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FISHING

Source: Outdoor Sports and Games
Category: WOODCRAFT





Proper tackle for all purposes--How to catch bait--The fly
fisherman--General fishing rules


Fishing is one sport of boyhood that we never outgrow our love for.
Some of the most enthusiastic fishermen are gray-haired men. We often
hear about the boy with the bent pin and the piece of thread who
catches more fish than the expert fisherman with modern, up-to-date
tackle, but I doubt if it is so. As a rule the better our tackle the
more fish we shall catch. If the country boy catches the most fish, it
is simply because he is better acquainted with the places where the
fish hide or feed. He knows their habits better and the best kind of
bait to use. A lover of fishing should take a personal interest in his
equipment and should desire to have the best he can afford.

The chief requirement of a successful fisherman is patience. Next to
that is a knowledge of the waters fished in and the habits of the fish
and how to attract them. A man or a boy who will sit all day in the
hot sun waiting for a bite is not always a good fisherman. He must
use common sense as well as patience.

A game fish may be defined as one that will make a good fight for its
life and that is caught by scientific methods of angling. Almost any
fish will struggle to escape the hook, but generally by game fish we
understand that in fresh water the salmon, bass, or trout family is
referred to. Pickerel and pike are also game fish, but in some
sections they are considered undesirable because they rarely rise to
the fly, which is the most scientific method of fishing.

A fisherman who is a real sportsman always uses tackle as light as he
can with safety and still have a chance of landing the fish. If the
angler will take his time he can, with skill, tire out and land fish
of almost any size. Tunas and tarpon weighing over a hundred pounds
are caught with a line that is but little thicker than a grocer's
twine, and even sharks and jewfish weighing over five hundred pounds
have been caught in the same way. Sometimes the fight will last all
day, and then it is a question whether the fisherman or the fish will
be exhausted first.

[Illustration: Fishing is the One Sport of Our Childhood That Holds
Our Interest Through Life]

In selecting our tackle, we must always keep in mind the kind of fish
we expect to catch. For general, fresh-water use, except fly
casting, an eight-foot rod weighing seven or eight ounces will fill
most purposes. A fly rod should be a foot longer and at least two
ounces lighter. The best rods are made of split bamboo, but cheap rods
of this material are not worth having. The best cheap rods (i.e.,
costing five dollars or less) are either lancewood or steel. See that
your rod has "standing guides" and not movable rings. Most of the wear
comes on the tip, therefore it should if possible be agate lined. A
soft metal tip will have a groove worn in it in a very short time
which will cut the line. The poorest ferrules are nickel-plated. The
best ones are either German silver or brass. To care for a rod
properly, we must keep the windings varnished to prevent them from
becoming unwound. Spar varnish is the best for this purpose but
shellac will answer. In taking a rod apart, never twist it. Give a
sharp pull, and if it refuses to budge, it can sometimes be loosened
by slightly heating the ferrule with a candle. If a ferrule is kept
clean inside, and if the rod is taken apart frequently, there is no
reason why it should stick.

A multiplying reel holding sixty yards is large enough for most
fishing. The raised pillar reels are the best, one of good quality
costing about four dollars. A cheap reel soon goes to pieces.

Silk lines are better than linen because greater strength is obtained
with the same thickness. Always dry a line every time it is used, or
it will soon rot and be worthless. The back of a chair is excellent
for this purpose. Never tie a knot in a line that you expect to use
with rod and reel. The knot will always catch in one of the guides
just at the time when you are landing your "biggest" fish.

[Illustration: Actual sizes of hooks]

Hooks come in a great variety of shapes and models but there are none
better than the standard "Sproat." It is the general favourite of
fishermen everywhere, although of course the other leading models,
Carlisle, Limerick, Pennell, Aberdeen, Sneck and a number of others
all have their friends.

A great many fishermen make the mistake of using hooks that are too
large. The hook sizes that are commonly used are numbered from 6/0,
which is the largest, to No. 12, which is a tiny thing about right to
catch minnows. Where we expect to catch fish a pound or two in weight,
the No. 1 size is about right. Such a hook will catch much larger fish
if they happen to come along. I have caught a twelve-pound lake trout
on a No. 4 Sproat hook and the hook did not show that it had bent in
the least.

