This section is from the book "American Game Fishes", by W. A. Perry. Also available from Amazon: American Game Fishes: Their Habits, Habitat, and Peculiarities; How, When, and Where to Angle for Them.
The last tale was told, the last pipe smoked. Fresh logs were heaped upon the fire; we spread our blankets in the tent, above our fragrant couch of hemlock tips, and soon the hush of the forest rested on the camp, while "Through it, and round it, and over it all, Sounded incessant the waterfall."
I was astir soon after daybreak, but truth compels me to say that this state of things was consequent upon the advent of John at the door of the tent, with his four-ounce rod in one hand and a pair of resplendent Graylings in the other.
"I wanted fish for breakfast," he explained, "and thought it wasn't worthwhile to waken you. So I just cast a brown and a gray hackle outside the little cove, just below the camp, and in two seconds I had 'em."
The fish were soon in the pan, and breakfast dispatched in "short order;" the tent struck, and we once more were on the water. The Grayling should, if possible, be eaten soon after it is caught, as it will become unfit for use much sooner than the Trout. Wishing, however, to take home a reasonable number, we had provided salt, and a small tub; and it was agreed that only the finer specimens of our catch should be saved.
We anchored near the spot where John had taken his fish, and soon perceived a school of Grayling, some of which disappeared in the grass and weeds at our approach, while others remained in sight. I was still busy with the anchor line when John, waving the delicate rod around his head, sent his flies some thirty feet down the stream, and just at the edge of the weeds. A noble Grayling broke water, and was fast to the stretcher on the instant. "See his fin," shouted my companion, his eyes glistening with excitement as the fish leaped clear of the water in his efforts to free himself, the great dorsal flashing like jewels in the rays of the rising sun.
"What's the matter with you now?" I replied, hastily raising my own rod from the thwarts. "Seems to me that a man who could coolly comment upon the formation of the rocks, while running the 'Devil's Elbow,' needn't make such a beastly row about a pound Grayling."
"He's nigher two pounds than one-look at him now-no he ain't either;" for another leap of the fish showed that it was hooked back of the gills, and my friend more coolly than at first, proceeded to draw his prize nearer the boat, and within reach of the landing-net.
"Not as big as I thought, but isn't he a beauty? Somehow, the first one always excites me-I can't help it."
Meanwhile, I had cast a pair of hackles, red and gray, and soon had hooked a fish, while John was playing a pair of them upon the other side of the boat. In a few minutes we had secured half a dozen, ranging from half a pound to a pound in weight. We could clearly see the fish against the bottom of yellow sand, and decided that there were none larger in the school.
We therefore raised the anchor, and taking up the paddles, floated down the stream. So clear was the water that we could see nearly every object which it contained, and now and then, as we passed a pool, a school of Grayling would scurry away to seek better cover.
The current grew more rapid, and as we alternately made casts, one fishing while the other steered, we found that John's four-ounce rod was rather too light for this rapid stream. I was using a ten-ounce rod, of English make-an old favorite-and had less difficulty in bringing my fish to the net.
Near the head of a short rapid, John, who had changed his flies for a coachman and a professor, hooked a big fellow, and I held the boat with a setting-pole, while the fish made a determined effort to get to the bottom. Unsuccessful in this piece of strategy, he made one or two leaps, the great back fin raised to its fullest extent, the gold and purple shining in the sun; then after another effort to sound, he changed his course; and away he went, down the rapid, John keeping a steady strain upon the fish, while I dropped the pole and grasped my paddle, and down we went in the wake of the Grayling.
There were some ugly bowlders strewn along our course, and the angler was compelled to put forth his best skill to prevent the Grayling from snapping the line around some of them; but we passed the rapid in safety, the fish still fast to the hook, and by this time pretty well wearied, so that, rounding to in an eddy, I managed to hold the boat while the net was put in requisition, and the fish boated. He weighed nearly two pounds, and was the largest taken during the trip.
Here we moored the boat, and had good sport, casting our flies from the reefs which projected from the shore; and returning to the water two fish out of every three that we caught.
We dined at this place, and once more proceeded on our cruise, feeling rather jolly, as we erroneously supposed that we had passed the worst of the obstructions in the stream. We had left behind a forest of spruce, and were passing through a swampy region, when I became aware of a large doe, standing upon a shallow, and looking down the river. She made a beautiful picture, her glossy form in full relief against the swaying clematis vines, and dark green alder leaves; and not until we were within thirty yards did she turn her head, when, taking a short but steady look at us, she leisurely hopped into the bushes. We saw several others on the trip, but such a picture as this one presented lives long in the memory of a sportsman.
We soon encountered more rocks and rapids, and as we swung around a curve, John lifted his voice and energetically said: "A jam-pile, by thunder!" True enough, the river below was effectually blocked by a jam of telegraph poles, which were piled to a height of many feet, in the bed of the rushing stream.
Here was our first "carry," and it took us nearly two hours to make it;but at last the work was accomplished, and, well wearied, we made an early camp and fished the rapids, but with small success. This, however, did not distress us, as we had enough; and we devoted ourselves to salting the fish that we had saved. There were about sixty, all of large size. Had we retained all we caught, we should have more than trebled this number.
Our rest that night was peaceful, and before sunrise we were on our way. We judged that we were within five miles of the bridge where we expected to find our team, and we hoped to be able to take home a few freshly caught Grayling.
In this we were not disappointed. It seemed rather late in the season for gnats, but John attached a red and a brown for his first cast, and did not again change the flies, which were well suited to his light rod.
Mine was heavier, and I did not try the gnats, but held to the hackles, brown, red and black; steering and casting alternately with my companion, and each meeting with good success.
Too soon the bridge and the driver hove in sight; we each made one more cast "for luck" and reeled in. The driver waved his hat and cheered, as the last resplendent fish was drawn from the water and held up to view; and we pushed ashore, with forty fine fellows for our morning's catch.
In ten more minutes we had left behind the river, all save its delightful memories, and were swiftly rattling over the road in the direction of civilization.
By F. H. Thurston ("Kelpie").