List Of Contents | Contents of In the Wilderness, by Charles Dudley Warner
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After this common experience we went quickly on our journey, and, a
couple of hours before sundown, reached the lake.  If I live to my
dying day, I never shall forget its appearance.  The lake is almost
an exact circle, about a quarter of a mile in diameter.  The forest
about it was untouched by axe, and unkilled by artificial flooding.
The azure water had a perfect setting of evergreens, in which all the
shades of the fir, the balsam, the pine, and the spruce were
perfectly blended; and at intervals on the shore in the emerald rim
blazed the ruby of the cardinal flower.  It was at once evident that
the unruffled waters had never been vexed by the keel of a boat.  But
what chiefly attracted my attention, and amused me, was the boiling
of the water, the bubbling and breaking, as if the lake were a vast
kettle, with a fire underneath.  A tyro would have been astonished at
this common phenomenon; but sportsmen will at once understand me when
I say that the water boiled with the breaking trout.  I studied the
surface for some time to see upon what sort of flies they were
feeding, in order to suit my cast to their appetites; but they seemed
to be at play rather than feeding, leaping high in the air in
graceful curves, and tumbling about each other as we see them in the
Adirondack pictures.

It is well known that no person who regards his reputation will ever
kill a trout with anything but a fly.  It requires some training on
the part of the trout to take to this method.  The uncultivated,
unsophisticated trout in unfrequented waters prefers the bait; and
the rural people, whose sole object in going a-fishing appears to be
to catch fish, indulge them in their primitive taste for the worm.
No sportsman, however, will use anything but a fly, except he happens
to be alone.

While Luke launched my boat and arranged his seat in the stern, I
prepared my rod and line.  The rod is a bamboo, weighing seven
ounces, which has to be spliced with a winding of silk thread every
time it is used.  This is a tedious process; but, by fastening the
joints in this way, a uniform spring is secured in the rod.  No one
devoted to high art would think of using a socket joint.  My line was
forty yards of untwisted silk upon a multiplying reel.  The "leader"
(I am very particular about my leaders) had been made to order from a
domestic animal with which I had been acquainted.  The fisherman
requires as good a catgut as the violinist.  The interior of the
house cat, it is well known, is exceedingly sensitive; but it may not
be so well known that the reason why some cats leave the room in
distress when a piano-forte is played is because the two instruments
are not in the same key, and the vibrations of the chords of the one
are in discord with the catgut of the other.  On six feet of this
superior article I fixed three artificial flies,--a simple brown
hackle, a gray body with scarlet wings, and one of my own invention,
which I thought would be new to the most experienced fly-catcher.
The trout-fly does not resemble any known species of insect.  It is a
"conventionalized" creation, as we say of ornamentation.  The theory
is that, fly-fishing being a high art, the fly must not be a tame
imitation of nature, but an artistic suggestion of it.  It requires
an artist to construct one; and not every bungler can take a bit of
red flannel, a peacock's feather, a flash of tinsel thread, a cock's
plume, a section of a hen's wing, and fabricate a tiny object that
will not look like any fly, but still will suggest the universal
conventional fly.