Our tackle box should contain an assortment of sizes however. Snelled
hooks are better than ringed hooks and those of blued steel better
than black enamel. No matter how inexpensive the rest of the equipment
is, be sure that your hooks are of good quality. Keep the points
sharp. A tiny bit of oil stone, a file, or a piece of emery cloth are
all good for this purpose. It takes a sharp point to penetrate the
bony jaw of a fish. Always inspect your hook after you have caught it
on a rock or snag.

Fishing is generally divided into four classes: fly casting, bait
casting, trolling, and still fishing. The average boy is a still
fisherman, which means not only that he must keep still, but that his
bait remains in one place instead of being trolled or cast about. The
usual strings of fish that boys catch, such as perch, sunfish,
bullheads, catfish, and whitefish, are called pan fish. This is not
entirely a correct name as I have seen some catfish that it would take
a pretty big pan to hold. One caught in the Mississippi River weighed
over a hundred pounds.

Fly casting is the most scientific method of fishing and gives the
greatest pleasure to the fisherman after he has once become an expert.
No matter what method we follow in fishing, we must never try to catch
fish by any method which the laws may prohibit, such as spearing, set
lines, or nets. Each state has its own laws which the fisherman must
learn and obey.

Worms are the best all around bait for fishing. They are as a rule
easily obtained and may be kept for a long time. The boy's method of
placing them in a tin can with a mixture of mud will soon kill them,
however, especially if the worms are exposed to the sun for a time. A
half-buried soap box makes a very good place to keep a supply of worms
which will be ready for use at any time without the necessity of
digging them. Worms may be fed on the white of a hard-boiled egg, but
if given plenty of room they will usually find enough food in the
soil. By placing worms in sand they will soon scour and turn pink when
they are far more attractive as bait. The large worms, or "night
walkers," can be caught at night with a lantern. These large worms are
best obtained after a rain or on lawns that are sprinkled frequently,
when they will be found moving about on top of the ground but always
with one end in the hole from which they have emerged and into which
they can dart if they are disturbed.

For big fish, the best bait is minnows. In trolling with them it will
make but little difference whether dead or alive, but for still
fishing the minnows must not only be alive, but, to attract the fish,
lively as well. The regulation minnow bucket consists of one pail
fitted inside of another, the inner one being made of wire mesh to
permit the free circulation of the water. This enables us to change
the water frequently without handling the fish. When we reach a place
where fresh water is obtainable, we simply remove the inner pail, pour
out the stale water from the other pail, and fill it as quickly as
possible. To keep bait alive in warm weather we must change the water
frequently. Another method where fresh water is not available, as on a
long drive, is to aerate it by pouring from one pail to another. It is
an excellent plan to place a piece of ice on top of the minnow pail.
With this arrangement, it will not be necessary to give them fresh
water for a long time.

[Illustration: An excellent device for catching minnows]

The simplest way to catch minnows is with a drop net. Take an iron
ring or hoop such as children use and sew to it a bag of cotton
mosquito netting, half as deep as the diameter of the ring. Sew a
weight in the bottom of the net to make it sink readily and fasten it
to a pole. When we reach the place which the minnows frequent, such as
the cove of a lake, we must proceed very cautiously, lowering the net
into the water and then baiting it with bits of bread or meat, a very
little at a time, until we see a school of bait darting here and there
over the net. We must then give a quick lift without any hesitation
and try to catch as many as possible from escaping over the sides. The
minnow bucket should be close at hand to transfer them to and care
must be used not to injure them or allow them to scale themselves in
their efforts to escape. The common method of capturing minnows is to
use a sweep net, but it takes several people to handle one properly
and for our own use the drop net method will probably supply us with
all the bait that we need.

Fish are very fickle in their tastes. What will be good bait one day
will absolutely fail the next and sometimes even in an hour this same
thing will take place. Why this is so no one has been able to explain
satisfactorily, but that it is a fact no fisherman will deny. We
should therefore have as great a variety of bait in our equipment as
possible. Worms, crawfish, minnows, frogs, grasshoppers, grubs and
helgramites are all good at times in fresh water, as well as various
kinds of artificial baits, spoons, spinners, and rubber lures.

