STORIES OF OUR ADIRONDACKS
The Fishing Tourist : Anglers Guide and Reference Book, by Charles Hallock, published in 1873
Charles Hallock was an American author born in 1834 in New York City. Educated at Yale and Amherst College. In 1873 he was founder of Forest and Stream, now Field and Stream. He was one of the originators the first great American game preserve at Blooming Grove, Pike County Pennsylvania. The Fishing Tourist was the third of his twelve books, most of which were on the subject of fishing and sporting life. He passed away in 1917.
The excerpt I have chosen gives a colorful description of life at Paul Smith's Hotel on St. Regis Lake in the Northern Adirondacks, where later on the village of Paul Smiths would be located. One of the most fashionable of the many great Adirondack hotels, they hosted three presidents and many other of the rich and famous of the time.
As you read you will encounter two words that I needed to look up: qui vive - from French, literally: long live who? or a sentry's challenge and piscator - Latin for fisherman.
Excerpt from Part II, Chapter II - The Adirondacks, pages 75-79:
Boats from Paul Smith's can traverse 160 miles of lake and stream.
Paul Smith's has been very appropriately styled the "St. James of the Wilderness." It has all the "modern improvements" except gas. A telegraph wire connects it with the outer world. It has commodious lodgings for nearly one hundred guests, and in the height of the season will accommodate many more than it will hold. Sofas and tables are occupied, tents are pitched upon the lawn in front, and blankets are spread on the floor of the immense Guide House, itself capable of lodging some sixty or more guides. And each guide has his boat. Beautiful crafts they are, weighing from sixty to eighty pounds, and drawing but three inches of water. Most of them carry two persons,17. some of them three. A guide will hang one of them upon his back and carry it mile after mile as easily as a tortoise carries his shell. When the carries are long, wagons and sleds are in readiness to haul them from landing to landing; but few are the guides that will refuse to back them over for e price of the carriage.
Great is the stir at these caravansaries on the long summer evenings—ribbons fluttering on the piazzas; silks rustling in dress promenade; ladies in short mountain suits, fresh from an afternoon picnic; embryo sportsmen in velveteen and corduroys of approved cut, descanting learnedly of backwoods experience; excursion parties returning, laden with trophies of trout and pond lilies; stages arriving top-heavy with trunks, rifle-cases, and hampers; guides intermingling, proffering services, or arranging trips for the morrow; pistols shooting at random; dogs on the qui vive ; invalids, bundled in blankets, propped up in chairs; old gents distracted, vainly perusing their papers; fond lovers strolling; dowagers scheming; mosquitoes devouring; the supper-bell ringing, and general commotion confusing mine host. Anon some millionaire Nimrod or piscator of marked renown drags in from a weary day with a basket of unusual weight, or perchance a fawn cut down before its time. Fulsome are the congratulations given, manifold the acknowledgments of his prowess. He receives his honors with that becoming dignity which reticence impresses, and magnificently tips a twenty dollar note to his trusty guide. The crowd look on in admiration, and vow to emulate the hero. After supper there is a generous flow of champagne to a selected few upon the western piazza, and the exploits of the day are recounted and compared. The parlors grow noisy with music and dancing; silence and smoke prevail in the card-room. This is the daily evening routine.
At early dawn of morning camping parties are astir. With much careful stowage and trimming of ship, the impedimenta of the voyage are placed in the boats. Tents, blankets, cooking utensils, provision hampers, rods, guns, demijohns, satchels, and overcoats are piled up amidships. A backboard is nicely adjusted in the stern for the tourist, who takes his seat and hoists his umbrella. The guide deftly ships his oars, cuts a fresh piece of tobacco, and awaits orders to start. Singly, and by twos or threes, the boats get away; cambric adieus are waved by the few receding friends on shore, and the household of St. James is left to finish its slumbers till summoned to breakfast at 8 o'clock. Delicious and vivifying is the pure morning air; grateful as a mother's lullaby the long sweep of the oars ; enchanting the shifting scenery and ever-changing outline of shore. In a dreamland of listless and "sweet do-nothing" the hours lapse away. Cigar after cigar melts into smoke. Lunch is leisurely eaten meanwhile. Through the outlet of one lake into the next, winding through many a tortuous stream, gliding past many an islet, with one boat ahead and another astern, and the mechanical oars dripping diamonds of spray that flash in the sun—what can be more deliciously pleasant—what freedom from anxiety and business cares so complete!
"Hallo, guide, what's that ? Struck something ? Good gracious, you ain't going to stop here in this sedge-grass!" "Why, the pesky mosquitoes are thicker than lightning. Whew ! I can't stand this ! They'll eat us alive."
"Got to carry over here, mister. It's only a mile and a half!"
A mile and a half to tramp through woods, mud and mosquitoes!, . . .
Ah ! the lake once more! This is bliss ! What a relief to get on the water again, and away from the mosquitoes! How clear it is! What beautiful shores ! Anon into the noble Raquette, with trees overarching, current sluggishly flowing, still waters running deep. Just here the current is swifter. Toss your fly in, where it breaks over that rock. A trout! Play him well—a large fellow, too. Well landed—no time to stop long—we'll pick them out as we proceed. T he trout always lie among the rocks, in the quick water, at this season. A fortnight later they will be at the mouth of the cold brooks that flow into the main stream. Look ! boats coming up—So-and-so's party—been camping down at Long Lake. What luck? Report us, please. Ah ! whose house is that ? Stetson's. We'll stop when we return. The Saranac at last! What a magnificent sheet of water! What beautiful islands! See those tents. Why, I can count a dozen along the shore. I had no idea so many were camping out. Bartlett's, at last! We tarry here to-night. What a place for trout! Two years ago, just in there, above the dam, where you see that rock in midstream, I hooked a lake-trout on the tail-fly of an extraordinary long cast ; they say a lake-trout won't rise to a fly. He did, though, and took it handsomely. I never had better sport in my life. He amused me for half an hour, and when I had him landed, he weighed four pounds and a half. I was proud to kill that fish on my eight-ounce bamboo.
Pleasant is the voyage around the route. Each day's experience differs from the last. New scenery constantly opens to view. Friendly parties and familiar faces are constantly met. And one need not camp out at all, if indisposed. The guide will arrange to stop at a hotel each night. And what rousing fun there is in these wayside hostelries when parties meet! What blazing fires, what steaming venison, what pungent odor of fried pork and bacon, what friendly aroma of hot coffee!
Here I would fain indulge my wayward pen, and in fancy go over the ground once more. Perhaps, however, it is better to leave something to the anticipation of those who may seek a new experience in this enchanting region. For the benefit of such I will say briefly that the best fishing is in May. The ice breaks up about the 25th of April, and the fish are then scattered over the lakes and streams. The monster lake-trout, which often weighs sixteen to twenty pounds, can be taken by surface trolling with a "gang " or " spoon," and sometimes with a fly. The season, however, is cold, and lacks the attractions of leafy June; but there are no flies or mosquitoes to annoy. In June the trout lie in the quick water of the streams where boulders make an eddy or divide the current. Later they are found at the mouths of cold brooks, preparatory to spawning.
The necessary expenses of the tourist are about $3 per day, whether he stops at a hotel, camps, or takes a guide. The charge for boat and guide is $2.50 per diem; hotel fares from $1.50 to $2.50.