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The Bass Of The Potomac

by W. Mackay Laffan

1877

Some twenty-five years ago Mr. William Shriver, a primitive pisciculturist, took from the Youghiogheny River eleven black bass, and conveyed them in the tank of the tender of a locomotive to Cumberland, in the coal-region of Western Maryland. There he deposited them in the Potomac, with the injunction which forms the heraldic motto of the State of Maryland—Crescite et multiplicamini. The first part of this excellent precept they obeyed by proceeding to devour all the aboriginal fish in the river, and waxing extremely hearty upon the liberal diet. The second they performed with a diligence so commendable that the name of them in the river became as legion, and the original possessors of the waters were steadily extirpated or took despairingly to small rivulets, and led ever after a life of undeserved ignominy and obscurity. There were bass in the river from the Falls of the Potomac, near Georgetown, to a point as near its source as any self-respecting fish could approach without detriment to the buttons on his vest by reason of the shallowness of the water. They were in all its tributaries, and in fact monopolized its waters completely. Had the supply of small fish for food held out, it is impossible to say to what extent they would have increased. They might in their numerical enormity have rivalled the condition of that famous river, the Wabash, which in a certain season of excessive dryness became so low that a local journal of established veracity described the fish as having to stand upon their heads to breathe, and while in that constrained attitude being pulled by the inhabitants like radishes in a garden.

It has been contended by some ichthyologists that the black bass does not eat its own kind, but the spectacle which I recently beheld of a four-pounder, defunct and floating on the water, with the tail and half the body of a ten-ounce bass sticking out of his distended mouth, affords but inadequate confirmation of their views. I sat upon the bass in question, and rendered a verdict of "choked to death, and served him right." He had swallowed the younger fish, who, for aught he knew to the contrary, or cared, might have been his own son; and his confidence in his capacity being ably supported by his appetite, he undertook a contract to which he was unequal in the matter of expansion. He couldn't disgorge, being in the predicament of the boa-constrictor who swallows a hen head first, and finds her go against the grain when he would fain reconsider the subject. The head of the inside fish was partially digested, but that process had imparted no gratification to either party, and both were defunct, mutually immolated upon the altar of gluttony. It is not an uncommon thing to find them dead in that condition, for their appetites are ravenous, and lead them into indiscretions more or less serious in their consequences.

There can be no doubt of their having regarded as a delicate attention the action some few years since of the Maryland Fish Commissioner in placing several thousand young California salmon in the river. Those salmon have never been seen or heard of since; but, although the bass for some time had a guilty look about them, it is hardly fair to let them remain under so grievous an imputation as is implied in the whole responsibility for the fate of the California emigrants. The fact is, that at Georgetown the Potomac River makes a very abrupt change in its grade, and the Great Falls, as they are called, are both picturesque and arduous of passage. The salmon, being of luxurious habit, betakes him each year to the seaside, and at the end of the season returns in a connubial frame of mind to the spot endeared to him by his early associations. It is quite possible that these particular salmon when on their way to the purlieus of marine fashion were somewhat discouraged at the jar and shock incident to their transit over the Falls. They may have concluded that the locality was unpropitious for the return trip, and then, consulting with salmon whose lines had been cast in more pleasant places, they may have ascended rivers of more conspicuous natural attractions and more agreeable to fish of cultivated habits.

