Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Voices from the Past: Remembering Oliver Prouty's Trout (1906)

The following article came from Edward A. Samuels' "Fish Chat" in the April 7, 1906 issue of Forest & Stream. It references a famed fishing tackle man, Lorenzo Prouty, formerly of Bradford & Anthony and later of Prouty & Appleton (which became Appleton & Litchfield soon after it was formed in 1882). Here we learn of Prouty's great reverence in the fishing world. Here we remember Prouty's contribution to fish culture.

In the early '60s there was a gentleman named Prouty, who was a fishing tackle salesman in the establishment of Martin L. Bradford, of Boston—later Bradford & Anthony. He was a genial soul, kind-hearted and generous to a fault, and I verily believe that he did more at that time than any other man in Boston in the way of helping out anglers, both young and old, in making up the kits for their outings, and in giving the advice which was almost always asked of one who occupied a position such as his.

He was an ardent fisherman, and was familiar with the various localities in New England to which anglers resorted. His advice, therefore, as to choice of flies, tackle, etc., for any given waters was accepted as dictum without hesitation.

He had a little homestead near South Canton, Mass., and in a field not far from the house were several springs of considerable volume, which by little brooklets united into a small brook, which flowed down to the Canton Fowl Meadows, finally emptying into the Neponset River.
The water in these springs was as clear as crystal, and even in midsummer was almost icy cold. The lay of the land was such that by erecting a dam at the lower end of the little field, which was almost bowl-shaped, the water could be held back and a pond of several acres in extent could be flowed. After devoting considerable thought to the subject, Mr. Prouty decided to erect the dam and start a little trout pond.

The work was finally accomplished, the pond was made, and eventually it was stocked with fingerling trout. How, when and where he obtained these fish I never ascertained. In those clays trout breeding establishments were not as abundant as they now are; but in some way he obtained them, and hundreds of them, too.

I often visited his little fish farm, and felt almost as much interest and satisfaction in watching the troutlings as did he. They were very tame and accepted food from his hands. Those little fish grew apace, and as the months went by and a year had passed, attained a length of six inches, and Mr. Prouty's undertaking seemed an unqualified success. But, alas! fatality came, and in a spring freshet of unexampled height and force, the dam was carried away, and the pond, together with its valuable stock of trout, were swept down the former bed of the brook and soon disappeared into the river. At that time the Neponset was the abiding place of great numbers of pickerel, huge fellows, too, some of them were, but any and all of them were large enough to pouch a sixinch trout, and without much effort, too; and it was decided by all who knew of the accident, that Mr. Prouty's fish had become victims of the merciless "shovelsnouts."

But one day, greatly to my surprise and satisfaction, I discovered that all the trout had not become food for the pickerel. I was snipe shooting on the Fowl Meadows on a morning in September following the accident, when, as I was moving along by the side of a large brook which emptied into the river some three miles or more below Prouty's stream, I saw what was unmistakably a trout dart up the brook and disappear below the shelving edge. I was greatly surprised at this discovery, for never before had I known of a trout being seen in that brook.

The stream was, in most places, nearly six feet in width, and was full of deep holes and excavations in the banks of a foot or more in depth. It was by all odds the largest brook that emptied into the Neponset anywhere in that neighborhood, and it was of no mean dimensions for a length of several miles, and took its rise, I think, somewhere in South Dedham. To make assurance doubly sure, I followed the bank of the stream a considerable distance, stamping heavily on the sward as I moved along, and it was with no little gratification that I succeeded in dislodging from their lurking places .1 half dozen or more of the trout, which darted up the stream and hid themselves from view. It is hardly necessary to state that, armed and equipped with rod and creel, I hurried to the brook on the following morning, and before the shades of evening fell, I succeeded in picking out a dozen or more of Mr. Prouty's trout, and on several occasions afterward made two or three more catches of quite satisfactory dimensions.

Now, that these fish should have run the gauntlet among voracious pickerel through three or four miles of river, and succeeded in finding and establishing themselves in the onlybrook of considerable size and purity of water there was for miles in any direction, and that, too, under the most adverse circumstances possible, for the meadows had been heavily flooded by the spring freshet that swept the dam away, seems to me a remarkable instance of the adaptability of this species to a complete change of conditions and environment.

-- Dr. Todd

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