Title: English angler in Florida
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Title: English angler in Florida
Series Title: English angler in Florida
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Creator: Ward, Rowland
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Full Text

T'H E FNGLISFI -,N,,IGLER-
IN rL.ORIDA





















IItlBEI'T II1 ,C STROZ'EIl
L1llill. ll
Florida State University
Tallahassee, Florida
presented in memory of
Mr. and I U. Udo 1i. F1 .:-.':, I-..




FLORfIdiL OfTI1ON






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NOT TO BE TAKX


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THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA





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THE AUTHOR.




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WITH NUMEROUS ILLUSTRATIONS







LONDON

ROWLAND WARD, LIMITED
166 PICCADILLY

1898


ENGLISH ANGLER

IN


FLORIDA


WITH SOME DESCRIPTIVE NOTES OF THE GAME

ANIMALS AND BIRDS


BY

ROWLAND WARD, F.Z.S.
AUTHOR OF RECORDS OF BIG GAME,' 'SPORTSMAN'S HANDBOOK,' ETC.


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PREFACE

TARPON fishing sport was for many years a kind of mystery
to both American and English fishermen, but within the last
decade it has become well known, and has even developed
into something like a boom." At least fifteen years since
a gentleman who had caught several tarpon on rod and line,
calling upon me in Piccadilly, showed me one of the scales
he had brought home from Florida; and a striking object
it was, from its immense size, its horny substance, and,
most of all, from that partial covering of fine whitish
silver which, at a casual glance, looks as if it could be dusted
off with the light flick of a handkerchief. From that time
forward I kept the tarpon in view as an honest object of
desire, and all that I read about it, and the specimens which
came under my notice as a taxidermist, confirmed my
determination to kill one for myself some day.
Last spring Mrs. Ward and myself accordingly sailed in the





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THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


s.s. Majestic on the 24th March. We were home again by the
end of May.
Meanwhile, some account of the sport I enjoyed had been
published in the Field and other papers, and thereafter I was
often asked to put together my notes and publish them in
handbook form, for the guidance and assistance of brother
anglers who might meditate a visit to Florida. As the
camera is always an inseparable companion for me on such
expeditions, I brought back a large collection of views. Owing
to unfriendly weather these were often much more imperfect
than I should have wished, but they are at least genuine.
They would have been better in some cases if I had taken a
stand and could have used it for time exposures. What I
have are certainly better than nothing-infinitely better than
the vamped-up illustrations that are often given to the public.
The requests made to me, and the possession of these original
photographs, have at length induced me to make the attempt
(from which I confess I at first shrank) of recording my
experiences in Florida; and I do it, as an enthusiastic sports-
man of long Standing with rod as well as gun, and also as
something of a traveller, in the hope that what I have to
say will be useful to many.


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CONTENTS


PAGE
I. FROM ENGLAND TO FLORIDA I

2. ON THE FISHING GROUNDS. 9


3. SPORT WITH TARPON 16


4. IN FORT MYERS WATERS 39


5. OUR LIFE ASHORE AND AFLOAT 46

6. PASS FISHING 57


7. CONTINUATION OF DIARY 71

8. SOME MONSTERS 83


9. SMALL FISHING 92


IO. THE SEASON OF 1897 101


I I. OTHER SPORT IN FLORIDA . I 5


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ILLUSTRATIONS

The Author Frontisfiiece
PAGE
Map: from the Indexed County and Township Pocket-Map and
Shipper's Guide, published by Rand, M'Nally, and Company, of
Chicago and New York 4
The Ravallia 9
On the Fishing Grounds I0
Two Tarpon I I
Tarpon Scale (actual size) 14
The Friendly Socket 18
Tarpon Reel 19
The Tarpon Hook. 24
Sloop hired from Myers for Tarpon Fishing on the River 27
" He was entering the water with a resounding splash after his aerial
flight 31
"The tarpon with mighty power goes off in one rush 32
"Every one satisfied" 34
"Taking off the Scales" 36
A Small Orange-grower's House above Myers 37


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THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


PAGE
A View in Myers 41

Young Virginian Deer (photographed at Mr. McGregor's, Fort
Myers) 42

Landing Stage at Myers 43

Mrs. Rowland Ward 44

The Birds here illustrated are those usually seen in Florida Waters 47

Yacht Tarpon 50

Dode, the coloured Guide, sitting on Cockpit, holding Tarpon Line 54

Off the main River, about twenty miles above Myers 55

The Sheepshead 57

Two Days' Catch by a Lady and her Husband at Captiva Pass
(Jew-Fish on the left estimated to weigh 795 lbs.) 61

Channel Bass 71

Punta Rassa Cable Station 72

Mr. McGregor's Schooner below Myers, opposite his Winter House 75

The Belle of Myers 77

Fishing in the Caloosahatchie River, twenty miles above Myers 79

Mr. Vom Hofe's Saw-Fish 85

The Saw-Fish and its Captor 87

Saw-Fish taken on Tarpon Tackle 89

The same Saw-Fish getting on to small Boat 89

" Some of them are very queer Fish 93

Black Bass 101

A Quiet Spot 16


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THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA



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FROM ENGLAND TO FLORIDA


THE voyage from Liverpool to New York is, by this time of

day, too well known to require elaborate description. The

track is a well-beaten ocean highway, and a run across "the

herring pond" is seldom of little interest to other than the

passenger. Our experience, however, suggests that I ought to

remind the reader that if he sails after the middle of March

he may expect equinoctial gales. We had them, and obstinate

head seas, until the 3oth, when we congratulated one another

upon our first really fine day; and the assurances that had

been given us of arrival on the Ist of April were, as a matter

of fact, duly honoured by our bringing up in the river about

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2 THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA

five o'clock in the morning to await the pleasure of the medical
examination.
Unless the traveller to Florida has brought his sporting
or other equipment from the other side, he will find it no

New York loss of time to remain a few hours in New York,
purchases, and more especially if he has to provide himself

with the fishing tackle necessary for tarpon and other fish.
The way, as to ship and train travelling, had been made
delightfully easy to me before starting. I went to Thomas
Cook and Son, placed myself in their hands, and after calling
at their office in New York there was no further trouble.
We and our baggage were straightaway booked to the end
of our land journey, namely, Punta Gorda, West Florida.
Roughly speaking, London is nine days from this place.
Before purchasing fishing tackle we went off to the
Museum, where I wanted to examine the casts of Florida
fishes, but as they were very indifferently done, and not
named, I did not waste much attention upon them, devoting
what brief leisure I had to the stuffed alligators, birds, and
other animals; the birds well represented with their natural
surroundings. Here also I was deeply interested to find a
picture of Audubon,--with whom my father travelled over fifty




mop


FROM ENGLAND TO FLORIDA


years ago,-and the gun he used. By the advice of Mr. J. A.
Jameson, who had special knowledge of the subject, I bought my
tackle at E. Vom Hofe's, a practical tarpon fisherman himself,
and a well-known frequenter of the Florida waters. What I
bought will be described presently under the heading Tackle."
It is mentioned here as a reminder, because although tackle
may be procured in Florida, New York is the best place
for the purpose. A good map of Florida should not be at
this preliminary stage forgotten; there will be ample oppor-
tunities of studying it en route. The best map I could procure
was the Indexed County and Township Pocket Map and
Shipper's Guide of Florida, published by Rand, M'Nally, and
Company, of Chicago and New York. It is well indexed,
and the rivers are clearly indicated.
The railway trains are of the customary American type-
Pullman sleepers, and drawing-room cars for those Journey
who prefer that isolated luxury. Passing as you South.
do by Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, and speeding
southward through Virginia and the Carolinas, past Charleston
to Georgia, under any circumstances the run is replete with
interest to the English traveller. Although our day of start
was the 3rd April, we found it intensely hot in the train.


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4 THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


There was a buffet on board with the usual coloured attendants;

but the sight of tinned goods might lead some persons to


FROM THE INDEXED COUNTY AND TOWNSHIP POCKET-MAP AND SHIPPER'S GUIDE.
Published by Rand, M'Nally, and Co., of Chicago and New York.


consider whether it would not have been more agreeable to

have arranged a portable commissariat, along with the other

stores, in New York.


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I FROM ENGLAND TO FLORIDA 5
It may be here mentioned that you may either travel
through direct to Punta Gorda, sleeping two nights in the
train, or break the journey at Jacksonville for one night.
We elected to follow the latter course, and left at 9.30 A.M.;
the other train started somewhere about five o'clock P.M.
There is yet another route, namely, the sea voyage from
New York to Jacksonville. The steamers are large and
luxuriously appointed for passengers, and run frequently and
regularly during the season. This is indeed the favourite
route for the New York people, who are habitual visitors to
Florida. It is the cheapest mode of reaching Jacksonville,
and if a little longer in point of time, has the compensating
pleasures of life on board ship.
We were too early in the season for green foliage and
spring flowers in the northern half of the journey, and, besides,
there were rains, clouds, and high winds. All day on Sunday
(4th April) we were rattling through dreary Georgian pine forest
and swamp, with occasional glimpses of wild-bird life, notably
flocks of gulls, the species of which we were unable to identify.
The weatherboard houses that came into view looked very
desolate under these circumstances. One of the not un-
common incidents of long-journey travel in the States kept


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6 THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA I


us fretting at a long delay within half an hour of the time at

which we were due at Jacksonville. One of the swamp bridges

was on fire, and the repairs kept us six hours waiting. Some of

the car darkies, who seemed to be frightened out of their timid

lives, were afraid of "crackers" (as the blacks of solitary

habits inhabiting those wilds are called), and it was evident

that you had only to put on something white, and play the

ghost, to scare them into fits.

