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 volume of the rapids, the swiftness, complexity, and heavy swirls of the currents, make canoeing most exciting, and at times a little dangerous, on these waters. They are too deep for the use of setting-poles, and everything depends on strength and skill with the paddle. Mounting the Grande Decharge, when it is fifteen feet above summer level and running like a mill-race, is hard work, but, taking advantage of every eddy, gripping rocks with hand and paddle, handing along by the tops of the submerged alders, passing between branches of overhanging trees undermined by the current, by sheer dint of hard paddling we got up a mile and a half. Now for the traverse. The canoe sweeps down and across in a beautiful curve, head up-stream and the paddles flashing like lightning, except when a tourniquet catches her and spins her half round a circle, while Joseph, with a sidelong sweep, decapitates a wave which threatens to lop over the gunwale. uUn animal dun tourniquet,'1" he says, pointing to the funnel-shaped whirl swiftly gyrating down-stream, the air-bubbles hissing through the yellow water like the bead in a glass of champagne. We are nearly half a mile down when the canoe swings, with a sharp shock, into the up-eddy on the opposite shore.
"C est la place de peche, Monsieur " says Narcisse, easing off the grip of his teeth on his pipe; and Joseph, having finished drinking out of the rim of his hat, remarks that "on a coutume de prendre des grosses ici." Wananishe, like Trout, are of the fair sex in French, and are roughly classified into petites, belles, and grosses.
This is the famous Remou de Caron, or Caron's Eddy. The big white waves surging round the rocky island, which later on will become a point covered with bushes, are the tail of the Caron Rapid, a crooked and dangerous one, because of the height of its waves and the size of its tourniquets or whirlpools, which suck down saw-logs as if they were chips, casting them up a couple of hundred yards farther down, to be caught in the eddies and swept again and again through the wild rush of water, until the ever-changing set of the current tosses them on the rocks or carries them off down-stream.
Pool, in the angler's usual understanding of the term, there is none; for the deep river, over a quarter of a mile wide, is totally unlike a Salmon or Trout stream. At first he is rather bewildered by the interlacing currents running in every direction, bearing along streaks of froth which gather in patches as dazzling as snow, that revolve slowly for a minute or two, then, suddenly dissolving, go dancing in long white lines over the short ripples.
" Ca saute, Monsieur." No splash marks the rise, but a broad tail appears and disappears where a Wananishe is busy picking ilies out of the foam; then another, and another still. They are making the tour round the whole system of minor eddies and currents, sometimes staying a minute in some large patch of froth where the flies are thick, sometimes swimming and rising rapidly in a straight current line, and finally going out, on the tops of the long glassy rollers at the tail of the main eddy, into the white water of the main current, which carries them back again to the other end of the renwu.
A patch of broue comes swirling along with a fish in it. It requires a quick hand to put the fly where it will do the most good. To a novice it is much like fishing "on the wing," but practice shows where to expect the fish. The rod swings and out goes the fly, which is allowed to sink a few-inches and is then drawn in with a succession of slow and short jerks, not trailed on the surface. The fish, however, is now five yards farther away, and on the other side of the canoe. This constant change in length and direction of cast is one of the main difficulties, as it is one of the excitements of Wananishe-angling.
But here come three together-uun beau gang" to use Joseph's anglicism. The fly falls at the end of a straight line; a momentary thrill follows a gentle pull; you strike with the orthodox turn of the wrist, and then blank reaction; the drift of the canoe or the insetting current has slackened the line, and the fish has been missed. "C'est doinmage, Monsieur, vous V avez piquee." The fish evidently is piqued, in every sense of the term, and will have no more of your flies. Another such experience will make him a marked misanthrope all summer. When you strike, if you strike at all, it must be hard, for their mouths are hard; but, as in Salmon-fishing, no rule can be laid down beyond the golden one to keep a taut line. Though no fish are visible, you cast right and left. Presently, while quietly reeling in an excess of line, down goes the rod-tip with a smart jerk; there is a terribly long pause of about half a second, then the reel sings, and thirty yards away a silver bar flashes through the air three or four times in quick succession, for it is a fresh-run fish hooked in a tender spot. You recover a little line, then out it goes again with more pyrotechnics. At the end of ten or fifteen minutes he comes in meekly, with an occasional remonstrance, and you think it time for the net.
The Land-Locked Salmon, Or Wananishe.
The leader shows above the water and the rod curves into a semicircle, but no strain you can put on raises the fish farther, which circles slowly around. A sudden dash under your feet drags the rod-tip under water, but is foiled by a quick turn of the canoe. Then a telegraphic circuit seems to have been established through your tired arms to your spine. The fish is standing on his head, worrying the fly like a bull-dog, and slapping at the leader with his tail. All at once the rod springs back and you are heavily splashed by a leap almost into your face. This occurs half a dozen times. He may jump into the canoe, perhaps over it; I have seen a Wananishe caught in the air in the landing-net after it had shaken the fly out of its mouth. He is far more likely, however, to smash rod and tackle, unless you lower the tip smartly.