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.
This is the correct talk when feeling for a fish: keep the point of the rod down^ but when a fish is on, keep it up. I am glad to quote here what Mr. E. M. Tod, an angler of world-wide reputation, has to say in the London Fisiting Gazette, by way of instruction as to how to handle a Salmon when hooked. He says:
"First of all, hold your rod pointing upward, so as to bring the spring of it to bear with all its power on the fish; then 'hang on' to the fish, and do not let him have any more line than you can possibly help, as the less line there is between you and the fish, the better for you, and the worse for your quarry, as if there is much line out it may get foul of some obstacle, and the force of the current will put a heavy strain on. If the fish is determined to run, he will take line, and, should he take to somersaulting at each jump, the line must be quite loose, and the rod's point dipped; but in any other case it is best not to give a foot of line, provided the rod be kept upward, as no rod (or at any rate no ordinary rod) can put on more strain than three or four pounds; so there is little or no danger of a break. In this manner many a little fish of not more than six or seven pounds weight may be speedily killed without allowing a great deal of water to be disturbed, and by keeping such a tight line fish may be landed into which the hook has not gone over the barb, whereas if they had not been held in tight, the hook would have dropped out. I need scarcely say that a fish, if small, must be kept; if large, coaxed away from any obstacle. Should he go to the bottom like a log, as large ones sometimes do, get below him if possible, and pull hard at him. If this does not start him, pelt him with stones. This will generally succeed, but sometimes more severe measures have to be taken, as on the Usk, last season. A Salmon weighing forty-two pounds, on being hooked, sank to the bottom, and was only moved by a gallant colonel, who was present, stripping and swimming in after it."
Speaking of this habit of sulking, here is what Parker Gil-more ("Ubique") has to say about it. I had rather quote these two old worthies than to quote myself. He says:
"Obtain the smallest hollow bangle procurable, having a hinge at the back, and closing with a snap on the opposite side. Have its inner surface perforated with numerous holes, the outer surface with a few only, each to be about the size of a No. I shot. Partly fill the interior of the bangle with snuff or cayenne pepper.
"Suppose, now, that the angler is fast in a fish which has sulked. Place the bangle above the reel, around the rod and line, pass it up till it goes over the tip of the top joint, when, by raising the rod, and placing the strain on the line, the bangle will at once descend to the hook. The action of the water upon the snuff or pepper will be more than the delicate mouth and nose of the Salmon can stand, so off he will go for other haunts. Stop the Salmon dare not now, for, whenever he stops, the pungent stuff makes itself felt. In fact, the only possible relief to be obtained is by going, and go he will, with the velocity of a greyhound with a kettle attached to his tail."
Verily, this is a wholesome way to hustle a Salmon that sulks! It holds over any scheme that I ever struck on this side of the Atlantic. But Parker Gilmore has been over a great deal-perhaps he happened on it here. This is all very well to start the fish, but the trouble would be to stop him. This hint about holding the rod up reminds me that a different practice is required for river Salmon than for land-locked fish. I am convinced that anglers who have tried for the latter without success have habitually cast too long a line. Following the approved mode in rapid-stream fishing and broken water, the)- have laid their lines straight out, and kept the point of the rod nearly touching the water. This is wrong. On dead water a short line is requisite; the rod should be kept almost perpendicular, so that the fly can trail on the very top surface; and the cast should be made straight out in front. Not more than six feet of the gut-length should touch the water at any time. Why? Because the water is so still, even when rippled by a flaw of wind, that the line laying its length along the water looks like a cable. The fish are so busy investigating the phenomenon of the line that they don't mind the fly. Perhaps they don't see it at all. To attract his attention the point of the rod should be pumped up and down. This will move the fly a foot or more at each motion. Sometimes it is well to draw the line through the rings with the left hand while working the point of the rod, which answers the like purpose. The whole process is exceedingly delicate. Experienced anglers will appreciate the difficulty of fastening to a rise with an almost perpendicular rod, while the liability of breaking the tip, in case of a strike, is very great. The only way is not to strike when a Salmon rises, but to let him pull the point of the rod down three or four feet, and then fix the hook in his jaw by a gentle lifting of the rod so as to bring the line taut. There is no method of fishing prettier than this, when one gets used to it. It beats skittering with a spoon all hollow.
It is obvious that this mode applies to tidal waters and still pools in rivers as well. It is much in vogue in Scottish lochs (lakes), and is just as suitable in our own. Small flies are the best, of course, and should never exceed one inch in length. I have patterns of Land-locked Salmon flies-with yellow bodies, turkey wings, and claret body with mallard wings-which I have always used with success wherever tried.
Trolling for Land-locked Salmon with live smelts, or phantoms, is a successful method in Weld and Sebago, and as a dernier resort, a buoy may be baited with chopped fish. Set the buoy in thirty to forty feet of water, and fish with the same bait as you chummed with, or with live minnows, and use just sinker enough to carry the line to the bottom. When a fish is felt, let him have a pull at the hook, and then raise the rod-tip gently and firmly. This will generally fasten him, and the subsequent proceedings will be interesting.