The method of fishing my nature lures here given is the result of experience gained in testing them over a period of five years. They are not intended to be hard-and-fast rules, but guides and hints. They are applicable, I think, to any other lures lighter than water, and I am sufficiently catholic to agree with any angler who has a desire to make his own rules, should he find any better. What I try in every instance is to do as nature does, or as near like it as I can. I am familiar with all the methods pursued, both here and abroad, both by reading and practice, and so far as I am aware I cannot be accused of taking a false position in stating my method to be a new one and a decided advance on the existing methods now in vogue in lure fishing. The difficulties to overcome have not by any means been slight, and that is why five years have been spent in what has been accomplished, the winters in study and the summers in practice, yet I readily concede there is still much to improve in attaining perfection. My definition of perfection in angling is: to practise a method that is fair to the fish, to give it some little chance to display its gamy qualities; that is sane for the angler, where he can get the most and the highest form of sport with the least cruelty; that is safe to get the desired result at any time or place he so chooses. This fair, sane, safe policy naturally includes a certain amount of intelligent study of all aspects of nature, and the creatures that abide on land, in the air, or in the water. This study, undertaken in a proper spirit, will in most cases prove more engaging than the actual fishing; at least, I have found it so the more I learn of it.
All experts and thoughtful anglers both here and in England consider dry-fly fishing the highest art of angling yet practised. Why do they consider it so? Their answer is: "Because you use a fly that is an exact copy of the insect fish are at the time feeding on." You are supposed to cast it so that it floats cocked in the water, exactly like the natural insect; your fish rises to the artificial imitation within sight of your vision. Nothing more is claimed for this highest art of fishing.
My aim and desire in the beginning was to do exactly the same thing with all others outside of insects that game-fish consume as food - not only trout, but all fish caught on rod and line. However long it might take, and with a determined resolve to buck up against all difficulties, I made up my mind then, as now, in a cheerful spirit and a perfect confidence that I should win' out. If others do not see it, I still retain the satisfaction of practising it alone, please God, for some years to come.
With every gradual improvement made in each lure, a separate test has been made, with the result that every game-fish has been taken on the lures, either by myself or by others, even to the Atlantic salmon, a twenty-seven-pound fish captured on my minnow by an angler fishing in Novia Scotia.
With so radical a change as these nature lures, it is necessary on the part of the inventor to devise a proper method in keeping with the advanced step made in the lures, and the method in brief is really a combination of bait and fly fishing, casting out each lure as you would a fly; then reeling them in like a minnow, no matter what creature is the lure. The knack of casting a light lure with a long rod is a little strange at first to those used to casting the fly, but with a little practice, which is hardly possible to describe, one soon dexterously places the lure quite a distance, at least sufficient for the purpose. One suggestion of value is, if there be sufficient room behind as you let out the line, your forward cast should be slower every time you lengthen the line, both in back or side cast. At first you will cast as I did - too fast, forgetting the important thing: the lure must go backward the same distance as the previous cast, and the force of the next cast takes it farther ahead. The only lure I don't attempt to cast as a fly is the frog, which is far too cumbersome to cast on a light, long trout rod. If the rod be nine feet, I draw eighteen feet of line from the tip - cast it back, and by a side-sweep forward cast manage to slide out ten, sometimes fifteen, feet of extra line. Including the rod, that makes forty-two feet distance from you, which is sufficient to get a strike from the fish on its way back at least thirty feet. I often get bass taking the lure within ten feet of rod tip.
In river fishing it is only on rare occasions you need to cast. I much prefer to select places favorable to the lure being carried along by the water flow. It so happens trout and bass, or salmon, lie in favorable positions to where the lure can be made to run just over them. Strange as it may seem, many casts - indeed more casts - get a strike going from you, than coming back. This unexpected thing is because the line bellies out by the force of the water and turns the minnow head first downstream. The trout on rising, turns to follow after, taking a much better hold than it does on a stiff full-stretched line on its backward run. This same thing often happens in fly fishing. In the swift runways where you know big trout lie, behind rocks down below you, it is best to cast the lure right across it to quieter water and permit the lure to be gradually forced across, and back toward you far below - with extra line out.
The hardest condition is when the river is so wide and deep that you cannot get the lure to the spot required. The best way is to get as near as possible to a current that will carry a floating bait down from you. Currents are always fruitful places to guide your lure.
Before leaving the subject, I consider casting by no means so important or difficult to do as the manipulation of the rod tip, which is intended to work the lure so that it acts alive when viewed by the fish. To do so is art, pure and simple, and therefore it cannot be taught. Neither can it be thoroughly well done unless you are familiar with the antics of the creature your lure imitates, either at the surface, mid-water, or bottom. Experienced live-bait anglers will understand best what I mean - the peculiar half swim, half jump of a crawfish; the wriggle of a hellgrammite; the swift dart of a minnow - all these various lures require quite a different treatment in playing, and, in doing so, your interest is aroused all the time till a strike is made. You cannot sleep or dream, you cannot even smoke, your entire attention must be on the lure all the time, and the best results are obtained by the continuous movement of the bait in the water. More so, when the different-sized minnows are used. In nature minnows dart about with astounding speed, especially when scared by large fish. You cannot begin to imitate it in quickness, except in leaping above the surface, which can be copied perfectly, by a short twist of the wrist.