The habits of the black bass may be described as generally bad. It is a fish devoid of any of the cardinal virtues. It is ever engaged in internecine war, and will any day forego a square meal for the sake of a fight. It gorges itself like a python, and when hooked is as game as a salmon, and quite as vigorous in proportion to size. In the Potomac it has been known to weigh as much as six pounds, but bass of that weight are very rare, from three to four pounds being the average of what are known as good fish. These afford excellent sport, and are taken with a variety of bait. The habitués of the river commonly employ live minnow, chub, catfish, suckers, sunfish—in fact, any fish under six inches in length. The bass has also a well-marked predilection for small frogs, or indeed for frogs of any dimensions. It sometimes rises well at a gaudy, substantial fly or a deft simulation of a healthy Kansas grasshopper; but fishermen have noticed that the largest fish despise flies, much as a person of a full roast-beef habit may be supposed to turn up his nose at a small mutton-chop. In other rivers they take the fly quite freely, but in the Potomac they have had that branch of their education greatly neglected. In the matter of vitality they are simply extraordinary: they cling to life with a tenacity that very few fish exhibit. In the spring or fall, when the water and the air are at a comparatively low temperature, a bass will live for eight or ten hours without water. The writer has brought fifty fish, weighing on an average two and three-quarter pounds, from Point of Rocks to Baltimore, a distance of seventy-two miles, and after they had been in the air six hours has placed them in a tub of water and found two-thirds of the number immediately "kick" and plunge with an amount of energy and ability that threw the water in all directions. These fish had been caught at various times during the day, and as each was taken from the hook a stout leather strap was forced through the floor of its mouth beneath its tongue, and the bunch of fish so secured allowed to trail overboard in the stream. They were thus dragged all day against a powerful current, but never showed any symptoms of "drowning." In the evening they were strung upon a stout piece of clothes-line, and after lying for some time on the railway platform were transferred to the floor of the baggage-car, and so transported to the city. It is quite evident that we do not live in the fear of Mr. Bergh. But what is one to do? The fish is not to be discouraged except by the exhibition of great and brutal violence. In fact, bass will not be induced to decently decease by any civilized process short of a powerful shock from a voltaic pile administered in the region of their medulla oblongata. Of course, one cannot be expected to carry about a voltaic pile and go hunting for the medullary recesses of a savage and turbulent fish. On the other hand, one may batter the protoplasm out of a refractory subject by the aid of a small rock, but it won't improve the fish's looks or cooking qualities. It may seem like high treason to mention, moreover, at a safe distance from Mr. Bergh, that euthanasia in animals designed for the table does not always improve their quality, and in fact that the linked misery long drawn out of a protracted dissolution imparts a certain tenderness and flavor to the flesh that it would not otherwise possess. Should that excellent and most estimable gentleman regard this statement with a sceptical eye, let it be here stated that the bass should be recently killed, split, crimped and broiled to a delicate brown, with a little good butter and a sprinkling of pepper, salt and chopped parsley. Should he pursue the subject upon this basis, he will not be the first gentleman who has surrendered his convictions and compounded a culinary felony upon favorable terms.

Below Harper's Ferry there is one of the most picturesque reaches of the Potomac River. From the rugged heights that frown upon that historic and lovely spot, where the Shenandoah strikes away through the pass that leads to the broad and beautiful Valley of Virginia, and where John Brown's memory struggles through battered ruins and the invading smoke of the unhallowed locomotive, the river chafes from side to side of the stern defile that hems it in and curbs its restless waters. Great walls of dark rocks, crested by serried ranks of solemn pines, stand guard above its fitful, surging flood, and against the dark blue calm and misty depth of its gorge the pale smoke rises in a quiet column above the mills and houses that nestle by the river's bed. Huge boulders stem the current, and the rocks stand out in shelves and rugged ridges, around which the stream whirls swiftly and sweeps off into broad dark pools in whose green, mysterious depths there should be noble fish. Below, the river widens and has long placid reaches, but for the most part its banks are precipitous, and the deep water runs along the trunks and bares the roots of great trees whose branches stretch far out over its surface. Occasionally, the mountains recede and form a vast amphitheatre, clad in primeval forest, and there are islands on which vegetation runs riot in its unbridled luxury, and weaves festoons of gay creepers to conceal the gaunt skeletons of the endless piles of dead drift-wood. All is in the most glorious green—a very extravagance of fresh and brilliant color—relieved with the bright purples and tender leafing of the flowering shrubs and vines that intertwine among its heavy jungle. Upon the broad, flat rocks one may see dozens of stolid "sliders," or mud-turtles, some of great size, basking in the sun like so many boarders at a country hotel. They crowd upon the rocks as thickly as they can, and blink there all day long unless disturbed by the approach of a boat, when they dive clumsily but quickly. Occasionally, one sees an otter, with seal-like head above the surface of the water, swimming swiftly from haunt to haunt in pursuit of the bass; and small coteries of summer ducks fly swiftly from sedge to sedge.

