Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Voices from the Past: Fishing with Jack

Not all fish stories are about catching fish. This is a nifty one from 1891, first published in The New York Sun. The author, like most articles from this era, is unattributed.

Incidents of an Hour's Sport with an Enterprising Boy

"Pop, don't you want to go fishing?"

That was Jack, aged twelve, and healthy and hopeful. Pop was his father.

"Certainly," said pop. "Where do you go?"

"Down to Winter's. There's millions of pickerel there and barrels of catfish, but we don't want any catfish. What we want is a good mess of pickerel. I know a boy that caught twenty-seven there yesterday, and the biggest was pretty near three feet long."

Winter's was a millpond about a mile away. Jack got his fishing rod and they started. This rod was a curiosity. It was in three joints and painted black. Attached to it was a reel with a broken catch. The reel wound up all right but it had a constant tendency to unwind. Jack said, however, that that did not make any difference that all you had to do was to hold on to the line; and he said the rod was one of the nicest rods around.

The boats at Winter's are secured to stakes by chains which are fastened with padlocks; they are owned by a man who lives near the pond. The man seemed to know Jack, for he handed over a key without much parley. "It costs fifteen cents an hour," Jack said, as he and his father went around the corner of the house, "and I guess I'll let you pay for it. Here's the oars," he added, as he halted in front of a cellar window. "You just snake out one and I'll take the other."

Pop didn't see any oars, but when he saw Jack reach through the open window he looked in and saw two oars leaning against the cellar wall, with their handles rising nearly to the window sill. Each shouldered an oar. When they reached the boat Jack unlocked the padlock and put the key in his pocket. ''Now jump in," he said, "and I'll shove her off. We've got to go to the other side of the pond and get some bait"

"What do you get for bait" Pop asked.

"Worms," said Jade. "All you have to do is to turn over some of the stones along the bank and you can get millions of them."

Pop pulled the boat across the pond, and Jack took the rusty tomato can and went ashore for bait After reading the newspaper for a few minutes Pop looked around and asked, "What luck?"

"Well, some, but they're not so thick as they generally are. I think that rain last night most have made them go down into their holes."

After awhile Jaok came and put the can into the boat and got in himself. "Now," he said, "we'll go out In the middle of the pond and try 'em." Pop pulled out, while Jack, who sat in the stern, was jointing his rod. When he was ready he asked for the bait, which he had left in the bow when he got in. Pop handed it over. As he did so he looked in the can. At first he saw nothing, bat when he looked again he saw one worm. It was not much thicker than a darning needle and about an inch long. He said calmly. "I don't believe we've got bait enough, have we, Jack?"

"Plenty," said Jack, with equal calmness. "It's enough to catch one fish with, and the first one we catch we'll cut up for bait."

By careful efforts they managed to get the worm on the hook without breaking it. It barely covered the hook. Jack took the rod and swung the line into the pond. "Now, Pop," he said, "you just keep the boat steady, and see what we'll get."

Pop kept the boat steady and Jack fished for fifteen minutes without a bite. "I guess I'll let yoa fish awhile," he said. Pop fished for fifteen minutes. Once he thought they had a bite, but when they looked at the hook they found the bait entire. Then they tried the other end of the pond.

After a few minutes Jack looked up at the bright, sunny sky. "I wish I'd noticed that before," he said. "There's no use trying to catch pickerel on a day like this. They never bite except when it's cloudy. We might just as well stop now. We might fish all day and not get a bite. But you and I'll come down here some day when the weather's right and we can catch a boatload most any time."

They pulled back to the landing place, and after Jack had locked up the boat they carried the oars to the house aud slid them down through the cellar window.

-- Dr. Todd

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