Jacksonville is but a few miles south of the river boundary

of Georgia, and was our gateway to Florida. It is a really

Entering important city, and till within comparatively
Florida. recent times a reference to Florida, even to the

untravelled American, meant Jacksonville and little else. Rail-

way lines now centre there from all points of the compass,

and it has its Government buildings and a choice of fine

hotels. But it was night when we reached the station, and

we were not in the humour to admire or get up any en-

thusiasm, with the heavy rain and humid atmosphere in

which we found ourselves. The comforts of the great Windsor

Hotel, where a few smart people were still staying, were,

however, cordially appreciated. We found a good dinner;

and at 8.30 next morning, after early bath and breakfast,


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FROM ENGLAND TO FLORIDA 7


resumed our journey. The season was now over, and the

hotel was closing in a few days.

Now in truth we were soon able to understand something of

the real Florida, and the enthusiasm with which it is regarded

as a health resort in the Northern States, whence hundreds

of citizens migrate from December to April, to find warmth

and beauty in place of merciless frosts and snows. There are

two aspects of Florida: (i)the dismal swamps and wildernesses

haunted by alligators, crocodiles, pumas, and rattlesnakes; (2)

the fragrant orange groves, palm-trees, and semi-tropical shrubs

and flowers, bright home of gorgeous butterflies and birds.

Beautiful, in the lovely morning, after the gloom of the previous

day, were the orange plantations, and the graceful fan palms

towering above the forest trees. From some of the latter,

festoons of moss-like growths hung like banners. All around,

the greenery was as that of an English June. Here were the

pine and other trees tapped to furnish materials for the

turpentine industry. Flights of buzzards were in the air.

The rivers we crossed, with their banks lined with palms,

would have reminded me of the Upper Nile but that the

ground was bright in its emerald herbage. One pool we

passed was a reservoir of flowering water-lilies, and there were


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8 THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA I

butterflies on the wing of the deepest orange colour. This was
indeed typical Florida, and it was not difficult to comprehend
why the visitors from the New England winter hail it as their
Italy, their "own Riviera."
However, before the eighteen hours in the train were at
an end, we longed for a change. It was in truth at the
last part rather a tedious journey. The principal meal

of the day was taken during a halt at Lakeland, where we
changed to a branch line, the express continuing westerly to
Tampa, called "the Magic City of the Gulf"; it is the fashion-
able resort of pleasure-seekers, and a rival to Jacksonville for
the metropolitan honours of the State. It was slow travelling
from Lakeland, and it was half an hour after midnight when
we reached our terminus, the town of Punta Gorda.
















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THE RAVALLIA.



II

ON THE FISHING GROUNDS

IT was something to be thankful for that we were at last at
Punta Gorda, and actually on the fishing grounds of Florida,
on the coast where tarpon abounded, and where Punta
the waters teemed with other game fishes, not per- Gorda.
haps so distinguished for heavy weights, but beloved by the
angler. Had not one of the pamphlets lying about the saloons
in the train informed us ? Here indeed is the ideal resort of
sportsmen and anglers. Located just below the 27th parallel
of latitude, the temperature never goes below 40 degrees in
winter, and frost is unknown." There was also an alluring
paragraph about a modern first-class hotel beautifully located
in the bay; and at half-past twelve at night that was quite as
important as, "the scenery is all that appeals to the sentiments
of a lover of Nature." But we had literally reckoned without


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THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


our host. The season here was over, and that modern first-

class hotel was shut up.

The dilemma, however, was not very serious, as we in-

tended to go on to Fort Myers by the first steamer, and by


ON THE FISHING GROUNDS.


good fortune we found that there would be. one starting in

the morning, and that we might go on board and take our

berths. This we did there and then, 'obtaining, with the

welcome accommodation, our first acquaintance with the

mosquitoes of Florida, which did us the honour more or less


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to keep us company during the whole of our stay in those
parts.
Although some days were to pass before I caught my
first tarpon, continual references would be made to that fish


TWO TARPON.


by the sportsmen seen or heard of on our sailings and excur-
sions in this interesting fishing country. As a rule, people
there think and talk of nothing else, and I was much amused
one day when a gentleman estimated the proportions of a


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ON THE FISHING GROUNDS


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THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


II


lady about whom we were conversing by the remark: "Well,
she is a very fine woman; weighs quite as much, I should say,
as a 160 lb. tarpon."
Being now, therefore, at Punta Gorda, on the scene of
action, so to speak, I will take the opportunity of unburdening
myself of what I know about the tarpon and how to catch it.
Also, this is the convenient time for informing the reader that
Mrs. Ward undertook the task of making such rough notes

of our daily doings as we thought worth preserving; and

when the tarpon, in its general character, has been disposed
of in the following pages, the entries from her Diary will
be added for such particulars of sport and travel as she
recorded.

The tarpon bears a variety of names, some of which are
already falling into desuetude, though occasionally it is still

The Fish spelt tarpum. He is "The Silver King" and
itself. "The Big-Eyed Herring" of his admirers. The

late Professor Brown Goode deals with it in the chapter in
his work entitled The Herring and its Allies." He mentions
it in connection with the shads, and says the most important
member of the family is the Tarpum, or Megalopus thrissoides,
or M. atlanticus. At the time the work was written not a


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ON THE FISHING GROUNDS


13


great deal was known of the fish as providing grand sport with

the rod and line. Indeed, some notes contributed by Mr.

Stearns may be interesting to quote upon the point, as, in

some respects, showing the somewhat imperfect knowledge

which existed upon the subject within comparatively recent

times :-

SThe Silver Fish, or Grande Ecaille, is common everywhere on the
Gulf coast. It is an immense and active fish, preying eagerly upon
schools of young fry, or any small fish that it is able to receive into its
mouth, and in pursuit of which it ascends fresh-water rivers quite a long
distance. During September 1879 I saw large numbers of Silver fish
eight or ten miles up the Apalachicola River, and am told that that was
not an unusual occurrence. They go up the Homosassa River in
Florida, and several of the Texas rivers, so I have subsequently learned.
The Tarpum will take a baited hook, but it is difficult to handle, and
seldom landed. The Pensacola seine fishermen dread it while dragging
their seines, for they have known of persons having been killed or
severely injured by its leaping against them from the seine in which it
was enclosed. Even when it does not jump over the cork line of a
seine, it is quite likely to break through the netting before landed. I
have secured several specimens, the smallest of which weighed 30 lbs.,
and the largest about 75 lbs. The Tarpum is said to be palatable and
well flavoured.

Professor Goode adds that the sailors' name for the fish at

Key West, Bermuda, Georgia, and elsewhere, was tarpum or

tarpon, while in Florida it was commonly called Jew fish.


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14 THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA I

The exact range of this fish is really unknown, but I have

heard of some being caught at one portion of the coast of


TARPON SCALE-ACTUAL SIZE.


Jamaica, and it has occurred in other portions of the West

Indies, and even the Bermudas. This gigantic herring is by

this time not altogether a stranger to the British public, as


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II ON THE FISHING GROUNDS 15

large specimens, very well set up, have been exhibited from
time to time, and they will soon be in every museum.
The large scales, which are from 2 to nearly 4 inches in
diameter, with about a third of the upper curve covered with
beautiful silvering, are also not unknown, for many successful
fishers for tarpon, although they do not bring home the fish
itself, preserve the scales, which go very easily through the
post in a cardboard box, and are always acceptable as a
trophy.


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III

SPORT WITH TARPON

IT must not be supposed that tarpon are caught every
day; indeed you have sometimes to angle in vain for several
days without a strike. They are, in fact, like all other fish in
the world, capricious, and you have to exercise the virtue of
patience, and be thankful when you get them in the humour.
The tackle used for this big strong fish should be of the

Tarpon very best; hence my advice to the. English angler
Tackle. proceeding to Florida is to expend a portion of

his time on landing in New York so as to put together his
equipment thoroughly.
The rod is generally a bamboo pole, as shown in the
frontispiece illustration, with a short butt of about
The Rod.
1 feet in length, and the entire length of the
implement should not be more than 7 feet. After the more












or less limber salmon and trout rods of the old country, this

rod handles very strangely at first, but you will soon fall into

the right manner of using it; it proves very powerful, and it is
surprising how far you can cast with it. A tarpon rod can

be bought in New York for 2 or less, and those at the

figure I name, as I can vouch from experience, are really good.
As there is always a chance of killing a 200 lb. tarpon, or
something heavier still; as, moreover, there are accidents by

flood and field to be always guarded against by the prudent

sportsman, I should advise taking three rods and sets of

tackle, although I only took two. Mr. E. Vom Hofe, of

New York, is, as already stated, himself a very successful
tarpon fisher; he has therefore taken great pains to perfect

all details of tackle for tarpon fishing after consultations with
brother anglers, and, from his and their experience, is there-

fore both practical and reliable.
The best class of butt, including German silver reel
fittings, costs about four dollars, and the six-foot tips are
made of either greenheart, split cane, or plain bamboo, and

range between five and twenty dollars each. Most of the
habitual tarpon fishers have rings on opposite sides of the
rod, and the end ring lined with a movable collar of agate.
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SPORT WITH~~i TARPONV


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THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


No doubt the rush of a tarpon, with 200 yards of line on the

reel, if very often repeated, would soon make short work of any

ordinary soft metal, but I never suffered at all from not having

an agate ring. The rod I

Im -iiy found most in use during

.. m my last visit was the one

illustrated, with the butt

whipped round with thin

cane as with some of our
THE FRIENDLY SOCKET. English trout rods.

It is not customary to have a large knob at the end of the

butt, and this must be considered when it is remembered


The that at times an enormous strain is laid upon
Friendly the personal strength of the angler. The first
Socket.
tarpon I caught, for example, took me one hour

and a half to kill in rough water, holding on by sheer force

all the time. Hence the use of the friendly socket, which is

fixed to a leather belt. It is of course obtainable at the tackle

store. This simple contrivance is a real convenience, and

should not therefore be omitted in the equipment. Some

anglers use thumb-stalls, either thickly knitted or of leather,

to protect the fingers. At one time they were considered


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Tarpon line (actual size).




