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Sport Fishing - Guide to Sports Fishing

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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.

Fishing is the One Sport of Our Childhood That Holds

Our Interest Through Life

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.

Actual sizes of hooks

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.

An excellent device for catching minnows

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.

A trolling spoon 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.

An artificial fly; used for salmon 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.

A raised pillar multiplying reel 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.

A landing net should be a part of every fisherman's


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.


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