The acoustic properties of the river would make an architect die with envy. The light breeze bears one's conversation audibly for half a mile; one hears the splash of a fish that jumps a thousand yards away; and the grim cliffs at the foot of which the canal winds in and out take up the profanity of the towpath and hurl it back and forth across the river as if it was great fun and all propriety. The stalwart exhortations and clean-cut phraseology of the mule-drivers and the notes of the bugles go ringing over to Virginia's shore, and fill the air with cadences so sweet and musical that they sound like the pleasant laughter of good-humored Nature, instead of the well-punctuated and diligent ribaldry of the most profane class of humanity in existence. It is perfectly startling and frightful to hear an objurgation of the most utterly purposeless and ingeniously vile description transmitted half a mile with painful distinctness, and then seized by a virtuous and reproachful echo and indignantly repelled in disjointed fragments.

"Y'ill take care, sorr, an' sit fair in the middle of the shkiff," said Mr. McGrath as I got into his frail craft at five o'clock in the morning on the bank of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal near Point of Rocks. "It's onconvanient to be outside of the boat whin we're going through them locks. There were a gintleman done that last year, an' he come near lavin' a lot of orphans behind him."

"How was that, McGrath?" said I.

"Begorra! the divil a child had he," he replied.

"But do you mean that he was drowned?" I asked.

"Faith, an' he was that, sorr—complately."

I promised Mr. McGrath that I would observe his instructions carefully, and that gentleman, after placing the rods, live-bait bucket, luncheon-basket and other articles on board, took his seat in the bow, and we proceeded. We had two boats for my companion and myself, and an experienced man in each. Mr. McGrath had fallen to my lot, and my companion had a darkey named Pete. We were to go up the canal some four miles, and then, launching the boats into the river, were to fish slowly down with the current. We had a horse and tow-rope, and a small boy, mounted on the animal, started off at a smart trot. It was quite exhilarating, and the boats dashed along merrily at a capital rate. A gray mist hung low on the river, and thin wraiths of it rose off the water of the canal and crept up the mountain-side, shrouding the black pines and hiding the summit from view. Beyond, the tops of the hills on the Virginia shore were beginning to blush as they caught the first rays of sunrise, and the fish-hawk's puny scream echoed from the islands in the stream. It was a lovely morning, and promised a day, as Mr. McGrath observed, on which some elegant fish should die. After a few delays at locks, in which canal-boats took precedence of us, we reached our point of transshipment, hauled the boats out on the bank, and our horse drew them sleigh-fashion across field and down to and out into the water.

I had a light split bamboo rod, a good silk line and a fair assortment of flies. Mr. McGrath had a common bamboo cane, a battered old reel, and the value of his outfit might be generously estimated at half a dollar. In his live-bait bucket were about a hundred fish, varying in length from two to six inches. He did not prepare to fish himself, but was watching me with the deepest attention. He held the boat across the stream toward the opposite shore, and by the time we dropped down on a large flat rock I was ready. I got out, and there being a pleasant air stirring, I made my casts with a great deal of ease and comfort. There was a deep hole below the rocks, bordered on both sides by a swift ripple—as pretty a spot as ever a fly was thrown over. I sped them over it in all directions, casting fifty and sixty feet of line, and admiring the soft flutter with which they dropped on the edge of the ripple or the open water. Mr. McGrath was surveying the operation critically, nodding his head in approval from side to side, and uttering short ejaculations of the most flattering nature. I kept whipping the stream assiduously, so satisfied with my work and the style of it as to feel confident that no well-regulated fish could resist it. But there was no appearance of a rise: not a sign appeared on the water to show even the approach of a speculative fish. I was about to note the fact to Mr. McGrath when that gentleman remarked, "Begorra! but it's illigant sport it'd be if the bass 'ud only bite at them things!"

"Bite at them?" said I, turning round: "of course they'll bite at them."