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The check or drag.
TARPON REEL,











































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SPORT WITH TARPON


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indispensable for manipulating the somewhat fine line when it

is being rushed off the reel; but I preferred the leather stall

or drag which is fixed to the reel; and I noticed that the

majority of tarpon men from the States who go to Florida

season after season rarely use the thumb-stall.

The reel, as illustrated on p. 19, is the item of tackle which

should be most carefully selected. It often occurs that the

battle is lost or won by it. My purchase was
The Reel.
E. M. Vom Hofe's striped bass or tarpon reel,

described in his catalogue as "finest quality rubber and Ger-

man silver, full steel pivot with German silver bands, S-shaped

balance handle to screw off, sliding oil cap, tension click drag."

It is a beautiful piece of mechanism, runs on ball bearings, but

it is, from an English point of view, very expensive. It is by

the attached leather drag or guard, as seen in the illustration,

that you are enabled to put on the necessary check when the

line is running out rapidly. As you suffer very much from the

absence of this, you will never, after paying the penalty of

forgetting it, go without it. Cautious use is required if you

would avoid cut or broken fingers. The reel should hold from

150 to 200 yards of line, for it is always wise in this, as in
other fishing, to be in a position to cope on equal terms with


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THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


III


the very largest fish. I used my Vom Hofe reels pretty hard,

and it is but fair to say that they never played me tricks, or

failed in the slightest degree at a pinch. The novice will

learn by experience how to avoid getting foul of the handle-

an accident that has been known to result in a broken finger.

Tarpon reels vary in price, and they are made of a hard com-

position that renders the salt water harmless. Of course, with

the work they have to do, they are on the multiplying principle.

The best tarpon reel in the market, at the time of my visit, so

far as I saw, was that patented by Mr. Vom Hofe, and it cost

about 7. I had two sets of tarpon tackle (besides a general

set), but most people take three.

The English stranger never fails at first to express his

astonishment at the comparative fineness of the line, and its

seeming soft texture. The Americans make very
The Line.
good linen lines, however, and that for tarpon is

excellent. Even the smallest-sized of the above-mentioned reels

is made to carry 200 yards of the thread linen line. Lightness

is therefore the primary essential aimed at, and however much

at first you may be incredulous, you will at length admit that

the end justifies the means. At the same time, my opinion is

that these lines would be better if they were soaked in stearine,


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or some such preparation that would keep the brine out, and

would lessen the trouble of looking after when brought back

to England. Mr. Alfred Harmsworth, in the chapter he con-

tributed to the Badminton volume on Sea Fishing, makes the

suggestion that tarpon lines should have a distinct colouring

for each 50 yards or so; his reason is that when the line gets

wet and swells, it is difficult t6 tell how much is left on the

reel. Silk lines have been tried, and other materials, for fishing

in Florida, but the most experienced of the tarpon men stuck

loyally to the thread line which I have described, and which is

figured on p. 19.

What in England we call a trace, collar, or snood, is in

America called a snell, and this is probably, next to the

winch, the most important part of the tarpon
The Snell.
equipment. The type which I adopted and

adhered to was made of a strip of raw hide, and that is what

is figured in the illustration in front of tarpon. The principal

objection to this leather snell (though at the same time it is an

advantage) is the ease with which it is bitten through by the

sharks which you are continually hooking on the tarpon grounds.

If you would avoid this vexation, and can put up with consider-

able loss of time, you may use a snell of cotton cord, loosely


--*---_- -


L 1


SPORF~T WITH TAPL'PO.Pvr


IlII


23










THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


woven, and wound around with copper wire. (The

snell that is armed with wire is often woven so as

to appear something like the wick of a lamp.) I

maintain, however, that, all things considered, the

raw hide snell is best, for when your bait is taken by

a shark, there is an immediate severance, and an

end of the trouble. This strip of leather is fastened

to the line by a loop.

There is a regulation hook made for tarpon, and in

the illustration it has been photographed its full size.

S H The reader may remember that Mr. Stearns,
The Hook.
quoted by Goode, refers to the difficulty,

experienced at the date of his writing, in hooking the

tarpon. The truth is, the interior of the tarpon's mouth
is most curiously plated, and there are few vulnerable

spaces into which the barb of a hook can penetrate.

There are holding places somewhere in

the roof and around the rims of the

lips," and once I hooked a tarpon in
the tongue. For the rest, a hook has

as much chance of penetrating the sides

THE TARPON HOOK. of a tarpon's mouth as of a stone wall.


-%- I I -- IV - 11 I . - -a


~~c~-=T


24


III












SThe hook that will pierce that plating has not yet been
fashioned. What is used for tarpon has therefore been
designed for service with gorge bait; its destination must be
the gullet of the fish, and once there, there is not much
chance of a breakage or ejectment, if the hook be of the
right length, substance, pattern, and temper. Such a tarpon
hook as that illustrated 'seemed to me to ably fulfil each of
these requirements.
For the one pattern of hook used by the tarpon fisher there
is generally one kind of bait, namely, a piece of the common
gray sea mullet. There are seldom times or
The Bait.
i places on the coast when an ample supply of bait
cannot be secured, since the elevation of tarpon catching to a
popular sport has resulted in the creation of the businesses of

guides (or gillies), bait-catchers, and hangers-on. The mullet
is cut into three parts, and the tail section is generally chosen for
bait. All scales are removed, but the head is preferred by some
,fishermen, and I think Mr. W. Ashby Jones caught his big six
feet nine inch fish (172 lbs.) with this. He told me that in his
opinion the tail was a mean bait." The hook is passed so that
the snell is threaded through the lump of fish, which will be per-
haps five inches in length, and therefore heavy enough to be cast




ti


I II I II I I I I


SPORT WI-TH TARPONV


III


25










THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


out without a leaden sinker. The narrow part of the bait is

upwards, and the barb of the hook sufficiently embedded not

to assert itself too rudely during gorging, yet not too far to

admit of ejection should the tarpon feel that way inclined.

There is no fishing for tarpon from "the bank." You

have to go afloat, cruise hither and thither in pursuit of the

The Angler shoals of fish as they rove in search of food over
in action. the oyster beds, amongst the marine vegetation,

or on the shallows of the lagoons. To proceed with comfort,

you hire a sailing sloop or steam launch, taking in tow the

flat-bottomed, square-sterned fishing-boat which is in general use

on the waters of the Floridan coast. It has a revolving arm-

chair fitted to the after thwart. I saw a very nicely arranged

keel boat with centre-board, however. It belonged to Mr. R.

T. Holloway, who used only this kind of boat, and got about

remarkably well in the river. You often have a sail of twenty

miles before finding your fishing-ground, and all the while your

glasses will be sweeping the surface of the water on the

search for signs and tokens of fish movement.

At last you are in sight of a shoal of tarpon. They may

be in commotion, either breaking the water sharply, showing

their backs in the slow and regular movements of the porpoise,


.-.---~ ------I


-5.^


26


III











III


SPORT WITH TARPON


27


or swimming with the dorsal fin, and its queer whip-like

terminal, hoisted above the surface. The anchor is dropped,

sails are taken in, and if the ground is suitable for gorge bait


SLOOP HIRED FROM MYERS FOR TARPON FISHING ON THE RIVER.


operations, the angler and his man get into the rowing-boat,

and pull say 0oo yards from the yacht, though sometimes the

pull is a matter of a mile instead of yards. The small boat is

anchored, and sometimes a pole is fastened near the stern to

keep it steady. Your guide, indeed, will take his bearings and













/ ---


U!II




s-- a
-e;;*%kE~4~1 -.p- C--


I- --- - -- I


28 THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA III

choose his ground just as our Thames fishermen select their

swims. It may be that you have the great tarpon all around

you, and can see their swirls as the fish, head downwards, are

foraging amongst weeds or on the bottom.

Now you make ready your tackle, and bait your hook.

The reel already described is well fashioned for the process of

casting Nottingham style, and a 20 or 30 yards
At Anchor.
cast or more should be aimed at. When the

tarpon is biting heartily he is very free and fearless, and I have

had my bait snapped within half a dozen yards of the boat.

The portions of the mullet which you do not use for bait are

broken up and cast in for "chum," which is the local name

for ground bait. It often happens that this is the prelude to a

long period of waiting. There yonder is the bait lying on the

bottom; the rod is placed down in the boat, with a few yards

of line coiled off free, as in pike-fishing. Two rods, and even

three, are sometimes used, one from each bow and one from

the quarter. Your man will handle those in the bows, and it

is your business to sit on the thwart facing the stern and look

after your own affairs.

Sometimes for hours you are worried by the dirty, slimy

cat-fish, which simply swarm on these grounds. I believe










III


SPORT WITH TARPON


29


there are two or three varieties of them, but the grunting ugly

beggars are a terrible nuisance, very frequently spoiling your
baits one after another. You may get a sudden Some
rush with a shark, which had better be off than Nuisances.
on, or you may be bothered by crabs which fool about the
bait most aggravatingly, and manage at last to cut the line, you
being all unconscious at the time of what has happened.
By and by you.will see the line running out a few yards

and stopping, and that should be your warning that a tarpon

has seen and taken your offering of dead mullet. Tarpon at
The fish may keep on running in greater or smaller last.

spurts, but anyhow your business is to let him gorge the bait

thoroughly. The line must not be checked for a moment; so
slight a hindrance as the obstruction of a weed or blade of

submarine grass coming in contact with the line has been
known to result in the tarpon rejecting the bait.
By this time you have your rod in hand, ready for events,

and ever watchful that the line is free. Take time; let the

tarpon gorge at his ease. In this, as in some other kinds of
fishing, there is more danger in being too hasty than in being

too slow. At the same time there is a limit to caution, and

the warrant for striking is when the fish has taken out from


ohm





II


-`--_~-n??~--ca~-r-7 ---~ ~.-)- Ll L-- r I~ ~ -----C-C- ^--- --L

i
,d

I


30 THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA III


30 to 60 yards of line; gorging will by that period be in nine
cases out of ten effected. Then you tighten the line gently

but firmly. If your reel is supplied with the leather guard

before referred to, you press your thumb upon it and upon the

spool of the reel; or if you use the thumb-stall this is the time

to test its value. When the line is taut you may strike, but not

very hard. Some good anglers do not strike at all; they treat

the tarpon as old gorge-bait pike-fishers did the jack. Never

forget that the tarpon if suspicious is marvellously quick in

ejecting a bait which has not been absorbed beyond recall.