[Illustration: A trolling spoon]

Sometimes fish will take very unusual baits. Black bass have been
caught on young bats. The famous old trout in the Beaverkill River in
New York State, which had refused all the ordinary baits and flies
that were offered him for years and that on bright days could be seen
in a pool lying deep down in the water, finally fell a victim to a
young mouse that was tied to the hook with pink silk.

Fly fishing is the most expert and scientific method of angling. It is
the poetry of fishing. The fly fisherman usually wades in the brook or
stream where he is fishing, although it is sometimes possible to cast
a fly from the bank or a boat. It is useless to go fly fishing while
there is snow water in the brooks but just as soon as the first warm
days of spring come, then fishing is at its best.

The whole idea of casting a fly is to drop it in the most
likely-looking places and to strike the fish just as soon as he seizes
the hook. To do this we must always have the line under perfect
control, therefore do not attempt to cast a line too great a distance.
If we do not fix the hook into the fish's mouth at the instant that
he seizes the fly, he will very soon find that what he thought was a
nice fat bug or juicy caterpillar is nothing but a bit of wool and
some feathers with a sting in its tail, and he will spit it out before
we can recover our slack line.

It is a common mistake to use flies that are too large. Ordinary trout
flies are the proper size for bass and the smallest size trout flies
are plenty large enough for trout. There are hundreds of kinds of
flies of various combinations of colours and no one can say which is
the best. This question has been argued by fishermen ever since the
days of Izaak Walton.

The universal rule of trout and bass fishermen who use a fly is to
select small dark flies for bright days or when the water is very
clear or low and the more brightly coloured ones when the day is dark
or the water dark or turbid. The fly book should contain a varied
assortment to meet these conditions.

The best lines for fly fishing are made of braided enamelled silk.
Some fly lines are tapered but this is not necessary and is a needless
expense. Twisted lines are much cheaper but very unsatisfactory.

Fly fishing is not only the most scientific and sportsmanlike method
of fishing but it is also the most difficult to acquire skill in. It
is of course possible to catch trout and salmon on other bait than
flies. In fact, there is really no better bait for brook trout than
common fish worms that have been scoured in sand. The use of a fly,
however, is more satisfactory where the pleasure derived in fishing is
more important than the size of the string.

[Illustration: An artificial fly; used for salmon]

In learning to cast a fly, you can practise at home, either in an open
space or wherever there is room to work the line. It is not necessary
to practise with the actual hooks or flies on the line. Simply tie a
knot in it. Hold the rod lightly but firmly in the right hand. Point
your thumb along the line of the rod and start by pulling out a little
line from the reel with the left hand. With a steady sweep, cast the
end of the line toward some near-by object and with each cast pull out
a little more line until you reach a point when you are handling all
the line you can take care of without effort or without too much of a
sweep on the back cast. You must not allow the line to become
entangled in trees or other obstacles. The wrist does most of the work
in casting. The elbow should be close to the side. If you find that
the line snaps like a whip on the back cast, it is because you start
the forward cast before the line straightens out behind.

When you can handle twenty-five or thirty feet accurately, you can
safely get ready to go fishing. The most successful fly fishermen use
a short line, but they use it with the utmost accuracy and can make
the flies land within a foot of the place they are aiming at almost
every time. When a trout strikes your fly, you must snub him quickly
or he will surely get away. If the flies you are using do not cause
the fish to rise, and if you are certain that it is not due to your
lack of skill, it will be well to change to some other combination of
colours; but give your first selection a fair trial.

Bait casting is much easier than fly casting as the weight of the bait
will help to carry out the line. It is the common method of fishing
with minnows, frogs, small spoons and spinners, and other artificial
lures. Some fishermen practise the method of allowing the line to run
from the reel. The principal point in this way of fishing is to stop
the reel by using the thumb as a brake at the instant that the bait
strikes the water. This prevents the reel from spinning and causing
the line to overrun. Neglect of this precaution will cause a very
annoying tangle that is sometimes call a "backlash" but more often
characterized by much harsher names by the impatient fisherman who has
the misfortune to experience it.

In live bait casting, start with the line reeled to within fifteen
inches of the end of the rod, holding the thumb on the reel spool.
With a rather strong overhead sweep, bring the rod forward. At the
proper instant, which is just as the point of the rod goes over your
head, release the pressure of your thumb and the bait will go forward
as the line runs out rapidly. When the bait lands, reel in slowly and
with various motions try to give to the bait as life-like an
appearance as possible. If you have a strike, allow the fish
sufficient time to obtain a secure hold of the bait and by a sudden
jerk fix the hook in his mouth.