"Sorra bit will they, sorr. It's just wondherin' they are if them things up above is good to ate, but they're too lazy to step up an' inquire. Augh, be me sowl! but it's the thruth I tell you. Now, if it was a dacent throut that were there, he'd be afther acceptin' yer invite in a minit; but them bass—begorra! they're not amaynable to the fly at all."

Now, if there is anything that I have been brought up to despise, it is fishing with "bait." Fly-fishing I have learned to regard as the only legitimate method of taking any fish that any sportsman ought to fish for, and fishing with a worm and a cork I always looked upon as equal to shooting a partridge on the ground in May. I did not believe Mr. McGrath, and I told him, as I resumed my graceful occupation, that I didn't think there were any fish there to catch. The idea of their rejecting flies served up as mine were was too preposterous.

"Well," said he, "ye may be right, sorr: there may be none there at all; but I'll thry them wid a bait, anyhow."

In another minute Mr. McGrath was slashing about right and left a bait which to my disordered vision looked as big as a Yarmouth bloater. He threw it in every direction with great vigor and precision, and, as I could not help noticing, with very little splashing. I turned away with emotion, and continued my fly-fishing. Presently I heard an exclamation from Mr. McGrath, quickly succeeded by an ominous whirring of his reel.

"Luk at the vagabone, sorr! luk at him now! Run, ye divil ye! run!" he cried as he facilitated the departure of the line, which was going out at a famous rate. "Bedad! he's a fine mikroptheros! Whisht! he's stopped.—Take that, ye spalpeen ye!"

As he said this he gave his rod a strong jerk, that brought the line up with a "zip" out of the water in a long ridge, and the old bamboo cane bent until it cracked. At the same moment, about a hundred and fifty feet away, a splendid fish leaped high and clear out of the water with the line dangling from his mouth. Mr. McGrath had struck him fairly, and away he went across stream as hard as he could tear.

"Take the rod, sorr, while I get the landing-net. Kape a tight line on him, sorr: niver let him deludher ye. It's an illigant mikroptheros he is, sure!"

He returned from the boat in a moment with the landing-net, but absolutely refused to take back his rod: "Sorra bit, sorr: bring him in. It's great fun ye'll have wid the vagabone in that current! No, sorr: bring him in yerself, sorr: ye'll niver lay it at my door that the first fish hooked wasn't brought in."

I didn't need any instructions, and as the fish ran for a rock some distance off, I brought him up sharply, and he jumped again as wickedly as he could full three feet out of the water, and came straight toward us with a rush. It was no use trying, I couldn't reel up quick enough, and he was under the eddy at our feet before I had one-third of the line in. Fortunately, he was securely hooked, and there was no drop out from the slacking of the line. He was in about twelve feet of water, and as I brought the line taut on him again he went off down stream as fast as ever. I had the current full against him this time, and I brought him steadily up through it, and held him well in hand. I swept him around in front of Mr. McGrath's landing-net, but he shied off so quickly that I thought he would break the line. Away down he went as stiffly and stubbornly as possible, and there he lodged, rubbing his nose against a rock and trying to get rid of the hook. Half a dozen times I dislodged him and brought him up, but he was so wild and strong I did not dare to force him in. At last he made a dash for the ripple, and I gave him a quick turn, and as he struck out of it Mr. McGrath had his landing-net under him in a twinkling, and he was out kicking on the rock. He weighed four pounds six ounces, and furnished conclusive evidence that a bass of that weight can give a great deal of very agreeable trouble before he will consent to leave his element.

"What was it," said I, "that you called him when you struck him just now?"

"What did I call him, sorr? A mikroptheros, sorr."

"And for Goodness' sake, McGrath, what is a mikroptheros?"

"Begorra! that's what it is," said Mr. McGrath, throwing the bass overboard to swim at the end of its leathern thong.

"Well!" said I in amazement. "I never heard such a name as that for a fish in all my life!—a mikroptheros!"