One of the most glorious sights I know of is the dashing

action of a tarpon when hooked. Frequently, perhaps, in the

majority of cases, he shoots perpendicularly out of the water,

with rolling eye, and head to sky shaking with fine fury ; when

it is a big fish, and this soaring column of silver is 6 to 7 feet

high, the effect is verily exciting. One of the tarpon which I

caught leaped at least its own length in the air, not only once,

but several times in succession, the water-drops scattering in

showers as he rose.

My ambition (let me remark in passing) was to take a series

of photographs of the hooked tarpon in its fights for liberty.

Wind and weather were against me at the otherwise favour-


-










III


SPORT WITH TARPON


31


able opportunities, and my success was not what I had hoped;

still, such as it is, it is a genuine photograph of what happens.

I tried hard to get my fish as he shot out of water into


"HE WAS ENTERING THE WATER WITH A RESOUNDING SPLASH AFTER HIS
AERIAL FLIGHT."

mid-air, but missing that situation, just succeeded in fixing

him as he was entering the water with a resounding splash

after his aerial flight, having also blown the bait far up the line.


I


-I ~-~- --- -


"r I I I II I II I I


I











32


THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


III


Finding after its leap and fierce shaking of head and

shoulders that the hook is not to be got rid of in that manner,

the tarpon with mighty power goes off in one rush, perhaps

a hundred yards, without stopping. The wise angler, of


"THE TARPON WITH MIGHTY POWER GOES OFF IN ONE RUSH."


course, lets him go, with a taut line, but without any real

attempt to check the express pace. The guide in the boat

meanwhile will be getting in the other lines so as to have

presently a fair field and no favour for the hooked fish; the


El--- --- -- ---_ II : _~


-t;-----~-- -;._ __- -.~-I-












anchor and pole of the boat must also be let go. Although,
therefore, you do not attempt to stop the game, you by

and by put on all the drag you can with the short rod.
You fix the butt in the socket of the waist-belt, the leather

protection (either guard or thumb-stall) is pressed with judg-

ment, but firmly against the spool, with one hand, while the
line is pressed with the fingers of the other above the reel.
You are now in for probably a smart tussle. The rod is
held perpendicularly by sheer strength; it is "giving him the
butt" with a vengeance, and the top of the little implement, if

of the proper make, bends well to the work. Far away from

the boat, as if it were some one else's fish, out comes the
tarpon again, glittering, into the air, with its portmanteau-like

mouth wide open; then on falling back with a splash upon the
water it lashes the surface, trying ever to get rid of the hook.

Sometimes the fish is pretty quickly killed: I have known
it done in twenty minutes or half an hour; at other times, as

I have previously stated, the sport may last over an hour, with
the severest strain on arms and back during the entire contest.

Many an American fisherman employs great force just to see in
how little time he can get his tarpon in.
The fish should be brought up to the boat as quickly as
D


II


;r


SPORT WITH TARPON


III


33












34


THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


III


possible, for that is a golden rule in all angling. It will not

be done without frequent rushes, but the experienced boat-

man will meanwhile have been backing towards and following


"EVERY ONE SATISFIED."


the fish about, paddling gently; so that you may find yourself

the best part of a mile away from the place where you hooked

your fish before you come to close quarters. The tarpon when

near the boat, and partially exhausted, has a vicious habit of


,-- ----I.


Ii


~2~888t.2


..~-,
"~' '~-.~naaFnaP~s~
j~ar~pol;~N4&~~.~i i
.,-a~ssss~p.s~trirs~Fp~,~i~~l
1-

Xre~8llsr~B~i~i~

i~..., 1 ~.~~.3










III


SPORT WITH TARPOA


35


burrowing head downwards, and it is not an uncommon thing

to have your boat a second time towed about a lagoon as if

the fish would never be tired out. Even when apparently done,

and the grand game Silver King, by sheer hauling, is brought,

apparently worn out, in on his side, he will renew his flounder

around, or attempt to go under the boat. This is a most

exciting moment, but the short rod enables the angler to frus-

trate the manceuvre without great difficulty.

You now want a sound gaff and a smart gaffer. Many

American fishermen, I noticed, used a strongly-barbed gaff-

an example which I did not follow, though there
The Gaff.
may be crises which would suggest it. The gaff,

anyway, is thrust underneath the gills into the throat. There
are stories of strong fish breaking the gaff, dashing free from

it, and knocking the boatman backwards, clean out of the

boat, in its violence. Sharp and sure, but not reckless gaffing

is an art, and there are some of the Florida guides who never

make a mistake. The operation properly effected, the boat-

man passes the end of a rope through the gills from the

outside, secures with a loop, and makes fast to the boat; then,

every one satisfied, and the angler sitting him down to recover

his breath, the fishing-boat is paddled back to the yacht, the


U


I


`L I





THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


III


tarpon towing astern. Arrived at the yacht the fish is

triced up.
No one eats tarpon, and the series of photographs, here

The Dead reproduced, of the catching of a tarpon will indi-
Tarpon. cate the final disposal of the game to obtain which

so much trouble is taken. The yacht has arrived in port, the


















"TAKING OFF THE SCALES.

tarpon is landed, and the coloured man in the foreground is

in the act of taking off the scales. The fish is weighed and

measured, and entry made of the size and circumstances. The

operation of removing the scales is done by the guide. This

does not concern the angler much, and as a matter of passing


1~1 1 I tarI __ la I I I I


II


36




III


SPORT WITH TARPON


37


incident, the angler in this particular case (myself) may be
seen disappearing up the wharf towards the hotel. The tarpon
is not prized for anything but its sport, and after the scales
have been stripped off, the carcase is left on the wharf; next


A SMALL ORANGE-GROWER'S HOUSE ABOVE IMYERS.


morning it may be covered with vultures, and it is finally
taken away to be used as a fertilizer for the orange trees.
Mr. Charles Stewart Davison, a New York gentleman,
contributed to The Spirit of the Times, at the close of the
season in which I took my share, the results of long experience


IIIIII I 1II h II


I





II


I I I-- I


38 THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA Il

and observation as to tarpon. He observed that the fish feed
up with the flood tide, along the banks of the channel, and

Tarpon settle back with the ebb. As the season pro-
Haunts. gresses, however, they are found farther up, in

the narrower parts of the river ; but in March, when the season

may be said to begin (though May is the best month for sport),

the gorge-bait fishing grounds would be where the river is per-
haps a mile or so wide. I have traced the tarpon forty miles
up the river, which would be twenty odd miles above Myers.

The favourite haunts are along the edges of banks of the
channels, in perhaps five or six feet of water, and here they
love to be on the alert chasing mullet.




















IV


IN FORT MYERS WATERS

THE reader may not have forgotten that we had arrived at

Punta Gorda (see page 9) and found refuge on board a

steamer, the St. Lucie; nor that Mrs. Rowland Ward was

appointed note-taker in ordinary to the expedition. The
following entries from her Diary will be, therefore, a resump-
tion of the narrative which was broken off in order to discourse

upon the fish of which we were sure to hear everlasting talk
wherever we went; and I make no apology for using them,
because they will indicate very fairly what lady visitors to

Florida would be likely to experience. And here beginneth
the Diary.

Tuesday, 6th April.-Awake at 5.30 A.M., and up and about by
seven, when the steamer left Punta Gorda; not many passengers
on board, but among them an elderly gentleman, a Mr. Plant, the
owner of the well-known Plant railroads and steamers in this part


I I I I ( II


I- I -





of Florida. He was going to visit Mr. and Mrs. McGregor, who
very kindly saw that he caught a big tarpon before he left, which
for a man of his years is a great accomplishment. We had a
lovely journey, as there was a delicious breeze. One cannot see
much of the country on such a trip, as the rivers are so wide and
the steamer keeps in the middle, except at the ports, where she
touches to land passengers, mails, etc. Passed a lot of small porpoises,
which kept right along by the boat; coming up the Caloosahatchie
River passed the boats out fishing for tarpon. Fort Myers looks very
pretty from the river-all the wooden houses with their verandahs in
amongst the green orange groves, and large palm trees. Landed
about 3 P.M., and after looking at the Hendry House decided to stay
at Myers Inn. Have two nice rooms, unpacked our things, had
dinner, and went to bed, very tired and hot.
Wednesday, 7th April.-Got up about seven, and after breakfast put
our things straight and looked about the village, which is a funny
little place, with a street running even with the river, with a good
many stores, which the men seem to laze about outside; in these
parts they work very little. In the afternoon, sailed over and rowed
up to Yellow Fever Creek, which is very pretty along the banks,
with their mangoes, big palms, palm fans, and large ferns. Jim1
fished with the Phantom minnow, hooked five fish, but lost all,
which was unlucky. Saw a Moccasin snake curled upon some
rushes; Jim shot him. We also saw some ducks and water turkey.
Lovely day, and in the evening no breeze. The tarpon boats had
to row back. One gentleman brought home three fish weighing
160 lbs., 123 lbs., and 7I lbs.; they looked very handsome, lying so
silvery in the moonlight.


1 Jim in these entries means Rowland Ward.


_


I u


THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


40


IV











IN FORT MYERS WA TERS


Thursday, 8th April.-Jim was off by 6 A.M. fishing. I had a
lazy day, working, reading, and writing on the verandah; it being very
hot we could not walk about, but there was a nice breeze on the


























A VIEW IN MYERS.

river. Jim returned about 4.30 P.M., having had no luck with tarpon;
no one caught any to-day from Myers.
Friday, 9th April. Jim went fishing at 6 A.M. Lovely, fine,
sunny morning, but about 0o o'clock a bad thunderstorm came up,
with torrents of rain and a strong wind; the river looked quite rough.
Jim returned about 4 o'clock, tired, without having caught anything
except two lady-fish. Rained all the evening. Went to bed early, as
Jim had bad cold.


