STORIES OF OUR ADIRONDACKS
Wild Northern Scenes or Sporting adventures with the Rifle and the Rod
Samuel H. Hammond, 1857
Samuel H Hammond's love of the Adirondack sporting life is clearly revealed throughout the two books he wrote, "Hills, Lakes & Forest Streams" and "Wild Northern Scenes." Born in Bath, New York, a village in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. As a lawyer, he practiced first in his hometown, later moving to Albany New York where he was appointed District Attorney in 1854. His only other book was "Country Margins and Summer Rambles of a Journalist" co-written with L. W. Mansfield, though his first books were republished under various titles later in his lifetime. Hammond died in Watertown, New York in 1878.
To highlight the writing of this author I have chosen two accounts of encounters with game in the Adirondacks, both from "Wild Northern Scenes."
The first is titled Trolling for Trout. After spending time camped on an island in the Middle Saranac (In those days it was called Round Pond,) Hammond and his three companions had their camp moved to an island on the Upper Saranac, possibly what is now called Birch Island. The story starts there:
Chapter V - Trolling for Trout
We entered the Upper Saranac at the hour appointed, and found our tents pitched and a dinner of venison and trout awaiting us on the island selected for our encampment. As the sun sank behind the hills, the breeze died away, and the lake lay without a ripple around as, so calm, so smooth, and still, that it seemed to have sunk quietly to sleep in its forest bed.
The fish were jumping in every direction, and while the rest of us sat smoking our meerchaums after dinner, or rather supper, Smith rigged his trolling rod, and having caught half a dozen minnows, he with Martin, rowed out upon the water to troll for the lake trout. These are a very different fish from the speckled trout of the streams and rivers. They had none of the golden specks of the latter, are of a darker hue, and much larger. They are dotted with brown spots, like freckles upon the face of a fair-skinned girl. They are shorter too, in proportion to their weight than the speckled trout. They are caught in these lakes, weighing from three to fifteen pounds, and instances have been known of their attaining to the weight of five and twenty.
It is an exciting sport to take one of these large fellows on a line of two hundred and fifty or three hundred feet in length. They play beautifully when hooked, and it requires a good deal of coolness and skill to land them safely in your boat. A trolling rod for these large fish should be much stiffer, and stronger than those used for the fly, on the rivers and streams; and the reel should be stronger and higher geared than the common fly reel. Three hundred feet of line are necessary, for the fish, if he is a large one, will sometimes determine upon a long flight, and it will not do to exhaust your line in his career. In that case, he will snap it like a pack-thread. An English bass rod is the best, and with such, and a large triple action reel, the largest fish of these lakes may be secured.
Smith had trolled scarcely a quarter of a mile, when his hook was struck by a trout, and then commenced a struggle that was pleasant to witness. No sooner had the fish discovered that the hook was in his jaw, than away he dashed towards the middle of the lake. The rod was bent into a semicircle, but the game was fast; with the butt firm between his knees and his thumb pressing the reel, the sportsman gave him a hundred and fifty feet of line, when his efforts began to relax, and as Smith began to reel him in, a moment of dead pull, a holding back like an obstinate mule occurred. The trout was slowly towed in the direction of the boat.
Then, as if maddened by the force which impelled him, he dashed furiously forward, the reel answering to his movements and the line always taught, he rose to the surface leaping clear from the water, shaking his head furiously as if to throw loose the fastenings from his jaw. Failing in this, down he plunged fifty feet straight towards the bottom, making the reel hiss by his mad efforts to escape. Still the line was taught, pressing always, towing him towards the boat at every relaxation. At last he rose to the surface, panting and exhausted, permitting himself to be towed almost without an effort, to within twenty feet of his captors. When he saw them, all his fright and all his energies too seemed to be restored, and away he dashed, sciving through the water a hundred and fifty feet out into the lake. But the hook was in his jaw, and he could not escape. After half an hour of beautiful and exciting play, he surrendered or was drowned, and Smith lifted him with his landing net, a splendid ten-pound trout, into his boat. By this time the shadows of twilight were gathering over the lake, and he came ashore.
A proud man was Smith, as he lifted that fish from the boat and handed it over to the cook to be dressed for breakfast, and though we had seen the whole performance from our tents, yet he gave us in glowing and graphic detail the history of his taking that ten-pound trout.