"Divil a more or less!" said Mr. McGrath decidedly. "The Fish Commissioner wor up here last week, an' sez he to me, sez he, 'It's a mikroptheros, so it is.'—'What's that?' sez I.—'That!' sez he; and he slaps him into an illigant glass bottle of sperrits, as I thought he was goin' to say to me, 'McGrath, have ye a mouth on ye?' an' I as dhry as if I'd et red herrin's for a week. 'Yis,' sez he to me, 'that's the right name of him;' and wid that he writes it on a tag, and he sends it off, this side up wid care, to the musayum. Sure I copied it: be me sowl, an' if ye doubt me word, here it is."

Mr. McGrath handed me a piece of paper torn off the margin of a newspaper, on which he had written legibly enough, "Micropteros Floridanus" I read it as gravely as I could, smiled feebly at my own ignorance, and returned it to him, saying, "Upon my word, McGrath, you are perfectly right. What a blessing it is to have had a classical education!"

"Sorra lie in it," said he proudly as he replaced the slip in the crown of his hat; "an' it's meself that's glad of it."

I can but throw myself upon the mercy of every respectable disciple of the art before whom this confession may come when I say that during this conversation I was employed in taking off my flies and in substituting therefor a strong bass-hook and a cork, after the effective fashion of Mr. McGrath. When this never-to-be-sufficiently-despised device was ready I took from the bucket a small and unhappy sunfish, immolated him upon my hook by passing it through his upper and lower lips, and cast him out upon the stream. The red top of the cork spun merrily down the current and out among the oily ripples of the deep water below, but Mr. McGrath could beat me completely in handling his. I noticed that I threw my fish so that it struck hard upon the water, "knocking the sowl out of it," as he said, while he threw his hither and thither with the greatest ease, always taking care to do it with the least possible amount of violence, and keeping it alive as long as possible. However, it was not long before my cork disappeared with a peculiar style of departure abundantly indicative of the cause, to which I replied by a vigorous "strike." My cork came up promptly, and with it my hook, bare. The sunfish had found a grave within the natural enemy of his species, and I had missed my fish.

"Divvle a wondher!" said Mr. McGrath in reply to a remark to that effect—"being, sorr, that ye're not familiar wid their ways. Ye see, sorr, he comes up an' he nips that fish be the tail, an' away wid him to a convanient spot for to turn him an' swallow him head first, by rason of his sthickles an' fins all p'intin' the other way. Whin he takes it, sorr, jist let him run away wid it as far as he likes, but the minit he turns to swallow it, an' says to himself, 'What an illigant breakfast this is, to be sure!' that minit slap the hook into his jaw, an' hould on to him for dear life."

These excellent instructions I obeyed with no little difficulty. My cork came up in the back water under the rock on which I stood, and there, almost at my very feet, it disappeared. I could not believe that a bass had taken it, but all doubt on the subject was dispelled by the shrill whir of my reel as the fine silk line spun out at a tremendous rate. The fish had darted across the current, and only stopped after he had taken out over two hundred feet of line.

"Now, sorr, jist make a remark to him," whispered Mr. McGrath; and I struck as hard as I could. "Illigant, begorra!" said he as the fish, maddened and frightened, leaped out of the water. "Look at him looking for a dentist, bedad!"

It was peculiarly delightful to feel that fish pull—to get a firm hand on him, and have him charge off with an impetuosity that involved more line or broken tackle—to feel that vigorous, oscillating pull of his, and to note the ease and strength with which he swam against the powerful current or dashed across the boiling eddy below.

It did not last long, however: he soon spent himself, and Mr. McGrath received him with a graceful swoop of his landing-net and secured him. Four more soon followed, all large fish—two to the credit of Mr. McGrath and two to myself. When caught they are of a dark olive-green on the back and sides, the fins quite black at the ends, and the under side white. They change color rapidly, and as their vitality decreases become paler and paler, turning when dead to a very light olive-green. The mouth in general form resembles that of the salmon family, but the size is much larger in proportion to the weight of the fish, and the arrangement of the teeth is different. With its great strength and its "game" qualities it is not surprising that it should afford a good deal of what is known as "sport."

