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Fish Stories 



By 
HENRY ABBOTT 



NEW YORK 
1919 



Copyright 1919 

By 

HENRY ABBOTT 






Preface 



AN ALLEGED humorist once proposed the 
- query, "Are all fishermen liars, or do only- 
liars go fishing?" This does not seem to me to be 
funny. It is doubtless true that a cynical atti- 
tude of suspicion and doubt is often exhibited 
on the recital of a fishing exploit. I believe the 
joke editors of magazines and newspapers are 
responsible for the spread of the propaganda of 
ridicule, skepticism and distrust of all fish yarns, 
regardless of their source. The same fellows 
have a day of reckoning ahead, for the circula- 
tion of that ancient but still overworked mother- 
in-law joke. 

It is quite possible that some amateur fisher- 
men, wishing to pose as experts, are guilty of 
expanding the size or number of their catch, 
upon reporting the same. But I cannot con- 
ceive of a motive sufficient to induce one skilled 
in handling the rod to lie about his fish. The 
truth always sounds better and in the case of a 
fish story, truth is often stranger than any fish 
fiction. 

In my own experience and observation I have 
found that the more improbable a fish story 
sounds the more likely it is to be true. The in- 

3 



credulous attitude of the average auditor, also, 
is discouraging, and often reacts against him- 
self, as thus some of the very best fish stories are 
never told. To me, it seems a pity that through 
these Huns of history many charming and in- 
structive tales of adventure should be lost to 
literature and to the unoffending part of the 
public. 

The fellows whose exploits are here set down, 
seldom mention their fishing experiences. They 
are not boastful, and never exaggerate. They 
do not speak our language. I have, therefore, 
undertaken to tell their fish stories for them. 

H. A. 



Fish Stories 

by 
Henry Abbott 

BIGE had the oars and was gently 
I and without a splash dipping 
them into the water, while the 
boat slowly glided along parallel to the 
shore of the lake. We had been up 
around the big island and were crossing 
the bay at the mouth of Bald Mountain 
Brook, which is the outlet of the pond 
of that name, located in a bowl shaped 
pocket on the shoulder of Bald Mountain 
three miles away. I was in the stern 
seat of the boat with a rod and was cast- 
ing toward the shore, hoping to lure the 
wily bass from his hiding place under 
rocky ledge or lily pad, when I dis- 
covered another and a rival fisherman. 

He was operating with an aeroplane 
directly over our heads and about two 

5 




The Osprey 



hundred feet above the lake. Slowly 
sailing in circles, with an occasional lazy- 
flap of wings to maintain his altitude, 
and at intervals uttering his sharp, 
piercing, hunting cry, the osprey had a 
distinct advantage over us, as with his 
telescopic eye he could penetrate the 
lake to its bottom and could distinctly 
6 



see everything animate and inanimate 
in the water within his hunting circle. 
He could thus, accurately, locate his 
prey, while we could not see deeply into 
the water and were always guessing. 
We might make a hundred casts in as 
many places, where no bass had been 
for hours. So I reeled in my line, laid 
the rod down in the boat and gave my 
entire attention to watching the opera- 
tions of the fish hawk. 

For about ten minutes the aeroplane 
fisher continued to rotate overhead; 
then I observed that the circles were 
smaller in diameter, and were descend- 
ing in corkscrew curves, until from a 
height of about fifty feet the body of the 
bird shot straight down and struck the 
water about twenty-five yards from our 
boat with the blow of a spile driver's 
hammer, throwing a fountain of spray 
high into the air. For a few seconds 
nothing was visible but troubled waters ; 

7 



then appeared flapping wings and the 
floundering shining body of a big fish, 
lashing the water into a foam, through 
which it was difficult to see whether bird 
or fish was on top. Suddenly, both 
disappeared under water. Bige excit- 
edly yelled, '*He's got his hooks into a 
whale of a fish! He'll never let go! 
He'll be drowned! Gosh!!'* Then he 
rowed the boat nearer to the place of 
battle. A few heart beats later, and 
the fight was again on the surface. 
Wings flapped mightily, fish wriggled 
and twisted and again the water was 
churned into foam. We now plainly 
saw the two pairs of ice- tongs- talons of 
the bird, firmly clamped on the body of 
the pickerel, which exceeded in length 
(from head to tail) about six inches, the 
spread of wings from tip to tip. Wings 
continued to pound air and water but 
the big fish could not be lifted above 
the surface. One more desperate pull 
8 



on the pickerers fin-shaped oars and the 
bird went under water for the third time, 
but with his wicked claws as firmly 
clamped into the quivering body as ever. 
Coming to the surface more quickly the 
next time,- the osprey swung his head far 
back, and" with his ugly hook shaped 
beak struck the fish a mighty blow on 
the back of the head. The pickerel 
shivered, stiffened, and lay still. 

The fight was over, but the panting 
hawk still hung on to his victim. 

