Readers are invited to compare this chapter and the chapter-head drawing with certain details given throughout this volume of the advantages to be gained by using floating nature lures and the method employed in using them, and then consider how needful are the radical changes suggested.
There are thousands of machine-made rubber frights now sold, mostly to those new to the craft, to children, and to anglers who will take anything offered without thinking. Reference is made more especially to those lures stitched on a card exposed for sale in the tackle shops, comprising rubber "imitations" of frogs, hellgrammites, worms, crickets, grasshoppers, minnows, etc. You never observe them in the expert's kit. He is, however, well stocked with the ever-changing fashion in plugs and other devices. With such I am persuaded to believe he does catch fish; mostly bass and pickerel, when, after considerable practice in casting, he learns just how to use them. I have no interest in debating the subject whether he fully enjoys his sport or why I should try to induce him to change his method. Such a change, if it ever comes, will occur naturally, of his own initiative; more especially from his observations of what others get from their sport as compared with him. These rubber images, which in place of a better title I call "frights,"' aside from the inartistic and poor imitation of the creatures intended, have the hooks always placed in the wrong position. Were it by accident swallowed by the fish, the hook would not take hold. Most important of all, their weight takes them plump to the bottom, and if pulled through the water their form makes a motion entirely different from what the creature does in nature. They may deceive ignorant men and boys; they seldom deceive the fish, but are more likely to scare them off. The expert knows it and avoids them. On present-day plugs and bugs, of which there are legion that claim to be effective for bass and a few for trout, I think it best to refrain from comment out of politeness to their inventors, who frankly state they are not intended to imitate any kind of fish food. They are offered to the discerning angler with the sole object of attracting and capturing fish. If such be really accomplished, all is well. If the angler chooses to have the same ideas, all that is well too - for him. Manufacturers will continue to make, and dealers will continue to sell, anything, effective or not, so long as there are people ignorant enough to buy them.
It has been my privilege to correspond with a very large number of anglers all over the United States and Canada, and I have been much impressed how many of them want changes for the better; want to study, to learn more, not only of the craft, but of habits and habitats of fish, and the food they take. The present methods and the present lures do not satisfy them, as men who think - discerning anglers. Of course there are some people who are so complacent of their ability that they have no use for the opinions of experts or of anybody, but they go right to the tackle dealer, ask for anything that will get fish in the easiest way possible, and the dealer gives them the best he has at hand. If the complacent, self-satisfied man fails, he does not blame anybody, but says: 'What a darn fool I am to go fishing, anyway." In the evolution of this important section of the angler's craft I can now speak with far greater confidence than I could five years ago when Trout Stream Insects was published. The matter has ceased to be experimental or visionary, to judge not only from hundreds of testimonials received from experts and amateurs who express pleasure at the success of my new theories. We see the plug dying a slow death, which rather dubiously I predicted would soon happen, and we now see the chief manufacturers of them making rods - so far, as a side issue. The cry now is bugs; bugs of all possible shapes and materials that do wonders: Lightning-bugs, thunder-bugs, devil-bugs, nature bugs, illuminated bugs and minnows for night work; even pieces of hogskin make claim to beat the plug and everything else. Suppose they do; it's all the same; they will soon have their day and fall down from anglers' esteem in the evolution for better things.
The right, indeed the only way, will take its proper rank. Anglers will, in time, I hope, fabricate their own lures to suit their own special wants. They will simply be going back to the primitive times of handicraft, when even the savage skilfully worked the most simple materials nature provided him with. Of course, having no tackle shops, he had to do it or starve; but the savage did not starve, neither did he go short of fish. He was wiser and far more humane and skilful than we. The remarkable fact is that he took nature for his guide, this savage. Be he Redskin or Lap, he fully understood the habits and haunts of the game he stalked. That is precisely the attitude I want anglers to take.
It is not so much my baits I desire used as the adoption of my theory, my method, and my object in fishing. Use your own, self-made baits by all means; only think what you lose by the present method. No matter what bait you choose, I verily believe, you can catch fish. But, my dear angling brother, you can catch better than fish along with the fish: Your self-esteem, your self-respect for your higher efforts, and a love of nature. You will find your entire life on the streams to be different. You will cease to boast and to brag of the number and the size caught, giving vent to all the petty jealousies and devious dodges to beat your companion on the stream. You will no longer be "tickled to death' to see yourself among the everlasting representations now exposed to view in the sporting magazines - with that insipid smile - standing in perspective, far behind a string of fish magnified three times their actual size - the greater the number, the greater the shame. You will forget all the meaner aspects of the vacant-minded, ignorant doings and sayings of the vulgar. In fact, you will become a true disciple of Saint Peter, the patron of all good anglers.