Fishing for real men

The subspecies of angler _bloviatus montanus_ might be described from this specimen, writing under the pen-name “Tamarack” in [“Mary Orvis Marbury’s book”:amazon:Mary Orvis] _Favourite Flies and the their histories,_ first published in 1892:

bq.. During a residence of ten years in Montana, I had to learn the art of fly-casting, fly and rod making, and nearly all the other essentials to an angler’s success. … In October, 1877, while accompanying an expedition to the far West, we marched overland from Corinne, Utah, to Missoula, Montana, a distance of six hundred miles. We were forty-one days on the road, and suffered some hardships, including a snow blockade of five days on the main divide of the Rockies, where the thermometer fell from forty above to twenty below zero in twelve hours …

We arrived at our destination, Missoula, Montana, November 14, 1877. That country was then the sportsman’s paradise, but winter had already set in, and I was interested in deer-hunting. During my tramps in the Bitter Root Mountains I found just what I wanted for a pole, already made, in the young fir and tamarack which grow in the coulees high up in the mountains as thick as cane grows in the South, and in size from an inch to an inch and a half in diameter at the ground, growing straight as an arrow, and with a beautiful taper, from twelve to twenty feet high. Here was my ideal pole, just what I wanted. I selected one about eighteen feet in length, and after smoothing it nicely I laid it up for the winter. When spring came I put on the mountings, which consisted of the smallest screw-eyes I could get, for guides. These I placed about eighteen inches apart, screwed into the pole. A twisted wire loop, firmly lashed on, served me well for a tip ; and when the reel plate was attached with two screws on each side, and firmly wrapped with waxed thread, my pole was ready for work …

The ice went out of the river at last, and with fifty yards of braided silk bass line (formerly used when bass fishing in Kentucky) and my Frankfort reel I went a-fishing. Talk about long casts! With a pole of eighteen feet, and twenty-four feet of line reeled off, I would stand upon a sandbar, revolve my pole at arm’s length over my head until my fly made a noise like a quail rising from a brier thicket, and launch forth. The fly would strike the water from forty to fifty feet away, with a splash and splutter equal to that made by a wounded duck. I labored with a zeal worthy of better success for two or three hours without a rise, and then went home firmly convinced that either there were no trout in the river, or else the season was too early and they were chilled too badly to rise.

It did not take me long, however, to find out that the fault lay in my flies. A local dealer having received a supply of flies (the first that I had ever seen) from San Francisco, I bought nearly all he had, choosing the gaudiest and most attractive, and from that time I had no trouble, but met with good success.

Now, a word about my eighteen-foot tamarack. I continued to use it nearly all summer, until it became very dry and brittle. It did me good service (at the expense of muscle), until one day in making an extra long cast the line caught in a bush ; the pole was broken in three pieces, and fell a total wreck behind me.

This is no made-up tale, but a true story of my first fly-rod.

With it I caught more and larger trout than falls to the lot of a great many 4 1/2 and 5 ounce split-bamboo devotees ever to see. Yes, and I used it with a [“No. 3 Frankfort, Ky., reel”:]. I used this reel for ten years in Montana and Dakota, and will never use any other. A jovial friend of mine calls it a “nail keg,” but that is because he never used it; to do so would soon convince him (?) that for all purposes there are none better. Kid glove and 4 1/2 oz. ryestraw anglers I am not writing for, neither do I want them to agree with me. When a man is so effeminate as to use such light rods, and then worry the rod-maker for something lighter, he had better stay at home. The trout stream is unhealthy for him.

p. I suppose I ought to style in fetching lavender the observation that none of my rods weigh more than four ounces or are more than ten feet long. “Tamarack”, when he tired of one-piece rods made from whole pine trees, made his own ferrules from the bottom of a copper boiler– astonishingly, he needed a blacksmith to help with this, rather than just ripping out strips of copper with his bear hands and rolling them like cigarettes into shape.

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