Recovering his breath in a few min- 
utes, the bird spread his wings and with 
much flapping, laboriously towed the 
dead fish along on the water across the 
lake, where he dragged it up on a sand 
beach. Here he sat for a long time, 
resting. Then with his hooked beak he 
carved up that pickerel for his stren- 
uously acquired meal. I have many 
times seen hawks catch fish, but on all 
other occasions they have been able to 

9 



pick up the struggling fish and fly away 
with it. This fellow hooked onto a fish 
so big he could not lift it. 



FOUR miles up the river and about 
five miles eastward over Bear 
Mountain, brought Bige and me to 
''Hotel Palmer** on the shore of Sargent 
Pond. One room and bath were avail- 
able and we took both, the latter in 
the pond. 

We had just enough time to finish 
supper before dark. The dishes had to 
be washed by lantern light. In the 
middle of the night we heard a 'Torky" 
crawling over the roof, dragging his 
heavy spine covered tail over the boards. 
It sounded like the scraping of a stiflf 
wire scratch brush. We heard him sniff 
and knew that he was seeking the food 
in our pack basket, which his sensitive 
nose told him was somewhere near. We 

10 




s 

2 

o 

X 



hoped he would become discouraged and 
go away, but he continued his explora- 
tions over our heads a long time, inter- 
fering with our efforts to sleep; so a 
lantern was lighted and we went out 
and threw sticks of wood and stones 
at him. 

The porcupine came down that roof 
in the same manner that he comes down 
a tree trunk, tail first, but the roof 
boards were steep and slippery and his 
toe nails would not stick as they do in 
the rough bark of a tree, so he came 
down hurriedly, landing with a thud on 
a rotten log at the back of the cabin. 
In the morning we discovered that a lot 
of porcupine quills were sticking ver- 
tically in the log so that a section of it 
resembled an inverted scrubbing brush. 

Hotel Palmer was built several years 
ago, by George, Dave and Leslie. When 
the law respecting camps on State lands 
became effective, it was torn down. But 

12 



on the occasion of the porcupine inci- 
dent, it was open for the reception of 
guests by permission. 

After breakfast, we found Dave*s boat 
hidden in the bushes in the specified 
place. During the day we hunted and 
got several partridges which we pro- 
posed to roast later. That evening after 
supper, while Bige was cutting some fire- 
wood, I took the boat and my rod and 
went out on the pond to get some trout 
for breakfast. 

It was just as the sun was dropping 
below the western hills, and there was 
a gorgeous golden glow in the sky. The 
breeze had dropped to a gentle zephyr 
that hardly caused a ripple on the sur- 
face of the water, so I allowed the boat 
to slowly drift while I was casting. A 
tree had fallen into the pond, and sitting 
in its branches near the tree top, close 
to the water and about fifty feet from 
the shore, I discovered a coon. He, 

13 



also, was fishing, and I was curious to 
learn just how he operated. 

I soon found that the coon was not 
without curiosity since he, just as eager- 
ly, was watching my operations. As 
the boat slowly approached the treetop 
his sharp, beady eyes followed the move- 
ment of my flies as the rod whipped 
back and forth. It occured to me that 
he might be seriously considering the 
advisability of adopting a fly rod for 
use in his fishing business. 

Just as the boat passed the treetop 
and but a few feet from it, a good sized 
trout appeared at the surface and with 
a swirl and slap of his tail grabbed one 
of my flies and made off with it toward 
the bottom. Instantly the coon became 
very excited. His body appeared tense; 
his ring-banded tail swished from side 
to side; his feet nervously stepped up 
and down on the tree branch, like a 
crouching cat who sees a mouse ap- 

14 




The Coon 



preaching, and his snapping eyes fol- 
lowed the movement of my line as it 
sawed through the water while the fish 
rushed about, up and down, under the 
boat and back again. And when the 
trout made a jump above the surface 
and shook himself, the coon seemed to 
fairly dance with joy. Presently, the 

15 



fish, now completely exhausted, ap- 
peared at the surface lying on his side, 
while I was reeling in the line; when 
the coon slipped into the water, grabbed 
the fish in his mouth and swam ashore. 
Climbing up the bank he turned, grinned 
at me and went into the bushes with my 
trout, now his trout, in his mouth and 
about three feet of leader trailing behind. 

BILL stood four feet three inches in 
his stockings, and if Bill had ever 
been on a scale, he would have tipped it 
at seven pounds and six ounces. Bill's 
body was about the size of a white 
leghorn hen. He was mostly legs and 
neck. 

Abe Lincoln once expressed the opin- 
ion that "a man's legs should be long 
enough to reach the ground." Bill 
was a wader by inclination and of ne- 
cessity. Long legs were, therefore, re- 
quired in his business, and having 

16 



begun life with a pair of long legs, Bill's 
body was mounted, so to speak, on 
stilts, high in the air, and he found it 
necessary to grow a long neck so that 
when he presented his bill it might 
reach to the ground. This long neck 
was ordinarily carried gracefully looped 
back above his body in the form of a 
letter S. On the rare occasions when 
Bill straightened this crooked neck of 
his, it shot out with the speed of an 
electric spark, and he never was known 
to miss the object aimed at. 

At the upper end of Bill's long neck 
his small head was secured, and from 
it drooped an eight inch beak, which 
opened and closed like a pair of tailor's 
shears. 

