Anglers so often write: "I don't need or want a bait to float - I want to fish on the bottom." Herein they are either entirely wrong, or they misunderstand the situation. They do need a floating artificial to fish on the bottom, and after they get to know my method, they write to confess that they were wrong. Indeed the crux of my entire effort is to avoid the faults of commercial baits made by machinery, which, if you allow them, lie dead, inanimate on the bottom, whereas my baits are made to float suspended in the water, at any place or depth you desire, from a few inches off bottom up to the surface. I don't expect anglers to fish the surface with a crawfish, hell-grammite, or even frogs. Nevertheless, if fish can be persuaded to run up to the surface where you are able to see them grab it, that is a condition very-desirable indeed; far superior to bottom fishing. Aside from that, it is a very comforting thing that you have no fear or worry about snags to lose bait, leader, and a piece of good line. It is no disadvantage that a bait is made to float; quite the contrary. I could make lures considerably easier and cheaper of heavier-than-water material. In fact, they could then be made by machinery to retail with a profit at a "quarter each." But that would be no improvement over the present output sold in the shops, except that they could very easily be made more lifelike and artistic than they are now.
Nobody, so far as I am aware, has yet attempted to make trout flies by machinery; a most detestable thought anyway. They require hand-work combined with brain-work, which is art handicraft, a distinction so superior in results as to preclude comparison. Nobody, I am well sure, can make these nature lures by machinery; like flies, handwork is the only way to do it. Three important things are required not hitherto done, which I am making efforts to do to make the artificials attract the fish. First, to make them artistic and true to nature. Second, to have them act in the water like the creatures they imitate. Third, to plan a method where the fishing is to the angler what indeed it should be, a fine art, withal humane.
With this preliminary, I will briefly describe the principal baits, so that the angler may, with the aid of pictures, get a better knowledge of the detachable parts and other features that are original to them.
Beginning with minnows, which are of great variety in shape, color, and size, from the tiny inch terror to the five-inch-hook shiner for lake-trout, they have become by years of tests and trials in a sort of evolution effective, substantial baits, perfectly well balanced to swim like a natural fish. By advice of hundreds of experts' suggestions, the hooks are being well placed to catch and to hold. The attachment of leader to eye is exactly like that of a dry-fly. All the minnows up to three-inch hooks are so light as to be easily fished like a fly, with the additional value of being used either in spinning or casting. The proposed new method makes them capable of being trolled at the surface or fished in deep water, an accomplishment possessed by no other bait.
The various-sized minnows are all made in two-color combinations - red and gold, blue and silver - made so to suit the color of natural food-fish in as wide a territory as the northern continent. The red and gold is a greater favorite in Texas, California, and Pacific coastal States, and in certain parts of Canada and Maine. I am told by those who use them, the red and gold more nearly imitates the reddish tinge of their minnows. In the Middle West, from Montana to the Eastern seaboard States, the preference is decidedly in favor of blue-and-silver minnows, which coincides with my own practice and experience of Eastern waters. While I have captured both trout and bass on the red and gold, I nearly always put on the blue and silver, because the fish food is mostly of that color. The darter minnow, a later invention, not yet widely used, is without the feather plume, and made in sizes 1½, 2, 3, 4, 5 inch body. It is painted to imitate young trout, perch, and silversides, and relies entirely upon an exact imitation of nature. The primary object of the feather plumes on the back of various minnows is to attract attention by the peculiar wavy motion of the feather, so like the waving tail and fins of a minnow. After much testing with or without plumes, the former has been found to have no disadvantage, except that the feathers become ragged from constant chewing by the fish. The advantage is additional attraction from the waving colors. The long, feathery plumes, especially peacocks' herle, are decidedly more enticing to both trout and bass. That the simple, plain body does catch fish, I have many proofs of my own experience, and I should like very much to discard the trouble and expense of feather additions to the minnow's body, and hope to do so when demand calls for it sufficiently to make it generally satisfactory, replacing it with a minnow compact and durable for several seasons. The most desirable thing is perfect spacing or placing of hooks, and making the bait swim upright with a rapid motion through the water, which, after infinite trouble and changes, they now do.
Floating Artificial Nature Minnows.
While I make, on demand for many anglers, the double and treble hook minnow, after thoroughly testing them to be sure they are effective, I rarely use them myself, because, I am sure, one single hook rightly placed does not miss. Trout as well as bass open their mouths wide for the minnow, closing it almost instantaneously; were it not so, a live minnow would escape. Rarely indeed do I find in the stomach a cut minnow or even one which has been torn by the teeth; yet teeth of brown trout are large and many. It is not often that I have brown trout get off, for in closing the mouth the hook takes hold and the barb is fastened to the flesh before they perceive the fraud (for base fraud it rightly is). The case is different with a fly, which they take more delicately; just a nip, very often a miss, because the hook is small, and quite often, after dashing above the surface, they flick off the fly with their tongue. Personally I prefer the small minnows, even for large fish. The inch and two-inch minnows very well suffice for good-size trout, say sixteen inches. If you know where a big fellow lies, his capture is more safe when once hooked on a three or four inch hook. I hope to induce anglers to see this view, so that I can reduce the size and variety of minnows. The big four-inch and five-inch hook gold chub and silver shiner are both alike in construction and size; the only difference is one is gold and red, and the other is silver and blue. I cannot as yet judge whether they are most effective in spring or fall. If numbers in demand were conclusive, the fall would win. But it is quite possible many more anglers fish for lake-trout and muskellunge in the fall than they do in the spring. The tendency in demand for this particular minnow is for larger size and bigger hook; the back feather plume is a more conspicuous feature, larger and more bushy, but I am making this minnow almost entirely bare of feathers, to produce an artificial shiner compact, durable, and strong. Now that I have acquired a shining, untarnishable metal for the belly, and have tied the back well and firmly, the angler will have the perfect trolling shiner for the heavy game-fish. I have supplied it on request to several Pacific coast anglers who wanted it for trial on the Chinook salmon, but no reports have been received, good or otherwise. This I very much regret in cases where I am unable to make personal tests. If my baits are not effective in a certain locality, I ought to be the first to know of it, in order to continue further efforts in perfecting them from any suggestions offered. Before concluding this reference to my artificial minnows, I would ask the reader to carefully examine the colored page of minnows and other food-fish, to note how beautiful and varied are the forms and color. They are only a very small selection of the many species and varieties found in various sections of the North American continent. It will be seen at once how very evidently impossible it would be to exactly imitate any particular one for general use in all localities, and I believe the plan I have adopted is the. best, viz., to make red and gold, blue and silver, the principal colors. No colored representation, however perfect, can produce the silvery or golden sheen of these fish as observed in the water. All the artist can do is to convey what is called the "general effect" of glistening brightness. Salmon flies are an example of an attempt to get at the effect mentioned. I have tried everything with the limited materials at command, even to making a floating painted small minnow, copied exactly from the colored pictures, with the belly creamy white in place of shining metal. Trial after trial with all the skill I know, proves that it does not seduce trout. Immediately a change is made to the shiny terror minnow, I get strikes from chub, pickerel, perch, bass, or trout, whichever I am fishing for. I have finally concluded that my confidence in a metal body shows it to be by far the best, so that the shiny devil, hackle minnows, various-sized terrors, and feather minnows cannot be improved as far as I am concerned.