An attribute of man which is equivalent to a strong natural instinct is his disposition to "do murder." This may account for his love of "sport," or it may only be an hereditary trait derived from the period when he had not yet concerned himself with agriculture, but slew wild beasts and used his implements of stone to crack their bones and get the marrow out. The instinct to slay birds, beasts and fishes is certainly strong within us, whatever be its remote origin, and it is very little affected by what we are pleased to call our civilization. Indeed, it is hardly to be believed that one of the primitive lords of creation, stalking about in the condition of gorgeous irresponsibility incident to the Stone Period, would have lowered himself to the level of the kid-gloved example of the present stage of evolution who fishes in Maine. It cannot be supposed that the pre-historic gentleman would have disgraced himself by catching fish he could not use. He never caught ten times as many of the Salmo fontinalis as he and all his friends could eat, and then threw the rest away to rot. This kind of thing has prevailed to a great extent, but natural causes have nearly brought it to an end. The wholesale slaughter of the fish has reduced their numbers, and a surfeit of indecent sport can no longer be indulged in. Such fishermen should be confined by law to a large aquarium, in which the fish they most affected could be taught to undergo catching and re-catching until the gentlemen had had enough. The fish might grow to like it eventually, and submit as a purely business matter to being caught regularly for a daily consideration in chopped liver and real flies. But how our ancestor, just alluded to, would despise the sport of this progressive age! With his primitive but natural acceptation of Nature's law of supply and demand, what would he think of the gentlemen who killed fish to rot in the sun or drove a few thousand buffaloes over a precipice—all for sport? It is probably the propensity to "do murder" which accounts for these things, for "sport," within decent and proper limits, is a good thing, and has been favored by the best of men in all ages—fishing particularly, because it predisposes to pleasant contemplation, to equity of criticism in the consideration of most matters of life, and to no little self-benignancy. No one knew this better (although Shakespeare himself was a poacher) than Christopher North, and where more fitly could the brightest pages of the Noctes Ambrosianæ have been conceived or inspired than when their author was, rod in hand, on the banks of a brawling Highland trout-stream?

The fish had ceased to bite where we were, and at Mr. McGrath's suggestion we dropped down the stream to where my friend and his darkey were. His experience with the flies had been similar to mine, but he had too much regard for his fine fly-rod, he said, to use it for "slinging round a bait as big as a herring." He had taken it to pieces and put it away. He was sitting with his elbows on his knees and a brier-root pipe in his mouth, content in every feature, a perfect picture of Placidity on a Boulder.

"Given up fishing?" I asked.

"Not much," he replied: "I've caught nine beauties. Pete does all the work, and I catch the fish."

Sure enough, he had Pete, who was one of the best fishermen on the river, fishing away as hard as he could. Whenever Pete hooked a fish my friend would lay down his pipe and play the fish into the landing-net. "It's beastly sport," he said: "if I wasn't so confoundedly lazy I couldn't stand it at all.—Hello, Pete! got him?"

"Yes, sah—got him shuah;" and Pete handed him the rod as the line spun out. We watched the short struggle, and started down stream, leaving him to his laziness just as he was settling back in the boat for a nap and telling Pete not to wake him up unless the next was a big one.

By noon we had thirty-two fish—a very fair and satisfactory experience. We were about to change our position when we were detained by a tremendous shouting from the other boat, about half a mile above us.

"What's the matter with them, McGrath?" said I.

"Bedad, sorr! I think it must be that bucket there in the bow," he replied, pointing to the article, which contained our luncheon.

I was quite satisfied that it was, and there being a cool spring about forty feet above us on the bank on the Virginia side, we disembarked. In the excitement of fishing I had not thought of luncheon, but now I found I had a startling appetite. So had my friend and his assiduous darkey when they came in and reported twenty fish.

"Yes," he said, "I know we ought to have a good many more, but Pete is so lazy. It was all I could possibly do to catch those myself."