Bill wore a coat of the same color as 
a French soldier's uniform and his fam- 
ily name was Heron — Blue Heron. Bill 
had cousins named Crane and he was 
distantly related to a fellow who, with 

17 




Bill 



queer family traditions, paraded under 
the name of Stork. 

Bill did not belong to the union; he 
worked eighteen hours a day. His 
operations, chiefly, were conducted in 
a shallow bay where a brook emptied 
into the lake, directly opposite our 
cottage. There, Bill might be seen dur- 

18 



ing the season, in sunshine and in rain, 
from long before sunrise until late at 
night, standing in the shallow water 
near shore in an attitude which he 
copied from a Japanese fire screen; or 
with Edwin Booth's majestic, tragedian 
stage tread, slowly wading among the 
pond lily pads and pickerel grass; lifting 
high and projecting forward in long de- 
liberate strides, one foot after another; 
each step being carefully placed before 
his weight was shifted. 

Though an awkward appearing per- 
son by himself, in a landscape Bill made 
a picture of symmetry and beauty and 
his march was the very poetry of motion. 

Bill had very definite opinions con- 
cerning boats. He knew that they were 
generally occupied by human animals, 
of whose intentions he was always sus- 
picious. Either through experience or 
inherited instinct, he seemed to know 
exactly how far a shot-gun would carry. 

19 



Bige and I never had used one on him 
and we seldom had a gun up our sleeve 
while in a boat, but Bill never allowed 
us to approach beyond the safety line. 

Day after day through many seasons 
Bill has stood and observed our boat 
cross the lake. Without moving an 
eyelash he would watch our approach 
until the boat reached a certain definite 
spot in the lake, when with slow flap of 
wide spread wings he lifted his long legs, 
trailing them far behind, while he flew 
up the lake behind the island. As soon 
as we had passed about our business, 
Bill always returned and resumed his 
job of fishing at the same old stand, 
where he "watchfully waited" for some- 
thing to turn up. 

Bill was the most patient fisherman I 
ever knew. Neither Mr. Job nor Wood- 
row Wilson had anything on Bill. His 
motto seemed to be, "all things come to 
him who can afford to wait.'' 

20 



Early in the season Mrs, Bill was busy 
with household duties. With coarse 
sticks, brush, mud and moss, in the 
dead branches of a tall pine, she built 
the family nest and laid the family eggs. 
She also sat upon those eggs, with her 
long, spindly legs hanging straight down- 
ward, one on either side of the nest, as 
one might sit upon a saddle suspended in 
mid-air. When the brood of young 
herons were hatched and could be left 
alone, the mother also went fishing with 
Bill, and toward the end of the season 
the young birds were on the job with 
mother and dad. 

One day early in the season, Bige and 
I were crossing the lake. It was about 
ten o'clock. Bill had been watchfully 
waiting at his old stand since 3:30 A. M. 
One eye was now turned on the ap- 
proaching boat, but the other eye con- 
tinued its search of the waters for the 
long delayed morning meal. About this 

21 



time, a yellow perch who also was hunt- 
ing a breakfast, discovered a minnow 
who had strayed into deep water far 
from his home. Perchy immediately 
gave chase, while the alarmed minnow 
swiftly darted toward safety in his birth- 
place under a clump of pickerel grass 
near the shore. As they passed our 
boat, the race was headed straight for 
a pair of yellow legs a few rods away. 

Ten seconds later, a snake like neck 
uncoiled and straightened while an open- 
ed pair of shears, with lightning speed 
descended into the water. When they 
lifted, the shears were closed across the 
body of a half pound yellow perch. Bill 
thus held his fish an instant, then tossed 
it in the air and it descended head first 
into his wide open mouth. A swelling 
slowly moving downward marked the 
passage through a long gullet into his 
crop, of a breakfast that six and a half 
hours Bill had been patiently fishing for. 

22 



"Sufferin* Maria!*' exclaimed Bige, 
"What a lot of pleasure Bill had swallow- 
ing that kicking, wriggling morsel of 
food down half a yard of throat." 

BIGE and I had been spending the 
day at Moose Pond. Going over 
early in the morning, we went up the 
river about five miles, then followed the 
tote-road around the western side of 
the mountain to an abandoned lumber 
camp near the pond. This road had not 
been used for lumber operations for ten 
years or more, but it still made a good 
foot path, though to reach our destina- 
tion it led us a long way around. 

Returning late in the afternoon to 
Buck Mountain Camp, where we were 
then staying, we decided to go directly 
over Moose Mountain, by a shorter 
route, though the walking through the 
lumbered section of the woods would 
be more difficult. In the bottom of 

23 



the valley between the two mountains, 
we crossed West Bay Brook. This 
brook we had fished three or four miles 
below, near where it emptied into Cedar 
Lake, but in this section where the 
stream was small, overgrown with alders 
and covered with "slash" from the lum- 
ber operations, we had not thought it 
worth the effort. 

