Fishing with a Worm by Bliss Perry


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Page 1

Could there be a more illogical proceeding? And here follows the
treatise,--a Defense of Results, an Apology for Opportunism,--conceived
in agreeable procrastination, devoted to the praise of the
inconsequential angleworm, and dedicated to a childish memory of a
whistling carpenter and his fat dog.

Let us face the worst at the very beginning. It shall be a shameless
example of fishing under conditions that make the fly a mockery. Take
the Taylor Brook, "between the roads," on the headwaters of the
Lamoille. The place is a jungle. The swamp maples and cedars were
felled a generation ago, and the tops were trimmed into the brook. The
alders and moosewood are higher than your head; on every tiny knoll the
fir balsams have gained a footing, and creep down, impenetrable, to the
edge of the water. In the open spaces the Joe-Pye weed swarms. In two
minutes After leaving the upper road you have scared a mink or a
rabbit, and you have probably lost the brook. Listen! It is only a
gurgle here, droning along, smooth and dark, under the tangle of
cedar-tops and the shadow of the balsams. Follow the sound cautiously.
There, beyond the Joe-Pye weed, and between the stump and the cedar-top,
is a hand's breadth of black water. Fly-casting is impossible in this
maze of dead and living branches. Shorten your line to two feet, or even
less, bait your hook with a worm, and drop it gingerly into that
gurgling crevice of water. Before it has sunk six inches, if there is
not one of those black-backed, orange-bellied, Taylor Brook trout
fighting with it, something is wrong with your worm or with you. For
the trout are always there, sheltered by the brushwood that makes this
half mile of fishing "not worth while." Below the lower road the Taylor
Brook becomes uncertain water. For half a mile it yields only
fingerlings, for no explainable reason; then there are two miles of
clean fishing through the deep woods, where the branches are so high
that you can cast a fly again if you like, and there are long pools,
where now and then a heavy fish will rise; then comes a final half mile
through the alders, where you must wade, knee to waist deep, before you
come to the bridge and the river. Glorious fishing is sometimes to be
had here,--especially if you work down the gorge at twilight, casting a
white miller until it is too dark to see. But alas, there is a
well-worn path along the brook, and often enough there are the very
footprints of the "fellow ahead of you," signs as disheartening to the
fisherman as ever were the footprints on the sand to Robinson Crusoe.

But "between the roads" it is "too much trouble to fish;" and there
lies the salvation of the humble fisherman who disdains not to use the
crawling worm, nor, for that matter, to crawl himself, if need be, in
order to sneak under the boughs of some overhanging cedar that casts a
perpetual shadow upon the sleepy brook. Lying here at full length, with
no elbow-room to manage the rod, you must occasionally even unjoint
your tip, and fish with that, using but a dozen inches of line, and not
letting so much as your eyebrows show above the bank. Is it a becoming
attitude for a middle-aged citizen of the world? That depends upon how
the fish are biting. Holing a put looks rather ridiculous also, to the
mere observer, but it requires, like brook-fishing with a tip only, a
very delicate wrist, perfect tactile sense, and a fine disregard of

There are some fishermen who always fish as if they were being
photographed. The Taylor Brook "between the roads" is not for them. To
fish it at all is back-breaking, trouser-tearing work; to see it
thoroughly fished is to learn new lessons in the art of angling. To
watch R., for example, steadily filling his six-pound creel from that
unlikely stream, is like watching Sargent paint a portrait. R. weighs
two hundred and ten. Twenty years ago he was a famous amateur pitcher,
and among his present avocations are violin playing, which is good for
the wrist, taxidermy, which is good for the eye, and shooting woodcock,
which before the days of the new Nature Study used to be thought good
for the whole man. R. began as a fly-fisherman, but by dint of passing
his summers near brooks where fly-fishing is impossible, he has become
a stout-hearted apologist for the worm. His apparatus is most singular.
It consists of a very long, cheap rod, stout enough to smash through
bushes, and with the stiffest tip obtainable. The lower end of the
butt, below the reel, fits into the socket of a huge extra butt of
bamboo, which R. carries unconcernedly. To reach a distant hole, or to
fish the lower end of a ripple, R. simply locks his reel, slips on the
extra butt, and there is a fourteen-foot rod ready for action. He
fishes with a line unbelievably short, and a Kendal hook far too big;
and when a trout jumps for that hook, R. wastes no time in manoeuvring
for position. The unlucky fish is simply "derricked,"--to borrow a word
from Theodore, most saturnine and profane of Moosehead guides.

"Shall I play him awhile?" shouted an excited sportsman to Theodore,
after hooking his first big trout.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Fri 5th Jun 2020, 23:07