounds, and is the grandest prize of the inland
waters of our northern continent.

In color, the Mackinaw Salmon differs, as does the
brook trout, according to the peculiarities of his
habitat, whether rocky or muddy shoals, or deep
open water ; and to such a degree that, according to
Professor Agassiz, he is known to the Canadian
Voyageurs under different names, and individual
specimens are frequently considered half-breeds or
a cross between this species and the Siskawitz.
Among the aborigines he is distinguished by the ap-


pellation which is usually spelled namaycush, although
it is pronounced namaegoose, and has the accent
strongly on the second syllable, and is r.ever by them
confounded with any other variety of lake trout.
The fish of Lake Superior are of stronger colors ; are
darker on the back ; have redler flesh, and are uni-
versally preferred gastronomically to those of other

In Spring and eaidy Summer, they appear to leave
the deep water, and seeking tlie rocky shallows, feed
voraciously upon the numerous small fry furnished
in abundance by our western lakes. Throughout
May, June, July, and August, they can be captured
in abundance with the trolling spoon, trailed after
a boat propelled by oars or a gentle breeze, but are
rarely taken of over twelve pounds weight. At such
times they are excellent eating; their flesh being
rich, firm, and closely approaching in color that of
their congener, the taraous Salmo Scdar, and they
are delicious simply boiled or made into the basis
of a chowder.

Unfortunately, although they bite voraciously,
they give no play whatever, allowing themselves to
be drawn in without resistance, and there is no fish
approaching them in size which is so utterly devoid
of game qualities. At times they seem even to swim
gently forward as though they preferred coming
towards the boat, till the fisherman is uncertain
whether they are still on ; and although at the last
moment they make a few flounces, their apparent
weakness for a fish so powerfully formed, is astonish-


ing. To be sure if a man had a hook in his mouth
he would follow the sliglitest pull ; but we do not
expect such conduct from a fish, especially from one
endowed with the graceful and vigorous shape of
the Mackinaw Salmon.

They take any of the trolling spoons, appearing,
however, to prefer the old style, copied from the
bowl of a spoon, but rather elongated, to the expen-
sive and fanciful modern improvements. Those sold
at the Sault St. Marie are from five to six inchi's
long and made of tin ; but a better bait will be found
in the mother of pearl imitation fish. To insure suc-
cess, the weather should be moderate, either cahn or
with a gentle breeze rippling the surface of the water,
for the reason that in the open lake a strong wind
will cause so heavy a swell that the fish cannot see
tlie bait, and the oarsmen cannot control the boat.
They are not shy; but as the water is frequently
deep, although wonderfully clear, the difiiculty is to
attract their attention. For this purpose sufiicient
line must be used to sink the bait slightly beneath
the surface, and the boat must not move too rapidly.

They are captured in all the bays and indenta-
tions of Lakes Huron and Superior, where the bot-
tom is rocky and the water not over one hundred
feet deep. In Lake Superior th.ey are abundant ; in
Goulais' Bay, at Michipicotten Island, in the vicinity
of Bayfield, and almost everywhere else.

Late in the fall they retire to the sombre depths,
and are only taken by still fishing with a long line
and live bait, and at such times the deep water


abreast of Gros Cap is one of their favoiite locali-
ties, and they are there frequently caught by the
Indians of from fifty to seventy-five pounds. They
are salted and smoked by the inhabitants for winter
use, but like the speckled trout are too dry for that
purpose, and should never be killed by the sports-
man except as an article of immediate consumption.
They are usually distinguished among Americans
as the Mackinaw Salmon, although that universal and
totally undescriptive name Lake trout is occasion-
ally applied to them, and are called by the Canadian
voyagers truites du lac.

The gums of this fish are of a purple tinge, and
from this peculiarity, w^hich is by no means invaria-
ble, is derived their scientific name. The scales are
small and the lateral line is nearly straight. The
under gill cover is large and grooved ; while there
are many teeth, the prominent ones being very sharp
and much curved, and the tongue has a row on each

Thefinraysare:— D. 14,P. 15, V. 9, A. 12, C.19|.

The tail is narrow at the root, and spreads broad
toward the extremity. The color on the back is
deep sea green, spotted with green and yellow spots ;
on the sides it is purple, with lilac spots, and on the
belly pure white. The tail is dark and beauti-
fully spotted the whole length. It is, altogether, a
remarkably handsome and graceful fish.