I took my stand in the center of the tipsy boat; and Luke shoved off,
and slowly paddled towards some lily-pads, while I began casting,
unlimbering my tools, as it were.  The fish had all disappeared.
I got out, perhaps, fifty feet of line, with no response, and
gradually increased it to one hundred.  It is not difficult to learn
to cast; but it is difficult to learn not to snap off the flies at
every throw.  Of this, however, we will not speak.  I continued
casting for some moments, until I became satisfied that there had
been a miscalculation.  Either the trout were too green to know what
I was at, or they were dissatisfied with my offers.  I reeled in, and
changed the flies (that is, the fly that was not snapped off).  After
studying the color of the sky, of the water, and of the foliage, and
the moderated light of the afternoon, I put on a series of beguilers,
all of a subdued brilliancy, in harmony with the approach of evening.
At the second cast, which was a short one, I saw a splash where the
leader fell, and gave an excited jerk.  The next instant I perceived
the game, and did not need the unfeigned "dam" of Luke to convince me
that I had snatched his felt hat from his head and deposited it among
the lilies.  Discouraged by this, we whirled about, and paddled over
to the inlet, where a little ripple was visible in the tinted light.
At the very first cast I saw that the hour had come.  Three trout
leaped into the air.  The danger of this manoeuvre all fishermen
understand.  It is one of the commonest in the woods: three heavy
trout taking hold at once, rushing in different directions, smash the
tackle into flinders.  I evaded this catch, and threw again.  I
recall the moment.  A hermit thrush, on the tip of a balsam, uttered
his long, liquid, evening note.  Happening to look over my shoulder,
I saw the peak of Marcy gleam rosy in the sky (I can't help it that
Marcy is fifty miles off, and cannot be seen from this region: these
incidental touches are always used).  The hundred feet of silk
swished through the air, and the tail-fly fell as lightly on the
water as a three-cent piece (which no slamming will give the weight
of a ten) drops upon the contribution plate.  Instantly there was a
rush, a swirl.  I struck, and "Got him, by---!"  Never mind what Luke
said I got him by.  "Out on a fly!" continued that irreverent guide;
but I told him to back water, and make for the center of the lake.
The trout, as soon as he felt the prick of the hook, was off like a
shot, and took out the whole of the line with a rapidity that made it
smoke.  "Give him the butt!" shouted Luke.  It is the usual remark in
such an emergency.  I gave him the butt; and, recognizing the fact
and my spirit, the trout at once sank to the bottom, and sulked.  It
is the most dangerous mood of a trout; for you cannot tell what he
will do next.  We reeled up a little, and waited five minutes for him
to reflect.  A tightening of the line enraged him, and he soon
developed his tactics.  Coming to the surface, he made straight for
the boat faster than I could reel in, and evidently with hostile
intentions.  "Look out for him!" cried Luke as he came flying in the
air.  I evaded him by dropping flat in the bottom of the boat; and,
when I picked my traps up, he was spinning across the lake as if he
had a new idea: but the line was still fast.  He did not run far.  I
gave him the butt again; a thing he seemed to hate, even as a gift.
In a moment the evil-minded fish, lashing the water in his rage, was
coming back again, making straight for the boat as before.  Luke, who
was used to these encounters, having read of them in the writings of
travelers he had accompanied, raised his paddle in self-defense.  The
trout left the water about ten feet from the boat, and came directly
at me with fiery eyes, his speckled sides flashing like a meteor.  I
dodged as he whisked by with a vicious slap of his bifurcated tail,
and nearly upset the boat.  The line was of course slack, and the
danger was that he would entangle it about me, and carry away a leg.
This was evidently his game; but I untangled it, and only lost a
breast button or two by the swiftly-moving string.  The trout plunged
into the water with a hissing sound, and went away again with all the
line on the reel.  More butt; more indignation on the part of the
captive.  The contest had now been going on for half an hour, and I
was getting exhausted.  We had been back and forth across the lake,
and round and round the lake.  What I feared was that the trout would
start up the inlet and wreck us in the bushes.  But he had a new
fancy, and began the execution of a manoeuvre which I had never read
of.  Instead of coming straight towards me, he took a large circle,
swimming rapidly, and gradually contracting his orbit.  I reeled in,
and kept my eye on him.  Round and round he went, narrowing his
circle.  I began to suspect the game; which was, to twist my head
off.--When he had reduced the radius of his circle to about twenty-
five feet, he struck a tremendous pace through the water.  It would
be false modesty in a sportsman to say that I was not equal to the
occasion.  Instead of turning round with him, as he expected, I
stepped to the bow, braced myself, and let the boat swing.  Round
went the fish, and round we went like a top.  I saw a line of Mount
Marcys all round the horizon; the rosy tint in the west made a broad
band of pink along the sky above the tree-tops; the evening star was
a perfect circle of light, a hoop of gold in the heavens.  We whirled
and reeled, and reeled and whirled.  I was willing to give the
malicious beast butt and line, and all, if he would only go the other
way for a change.

When I came to myself, Luke was gaffing the trout at the boat-side.
After we had got him in and dressed him, he weighed three-quarters of
a pound.  Fish always lose by being "got in and dressed."  It is best
to weigh them while they are in the water.  The only really large one
I ever caught got away with my leader when I first struck him.  He
weighed ten pounds.



If civilization owes a debt of gratitude to the self-sacrificing
sportsmen who have cleared the Adirondack regions of catamounts and
savage trout, what shall be said of the army which has so nobly
relieved them of the terror of the deer?  The deer-slayers have
somewhat celebrated their exploits in print; but I think that justice
has never been done them.

The American deer in the wilderness, left to himself, leads a

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