III U i I .


.I _______ .


IV


41


ii
a





i
i
j











42


THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


IV


Saturday, iota April.-Jim did not start early, and as by TI
o'clock the weather looked bad again, windy and cloudy, he made
up his mind not to go fishing to-day. At 2 o'clock it blew hard and
commenced to rain, and continued until evening. After breakfast,


YOUNG VIRGINIAN DEER (PHOTOGRAPHED AT MR. MCGREGOR'S, FORT MYERS).

walked round village stores and met Mr. McGregor; then walked out
to his house and saw the tame deer. Such a nice house and grounds,
and they have a yacht in which they cruise and live.
Sunday, I tI April.-A fine sunny day, but windy indeed. Jim


I III


~I












IN FORT MYERS WA TERS


started about 6 A.M. The guide hooked a tarpon opposite the hotel,
but his line broke and it got away. The fishermen did not hook
any others. Returned about 5 o'clock. I read and sat on the


LANDING STAGE AT MYERS.


verandah. Mr. Parkinson called in the morning, and while talking
to him a black snake walked along the middle of the verandah, but
directly we got up and went to look at it, it dropped off and glided


I I I


- --~- ----~-


IV


43


;j
'











44


THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


Iv


away through the grass; they are quite harmless snakes, and as they
are believed to kill rattlesnakes, rats, and mice, the people do not
destroy them. But I don't like the things. Very tired; went to bed
early.
Monday, I2t/z April.-Jim off by 6 A.M. Sunny morning, but



!
i I < -






; i,.-;

A f







MRS. ROWLAND WARD.

windy. I had breakfast at seven, then walked up the village to the
stores; on returning met Mr. Parkinson, who called to give me a
rattlesnake poison fang, which I shall have mounted as a pin, like
that which he wears. Went with him to a "Canning Co." in the
village, where they have 25 acres of guava and orange trees, and
make guava jelly and preserve the fruit in tins. There was no
ripe fruit, but Mr. Gardner, the owner's son, said he thought they


~III'I I 'I I I-II


I










Iv IN FORT MYERS WATERS 45


would have a thousand barrels of guavas this year. I tasted one the
other day, and did not care for it at all; it was something like a very
poor green fig. On our return we went into Hartigan's and saw some
small alligators, and skins of rattlesnakes, very handsome ones. Jim
returned about 4 P.M. with a fine tarpon, 125 lbs. weight and 6 ft. 3 in.
long, a beautiful silvery fish; sent it to Hartigan's to be skinned.
Went up the village and on The Tarpon, which arrived about four, and
ordered in our stores, etc., to make an early start in the morning.
Terribly windy day.


El l III


Ii-





















V


OUR LIFE ASHORE AND AFLOAT

WHILE entry by Diary has its advantages when it is written
from a lady's point of view, and should therefore not be
tampered with (as the foregoing has not been), there are
drawbacks. For example, the Diary states that I lost five fish,
"which was unlucky." In truth it was due to the hooks
hanging loose (I afterwards rectified this) from the Phantom
minnow, and the snags. That day I saw numbers of ospreys,
darters, buzzards, coots, and other birds. As to Punta Gorda,
when I came on deck in the morning previous to our start I
found a white mist veiling all the prospect, mullet splashing
all around, and flocks of duck (scaup) sitting in happy con-
fidence on the smooth water.
At Fort Myers Inn my first impression was that it was
all verandahs ; and one evening (it must have been the 9th)


II, -


oil" '-, --- ---- --- -- o mbk

























































THE BIRDS HERE ILLUSTRATED ARE THOSE USUALLY SEEN IN FLORIDA WATERS.


_r __ r __ __


I I




--4LI- -- r~---C-



b
E





49


the fireflies were splendid, floating through the rainfall. Those
verandahs were certainly a fine institution when you wanted
to get away to write, read, or meditate. I may
Life Ashore.
state, too, that on the 8th April Mr. Holloway,
a noted tarpon fisher, caught three tarpon, one weighing
163 lbs. On that day I saw another angler losing a tarpon
after it had towed his boat about a mile and a half, and
jumped out of water several times. The catastrophe occurred
quite close to my boat, and the angler had lost three pre-
viously on the same day. In the morning I was startled
while reading by the noise of wings, and looking up saw
some two hundred ducks within shot.
At Fort Myers, just where the Diary on a preceding page
is interrupted, a break occurred in our method of living. We
left the inn and took up our quarters on board an auxiliary
naphtha yacht, named The Tarpon, on the I ith April. I
chartered her for 22 dollars a day, and put in her about five
pounds' worth of naphtha, which is very cheap there. Besides
this the crew have to be provided with food. The reader
may see what she was in appearance by the illustration.
As to the living ashore, perhaps the fairest opinion I
can offer is that it might be better and it might be worse.
E


II I 1 3' I]


OUR LIFE ASHORE AND AFLOAT





1


50 THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA v

In an out -of-the -way corner of the world like this you
cannot expect the luxuries of a great city, or a fashionable
watering-place like Tampa, higher up the coast. The style
of living at the inn was, generally speaking, the American


YACHT "TARPON."


fashion, which surrounds you with a number of little dishes;
but it is no use pretending that the meat was otherwise than
tough, and as it is produced from the lean kine of the adjacent
woods, and has to be cooked very soon after killing on




T ...--. -,--- --------- --- ----- ------_-~WI- ------- r~--- -i----.-^. ------ -r-7~-------I---





v OUR LIFE ASHORE AND AFLOAT 51

account of the heat, its quality may be readily imagined.
There is, however, an abundance of good fish, but the most

acceptable dishes were the turkeys and the chickens, though
they were not on the menu as often as they might have

been.

The chief meal (dinner) was at 6.30, and the vegetables
consisted of ordinary and sweet potatoes, white French beans,
and tomatoes. Corn bread was the general staple, and they

gave us sweets, with either iced tea or hot coffee. The cook

was a black man, so also was the waiter, who, besides looking
after us at meals, did all sorts of things, I believe, such as

milking the cow, feeding the chickens, and meeting and seeing

off people by the steamers. It is true there were no baths at
the inn, but good-sized washing tubs were provided as a sort of

compromise. I must say that the host and hostess did the

very best they could for their visitors, and were unceasing in
their attention. Probably by this time there is a large hotel
built at Fort Myers, with all the improvements and attractions

for visitors which I understand characterise the hotel at Punta

Gorda, which we found closed. Our charges at the hotel were

two and a half dollars per day, or fifteen dollars a person per

week. Wine, beer, or spirits you must provide for yourself;


MU m










52 THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA v

and if you want good whisky take it from the Windsor Hotel,
Jacksonville.
The yacht, on which we made our home on leaving the
hotel, was a little vessel between 20 and 30 tons.
Cruising.
There was a main cabin used for a dining-saloon
and drawing-room, and its centre-board top made a tray, on
which stood the iced drinking water, with its usual tap, and
various odds and ends. Two beds were made up on the cabin
cushions, and we were supposed to be protected from mosquitoes
and other insects by a gauze screen, which, as usual in such
cases, proved ill-fitting, and admitted the few pests which were
amply sufficient to interfere with our comfort.
We had much better food on board, for our little Jap
cooked admirably, and we took care to lay in plenty of stores,

having arranged for a supply of beef and mutton from Jackson-
ville. This meat came down by steamer in a box, packed in
ice, and all we had to do was to send our boy in the yacht's
boat to fetch it. In this way we also got chickens and venison.
The prices paid for these welcome contributions to our larder

were-venison, 121 cents per lb.; eggs, 25 cents per dozen;
chickens, 35 cents each; turkeys, I dollar; milk, Io cents per

quart.


C_ ___I i _I.




r--C ----r 2^--C--C-"- -p-7- C-






v OUR LIFE ASHORE AND AFLOAT 53


Our best meat was the venison, which was very tender. I

believe it was the close time for deer, but somehow we had

no difficulty in purchasing a supply. We had delicious tomatoes

and French beans, and we could get any quantity of these

wholesome vegetables at low prices. Indeed we had them for

nearly every meal, and thus by'the aid of omelettes and a sort

of pancake, in the composition of which our clever Jap chef

was a real artist, we did fairly well. How he managed his

work was a standing wonder to us, as the galley at which he

had to do everything was only a few feet square, and his fuel

apparatus was the three fires of gasoline making big flames,

with usual fittings for cooking utensils.

There were, of course, on board drawbacks of no inconsider-

able character, but as we survived them all, I will not enter

into details as to the monster cockroaches which used to run

over us, and the leaks which soon forced their attention upon

us. These boats being uncoppered, the hull has no protection

from the destructive worm which bores into the wood ; and it is

not pleasant when you get up in the morning to put your feet

into dirty water which has come in by leakage during the night,

and to have to get the pumps used daily. Naphtha launches

are used a good deal in these waters, and I saw no accident


__ ------ ------- -


E

















































I


Ilj I ,










T4HE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


nor heard of one with them. At the same time, they require

very careful handling; and as an American said to me years

ago in New York, "They are all right in some people's hands."


DODE, THE COLOURED GUIDE, SITTING ON COCKPIT, HOLDING TARPON LINE.

As I went to America long since to see this type of engine,

I perfectly understood what was meant. The fact is, naphtha

is a more dangerous spirit than most people ever really imagine.

I should recommend, however, a sloop as the best form of
sailing-boat for cruising on the fishing grounds-such a boat as


I1


54




I I ___ III


OUR LIFE ASHORE AND AFLOA T


55


is depicted on another page (p. I o). It is much cheaper, and
can be hired at reasonable prices. You can engage a man with
sailing boat and small boat at, say, from 5 dollars a day.


