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.
A careful review of the world's angling literature, from first to last, throughout its one thousand titles, more or less, in all texts and tongues, will be apt to beget the conviction that, after all that has been written, the gist of the subject was fairly covered by Dame Bernes, in her "Book of St. Albans," four centuries ago. Little in •essence has been added which did not come within the scope of her speculative observation, whether it be technical, ethical, physical, metaphysical, logical, biological, or theological. If fish-lore has extended or developed since then in any direction, it has been more in the line of scientific essay than in homily, poetry, or mechanics-more in respect to distribution, nomenclature, and classification, than in the "disporte of fysshygne." It is quite probable that the Macedonians tossed the "hippurus" before the Christian era with the same "delicacy and accuracy" which experts exhibit at modern fly-casting tournaments, and that angling, pure and simple, took high rank with the artistic expression of that remote but classic age. The lesson was thoroughly inculcated then; its application and improvement came subsequently. These took shape in Walton's time, and have gradually developed into the latter-day perfection of angling literature and art-the long interim having been singularly punctured by alternate periods of impulse and inertness. The most notable intellectual revivals occurred about the years i486, 1590, 1676, 1750, 1800, and 1850, during which many good angling books were printed-not many of great specific worth, but all valuable as chronological landmarks to indicate what fishes existed at specified times, what have been extirpated or scattered and disseminated by economic vicissitudes and incidents of settlement, what were chiefly in request for sport or food, and what devices and methods were in vogue for their capture or protection.
During the whole of this long lapse of four centuries, less visible advance was made than in the two last decades alone. Genius and energy were long dormant. The adept had not developed. The commonplace angler at first preferred to loll on the bank and bob with worms. But art improves as the passion grows. Gradually still-fishing developed into trolling; trolling into spinning; spinning into dapping; and dapping into fishing with the fly. Silk-worm gut is first mentioned in books ("Saunder's Compleat Fisherman") in 1724, and two years later Salmon-fishing became a new experience in England. In 1746 the use of the artificial fly was introduced. It was a lost art restored. At that date the ancient hippurus emerges from its long obscurity, and behold! a marvelous revelation in angling is at once unfolded. Pursuit and quest were thereby stimulated and accelerated; and by and by they became ennobled!
Primitive ichthyology comprehended little more than a superficial knowledge of the habits and habitudes of a few fishes, and their general characteristics. Salmon and Trout were prominent among those which engaged early attention, for the Family Salmonidtc are among the oldest of post-tertiary fresh-water fish-forms, long antedating the glacial epoch; and of all its one hundred recognized species, the Salmon has held supremacy as chief from the beginning. Evolution of the ages seems not to have made him a braver, or more comely, or more edible fish than he was in the days of Pliny and Oppian, both of whom tested his qualities and sung his praises away back in the second century, as well as others in the years before them. And his geographical range is as wide-spread as his fame. It extends around the entire Northern Hemisphere, from latitude 40 degrees up into the extreme Arctic region, belting the continents of Europe, Asia, and America, in all three of which it is indigenous and equally abundant. On the Pacific Ocean the belt dips down to the 30th parallel, and takes in the waters of Southern California on its eastern shore, and those of China and Japan on the west; but in all Atlantic waters the extreme southern limit is about 40 degrees. In Europe there is but one species (Sa/ar), but in America there are several. These are divided specifically, as well as geographically, into two characteristic classes, of which one is known as Salmo (the leaper), and the other as Oncorhynchus (hook-nose). Of the latter there are five recognized species, which are enumerated as follows in Jordan & Gilbert's "Synopsis of Fishes" (1883):
.... Sacramento River to Bering Strait.
Silver Salmon (O. kisutch)......
The Quinnat, or King Salmon, is the most comely and valuable of the lot, and may justly be called the typical representative of the OncorJiyncluis branch of the family. He is a much heavier fish than his congener of the Atlantic, and in the rivers of Western Alaska will average fifty pounds, individuals often running up to seventy and one hundred pounds in weight. His range is from Lower California up to Bach's Great Fish River, in the Arctic Ocean. Immense numbers ascend the large rivers of the Northern Pacific coast and Bering Sea in spring and summer, moving up a thousand miles and more, as in the Yukon, and crowding the shorter rivers when the tide is at full flood, until every cubic foot of space is choked with fish, wedged tightly. In this helpless predicament they become an easy prey to bears and other animals, as well as men, and one can lift them out with his hands until he is tired. This rush continues until the spawning season is over, by which time most of those which have reached the distant upper waters perish from the combined exhaustion of the long journey and the labor of spawning. The passage of the river is a sickening spectacle; maimed and decaying fish in myriads offending sight and smell, and befouling the entire length of the water-courses from the sea to their sources.
Of course under such conditions the problem of fly-fishing, or any kind of rod-fishing, requires no solution. At tidewater there is always good fishing with bait and spoon, and in California and Oregon and Puget Sound these methods are much in vogue. Fish-roe incased in a double thickness of mosquito-netting is the popular bait. There are exceptional rivers, notably the Clackamas, in Oregon, where fly-fishing may be practiced at certain favorable times in special localities, the fluvial conditions being more like those of Atlantic rivers. The shorter the rivers, the greater the possibilities for sport. Fourteen Salmon are reported as having been taken from a Clackamas pool in one day by a single rod. The favorite fly is of a reddish cast, though black hackle, coachman, professor, red ibis, and a wine body with brown speckled wings, were all killing flies. June, July, and August were found to be the best months for fly-fishing.