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Fisherman's Luck Henry van Dyke

Fishing in Books

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When you have thus baited and set your tilt-ups,--twenty or thirty of them,--you may put on your skates and amuse yourself by gliding to and fro on the smooth surface of the ice, cutting figures of eight and grapevines and diamond twists, while you wait for the pickerel to begin their part of the performance. They will let you know when they are ready.

A fish, swimming around in the dim depths under the ice, sees one of your baits, fancies it, and takes it in. The moment he tries to run away with it he tilts the little red flag into the air and waves it backward and forward. "Be quick!" he signals all unconsciously; "here I am; come and pull me up!"

When two or three flags are fluttering at the same moment, far apart on the pond, you must skate with speed and haul in your lines promptly.

How hard it is, sometimes, to decide which one you will take first! That flag in the middle of the pond has been waving for at least a minute; but the other, in the corner of the bay, is tilting up and down more violently: it must be a larger fish. Great Dagon! There's another red signal flying, away over by the point! You hesitate, you make a few strokes in one direction, then you whirl around and dart the other way. Meantime one of the tilt-ups, constructed with too short a cross-stick, has been pulled to one side, and disappears in the hole. One pickerel in the pond carries a flag. Another tilt-up ceases to move and falls flat upon the ice. The bait has been stolen. You dash desperately toward the third flag and pull in the only fish that is left,--probably the smallest of them all!

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A surplus of opportunities does not insure the best luck.

A room with seven doors--like the famous apartment in Washington's headquarters at Newburgh--is an invitation to bewilderment. I would rather see one fair opening in life than be confused by three dazzling chances.

There was a good story about fishing through the ice which formed part of the stock-in-conversation of that ingenious woodsman, Martin Moody, Esquire, of Big Tupper Lake. "'T was a blame cold day," he said, "and the lines friz up stiffer 'n a fence-wire, jus' as fast as I pulled 'em in, and my fingers got so dum' frosted I could n't bait the hooks. But the fish was thicker and hungrier 'n flies in June. So I jus' took a piece of bait and held it over one o' the holes. Every time a fish jumped up to git it, I 'd kick him out on the ice. I tell ye, sir, I kicked out more 'n four hundred pounds of pick'rel that morning. Yaas, 't was a big lot, I 'low, but then 't was a cold day! I jus' stacked 'em up solid, like cordwood."

Let us now leave this frigid subject! Iced fishing is but a chilling and unsatisfactory imitation of real sport. The angler will soon turn from it with satiety, and seek a better consolation for the winter of his discontent in the entertainment of fishing in books.

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Fisherman's Luck
Henry van Dyke

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