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 gaff-hook used by these Indians is a peculiarly ingenious affair. Procuring a shark-hook, they fasten a socket of wood to the shank; a hole is bored into the socket to receive a strong string. The handle of this gaff is a light pole that fits neatly, yet loosely, into the socket of the hook. About four inches from the end a hole is bored to receive a string. The other end of the string is securely fastened to the socket on the hook. The string is about a foot long.
When an Indian goes fishing with one of these hooks, he rolls up his trousers, if he be the proud possessor of a pair, and, wading into the stream, watches closely until he sees a Salmon, when, placing the hook over the fish, he draws it sharply toward him. If he strike the Salmon, the handle draws out from the socket, and this prevents the handle from being broken by the struggles of the fish. He then wades ashore, kills the Salmon, extracts his hook, fits it on the handle, and is ready for another assault on the innocents.
The Salmon enter the Frazer River in the following order: The Tyee in June, the Saw-qui soon after, the Kisutch in August, the Keta in September or October.
It is not necessary to discuss at greater length the schools of these fishes that fill the streams from June to December. Vast they are in numbers beyond human conception. To attempt to describe the migration of the finny multitude would be doing something that some men have attempted, and have been ridiculed for their pains. I will therefore proceed with a description of how, on one occasion, we procured Salmon for the "potlatch" of Skool, and will then treat of the methods of trolling for the Salmon which are in vogue on the Pacific Coast.
Potlatch is a word that I presume cannot be found in other than a Chinook dictionary. The literal meaning of the term is "to give." Used in the Siwash sense, it means a great gathering of people, to whom some rich Siwash donates everything he possesses.
Certainly this wouldn't be a bad plan for Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, and other money magnates to adopt. Besides, to be a guest at such a potlatch as these gentlemen could give would be an agreeable experience for a man whose bank account cannot be seen without a powerful magnifying glass. The giver of a potlatch prefaces the ceremony with a feast. It was to aid in providing Salmon for a feast of this kind that I volunteered, and the incidents of which I will relate.
I had just returned from a hunting-trip in the mountains, was busily engaged in reloading cartridges, when a shadow fell across my threshold. Looking up, I saw, intently watching me, Skool, chief of the Sumas, prince of the Nootsachs of the Lummies, and a man fitted by nature and disposition to be Major Domo of Hades. A dirty, sneaking scoundrel he is, and if he knew how to be worse than he is, Skool would certainly be worse.
I kept on with my work, paying no attention to him. For some minutes he stood motionless as a statue, and then, in a voice modulated to an almost womanly tenderness, he said, "Brother, Skool is here." Then I dropped my tools and asked him what he wanted.
"I have known my brother these many years," began the crafty Skool; "at times he is violent, and uses his hands on the heads and bodies of us, his red brothers. But for all the beatings he has given us, still we love him. True, we do not like to be beaten with sticks; neither do we like to be kicked. Should any other than our brother do these things, some night a knife would seek his heart; but to even be abused by the white hunter, who fears nothing, is an honor. Skool asks a favor of his brother. When I told Skaleel, he said, 'No; I, Skaleel, am old and wise-he will never grant even you, Skool, such a great favor.' "
"Well, what do you want?" I asked.
Then Skool assumed an amusing attitude, and, in a voice that would make the fortune of an actor, began:
"I, Skool, am brave, and wise, and rich. I have many canoes, many horses, many blankets. In the lodge of Skool are many bundles of dried Salmon, many bales of blankets. I have looked at this great wealth; I have thought, here is wealth that would make tribes happy, wealthy, and contented; yet here I keep it locked up. A month ago I said to the old Prince Skaleel. who before me was the great Tyee of the Sumas, 'Skool is unhappy, because he is rich.' Then Skaleel said: 'Let Skool give a great potlatch. Let him give away everything he owns. Let the wealth that troubles Skool be distributed among the Indians, from the Salt Chuck to the Father Hills,* from the Skagit to the Yucon ;' and I said, 'It is even as you wish it, O Father.' Then we sent messengers to many lands, far away, in canoes, to the green islands of the North. Horsemen rode through the passes of the White Mountains, and told our brothers, in the land of bunch-grass and bright skies, to come and meet their brothers of the North, at the potlatch of Skool. There the Hyda shall meet the Spokane, and the Snake will meet the Tinneah. O, great will be the gathering of the nations at the potlatch of Skool. But this morning the Skyu came unseen and entered into the breasts of the young men of the tribe, and in the darkness of the night they stole into the lodge of Skool and took from there all the fire-water that was to warm the hearts of the old chiefs of many nations. Now the fire-water has tied their brains and loosened their tongues, and has taken all the power from their legs. They are lying in the lodges like so many hogs. And to-morrow is the feast of Skool, and not a Salmon has he to feast a friend, not to speak of a multitude from many lands. So I said to Skaleel: 'Silalicum will never see disgrace rest on the name of Skool; he will think of the time when his sister, the bright-eyed star of the Sumas, who now is a queen in the happy hunting-grounds of the unknown, was the friend of Skool. Not only will he come, but he will bring his friend, he of the strong arm, with him, and together they will catch many Salmon.' And when the feast is spread, I will say to the envious Smohallah, the dreamer from the land of clear skies, 'Behold these great Salmon! They were caught by Silalicum for the potlatch of Skool, his friend.' "