There was an elbow in the brook at 
the place where we crossed it, and a 
large tree lying across the stream had 
collected driftwood and formed a dam 
above which was a deep pool about thir- 
ty feet in diameter. Looking down from 
the bridge which the west wind had made 
for us to cross upon, we saw that the 
pool was alive with trout. The bottom 
seemed black with a solid army forma- 
tion of fish, lying close together, sides 
touching, heads up stream ; while schools 
of smaller trout, disturbed by our pre- 
sence, swiftly swam around the pool 

24 



reflecting the bright sunshine in brilli- 
ant rainbow hues. The scene was one 
to arrest the attention of the most cas- 
ual observer, and Bige and I lingered 
long upon the bridge watching the move- 
ments of the hundreds of inhabitants 
of this natural aquarium. 

On the way back to camp we dis- 
cussed the possibilities of fishing this 
pool, deciding upon the best place of 
approach, where one could be partially 
concealed by bushes while casting. We 
spent all of the following day marking 
a trail down the mountain and across 
the valley, about three miles, from camp 
to the pool, cutting brush and clearing 
out a path; then one day when the 
weather conditions were favorable, Bige 
went out to headquarters to bring in 
some food supplies and I, with a fly rod, 
went down over our new trail to catch 
a few trout in a pool that had never been 
fished. 

26 



Cautiously approaching, when near 
the brook, I heard sounds of splashing 
in the water. Creeping on hands and 
knees, then slowly on stomach, I reach- 
ed a position where, through the bushes, 
the surface of the pool came into view, 
when, crawling up the opposite bank, 
I saw a long, slender, shiny, water soak- 
ed, fur coated body which was sur- 
mounted with a cat-like head; the legs 
were so short they were invisible and 
the body appeared to drag upon the 
ground, while a tapering tail about a 
foot long followed in the rear. The 
Otter, including tail, was about three 
feet long and he had a trout in his mouth 
which he deposited on the ground and 
immediately slid down the bank and 
disappeared under the water. In less 
than a minute he crawled up the bank 
again with another fish in his mouth, 
which was dropped by the first one and 
the operation was repeated. 

27 



I do not know how long the otter had 
been fishing when I arrived, but I watch- 
ed him work fully fifteen minutes, when 
he came to the surface without a fish. 
He then deliberately surveyed his catch, 
appearing to gloat over it, after which 
he started down stream, tumbling in 
and climbing out of the water as far 
as he could be seen and I heard him 
several minutes after he had gone out 
of view. 

Coming out of my cramped position 
of concealment, I crossed over on the 
fallen tree and saw scattered over the 
opposite bank literally scores of trout, 
large and small; some had their heads 
bitten off, others were cut in half, all 
were mutilated. Obviously, the otter 
had eaten his fill and then had continued 
to fish just for the joy of killing, like 
some other trout-hogs in human form, 
such as we all have met. 

I went back to camp that night with- 

28 




PE""'*^-.r>SS?«s23s^-^ 



The Otter 

out fish. We visited the pool later, 
several times, but never got a rise and 
never saw another trout in that hole. 
The otter had made a perfect and com- 
plete job of it. There was not left even 
a pair of trout for seed. 



29 



A TWENTY inch pickerel of my 
acquaintance, one day swallowed 
his grandson. This was an exhibition 
of bad judgment on the part of Grandad 
Pickerel. The mere fact of killing his 
near relative was not in itself repre- 
hensible, since, if all pickerel were not 
cannibals they would soon exterminate 
from streams, ponds, and lakes, fishes 
of all other species. But this particular 
**pick*' was a husky youngster, and while 
he might very properly have been bit- 
ten in half, or have been chewed up 
into small pieces, the older fish got him- 
self into trouble when he swallowed the 
kid whole. 

A few hours after the occurence men- 
tioned above, the elder pickerel, at one 
end of a trolling line, climbed into our 
boat; Bige, who had the other end of 
the line, assisting him aboard. 

"Sufferin' Mackerel! Well by Gosh!! 
He*s got a rudder on both ends; he can 




o 



I 



swim both ways without turning around, 
like a ferry boat," commented Bige, as 
we examined the floundering big fish, 
which had the tail end of a smaller fish 
protruding three inches beyond his snout, 
while the head of the younger was in 
the pit of the stomach of the elder 
pickerel. 

I have heard and read many tales, 
illustrating the voracious appetite of 
pickerel. Board man in his book, 
''Lovers of the Woods,** tells how his 
guide, George, while fishing in Long 
Lake, lost his Waterbury watch over- 
board. Several days later, he caught 
a big pickerel and in dressing it found 
his watch inside, still running. It seems 
that a leather thong attached to the 
watch was wrapped around the winding 
crown and the other end of the thong 
was looped over the fish*s lower jaw 
and hooked onto his teeth, so that when- 
ever the pickerel opened and closed his 

32 



mouth the watch was wound half a 
turn, and thus was kept running. 

Not being an eye-witness, my testi- 
mony regarding this incident would not 
be accepted in a court of law. However, 
I have known pickerel to swallow frogs, 
crawfish, mice, sunfish and yellow perch 
with their prickly dorsal fins, young shell- 
drakes and gulls, and even bull-heads 
having three rigid horns with needle 
points projecting at right angles to the 
body, any one of which horns, it would 
seem, might pierce the anatomy of the 
pickerel. Somehow, they appear to get 
away with all these things, and more. 

