Fly Life Magazine

What was it like getting ready for trout season in 1920?

Ernest Hemingway fishing at Walloon Lake, Michigan, 1916 – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Photo is a public domain image. Hemingway shows angling adeptness here – note the rod and fish management – not a greenhorn.

  

Have you visions of dark holes in favorite creeks these spring days? If wishes were deeds many offices and stores would close up

Spring is only spring to the majority of the city dwellers.

There are no more coal bills, but the little car needs a couple of new casings. We won’t trade it in after all this year. There is an Easter hat and a spring suit for the wife and the old kelly will have to do another season.

The kids are playing marbles and jumprope in the street, and in the evening when the office toiler walks home from the car line he has a wordless feeling that things aren’t right. He feels that he wasn’t meant for this, and that somehow if things had gone differently he wouldn’t be doing just this. But that doesn’t last long, for shortly he is home.

To those that are beloved of the Red Gods, spring is more than that. It is the opening of the trout-fishing season 

If you are a common or garden variety of angler you have a vision of a deep, dark hole where the waters of the creek disappear in a black swirl under the bole of an overhanging tree. Someone is crouching out of sight on the bank and looping worms onto a hook. That is you. Then you gently swing the gob of worms out onto the water and lowering the tip of your rod let the bait sink into that swirl under the cedar. The line straightens with a jerk. You strike and swing the steel rod back over your head, then there is a struggle and the trout is flopping on the bank behind you.

Thom Glace, famous watercolorist’s “Watercolor Study of a Rainbow Trout” (Oncorhynchus mykiss). The trout Hemingway is holding is a Michigan version of Oncorhynchus mykiss, a rainbow trout – genetic mirror of this artful work.

For that kind of fishing you need an outfit that costs about nine dollars and a half

A good steel rod nine and a half feet long will set you back about five dollars. A half-dozen three-foot gut leaders will be a dollar. Twenty-five yards of excellent bait line can be purchased for another dollar. Any reel will do around two dollars as you don’t need to do any casting with it. A box of number four Carlisle hooks, one hundred in a box, won’t be more than a quarter.

With that outfit you are equipped for bait fishing on any type of stream that you have to “horse” the trout out of. Horsing is a technical term for that free arm motion that causes the trout to suddenly desert the stream he has been born and raised in and go for a flying trip through the air. It is the only method of landing trout in streams that are so brushy and clogged with snags that it is impossible to play them.

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