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.
They will come from a great depth for the fly. Often, when looking down from a high rock into fifteen feet of water, I 7 have seen a Wananishe rise from the bottom like a flash and take the fly before I could pull it away. Periodically during the day they move round the pools, going from one to another along the current lines and circling round all the eddies in each, to feed on the flies and other insects that are thick in the broad patches of foam which swirl along in the currents, and sometimes chasing schools of small fish. The number of flies that a Wananishe will thus collect in the course of a day is almost incredible. I have repeatedly seen nearly half a pint of them in the stomach and intestines of a four-pound fish.
The porpoise-like roll of the fish when thus on the tour is peculiar and characteristic; while their dorsal fins and broad tails, appearing and disappearing with clock-like regularity, make their presence visible at once. It requires a good deal of practice to determine the direction of their movements, still more to time and place the cast properly. All the while the canoe is moving also-perhaps just between the up and down current on the verge of a big rapid.
As the water gets lower, the largest fish move out to and lie in places to fish which it is necessary to depend on the nerve and skill of your canoe-men, and their quick judgment of the set of the varying currents, to keep the canoe there by the use of the paddles only. Very often this is the simplest part of the business, and the return journey means running along rapids or making a tough portage along the face of the rocks. The novice, or a person unaccustomed to the small bark canoes necessarily used in that region, should not attempt this sort of fishing; but it is to other angling what the pursuit of large game is to ordinary shooting. I am speaking here of parts of the Grande Decharge which the average tourist never sees, and is not likely to venture into if he does see them. Though lacking the element of danger, the ordinary fishing in the large rentous-as the big eddies or pools are called, in the French patois of the region-will prove exciting enough.
A pleasant variety will be found in a clamber over the rocks along the rapids, at times high up above the water, and dropping the fly into some snug little corner where the constantly recurring tail in a circular patch of foam shows a Wananishe "at home;" at others standing on a ledge over which the waves roll knee-deep and break on the rocks with a roar like the surf on the sea-shore, which drowns your attendant's Voice and reduces him to pantomimic expression of the size or number of the fish rising far out in some caldron-like whirl, where the down and up rush of the waters meet, while you do your best by the Spey or switch-cast to get the fly to them without smashing it on the rocks behind. The high-tossed spray from the crests of the waves, the seething whirlpools and the play of light and color on the ever-changing forms of water, on the varied foliage, and on the purple rocks, make a beautiful scene, to which the turmoil of the rapids adds its musical charm.
If you did not see them with your own eyes you would believe it impossible for any fish to remain in such a fury of water, far less to feed there; but hook one, and then see how much at his ease he is, and how he will stem the full rush of the Grande Chute, dragging thirty or forty yards of line after him.
It was while watching a Wananishe hooked at the head of Isle Maligne, round which the fiercest rapids in the Grande Decharge sweep, that I first fully realized their great strength and greater pluck. Standing thirty feet above the water, I could see him plainly in the clear, deep stretches between the white-crested rollers; and a beautiful sight it was to watch him mount a series of inclines with straight steps of three to four feet at the top of each, and then, after resting a while on the summit of the fall, dart off like a flash into the full strength of the down-current on the other side of the point, only to be steered into a little cove at the end of his run, and there fight till, all strength gone, he lay exhausted on the surface.
Then again, when eye and ear are weary of the incessant roar and flash of the rapids, there is a restful change in the picturesque stretches filled with islands, where you may or may not, according to luck and the state of the water, get some pretty fishing, either in the calm, smooth water out in the middle or along the channels between the islands, which will remind you of pleasant days spent on some favorite Trout lake, or wandering along the banks of a sequestered stream.
The worst of these broad expanses is that they are great breeding-places for Pike (Esox Lucius, Jordan & Gilbert), better known, but incorrectly, in the United States, as Pickerel. Though handsome enough in their own coarse way to be a good game fish in their proper place, they destroy the Wananishe terribly. They lurk in the still water of the bays into which the Wananishe wander in search of food, and even get out into quiet holes in the rapids. Many of the larger Wananishe bear marks of having slipped through these pirates' teeth.
I once saw a five and one-half pound fish swimming about in an odd and helpless manner, and found that his spine had been broken by a Pike so that he could not use his tail. In 1887 I was fishing off the rocks at the Grande Chute, and hooked a Wananishe which proved to weigh just less than a pound. Not particularly caring about such a small fish, I let him wander off while waiting for my canoe-man to bring the landing-net. On reeling in, the weight seemed to have increased in an extraordinary manner. I at first thought the fish had fouled something; but a rush like a Salmon's changed that idea into great curiosity. After an anxious twenty-five minutes, for the fish several times tried to bolt into the main current, and there were some awkward rock ledges close in, he turned out to be a Pike, and a good-sized one. Once within reach he was easily netted, and was found to weigh ten and one-half pounds. The Wananishe was in his gullet, but the hook had slipped out of the Wananishe's mouth and caught in the socket of the Pike's eye inside. I have always wondered why the leader was not cut by his teeth, but suppose it got between them. These Pike run to great size in Lake St. John, and up the Peribonca.