The pickerel has a large mouth and a 
multitude of teeth on both upper and 
lower jaws, in the roof of his mouth, 
also on tongue and palate. These teeth 
are long and sharp and they slope in- 
ward; some of them also bend down to 
allow objects to pass into the throat, 
but they effectually prevent ejecting 

as 



anything that has been swallowed. So, 
Grandad Pickerel, if he had regrets 
after swallowing a member of his own 
family, found it impossible to throw 
him up, as the Good Book says the 
whale cast up Jonah. 

Bige and I found we could not sepa- 
rate the two fishes without first per- 
forming a surgical operation. In doing 
so, we also released a shiner which had 
been swallowed with Bige's trolling hook 
and was wedged in the throat alongside 
the smaller pickerel. This was the most 
amazing part of the incident, and proves 
the gluttonous character of the pick- 
erel and his complete inability to ap- 
preciate the limits of his own capacity. 

We found upon examination that the 
process of digestion was operating, and 
that the head of the smaller pickerel 
was nearly dissolved in the stomach of 
the larger fish. Another hour, and 
grandson would have slipped down an 

34 



inch and the process of digestion would 
have been repeated upon another section. 

A white man cuts his fire wood the 
proper length to use in his fireplace. 
An Indian puts one end of a long branch 
or sapling into his fire, and when it has 
burned off, he moves the stick in and 
burns off another section, thus con- 
serving labor. 

Our pickerel was digesting his food 
Indian fashion, or, so to speak, on the 
installment plan. 

BIGE and I were hunting. I was 
placed on a "runway" on the bank 
of a small stream which was the outlet 
of Minnow Pond. Bige had gone around 
to the opposite side of the mountain 
and planned to come up over the top 
and follow the deer path which ran 
down the mountain side, into and 
through an old log-road which had not 
been used for lumber operations for fif- 

35 



teen years, and which was now over- 
grown with bushes and young spruce 
and balsam trees. This log- road fol- 
lowed the windings of the brook down 
the valley to where it emptied into the 
lake, and where the logs were dumped 
into the water and floated down to the 
mill. 

Many years ago, when it was the 
practice to hunt with dogs, the deer 
acquired the habit of running to the 
nearest water, where, by wading or 
swimming they could throw the dogs 
off the scent. Thus all deer trails or 
run-ways lead, sooner or later, to a 
stream, a pond or lake, where the deer 
has a chance of evading pursuit of his 
natural enemy. Now, while the game 
laws forbid hunting deer with dogs, and 
while dogs are not allowed to enter for- 
ests inhabited by deer, yet the inherited 
instinct of self-preservation of the latter 
persists, and whenever alarmed by the 

36 



appearance of man, who in the mind of 
a deer is still associated with his other 
enemy — the dog, he immediately starts 
down his trail to the nearest water. 

It was Bige's hope to *'scare up'* a 
deer on the other side of the mountain 
and drive him down the run-way past 
my watch ground, while it was my job 
to shoot him as he passed by. 

The fallen tree on which I sat was 
on the bank of the brook and about ten 
feet above the water, while in the oppo- 
site direction, through an open space in 
the bushes, I had a clear view of the run- 
way about twenty yards distant. 

Time passes slowly in the woods, when 
one is waiting for something to turn up. 
Also, it is essential that one sit quietly 
and make very few false motions when 
watching for a deer to approach. I had 
been sitting, with rifle across knees, what 
seemed a long time. The noises of the 
woods which suddenly cease when one 

37 



walks through the forest, gradually re- 
turned. A wood-pecker started up his 
electric hammer and resumed the opera- 
tion of drilling a deep hole into a pine 
stub a few rods away. A blue- jay made 
some sarcastic remarks about "Caleb" 
and then began swinging on his gate 
and creaking its rusty hinges. A red 
squirrel overhead, made unintelligible, 
but evidently derisive remarks about the 
intrusion of strangers, and then pro- 
ceeded to cut off spruce cones and tried 
to drop them on my head. A king- 
fisher flew up the brook and shook a 
baby's tin rattle at me as he passed. An 
old hen partridge down the log-road was 
advising her children to **Quit! Quit! 
Quit!" but her chicks, who were now 
more than half grown, paid not the 
slightest attention to her warning but 
continued picking blue-berries just as 
if there were no enemies within a hun- 
dred miles. An owl on the limb of a tall 
38 



birch demanded, in stentorian voice, to 

know "Who? Who? Who in " 

Another fellow, way down the valley 
responded that he "could!**, that he had 
a chip on his shoulder and that if any 
blanked owl knocked it off he "Would 

Who? Who in are you anyhow?** 

Thus the belligerents fought their battle 
at long range with language, like many 
other pugilists. A rabbit, who in another 
month would throw off his brown vest 
and put on his white winter overcoat, 
went loping past, stopping occasionally 
to nip off a wintergreen leaf. These, and 
other sounds indicating various activi- 
ties of wood folk, continued to divert 
attention while two hours passed. 

