Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Voices from the Past: George H. Christy

Here is an article from 1897 from an unusual angler--one who admits his mistakes. I found it entertaining and informative, just like all good angling literature.


By George H. Christy

It would take a long while to tell them 
all. Two or three will suffice for the present.

It was just below Devil Rapids on the 
far-famed Nepigon. The water flowed 
swift and deep close under an overhanging 
bank, and we knew from previous experience 
that this was a resort where the 
big trout congregated. I had good clear 
standing room close to the brink, but the 
surrounding bushes, which at that spot 
somehow grew and flourished on stonier 
ground than any our Saviour could have 
found in all Gallilee, as well as the overhanging 
limbs of a tree which had got 
well rooted in the bank, rendered fly-casting 
impossible — that is, in any direction 
except backward. One back cast could be 
made with comparative ease.

I had repeatedly and carefully tossed in 
my gang of flies — on a six-foot leader — 
and payed out the line, letting the flies 
float down stream, and as often and carefully 
had reeled them back — all to no purpose, 
except wear on the reel bearings. 
The fish were not hungry, at least not for 
artificial flies. I had no live bait with me, 
nor any artificial lure except a phantom 
minnow. In despair — for we were nearly "
out of meat" — I reeled in, leaned my rod 
against the tree, removed the tail fly and 
substituted the phantom. Rather than 
run the risk of getting the "measly" thing 
fouled in the bushes by trying to cast it 
out by the rod, I dropped it into the water 
a foot or two down over the edge of the 
bank, and, still retaining hold of the leader, 
began paying it out slowly hand over 
hand. And that is just where I made a 

An immense trout, apparently 
the mate of Hallock's seventeen-pouncler, came up like a flash of light, grabbed the phantom and as quickly darted off. For aught I know he is going yet. But at the very start, and before I had time even to think about letting go, he ran the leader through my hand, and, the upper fly-hook catching it as it went through, he drove the hook — a 2.0 Sproat — full depth, barb and all, into the forward fleshy part of the palm of my right hand. The torture was something exquisite. A lively, robust trout, going it wild at one end of a leader and a stout barbed fish hook well driven home into the palm of one's hand at the other end, make a combination which, for refinement of torture, is unexcelled since the halcyon days of the Spanish Inquisition; at least that was my opinion at the time. Fortunately, after the trout had given a few vigorous jerks, the leader broke. If it hadn't I am not prepared to make affidavit that I would have had a dry shirt on three seconds later. As it was, that fish and I parted company, —

"without the least regret, Except that we had ever met."

Moral: Don't pay out a gang of flies hand over hand. It is a bad practice.

I might add that I went to the Nepigon the next year loaded with phantom minnows. I furnished them to other members of the party. I thirsted for revenge, but didn't get it. Though we caught an abundance of trout with the fly, we could not persuade one to come within biting distance of a phantom minnow. Evidently that particular fish had been laying for me — and he got me, too. It was the finest piece of piscatorial strategy I ever knew a fish to indulge in.

I made another mistake one day when 
fishing in the Fox River, Wisconsin. I 
was alone, paddling about in one of those 
canoe-built, duck-shooting boats so common 
in the West, stopping occasionally 
where "surface indications" were favorable 
for small-mouth black bass, which, 
pound for pound, I consider the gamest 
fish that swims. At one place, while 
dropping down the river on a moderately 
swift current, I observed a "hole" which 
looked as if worth trying for a cast or two. 
Quickly picking up the anchor, I tossed it 
overboard, and then noticed for the first 
time that, through the carelessness of 
somebody, the anchor rope had been secured to the boat nearly amidship, instead 
of at the bow.

Before I could get my 
paddle again into the water the rope became 
taut, the boat swung around broadside 
to the current, and of course rolled 
over on its beam ends. I got out — rather 
quickly, in fact. What occurred thereafter 
is not material to the present purpose, 
except, perhaps, that on arriving at the 
club house one of my fellow members 
rather dryly remarked that a wet suit of clothes was not essential to membership in that club. Mentally cursing him for his impudence, I went upstairs and put on a dry suit.

Moral: In a swift current, the better plan is to anchor by the bow. Having tried the other way, I am prepared to certify that it was a mistake.

Another mistake I recall, and, though it occurred when out duck-shooting, it may be of interest to those who, like myself, resort to shooting when angling is out of season. I was concealed in a blind in the marshes bordering Puckaway Lake, Wisconsin. A flock of mallards came from "off the starboard quarter," but were not within range until well around and back on my right. I had not then trained myself to left-hand shooting, and so, taking the gun in my right hand as I would a pistol, I raised it well up, swung it around in the best aim I could get, and pulled the trigger. Haec fabula docet: This fable teaches that a man's jaw-bone is not a good "backstop" for a light shotgun when loaded with a mallard charge.

Experience is a dear school, but there is a certain class of people who can learn in no other.

-- Dr. Todd

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