Saturday, 18 April 2015







It is hard not to go into ecstatic’s and be carried away by one’s enthusiasm when attempting to write of the glorious fishing on this grandest of all earthly trout streams.  There may be finer ones in some other world – but this is anticipating.  I am aware that trout of equal size are taken with the fly at Rangeley Lakes, for example, or at Parmachenee, but the difference between fishing in these rapid waters and the still fishing with the fly in the smooth waters of those lakes is almost like the difference between fly-fishing and bait fishing.

This stream is the outlet of Lake Nepigon, which is situated some thirty or forty miles to the north of the western portion of Lake Superior.  It is so deep and wide that I am sure the first impression of the angler, especially if he be from the United States and has been accustomed to associate brook trout with brooks, would be one of immensity.

Wading in along the shore as far as the depth would permit and casting our flies upon the swift current, we were again and again answered by the wild rush of the gamiest trout I ever saw.  Trout weighing from two to two and a half pounds were no rarity and we frequently had on two at a time. Three of us in a few hours during the middle of the afternoon caught more than eighty pounds of fish and could have taken more, as we stopped fishing before sundown, when at least two hours of the best part of the day remained.

At Rock Island we found Major Edward Cunninham and John F. Shepley, Esq., of St. Louis.  They had found the fishing most excellent in the swift water above the Rock Island Portage and spent several days there and had some very fine sport.  While we were camped at Island, the Major caught one trout four and a half pounds weight, length 22 inches, girth twelve and a half inches.  Mr. Shepley’s largest weighed three and seven eighths pounds, length twenty and a quarter inches, girth twelve and an eighth inches. They found the silver doctor the most killing fly.

At Hamilton’s Pool we met a Mr. White and Mr. Bristol, of St. Paul, Minn.. They had found some rare sport, especially in what they called the “Aquarium,” a strip of black water close under the bank below the camp.  At this point I tried the experiment of using smaller flies than those deemed absolutely necessary on this stream.  I found that in some of the more quiet stretches the trout were rising to small natural flies, but would not notice the large and gaudy bugs of my cast.  I therefore put on a cast of flies tied on No. 10 hooks, the one a “Great Dun” and the other a Stone Fly,  and it was not long before I was hitched to a beauty of about a pound and a half.  I caught quite handsome trout on this cast.  Later in the evening, directly in front of the camp in swifter water, I landed a three and a half pounder on a small Dusty Miller  on a No. 8 hook. He took it with a rush, hooked himself firmly, and swept down stream to the tune of my whistling reel till he had run out, I should say, sixty feet of line;  then there was a splash about two feet from him, and I realized that the white miller which I had on as a stretcher, had been seized by another fellow that I think was his equal in size.  Well, we had a circus, as might be imagined.

On the way up to Virgin Falls I took the largest trout of our trip, and so far as I learned, the largest taken on the stream during the present season.  It was thus:  I had laid my rod down in the canoe with the flies trailing in the water perhaps ten feet astern, and was tying a string on the strap of my creel. Just as the canoe was passing over a rather shallow part of the still water where a shoal of rocks made out in the stream, there was a break for one of my flies by a trout.  I picked up the rod just as he came again, and hooked him firmly on my stretcher fly, a March Brown of the ordinary bass size.

It was done, you see, in a very unsportsmanlike way.  If a photographer had been there he would probably have seen one sportsman standing up in a birch-bark canoe with a split bamboo rod in his hand well curved, and coolly watching a spot on the water, and feeling the weight on the line, and endeavouring to keep the strain on that rod at about such a degree of pressure, and would have shared the feeling of exultation and thrill of excitement which was participated in by the whole party when the immense dorsal fin showed above the water and the distance between head and tail at last resolved itself into a lazy wiggle, and the monster beauty slid gracefully into the landing net and was hoisted on board.  ‘Twenty-three inches long.” Was the verdict of the tape, “and twelve and a half inches in girth. Scant five pounds,” was the record of a rather stiff pair of scales.

Undoubtedly the large flies tied on large hooks are better for the very swiftest , roughest water, both on account of their making more show, and especially because they hang on the jaws of a romping big fish better when he starts, and as he is almost certain to do, straight for Lake Superior. Then you want a hook that will hold a canoe.  I had good success with several varieties.

I used successfully the March Brown, on which I took my big fellow, the Moose Fly  (black body and white wings) a black fly, brown hackle, the Coachman, both royal and plain,  the green Drake,  (lost a wollopper on this by the leader parting in swift water), the Silver Lawyer, Parmachenee Belle, a brown fly with silver body, and also, as in duty bound, I had great sport on several dark days and in the evening  with the  Silver – nail” fly, made with silver body, gray hackle, and striped feather from neck of jungle cock for wings, feather put on whole.  The common assortment of flies on large hooks will answer when the trout are on the feed.  When not, I found that smaller flies would coax up the smaller trout, say those running from one to two pounds.

Leaders need to be made of the best gut and to be well tied.  I found it of advantage to pull them in two when the gut got a little frayed, and tie them over.  The leader should not be more than seven or eight feet on this stream, especially when fishing from a boat.

The rod should be pliant yet rather stiff one, capable of enduring hard work, and heavy enough to set the barb to cover in the hard jaws of the fish in the deep water.  A heavier rod is needed to properly hook a trout in the Nepigon than is needed to play him.  I found my seven and a half ounce split bamboo a more satisfactory rod to use than the lighter ones I had been accustomed to use on smaller streams.

The reel should be a good, solid one , capable of holding at least thirty or forty yards of good, strong, waterproof line.  Don’t forget to take a landing net.  The handle should be long, as doubles are not uncommon, and the tail fish , which of course should always be netted first, is often quite vigorous when the other is quite spent.  And don’t forget the tar-oil, carbolic acid and glycerine, penny royal, “shoo-fly”, or whatever favorite “Bug-disguster” you prefer the smell of.  The trout bite freely on this stream.

The canoe goes with the guide, though it has to be paid for separately.

Mr. Flanagan, the Hudson’s Bay factor at Nepigon, who will also very kindly and courteously make you out a permit for fishing on application and the payment of five dollars. The fishing is worth the fiver.  Pay the money and don’t grumble.  If you are any sort of an angler ---except the worst ---I mean the fish-hog --- you will get your money’s worth.  It is almost imperative that you make your arrangement for guides before reaching Nepigon, as they are hard to get at.  The price formerly was $1.50 per day, till some of our American sportsmen spoiled the programme by paying more, just to show their good will.  Now, all, good, bad and indifferent, charge $2.

As I look back over the ten days spent on this grand stream it seems almost like a dream.  It is so different from anything in the United States.  A million men could be comfortably camped along the Nepigon and not crowd on another.

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