The "Yap, Yap,** of a red fox sounded 
down the brook. A few minutes later 
his voice was heard again, nearer; pres- 
ently he came into view. He was wad- 
ing in the shallow water of the brook, 
eyes intently fixed upon the water, fol- 

39 



lowing a school of minnows. Stepping 
high and cautiously, he, from time to 
time, suddenly jabbed his muzzle into 
the water and brought up a fish from 
two to three inches long, which he chew- 
ed and swallowed with seeming satis- 
faction. When he missed, which hap- 
pened often, he repeated his impatient 
*'Yap, Yap'* and moved up stream 
where was another bunch of minnows. 

This was the first time I had ever seen 
a fox fishing and I was intensely inter- 
ested in his operations. About this time, 
I heard a commotion in the bushes be- 
hind me, and turned in time to see the 
horns and white tail of a deer over the 
tops of the bushes as he bounded along 
down the runway. I heard him for a 
full minute, still going strong down to- 
ward the lake. 

Five minutes later Bige appeared, 
coming down the path gently demand- 
ing, ''Why in time didn't you shoot 

40 



that deer? IVe been following him for 
an hour. Fresh tracks all the way. 
Heard him twice. He went right by 
here, kicked up the dirt at every jump. 
You won't get a better shot in ten years. 
What in tunket were you doing anyhow?'* 
'Who, me? Why-M was fishing.'* 

^'TJUTTERMILK FALLS" is one 
JL^ of the show places in our neck 
of the woods. The guide books make 
mention of it, and the tourist and "one 
week boarder" see it first. Also, when 
one tires of fishing, of mountain climb- 
ing, of tramping, and is in need of some 
new form of diversion, there is always 
"somethin' doin' at the falls." In the 
presence of their majestic beauty, and 
in the roar of their falling, tumbling, 
foaming waters, deer seem to lose their 
natural timidity and often, in mid-day, 
show themselves in the open to drink 
of the waters at the foot of the falls and 

41 



to drink in the beauty of the picture. 
In the course of my wanderings in the 
forests, I have often observed, in spots 
that are particularly wild or picturesque, 
or that have an extensive outlook, evi- 
dences that deer have stood there, per- 
haps stamping or pawing the ground 
for hours at a time, while they enjoyed 
the view. Such evidence points to the 
theory that wild deer not only have an 
eye for the beautiful in nature, but that 
they manifest good taste in their choice 
of a picture. 

One day two black bears were seen 
feeding on the bank of the river just 
above the falls. A family of beavers 
have built a house about a hundred 
yards below the falls and have made sev- 
eral unsuccessful attempts to dam the 
rapids, in which operations about an 
acre of alder bushes have been cut and 
dragged into position, only to be carried 
down stream by the swift waters. This 

42 



is the only family of beavers I ever met 
who are not good engineers. 

There is also the typical tale of the 
^*big trout — a perfect monster of a fish,*' 
that lives in the deep pool under the 
falls. Scores of people have "seen him;" 
every guide and every fisherman who 
has visited this region has tried to catch 
the "wise old moss-back.*' Several times 
he has been hooked, but the stories of 
lost leaders and broken tackle that have 
been told would fill a volume, and he 
still lives. 

Also, the falls are not without their 
romance. Tradition, dating back to the 
Indian occupation, perhaps a hundred 
and fifty years ago, tells of a beautiful 
Indian maiden who was wont to meet 
her lover at midnight when the moon 
was full, at a spot just above the falls. 
Coming down the river in her birch- 
bark canoe, the maiden would await 
the arrival of the young warrior, who 

43 



was of another and a hostile tribe, liv- 
ing the other side of the mountain. 
When the moonlight shadow of the tall 
pine fell upon a particular spot on the 
big rock, the ardent lover arrived, guided 
through the dark and trackless forest 
by the roar of the falls, which could be 
heard beyond the mountain top. 

Of course the chief, the girl's father, 
objected to the attentions of this enemy 
lover, as also did other and rival admir- 
ers of her own tribe. 

On a mid-summer night the lovers 
parted, he to go on a mission to Mon- 
treal, which then involved a long, diffi- 
cult and dangerous tramp through the 
wilderness. Both were pledged to meet 
again at the falls at midnight of the 
harvest-moon. As the shadow of the 
September moon fell upon the midnight 
mark on the big rock, the Indian maid 
arrived in her canoe, but the lover came 
not. Instead, appeared one of the rival 

44 



warriors of her own tribe, who told of 
an ambush, of a poisoned arrow and of 
a dead lover. 

The heart-broken maid then drifted 
out into midstream and with her canoe 
passed over the falls and was killed on 
the rocks below. Tradition goes on to 
relate how, at midnight of every harvest 
moon since that tragic event, the ghost 
of the beautiful Indian maiden appears 
in her birch bark canoe and sails over 
Buttermilk Falls, disappearing in the 
foaming waters at their foot. 

For many years I have tried to per- 
suade Bige to join me in keeping the 
date with this ghost, but up to the pre- 
sent writing it has never been conven- 
ient. 