OFF THE MAIN RIVER, ABOUT TWENTY MILES ABOVE MYERS.


It is not necessary to follow my example and pay 22 dollars
a day.
A man wishing to be very economical, and who has no
objection to living under canvas, may set up his tent on a
place like Captiva Pass, about which something will hereafter


J


El-~-~----










56 THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA v

be said. He would then only require a rowing boat and a

man for fishing purposes, and if only intending to fish for

tarpon, two rods and lines and one reel will be sufficient.

There is generally a launch or sailing boat at hand to tow

him to the grounds, or he may have his lug sail for his

own open boat: He might cook for himself, or utilise his

boatman. As there is a steamer passing daily, there is no

reason why, wind and weather permitting, he should not

get away as far as five miles for choice of fishing grounds.

The insect pests, however, would be a consideration as the

season advanced. Stores he might procure from Jacksonville.

At the time of going to press I hear that Captiva Pass now

has a floating hotel--not a bad idea at all. It was constructed

and is conducted by Mr. J. B. Hughes of St. James' City.


IIcl-l ...- 3~ 1 -






















THE SHEEPSHEAD.


VI


PASS FISHING

THE expression "Pass Fishing" which you hear so frequently

amongst the regular fishing visitors to the west coast of

Florida, the guides, and the residents, is both geographical

and, in a measure, technical. It at once indicates a special

fishing ground and a style of angling which is different

altogether from the commoner practice, in pursuit of which

the angler sits meekly in his boat, praying humbly and waiting

meekly for a bite.

The place is the Captiva Pass, spoken of sometimes as

Captiva, but more often as "The Pass." As a Captiva

reference to the map shows, it is off the west coast, Pass.

a channel between two islands; and the tide, in and out of the


\ \


L~










THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


Gulf, according to the laws of ebb and flow, spring and neap,

runs at from 5 to 8 knots an hour. The breakers outside are

no doubt picturesque and musical in their roar and murmur,

but they are mighty in power, and always gave me the

impression that, although this may be and is an excellent place

for miscellaneous sport, it is not exactly the spot in which one

would care to be capsized. In fishing, however, the boat is

anchored well clear of this apparent danger. Sometimes at a

push it is necessary to have your boat on the move as quickly

as possible, and it is the custom therefore to attach a buoy to

your anchor, and so, at the critical moment, it becomes simply

a case of casting adrift from your moorings and picking them

up afterwards.

The style of fishing here is commonly called trolling, but

Trolling or it is not at all that according to our English
Trailing. acceptation of the term. Perhaps it may be best

described as automatic trailing. It differs in most essential

respects from gorge fishing for tarpon. In the Pass you sit

with your rod in hand, with some 30 or 40 yards of taut

line out, and everything free for the running of the reel when a

fish strikes. The current works the bait briskly enough for all

tactical purposes. A large spoon or an artificial minnow


I ~IIC_ __ __II__-LL~-Yii-4L


I I I I I


VI









vi PASS FISHING 59

would of course be serviceable at this work, but as you are
always likely to get hold of tarpon, bass, and other big fish, it
would be necessary to reckon upon an enormous loss of baits.
It is in consequence the common practice to bait your single
hook or triangle with a thin strip from the side of a mullet.
There is very seldom any mistake, in one sense, about Pass
fishing, for the tarpon and other species when they are on the
feed dash vigorously at the moving bait. They prowl around
within a few feet of the boat, and take the bait almost before it
touches the water. The hours sometimes are very lively, but
the percentage of misses is enormous. In the case of tarpon
the bony mouth explains the cause, and if you get one fish in
ten you may think yourself very fortunate. It should also be
remarked that a very strong reason for fastening your boat
to moorings rather than an anchor, as at Fort Myers and up
the river, is the likelihood there is of a big fish, on being
hooked, making directly for sea as hard as he can. Yet it
occasionally happens that even in this style of fishing in the
Pass there is no sport, no sign of fish, and then it is the proper
thing to cast yourself free and pull slowly about, adopting
what is, to all intents and purposes, the harling method which
we all know so well in Norway and Scotland. If you hook a


I ,










60 THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA vI

monster when so engaged, the sport is prolonged at will; your
man can take you leisurely ashore, and gaff the fish at his ease
in shallower water.
It always occurred to me that an angler who was content
to see his baits carried frequently away, and equipped him-
self now and then with ordinary spinning tackle, might have a
real glut of sport in this style of fishing, casting from right and
left, and experiencing sensations and excitements, along with
smashes and losses, such as could not be exceeded anywhere.
i On another page I have made allusion to Mrs. Grimshaw.
She is the lady who, in the Badminton Magazine, described

SMrs. rim= her experiences of tarpon fishing, and of Florida
shaw and generally. She pictures Captiva Island as a very
her Sport. beautiful spot, its beach sparkling with myriads of

shells, and its semi-tropical growths of prickly pear and palmetto,
all charming. Indeed, she describes the spot as enchanted, and
was evidently much in love with it. She stopped in one of the
huts inhabited by the Spanish fishermen, but in 1897, I fear, she
would have had a very hard time, for the place was infested
with mosq|toes and sandflies, which at times made life almost
unendurable. The fisher people, who supply you with bait and
are very obliging to the visitor, told me that there had been


I '













none the previous year, so Mrs. Grimshaw was very fortunate.

The lady's first impression as to the general scenery of Florida

was similar to our own. She was struck by the monotonous

dead levels, and the succession of swamps and lagoons, but


TWO DAYS' CATCH BY A LADY AND HER HUSBAND AT CAPTIVE PASS.
Jew-fish on the left estimated to weigh 795 lbs.


she saw a certain charm in the groups of palmetto trees,

the brilliant masses of creeping flowers, and even the murky-

looking bogs and lagoons, with the possibilities of alligators and

rattlesnakes.

In the matter of sport, Mrs. Grimshaw's experience in this


r --- -- ----,I.,_ _ ~______ ~___ _ __ __


PASS FISHING


VI









62 THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA vi

Pass (which is A mile wide and mile long) is that the likeliest
haunts of the fish are the tide rips. When there are a number
of fishermen out, and each is striving with amusing eagerness
to get the best anchorage (" swim we should call it at home),
the sport is intensified by the necessity there is of the boats
looking after one another; for it is an unwritten law amongst
Florida sportsmen to clear out at the moment of action, and
not get in the way of another man's fish; and when, as I have
seen, three or four men happen to be engaged simultaneously
with a fish, the fun is fast and furious. The raw hide snell is,
i in Pass fishing, exchanged by many for a length of piano wire,
Which will hold anything; and the same rod is used as in
gorge-bait fishing.
The number of misses in proportion to strikes is illustrated
by Mrs. Grimshaw's statement that her husband once counted
seventeen strikes in thirty minutes to his own
Fine Sport.
rod, without one fish being hooked. It did
actually happen to her that, hooking a big fish which came

up four times, always in a fresh place, shaking his head
frantically, her guide promptly flung out his buoy, and the
boat was at once towed with a seven-knot tide towards the
Gulf. This was by a hooked tarpon, and the course I have












described of pulling gradually in towards the beach was fortu-

nately adopted. The boatman jumped into the knee-deep water,

Mrs. Grimshaw scrambled after him, and waded ashore, and

it was then that the real tug-of-war seemed to commence.

The lady angler confessed that it was no joke running up the

shingly beach, as she did, with 130 lbs. of fish fighting for dear

life at the other end of the line. The battle is most vividly

described in the Badminton Magazine; victory came, the fish

was duly gaffed, weighed at 125 lbs., and measured at

6 ft. 3 in.

The next night her husband hooked a gigantic fish which

towed him quite into the Gulf, and he and his guide

disappeared for two hours, were searched for, and found

triumphant but exhausted after a fight with a tarpon weighing

175 lbs. Mr. and Mrs. Grimshaw were in great luck at that
time, for the same night the former caught a second tarpon

weighing 150 lbs., and she herself another of 135 lbs.; well

might she write, "they did look three beauties lying side by

side in the moonlight."

Reference will be noticed in the Diary to Mr. Mygatt.

There is no better known name in these waters than his, and

it may be remembered that he also contributed two articles


___~LT~.. I___:~-----dL ~ __~ ___ I I_ _1___.._ .~~__ _~


A ASS FISHING~N


VI


63









THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


on tarpon fishing to the Badminton Magazine in 1895. He
has fished the same waters on successive seasons, and is

Mr. therefore fully qualified to speak. His first season
Mygatt's left him a decided pessimist, for his luck was
Experience. wretched; but after his second and subsequent

seasons he became, and remained, what he calls a "rabid
optimist on the sport." That was a grand day of his when he
caught eight tarpon of 155 lbs., I38 lbs., 128 lbs., r39 lbs.,

136 lbs., Io Ilbs., I19 lbs., and 78 lbs. With the exception
of the last, which was 5 ft. Io in. long, all these fish were
considerably over 6 feet in length, one of them, and that not

the heaviest, reaching 6 ft. 8 in.
During the same season he had other enviable days, and
his heaviest fish was 182 lbs., and at that time it was, as far
as Mr. Mygatt knew, the longest of which there was any
accurate record, for it measured 7 ft. 4 in.
According to this gentleman's observation the tarpon fre-
quent the shallow lagoons and the brackish and often sheltered

Tarpon water of the adjoining creeks from September to
Seasons. June, but during the rainy season, viz. from

June to August, they seem to abandon the creeks altogether
and also the upper lagoons; he imagines that this may


I I I II ,. I I II I '1


64


VI































































Il


__.._~..-. __ _-I_.._ --..L I~~~---_,-,-_ -----r._~ ..,_1,_.~1~~--~- -,- --,-.--~-rr,~


vi PASS FISHING 65


be accounted for by the combined reasons (i) that the

water becomes too sweet for the fish; (2) that they go out

into the Gulf to spawn. From my own inquiries and the

answers I received to my questions I should imagine that there

is no very authentic information as to the times and manner

of spawning, but Mr. Mygatt states distinctly that he never

caught any fish in roe before May. He confirms my

opinion that the best months for catching tarpon are April

and May in the spring, but he also adds that October and

November are good months. For the angler who wants to

have real sport, concurrently with pleasant weather, April

and early May are preferred. I notice that Mr. Mygatt,

like myself, would also like to hear of a specially effective

hook, devised to penetrate and grip the hard interior of the

tarpon's mouth. He believes that then the fish might be

taken with a large fly.

