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.
This river (La Have), known and recognized by all strangers who have been so fortunate as to have been on its waters or its banks, as the Rhine of America, extends 15 miles from the North Atlantic to the head of the tide, as it is navigable to the town of Bridgewater, 14 miles from the ocean. The picturesque appearance of its banks, studded with farms cultivated to the water's edge, and houses neatly built and nicely planted with numerous thriving villages at the river's side, all tend to give it a most prosperous and charming appearance.
In the early settlement of the country its waters teemed with salmon, shad, sea-trout, and aleuwen; so abundant were they in that season that they have been represented as having been captured in cart-loads. In late years, owing to hindrances to the direct approach to their spawning-grounds, together with the drag-nets of the night-prowlers, salmon have become so scarce that in some seasons scarcely any are taken. The close season for salmon rod-fishing ends February 1, when, if that day be mild, some are almost sure to be taken. This run of fish is small in numbers and size, not more than fifteen being captured in February, any season, varying in size from 6 to 8 lbs., a 10-pounder being a rarity. The rods have to be specially prepared for winter fishing, with permanent wire rings, through which the icy lines move without clogging. Apart from the money inducement, from 50 to 75 cents per lb., there is no actual sport in this fishing. He will take the fly as well as in May, but rarely runs or jumps, and if fairly well hooked the fisherman is almost sure of him. After the run is over no others come to the river until April 20, when the regular spring fish put in an appearance, and continue coming till the 20th of June, when they are followed by the grilse.
I was fishing one afternoon in June, 1886, between the Davison's Mills, located within a mile of the tide. This pool was, and is, one of the best on the river. There were fully fifty fish in sight, playing in the runs, rolling out their big backs, and wagging their immense tails here, there, and everywhere, catching the little eels that were dropping down with the current. Although I tried at least twenty flies of every imaginable make and size, and would place them alongside their heads, yet they would take the eel, ignoring me and my fly. These were hawk-bills, large male fish, and their indifference to the fly was caused largely by the lowness of the stream and the warmth of the water, which made them sluggish. As there was likely to be a heavy sea-fog that night, which would cool the surface of the water some, I decided to try them early in the morning, as I did want to get fast to one of those big fellows. So just at daylight the anchor was dropped at the head of the deepest pool, at the eastern end of the first reef. It was still so dark that a light fly had to be used, so I selected a White Admiral, an inch long. Anything longer would have been useless. With a double cast and this double hook, success was fairly assured if he came for it.
A fine fellow had been having a grand rolling time the afternoon before at the head of a rock near the foot of the pool, and thinking he was there yet, I cast my fly below it, and gradually worked it up over the spot. Was that a salmon ? or was it my imagination ? There surely was a wave made by the rush of a fish. Well, if that was a fish, he was not pricked. After waiting a few minutes oh, what long ones! the line was cast again below where the agitation was, and worked up over the same spot, without the rush expected. Sometimes these old settlers, yea, and many young ones too, follow your line, moving as fast as the fly. When this is observed, by stopping the fly, he often seizes it. So this game was tried, and the moment the Admiral stopped, Mr. Hawk-bill took possession of him, and was harnessed. Then came the tug of war. I was not long discovering he was not a greyling by any means, but an old-time fellow, that had steered clear of nets and traps, and hitherto ignored all the enticements of rod fishermen. He settled on the bottom and sulked as soon as he was hooked a characteristic of big, overgrown fellows. He would not run, nor could he be drawn to me, although all the tension the tip would bear was on him. After half an hour, he had worked into the deepest water in the pool, but hung back, as much as to say, " I am at one end and you at the other, and we'll see what we'll see." Well, I kept nagging at him, with little prospect of success. When, by raising the kellock, the boat dropped nearly to him, and was stopped, the use of the pole suggested itself, and was tried. He evidently did not approve of the new treatment, for on the second thrust he started at railroad speed down and across the river, in a direct course for a stranded mill log. Unless stopped short of that, it would be "good-bye salmon," so, putting my thumb on the running line, I made the drag-out heavier. He had 90 yards now, and was only a few yards from the log, but near him was an eddy. He must be stopped there and then, and worked into it or be lost; so I decided to try this, by making the drag of the line still heavier, almost stopping it. This made him jump, and when his great body struck the water, he shied into the eddy, and quieted down.
After seeing the immense size of him, it made me the more anxious to save him. I knew he was much the largest fish that had ever tested my skill, so, slacking the line, the kellock was raised, and as the boat, or rather punt, dropped down towards him, my line was gathered in, until we were only 20 yards apart. By the strain kept upon him, and his heavy fall when he jumped, it was evident he was weakening. Had there been any one with me, the punt could have been moved over him then, and he would have gaffed him; but that other fellow wasn't there, so the best had to be made of a trying encounter with the means at command. His stubbornness convinced me that nothing ordinary would move him, so I unreeled several yards of line and put the rod down, up kellock, and poled the punt towards the shore, stopping at the head of an eddy, then raised the rod and reeled up the slack, putting such a purchase on him that I felt he would not and could not long resist. Nor did he, for in a few minutes the line began to slacken, and he sailed out of the one eddy into the other, and was now only 40 yards from the shore. Here he kept me another hour a fighting monster at one end of the line, and a persistent, patient, hopeful, and hungry fisherman at the other: no apparent yielding of either a sort of diamond-cut-diamond performance.