Sitting, one day, at the foot of the 
falls, I was studying the high-water 
marks on the adjacent rocks, indicating 
the immense volume of waters that pass 
over the falls and down the rapids dur- 

46 



ing the freshets caused by melting snows 
and spring rains, trying to imagine how 
it might look on such occasions, when 
a million logs, the cut of the lumbermen 
during the previous winter, were let loose 
and came crowding, climbing, jamming, 
tumbling over one another down through 
the ravine and over the brink with the 
mighty rushing waters. 

The ground about where I sat was 
strewn with rocks, boulders and smaller 
stones, all worn by the ceaseless action 
of the waters, many of them smooth, 
others seamed with strata of quartz, 
granite or sandstone, some curiously 
marked and grotesque in shape. 

As I sat thus, meditating, one of these 
curiously marked stones, about the size 
and shape of one of those steel trench 
hats worn by the * 'doughboys" in the 
late war, which had been lying close to 
the edge of the water and partly in it, 
suddenly jumped up and appeared to 

47 



stand on four legs about six inches higher 
than it had been lying. The legs seemed 
to be stiff and the movement was like 
the rising of a disappearing cannon be- 
hind the walls of a fort. Instantly there 
appeared a fifth leg or brace at the back 
which pushed the rear edge of the trei^ch 
hat upward and tilted it toward the 
water, when a telescopic gun shot out 
from under this curious fighting machine 
and plunged into the water. An instant 
later this telescopic gun lifted a small 
trout out of the water, bit it in half, and 
with two snaps swallowed it. The tele- 
scope then collapsed, the gun-carriage 
slowly settled back, the tail brace curled 
up under the rear, the head was drawn 
under the front of the shell, and the 
turtle's eyes closed to a narrow slit. 
Again he looked like the stones among 
which he lay, but his trap was set for 
another fish. 

In a few minutes another young trout 

48 



strayed too close to the shore and the 
operation was repeated. The manoeu- 
ver, though awkward, was swift and 
every time a fish was landed. 

The turtle is a good swimmer and he 
remains under water a long time. He 
doubtless also catches fish while swim- 
ming. This, however, was the first time 
I saw him fishing from the shore. 

SALMON RIVER is a swift flowing 
stream having an average width of 
fifty feet, narrowing as it passes through 
gorges and having a number of wide, 
deep pools in w^hich the larger trout 
collect. 

I have made diligent inquiry as to 
the reason for this name, and have ar- 
rived at the conclusion that it was called 
Salmon River because there were never 
any salmon in it, but there should be. 

About three miles up stream, the bea- 
vers have built a dam across it, backing 

50 



the water up through a swampy section 
about a quarter of a mile, flooding both 
banks of the river through the woods, 
thus creating a fair sized artificial pond. 

Bige and I decided that this would 
be a good place to fish, but that it would 
be difficult, if not impossible, to reach 
the deep water of the channel without 
a boat. So it was arranged that Bige 
should take the basket containing food 
and cooking utensils up over the tote- 
road, leave it at the beaver dam, then 
go on to Wolf Pond where we had left 
one of our boats, and carry the boat 
back through the woods to the dam 
where I should meet him about three 
hours later. 

In order to make use of the time on 
my hands, I put on my wading pants 
and hob-nailed shoes and proceeded to 
wade up stream, making a cast occa- 
sionally where a likely spot appeared. It 
was a wonderful morning. The weather 

51 



conditions were exactly right for such 
an expedition. I passed many spots 
that would have delighted the soul of 
an artist. He, probably, would have 
taken a week to cover the distance I 
expected to travel in three hours. 

I had gone more than half way to the 
dam, had a few fish in my creel, and was 
approaching an elbow in the stream. 
A high point of land covered with bushes 
shut off my view of a deep pool just 
around the corner, in which I had many 
times caught trout. As I came near 
this bend in the river a most extra- 
ordinary thing occured. I distinctly saw 
a fish flying through the air over the 
top of the clump of bushes on the point. 
A flying fish is not an unheard-of thing, 
indeed I have seen them several times, 
but not in the mountains, not in these 
woods, where there are fresh waters only. 
Flying fish of the kind I know about are 
met in the Sound and in bays near the 

52 




> 

s 

c: 
o 
S 

CO 

ho 

c 



ocean. Also, the fish I just then had 
seen flying above the bushes, did not 
have the extended wing-like fins of the 
orthodox flyer. This fish was a trout. 
I had seen enough of them to feel sure 
of that. True, I had seen trout jump 
out of the water, for a fly or to get up 
over a waterfall ; but I never before saw 
a trout climb fifteen or twenty feet into 
the air, over the tops of bushes and 
young trees and land on the bank. 