It has been said on a previous page that small tarpon may

be caught with a fly, and that Mr. Parkinson, an English

gentleman, actually did obtain the record for the Artificial

smallest specimen of tarpon with one caught with Tarpon Fly.

that lure. Mr. Mygatt narrates how he took his very first

tarpon with a huge fly made by himself. He was up the south
F


L __ --~-- --.-~~-~~


U




























Ij


66 THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA vi

fork of the St. Lucie River, using a channel bass rod, trolling

and casting for crevalli, with a spoon bait, when a tarpon seized
the hook, jumped, and escaped scot-free. All that day he

continued striking fish and losing spoons and phantom minnows.
In one tarpon school he thus had nearly fifty 'strikes. He
returned sadder and wiser to his sailing boat, and spent hours

in dressing "most complex and weird jumbo flies"; returned

to the spot next day, and found what he thinks was the same

school of tarpon, which had advanced by this time some two

miles farther up stream.

His flies were made of pieces of wood 3 inches long by
1 inch in diameter, covered with red flannel, and tied with

three or four feathers. Each was about 4 inches long, and
terminated with three bass hooks, set at different angles-a

lure, in fact, very much like the flies we use in England for
pike fishing in shallow lakes. There was no end to the rises

at this delicacy. The angler repeatedly struck hard enough to

make the fish jump out of water, but they always managed to
t rid of the fly or sever the snell. One fish at last did take

the fly and the hooks, and after forty minutes' battle was

gaffed. This was Mr. Mygatt's first tarpon, but it had been

taken by one of the hooks entering the skin that covered the




II I :


vi PASS FISHING 67

head. There must have been a bit of smart angling here, as
the hook had ripped along the skin for about two inches,
and the hold was so precarious that the fly fell off as the
fish flopped about in the boat.
Tarpon fishing at night is recommended by Mr. Mygatt.
He declares it if anything more exciting than in the daytime,
since to "the many usual details are added the indescribable
fascination and mystery of darkness. To catch Night
tarpon at night by moonlight is pretty hard to Fishing.
beat for sport, but I must say that to catch them on a-pitch-
dark night when all the playing has to be done by the feeling
of the strain on rod and line is the most exciting sport I
know of. I certainly prefer night fishing. It is always cool,
there is rarely any wind, and if not late in the season, not
many mosquitoes."1
At Captiva Pass you fish best on the flood-tide, and it
was while here that Mrs. Ward and myself lived on board the
yacht. We arrived there on 14th April, after some At the
"small fishing," and reached our anchorage in time Pass
to have an hour or so of fishing before dark. Here Anchorage.
we soon had strong evidence of the obdurate character of the

1 "Some Tarpon Adventures," by Otis Mygatt, Baldminton l Magazine, October 1895.









THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


interior of a tarpon's jaws, for we lost a number of fish, and
the other boats that were there seemed to be having a similar
experience. Mrs. Ward lost two fish in succession, after she
had played them some time and certainly deserved to bring
them to land.
Sharks are a great nuisance here, and it is no uncommon
thing to hook your tarpon, and after holding it a while, the line

comes back, and you find a couple of feet taken
Sharks.
off the fish at one fell swoop by one of these preda-
tory sea-wolves. In still, shallow water, sitting one day in my
boat angling for small fish at the back of an island and over an
oyster bed, I saw a shark sheer alongside the boat, punting

itself lazily and unconcernedly along, and it certainly was not
less than 14 feet long. On the point of Captiva Pass at the
time of our visit was the camp of Mr. Von Blake. He caught
a large number of tarpon, and the season before our visit, I
believe, he had achieved the very fine record of 70 fish. We
were not the only English visitors: there were several English

tr gentlemen there, doing well; and one of them told me he had
had ten strikes, but had lost every fish.
The Pass, at certain times of the tide, seems to abound
with fish of all kinds, and with their antics on the surface re-


1 1111 111 1 I I I I __


68


VI










PASS FISHING


sembles nothing so much as a boiling cauldron. While you
are fishing, the tarpon are on the move all around, and some-
times they are so numerous that they might be Miscel-
Miscel-
taken for a shoal of gigantic mackerel. There laneous
is no shyness in these uneducated fish: they come Sport.

near the boat; indeed they sometimes jump right over and
even into it. The tarpon, which in certain lights show a

bright blue edge to the scales, look most charming in the

water with their light green backs and silvery sides. Turtle,

although very shy, come up and go down in the Pass alongside

your boat, and having shown their Venetian brown heads,
silently steal away. Some of these I should imagine would

weigh at least 400 lbs.

The beautiful Spanish mackerel (Scomnbciunoriuts maculatus)

is caught here; it has shades of gold all along the side,

curiously marked, and suggesting that they have Spanish

been smudged on with a human finger. One day Mackerel.
I saw a gentleman catch 35 mackerel with his fly-rod and

artificial fly. My fly-rod was of course left behind, but I

furbished up and put a white fly on the tarpon tackle, and

caught a number of mackerel with this primitive form of fly-

fishing.


I I -I


------


VI


69










THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


There is another species, known as the lady fish. It is the

same species, I think, as that called the bone fish, or grubber, in

The Lady the Bermudas. It is the Albula vulpes, and it is so
Fish. prime a game fish that it elicited the praise of Dr.

Henshall, the famous American angler-author. He had been

catching in quick succession salt-water trout," as the squete-

ague are called, a few red fish or channel bass, some ravallia

and crevalli, but his 3 lb. lady fish gave him more real sport

than any of the others. The specimens I caught here were

certainly remarkably sporting. Slender and silvery, they fought

as well as the black bass, and leaped from the water--not going

straight upwards, however, like a tarpon, but shooting out right

and left, as if they wanted to learn the tricks of the flying fish.

Mrs. Ward celebrated her Good Friday inside the islands of

Captiva Pass by catching a large number of channel bass, and

so-called trout, in the slack, shallow water. My remembrance

of the place is principally of fishing I had by moonlight, when

the heat and mosquitoes gave me the agony of swollen feet

and general discomfort that were very trying. I lost a very

decent tarpon on this ground, but went out next morning at six

o'clock and got 20 lbs. of weak fish, two bass weighing 9 lbs.

each, and eight lady fish averaging 14 lbs.


--.~. 1--------~ .------r-~ ~_.+t-....~.... , __~_-^--...- ------._~


VI


70





-1 -' i. ...












CHANNEL BASS.



VII


CONTINUATION OF DIARY


WE may now return to Mrs. Ward's Diary, taking up the record

at Fort Myers, from which I have somewhat strayed, by antici-

pation, to explain the different style of fishing in the Pass.

STuesday, I3th April.-Hairdresser came at 6.30 and shampooed
my hair; had breakfast, and about nine we were ready to start on The
Tarpon. When we left the hotel dock, large buzzards were all round
it after a tarpon which had been thrown down there and was not
wanted. There was a fine strong breeze and we sailed well. Passed
all the little boats, tarpon fishing, and about I 1.30 arrived at Red Fish
Point, where we dropped anchor and put up the awning. We had
lunch and then started fishing; Jim and his guide in one boat, and the
Captain and I in another. I caught a Spanish mackerel and missed
one or two strikes. Jim caught two trout" and twenty other fish.
This was not considered good, as the tide was wrong and there was
too much wind. Still, very peaceful and nice on board.
Wednesday, i4th April.-Up at 5-30 A.M. After coffee, started off
fishing in the boats soon after six, A beautiful calm morning, and the














THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


sun shining; but no luck followed me, and the Captain and I only

had one strike and caught nothing, though we trolled for two hours

before returning for breakfast. Jim caught some "trout." After

breakfast, at about 10 A.M., we started for Captiva Pass; there being

little wind, we steamed as well as sailed. Passing Punta Rassa, the


PUNTA RASSA CABLE STATION.



men hailed us and gave us a cablegram for Jim. Already they had

learned to identify us by thelboat.

Arrived at Captiva and dropped our anchor soon after 4 P.M.

A few minutes later we were both out in the Pass fishing. I caught

nothing, but Jim hooked a tarpon, which jumped finely and got off.