The spawning season is October, and the opera-
tion is performed in the shallows near shore, at which
time the fish are mercilessly speared by the natives.



Salmon Trout — Salmo Confinis.

This variety of the non-migratory Salmonidm^
although somewhat similar in general appearance to
the foregoing species, does not attain the same
gigantic size. It is found numerously throughout
the middle and Eastern States, as well as in the
great Northern lakes, but bears a vastly inferior
rank in the estimation both of the epicurean and the

Its gastronomic appreciation, I believe, however,
is much influenced by the period of the year in
which it is taken. Early in the season it is rich, firm,
and of fine flavor, the flesh being of a light orange,
and breaking into beautiful flakes. At such times
it is unquestionably excellent. In Summer it is
admirable as the foundation for a chowder, having
some of the peculiarities in a higher development
of the cod ; and serving as a pleasant change from
the ordinary boil or fry of the common trout. It
is also quite eatable if cut into steaks and

Its scientific description is as follows : — The scales
are minutely striate; the lateral line is slightly
curved near the head ; the tongue has large teeth



along the central furrow ; there are many acute teeth
on the palatines and vomer ; the tail has a sinuous
margin ; the bases of the vertical fins are spotted,
and the flesh is coarse.

The fin rays are :— D. 14, P. 14, V. 9, A. 12, C. 21 f.

In color it is blackish or bluish-black, with nume-
rous pale spots. It is taken with trolling tackle, but
rarely or never with the fly. The spawning season
is October, when it seeks the shallow water for that



Salmo Siscowet.

This species has a dentition very similar to the
Salmo Amethystus^ but not quite so robust. The
upper and lower niaxillaries and intermaxillaries,
and each of the palatines, have a row of teeth. The
vomer one and the tongue two rows, beside the
acute teeth. The tail is less furcate, and the dorsal
fin is larger than in the Mackinaw Salmon. The
flesh is rich and of fine flavor, but almost too fat.

The fin rays are:— D. 12, P. 14, A. 12, 14, V. 9,
C. 30.

This 'fish is shorter and stouter, and not so dis-
tinctly spotted as the Mackinaw Salmon ; it is alto-
gether less handsome, but has similar habits, and
bites readily at the trolling spoon. It was first de-
scribed by Professor Agassiz, not many years ago,
during his tour of Lake Superior, but has always
been distinguished by the Indians and Voyageurs, and
known among them under its distinctive appellation.

The Siskawitz inhabits the upper portion of Lake
Superior, and never descends towards the outlet, and
is taken in the neighborhood of Isle Royale in abun-
dance. It is said also to be found in some of our
other lakes, but is very rare.



Rock-fish — Xiibrax Lineatus.

These glorious fish, the delight of the angler's
heart, the bravest and strongest except the salmon,
the largest without exception of the finny tribe that
the sportsman pursues, frequent every cove and bay
of our northern Atlantic coast, and furnish the main
attraction of salt-water fishing.

Their mode of capture differs according to the
locality ; from the rock-bound coast of the Eastern
States the adventurous angler, perched upon some
projecting rock, casts the simple bait into the crested
wave, amid the thundering surf of the stormy sea ;
along the sandy shores and in the tranquil inlets of
the Middle States, gut snells, sinker and float come
into play in the rapid tide ways ; and among the
numerous lagoons and bays of the Southern States
the clumsy but effective hand-line is employed.

To the eastward, menhaden and lobster are the
favorite baits; in Pennsylvania and New York
shrimp, crab, and squid ; and in the Southern States
killeys, herrings, and other small fish. The artificial
baits are the eel-skin, imitation squid, and gaudy
bass-fly. The eel-skin used mainly along New
England shores is attached to a hand-line, and cast
into and drawn rapidly through the boiling surf of


the ocean ; the squid is towed with trolling tackle
behind the sail or row boat, in the quiet waters of
the Middle States ; while the fly is used with stout
rod and long line wherever the fresh current of
some river haunted by fish falls directly into the salt
water of the sea.

For casting with the menhaden from the rocks,
New London harbor, Point Judith, West Island
near Newport, Montauk Point, and Newport Island
itself, are favorite localities ; while the Little Falls of
the Potomac at the Chain Bridge, near Washington,
where the greeu waters dash over the sunken rocks
and eddy round the cliffs that rise perpendicular
from the river's brink, furnish the finest fly fishing
for bass in the world.

For bait-casting the necessary implements are a

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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 8 of 18)