With a flat rock for a table, the grass to sit upon, and the bubbling music of the little stream that flowed from the spring as an accompaniment, the ham and bread and butter, the pickles and the hard-boiled eggs, and even the pie with its mysterious leather crust and its doubtful inside of dried peaches, tasted wonderfully well. We did not venture out upon the river again until three o'clock, our worthy guides agreeing that the fish do not bite well between noon and that hour, and both of us being disposed to rest a little. My friend stretched himself on the thick grass, and when his pipe was exhausted went fast asleep, and snored with great precision and power to a mild sternutatory accompaniment by Mr. McGrath and Pete. I employed myself in bringing up my largest bass from the boat to sit for his picture in a little basin in the rock under the spring. After he had floundered himself into a comparatively rational and quiet condition, much after the fashion of a gentleman reluctant to have his portrait taken under the auspices of the police, I succeeded in committing him to paper. He was a handsome fish, and eminently deserving of the distinction thus conferred upon him.

Sleeping in the grass on a summer afternoon is a bucolic luxury I never fully appreciated. When I stirred up my friend he was red, perspirational and full of lively entomological suspicions. He slapped the legs of his pantaloons vigorously in spots, moved his arms uneasily, took off his shirt-collar and implored me to look down his back.

"There's nothing there," I reported. "I know how it is myself: a fellow always feels that way when he goes to sleep in the grass."

"Any woodticks here?" he asked.

"Begorra! plenty," said Mr. McGrath, sitting up. "They et a child," he added with perfect seriousness of manner, "down here below last summer." McGrath's eyes twinkled when my friend began to talk of peeling off and jumping into the river after a general search. He was finally reassured, and we started out. We had even better sport than in the morning, and accumulated a splendid string of fish each. On the way down we passed two boats in which were some gentlemen, evidently foreigners, engaged in throwing flies with apparently the same results that we had attained in the morning.

"Do you know who those people are?" I asked McGrath.

"I dunno, sorr," said he, "but I think they are from one of the legations at Washington. They come up for a day's fishin' all along of the illigant fishin' a party from the same place had one day last week I suppose;" and he smiled.

"How was that, McGrath?"

"It wor last week, sorr; and I wor up the river be meself, an' I had thirty illigant fish thrailin' undher the boat comin' down. It wor just where they are I seen two boats full of gintlemen, an' I dhropped alongside. They wor swells, sure. They had patint rods, an' patint reels, an' patint flies, an' patint boots, an' patint coats, an' patint hats, an' the divil knows what. Bedad! they wor so fine that sez I to meself, sez I, 'Bedad! if I wor a bass I'd say, "Gintlemen, don't go to no throuble on my account: I'll git into the boat this minit."'—'Been fishin', me man?' sez one of them to me. 'Sorra much, yer honor,' sez I.—'It's very strange, you know,' sez he, 'that they don't bite at all to-day. You haven't caught any, have you?'—'Well, sorr,' sez I, 'I did dhrop on a few little ones as I come down.'—'Oh, did you, really?' sez another one, puttin' a glass in his eye and standin' up excited like. 'Why, my good man,' sez he, 'be good enough to 'old them up, you know. We'd like so much to see them!'—Wid that, sorr, I up wid the sthring as high as I could lift it, an' it weighin' nigh onto a hundred pound. Well, they were that wild they didn't know what to make of it. One of them sez, sez he, 'The beggar's been a hauling of a net, he has.'—'Divvle a bit more than yerself,' sez I. 'There's me impliments, an', what's more, if ye wor to stay here till next week the sorra fish can ye ketch, because, bedad! ye dunno how.' Wid that they put their heads together, and swore it ud disgrace them to go home to Washington without a fish, you know; an' how much would I take for the lot? Sez I, 'I have twenty-five more down here in a creel in the river: that's fifty-five,' sez I. 'Ye can have the lot for twinty dollars.'—'It's a go,' sez he; an' ever since that there's letters comin' up from Washington askin' if the wather is in good ordher, and what is the accommodations? Bedad! I'm wondherin' if them as we passed wouldn't be likin' a dozen or two on the same terms?"

Nothing finishes up a day's bass-fishing better than a good hot supper of broiled bass, country sausage, fried ham and eggs, and coffee. The cooking can generally be managed, and the appetite is guaranteed. Experto crede.