This was surely a matter that requir- 
ed explanation. An investigation was 
necessary, and without hesitation I as- 
sumed the role of sleuth. Carefully step- 
ping out of the water, I sat on a rock 
and took off my wading togs, then on 
stockinged feet and on hands and knees 
crept up the bank. Peering through the 
bushes, I saw that since my last visit 
a large birch tree had fallen across the 
pool and that the trunk of this tree was 
partly submerged. Sitting on this fallen 

54 



tree over the center of the pool was a 
large black bear. Her back was toward 
me, and she was in a stooping posture, 
holding one fore paw down in the water. 
I was just in time to see a sudden move- 
ment of the submerged paw and to see 
another trout, about twelve inches long, 
go sailing through the air and fall behind 
some bushes just beyond where I was 
in hiding. Rustling and squealing 
sounds coming from the direction in 
which the fish had gone, indicated that 
a pair of cubs were behind the bushes, 
and that they were scrapping over pos- 
session of the fish their mother had toss- 
ed up to them. It was, perhaps, ten 
minutes later I saw a third trout fly over 
the bushes toward the cubs. About this 
time the bear turned her head, sniffed 
the air in my direction, and with a low 
growl and a ''Whoof,'* started briskly 
for shore, climbed the bank, collected the 
two cubs and made off into the woods, 

55 



smashing brush and fallen limbs of trees, 
occasionally pausing to send back, in 
her own language, a remark indicating 
her disapproval of the party who had 
interrupted her fishing operations. 

The mystery of the flying trout was 
now solved, but a new conundrum was 
presented to my enquiring mind ; name- 
ly, how did the old lady catch them? 
With what did the bear bait her hooks? 

I have told the story to many guides 
and woodsmen of my acquaintance, and 
from them have sought an answer to 
the question. Bige expressed the opin- 
ion that the bear dug worms, wedged 
them in between her toe-nails, and when 
the fish nibbled the worms the bear 
grabbed him. Frank referred to the 
well known pungent odor of the bear, 
especially of his feet, the tracks made by 
which a dog can smell hours, or even 
days after the bear has passed. He 
said that fish are attracted by the odor. 

56 



Also that many years ago, he had caught 
fish by putting oil of rhodium on the bait, 
and that "fish could smell it clear across 
the pond/* Frank admitted that this 
method of fishing was not sportsman- 
like and that he had discontinued the 
practice. George said he had many 
times watched trout in a pool rub their 
sides against moss covered stones and 
often settle down upon the moss and 
rest there. He opined that they mistook 
the fur on the bear's paw for a particu- 
larly desirable variety of moss, and so 
were caught. 

At this point in my investigations, I 
was reminded that a few years ago there 
was conducted, in the columns of several 
fishing and hunting magazines, a very 
serious discussion of the question, *'Can 
fish be caught by tickling?*' Many con- 
tributors took part in this discussion. 
There were advocates of both positive 
and negative side of the question. My 

57 



old friend Hubbard, an expert fisherman, 
of wide experience, assured me that he, 
many years ago, had discarded the land- 
ing net; that when he hooked a lake 
trout, a bass or a ''musky,*' and had 
played his fish until it was so exhausted 
that it could be reeled in and led up 
alongside the boat, it was his practice 
to ''gently insert his hand in the water 
under the fish and tickle it on the 
the stomach, when the fish would settle 
down in his hand and go to sleep, then 
he would lift it into the boat." 

This testimony took me back in mem- 
ory to a time, many years ago, at a 
little red school house on the hill, in 
a New England country school district, 
where my young ideas took their first 
lessons in shooting. "Us fellers" then 
looked upon boys of twelve and thirteen 
years as the "big boys" of the school. 
We still believed in Santa Claus, and 
we knew that a bird could not be caught 

68 



without first '^putting salt on its tail.*' 
A brook crossed the road at the foot of 
the hill and ran down through farmer 
Barnum's pasture. In this brook, dur- 
ing the noon recess and after school had 
closed for the day, with trousers rolled 
up and with bare feet, we waded and 
fished. We caught them with our hands, 
and we kept them alive. Each boy had 
his ''spring hole,** scooped out of the 
sand near the edge of the stream, in 
which he kept the fish caught. Of 
course, whenever it rained, and the 
water rose in the brook, these spring 
holes were washed away and the fish 
escaped. But when the waters sub- 
sided, they had to be caught again. 
Sometimes, we caught a chub as much 
as four inches long; and on rare occa- 
sions, when a ''horned dace, a five inch- 
er** was secured, the boy who got him 
was a hero. It was the firm conviction 
of every boy in our gang, that, no matter 
60 



how securely a fish was cornered be- 
tween the twa hands and behind and 
under a sod or stone, he could not safely 
be lifted out of the water without first 
''tickling him on the belly." 

Reverting to the suggestion made by 
Bige. There would be no doubt as to 
the bear's ability to dig worms. She is 
an expert digger, carries her garden tools 
with her. She has been known to dig 
a hole under a stump or rock, six or 
eight feet deep, in which she sleeps all 
winter. I have, myself, seen a bear dig 
wild turnips and have seen rotten sturnps 
and logs torn to bits by their claws; 
which was done in a hunt for grubs. 
I therefore felt certain that if the bear 
dug any worms she would not use them 
for fish bait, but would herself eat them. 

With a judicial attitude of mind, con- 
sidering all the evidence submitted, in- 
cluding my own early experience, I have 
arrived at the conclusion that the trout 

61 . 



was first attracted by the odor of the 
bear's paw, then rubbed against the soft 
fur, when the bear wiggled her toes and 
tickled the fish on his belly, whereupon 
the trout settled down in the bear's 
paw, went to sleep and was tossed up 
on the shore to the waiting cubs. 



62 




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