This section is from the book "Moose-Hunting Salmon-Fishing And Other Sketches Of Sport Being The Record Of Personal Experiences Of Hunting Wild Game In Canada", by T. R. Pattillo. Also available from Amazon: Moose-Hunting, Salmon-Fishing and Other Sketches of Sport: Being the Record of Personal Experiences of Hunting Wild Game in Canada.
I had been having one of those successful and enjoyable experiences on the head waters of the Medway, at the foot of Ponhook Lake, in the third week in June, elsewhere related in this book, when business required me to go, one afternoon, to a small settlement four miles below Greenfield, known to all fishermen on that river as Bang's Falls. The pool which gives this place its name is amongst the choicest of the many excellent ones on that stream. The water is deep, the river not wide, and there are many resting-places for salmon after facing the long heavy rapids just before. The Falls themselves may be said to be double, the water dropping furiously over a first reef on to a lap-reef below, then rushing on over a second reef, and forming a surging, boiling mass below.
But one boat up to the time of the incident here related had been known to successfully run these Falls. Thinking I could probably hook some salmon in the pool, I took my rod with me, with the view of fishing after the work was completed. So about five o'clock, the man with whom my business was, knowing I wished to fish, sent his hired man, who was accustomed to go in the boat with sportsmen, to pole her on to the ground, and also his son, a lad of twelve years, to attend the killock. Thus equipped, the prospects for good sport were very promising, but I was soon reminded that " the best-laid plans of mice and men gang aft aglee." I found on the shore, about 75 yards above the Falls, an unusually large boat for a river-boat in fact, she was an old discarded ship's boat, and altogether out of place to be poled about on such a stream. However, she was daily used in this way, and the question in my mind was, why not now? So I stepped on board with my assistant, and we were soon moving toward the pool.
Upon the shore, just below where we started, I noticed three Indians and three white men, also a canoe in front of them. The wind was blowing heavily down the river; in fact, that appeared to be the only drawback to getting fish, as it would make it difficult to cast my fly. But eager fishermen wink at such obstacles, and are always hopeful, so we continued towards what I was made to believe was the best part of the pool, but approaching the head of the Falls too closely for my idea of the best fishing spot, so I remarked two or three times, " I think the killock should be dropped," but was met with the reply, " We want to go a little further yet." At last I got desperate, and told the boy to throw it over, and at once began fishing, my whole thought being riveted on the fly, supposing, as a matter of course, the boat was all right, as there were two to look after her. Presently my attention was called to a shout from the shore, " Your boat is dragging over the Falls! " I was not long taking in the whole situation, for at that moment we were dangerously near them, almost at the head of the receding rushing waters. The young man was using the pole to force the boat up the stream, or hold her where she was, but without avail, and the killock was still down.
The thought flashed over me that we were in a fair way of repeating, with our lives, a very sad occurrence which had happened three weeks before at Salter's Falls, four miles above Mill Village, on this river, by which a merchant of Halifax, N.S., who had come up for a few days' fishing, had lost his life. He was staying at a house near this fishing-pool, and had on Saturday afternoon started several salmon that would not take. So early on Sunday morning, when the wind was blowing down strongly, he got up and went out to fish. The boat was found under the dam, held there by her killock, which was above it, and his body some distance below. He had evidently been fishing, and so intently that, like myself, he did not know his danger until it was right upon him, and, being inexperienced, did not know how to act. His boat had dragged, like ours, went stern first over the capping of the Falls, and dropped, held by the killock, under the falling water until she filled and he was swept out.
Now, my reader, you can imagine somewhat my state of mind at that moment of such peril in my own case, when the sad experience just related was fresh before me. Fortunately for us all, I was self-possessed, took the situation in, and knew and saw what was to be done if it could be done. The first thought was that mooring-rope. How I got my knife out, opened, and cut the rope, I shall never know; but it was done, and the knife was found open in the bottom of the boat afterwards. Then I jumped aft, caught the pole from the young man, who was completely dazed with fear and had stopped working, put it over the stern at an angle which checked the boat's sternway somewhat, and made her bow fall off, thus bringing her partly across the stream. By this time we were just above the heavy rolling water, and I shouted, " Jump to windward and seize the gunwale, and hold on for your lives I" doing the same thing myself. And not one instant too soon was it done; for if our weight had not been there to counterbalance that of the boat as she was swept off the crest of the Falls, she would have overturned, and probably we should all have been drowned. Instead of this, she fell on her side again at the lap cliff at the foot of the first fall, splitting her, as sailors say, fore and aft; for she was split from the fore thwart to the stern, but, fortunately for us, righted at once before filling entirely. In the mean time, as we were approaching rapidly the second fall, I made good use of the pole, and got her squarely across the stream, so that the whole of the boat would tumble at once. The second drop, not being nearly so great, strengthened our courage; besides, the men on the shore were encouraging us, and the Indians with their canoe were running down with it to where they could get off to us the readiest if it became necessary. Well, we went down over the second fall, which completed the splitting, and filled her with water. I was able to get her in this condition to a little island about 75 yards distant, when the Indians came and took us to the shore. I heard afterwards the old boat was so completely shattered that she was not again used. This was my first experience at Bang's Falls, and it was my last; and even now, after a lapse of twenty years, the scene comes up so vividly before me as to cause a shudder. I sat on the shore for fully an hour, taking in the exceedingly perilous position from which we had escaped, and while doing so, the residents of the settlement, hearing of the mishap, came to the shore. It was freely expressed that the same thing might occur very many times there without its ending so favourably, and I felt the truthfulness of the statement myself, feeling grateful we had escaped with our lives.