Bait casting is as a rule a very effective method of catching fish,
especially in shallow lakes and where fly fishing is not practised. In
deep water, trolling or still fishing are usually the best methods of
catching fish and often the only methods that will be successful.
Trolling consists simply in rowing or paddling slowly with the bait or
spoon trailing behind. It is not a scientific way of fishing and
requires but little skill. When the fish strikes, it usually hooks
itself and all that remains is to reel it into the boat and land it.
The conditions on large lakes often make it necessary to follow one of

these methods of trolling or still fishing, especially during the warm
weather when the big fish have left the spawning grounds and are in
deep water. There are trolling devices called spinners that have
several gangs of hooks, sometimes as many as fifteen. No real
fisherman would use such a murderous arrangement which gives the fish
practically no chance at all and in many states their use is properly
prohibited by law. A single hook, or at most a single gang of three
hooks, is all that any one should ever use.

[Illustration: A raised pillar multiplying reel]

Every boy knows what still fishing is. It is the common method of
baiting our hook, casting it from the shore or from a boat and
waiting for a bite. In still fishing it is customary to use a light
sinker to keep the bait near the bottom and a float or "cork" which
serves the double purpose of keeping the bait away from snags, stones,
or weeds on the bottom and also of showing us when we have a bite. The
more expert still fishermen never use a float, as they prefer to tell
by the pull on the line when a fish has taken the bait.

A fishing boat should be thoroughly seaworthy and also have plenty of
room. Flat-bottom boats make the best type for fishing, provided that
we do not have to row them far or if the place where we use them is
not subject to sudden squalls or rough water. The middle seat should
contain both a fish well and a minnow box with a dividing partition
and with two hinged lids fitted into the seat. Such a boat can be
built by an ordinary carpenter and should not cost over ten or twelve
dollars. It should be painted every year to keep it in good condition.
Use clear white pine or cedar for the sides. The bottom boards should
not be fitted tightly together but left with cracks fully a half-inch
wide to allow for the swelling of the wood when the boat is launched.
The best oarlocks are fastened to the oars and fit in the sockets with
a long pin. This arrangement permits one to fish alone, and if
trolling to drop the oars quickly and take up the rod without danger
of losing them.

[Illustration: A landing net should be a part of every fisherman's
outfit]

A landing net should be a part of every fishing outfit. More fish are
lost just as they are about to be lifted from the water than at any
other time. A gaff is used for this same purpose with fish too large
to go into a landing net. A gaff is a large hook without a barb
fastened into a short pole. If you have no net or gaff and have
succeeded in bringing a large fish up alongside the boat, try to reach
under him and get a firm grip in his gills before you lift him on
board. If it is a pickerel, look out for his needle-like teeth.

The best time to fish is either in the early morning or just before
sundown. During the heated part of the day most game fish stop feeding
and seek the cool, deep places in the lake or river.

In many states, fishing is prohibited by law until after the fish are
through the spawning season.

In all kinds of fishing, the rule is to keep as quiet as possible.
Talking does not make so much difference, but any sudden noises in the
water or on the bottom of the boat are especially likely to frighten
the fish.

Never fish in your own shadow or that of your boat. Try to have the
sun in front of you or at your side.

Never be in a hurry to land a big fish. Remember that some of the
so-called "big game fish" of the ocean will take all day to land. You
must use skill to tire your fish out or by keeping his gills open to
drown him. The rod and line are not intended as a lever to force the
fish to the landing net but merely as a guide to lead him about and by
his struggles to force him to become exhausted. A very interesting
experiment has demonstrated that a skilful fisherman can with a fly
rod and light line in a very short time tire out a strong swimmer to
which the line has been attached and force him to give up the struggle
and come to the side of a boat.

Methods of fishing differ so much in different localities that aside
from the ordinary equipment of rods, reels, lines, leaders, and hooks,
the fisherman going to a new locality had better first ascertain what
the general methods of fishing are, or else, if possible, secure his
equipment after he reaches his fishing grounds.





Next: NATURE STUDY

Previous: THE USE OF FIREARMS



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