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


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.

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