I I~ Ill c~--L--------- ---- ~-


C:


72


VII


I..rouc~iasrs

---:_.-,.-.-rr
---r .
-, .r
r--.- Ir~ L~-:T~J . * ." ~
r~ '
.'..-: I;PI-iP-~ I-llr
.~ i .-..: Zb~::. ~. :' L~:~ ~ ~~ ;i~~-;~-~
:~ I" ,.r:.*P ~:.*;~ r










vii CONTINUATION OF DIARY 73

A very hot day; could not stay on deck. Coming along from Red
Fish Point, the heat was great, but now it is deliciously cool under the
awning. We are only about o00 feet from the shore of the island,
which has a beach of nothing but small shells; a few Spaniards live
on it in huts made of palmetto grass. They are fishermen and catch
the mullet in nets. The water is alive with cat-fish; when anything is
thrown overboard, they generally come round in hundreds and fight
for it.
Thursday, 5th April.-Up at a quarter to six and had a cup of
coffee, then started out fishing. I went over to the other side of the
Pass and along the shore of the island; trolled and caught thirteen
squeteague weighing 17- lbs., one bass 6- lbs,, and two bass 5- lbs.
Returned about 9 A.M. to breakfast, and found Jim had only caught
six squeteague. Nice fine morning with strong wind. The
mosquitoes are very tiresome, and last night bothered us a good
bit; the Captain had to come up and sleep on deck, they were so
bad in his cabin. Jim caught two red grouper and one black grouper
in the morning. Started out to the Pass again about 3.30 P.M.
Heaps of tarpon playing about in the water; I hooked two, but after
two or three jumps they were gone; they were very big fish and
the pull was tremendous. I fear I should never have strength to
play and land one, but must try. I saw only one gentleman catch a
tarpon this evening, but several had strikes. Went in to dinner at
seven, and early to bed. Terribly hot night; Jim could not sleep
at all with the heat and mosquitoes.
Friday, I6th April.-Lovely sunny morning. Up at 5.30 A.M. and
out fishing early. Caught three squeteague and a small "jack "; seeing
a shoal of mackerel, went and trolled among them and tried all kinds of
bait, but could not hook one, though the water was alive with them.
Landed at the island at Mr. Von Blake's camp, and saw two lovely


__ I I I










THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


tarpon he had caught this morning at 4 A.M. One weighed i65 lbs.
Several other tarpon were hooked, but a shark mangled two of them,
leaving only the head of one.
Jim had good luck before breakfast, for which he returned rather
late, having caught two bass of 9 lbs. each, fourteen squeteague weighing
20 lbs., and eight lady fish weighing 14- lbs. He had thrown several
lady fish in again and lost a very big bass. About 4 P.M. he went out
into the Pass after tarpon, and hooked one but lost him. Cooler
towards evening; the wind got up, and it became very cloudy. The
mosquitoes seem less plentiful; last night they were terrible.
Saturday, I7th April.-Under weigh about 6.30 A.M. Wind having
all dropped, had to steam. Stopped at St. James; went ashore and
bought some bread and eggs and other things at the store; then
walked up to look at the Don Carlos Hotel, a nice building, with only
one gentleman staying there. In the garden, tied to a tree, was a
small alligator, about 6 ft. long; its mouth was bound up with string,
it made a most funny noise, and would have lashed one with its
tail if you had gone near enough. Steamed up to Red Fish Point,
dropped anchor about three, started to fish for tarpon, but had no
luck. Wind got up in the evening, and it blew very hard in the night.
It had rained off and on all the morning, and was very cloudy.
Easter Sunday, i8th April.-Still at Red Fish Point. We started
fishing off the boat about seven, before breakfast. Had no luck, only
hooked two small sharks. Fished all day off the boat, but caught
nothing. Jim rowed down the river a little way and caught'some
squeteague and lady fish. Fine day with strong wind.
Monday, 19th April.-Saw no tarpon about when we looked out;
therefore determined to go up the river, and at 6.30 started and
steamed three miles above Myers. Jim went out in the row-boat, but
seeing no fish about, we started down the river and I went off the


I I I I '


I .- I


74


VII










VI


CONTINUATION OF DIARY


75


yacht to the inn. Jim, however, went out fishing again, but soon had
to return, driven home by a terrible wind-storm with torrents of rain,
and thunder.
Tuesday, 20th April.-Jim up at 5 A.M. and out fishing by six;
caught a tarpon I 14 lbs. weight opposite Mr. McGregor's, the other side


MR. McGREGOR'S SCHOONER BELOW MYERS, OPPOSITE HIS WINTER HOUSE.

of the river, about 3 o'clock; landed at the McGregor and walked home.
Fine, but very windy day.
Wednesday, 2 ist April.-Very windy. Jim did not go fishing and
had a quiet day.
Thursday, 22nd April.-Another windy day, and as it blew hard
all day, none of the gentlemen went out fishing. Mr. Batley arrived


El










76 THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA vii

about 7.30 in the morning with a pair-horse hack, and we drove nine
miles out in the country to see some fine orange groves. We
travelled through ground thick with palmetto green and fir trees,
except where it had been burnt down or cleared for an orange grove.
I The road was in places very sandy, and we went through streamlets
and across wooden bridges over the creeks. Some of the orange
I groves were fine big trees, twenty years old, and others quite small
ones just planted; between the trees, sugar cane or tomatoes were
growing. The tomatoes are ripe now and being shipped daily in
boxes to the northern markets. On our way back, we stopped at the
experimental station supported by the State, and saw some acres of pine-
i, apple, but none of them ripe. There are twenty varieties growing
, there, and all kinds of plants and flowers. The man in charge gave me
a beautiful crimson hybiscus bloom and two or three roses. Got
i back about 12.30 to the inn.
Friday, 23rd April.-Lovely sunny morning with wind dropped
a little. Jim took a black guide, named Dode, and started off fish-
ing about 8 A.M., returning about 5 o'clock with a tarpon weighing
41 lbs. Mr. Van Cortlandt got one also, weighing 62 lbs. ; none of
the others staying here brought any home. They hooked several but
lost them.
Saturday, 24/h/ April.-Fine morning, but still windy. Jim started
off about nine, fishing, and returned about five with a tarpon of
92 lbs.; he was the only visitor at this inn who caught one.
Sunday, 25th April.-Lovely morning with wind dropped. We
were up at six, and at seven started off up the river in the little steamer,
the Belle of Myers, which we had hired for the day. We voyaged
18 miles to a place called Telegraph Creek, where we stopped for two
or three hours and fished. It was very pretty going along the
river, which gets narrower as we advanced. We saw five or six










CONTINUATION OF DIAR Y


alligators, which dropped quietly down into the water when they heard
the boat, and were lost to sight. One small fellow was swimming
across the Creek in front of our boat. We caught about twenty
fish, mostly small bass. Stopped on our way down and fished a
creek; reached Myers about six. The wind had by this time risen,
and was blowing hard from the west in the evening.
Monday, 26t/h April.- Lovely morning. Went out with Jim,
















THE BELLE OF MYERS.

fishing, about seven, and returned about 3 o'clock, but never even saw
a tarpon. Mr. Jones caught a tarpon weighing 187 lbs.
Tuesday, 27th April.-Jim up and off by 6 A.M. Lovely day, very
hot indeed and calm; he never even had a bite, though he saw lots of
tarpon. Mr. Holloway caught four beautiful fish and Mr. Van Cort-
landt one.
Wednesday, 28th April.-Jim off by six. A lovely morning, and
still very hot. He returned about five with a nice tarpon of 122 lbs.
Mr. H. caught two of 162 lbs. and 157 lbs.; and Mr. Van C. two
just over I00 lbs. each.


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VII


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78


THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


VII


Thursday, 29th April.-Dull morning, with more wind. Jim did
not go out -early, but after breakfast went up the town, and started
about nine fishing. Blew up to a strong gale, and river got very rough.
The fishermen all returned early about three with no tarpon.
Friday, 30oh April.-Woke at 2.30 A.M. by a bad thunderstorm,
which lasted until eleven with pouring rain. No fishing.
Saturday, Ist May.-Jim went out fishing.
Sunday, 2nd May.-Jim up early and went out fishing. A lovely
day; he returned about 4.30 with a large saw-fish on his boat which
Mr. Vom Hofe had caught; he had it on for over two hours before he
could see what it was; it was 14 ft. long and 41 wide, and weighed
about 600 lbs. We all photographed it.
Monday, 3rd May.-Up at 4.30 and had breakfast; went on board
the Clara to start at six; proceeded to Punta Gorda, thence by train to
Lakeland and Jacksonville.


There is really very little in the shape of narrative to add

to the entries of this Diary. Lady readers will, no doubt, have

Ladies been interested in reading of the sport which Mrs.
in Florida. Ward herself enjoyed, and if a lady can endure

the heat, mosquitoes, and a certain amount of roughing it in

Florida, she might pass a very pleasant time with a lightish

rod and tussles with a variety of fish. I managed one day to

get a shot at the good keeper of our Diary, but it was not

under favourable circumstances. The overpowering sun on

that May day proved too much for the details one would have


ji


....... ..










CONTINUE TION OF DIAR Y


liked to emphasise. This was towards the end of our visit,

and the angler, as seen, has been having some fair sport in the

river, very near the spot where Mr. Parkinson caught his small

tarpon with a fly. She is really engaged in putting on a


FISHING IN THE CALOOSAHATCHIE RIVER, TWENTY MILES ABOVE MYERS.


phantom minnow to replace one which has just been rudely

snapped off by a predatory bass.

Tarpon fishing is, however, very severe work for a lady,

but it must be remembered that the record amongst anglers of


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VII


79




I I I I I I I I I


80 THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA VII

both sexes is the tarpon of 205 lbs. caught by Mrs. Stagg.
We saw her tackle on board the yacht, and in the cabin were
photographs of five fish caught by her in two days' fishing in
the Pass. One of these tarpon had the best part of two feet
bitten off by a shark.
As to all that has been said about mosquitoes, although
perhaps the references to these little pests have been too many,
they made such an impression upon me that I am bound to
say the facts have not been at all overstated. They always
made very free with my ankles, and on one occasion they had
bitten me so furiously that I was absolutely unable to sleep,
and had to keep my poisoned and swollen feet and ankles in
iced water for a while. The sandflies are also, as in other
parts of the world, worse than the mosquitoes, both from their
numbers and their minute size.
I see no mention made in the entry of 27th April of Mr.
Ashby Jones's heavy fish. This was the same gentleman who
Mr. Ashby a fortnight before hooked a large tarpon which
Jones's big towed his boat about a mile and a half, jumped
Tarpon.several times, and escaped, not very far from our
own boat; and he had also lost three on the previous day.
During dinner on the 27th April we heard that Mr. Jones had


I


id





a II


vii CONTINUATION OF DIAR Y 81

killed a tarpon of 201 lbs., and it was stated during discussion

that this was 4 lbs. less than the record fish caught by Mrs.
Stagg. After dinner, therefore, I went with Mr. Van Cortlandt
and other visitors to see the monster. It measured 6 ft. i in.,
and girthed 41 in. Without question it was the finest fish I
had seen, and by the light of the lanterns it looked really
bigger than it was. Talking over the measurements, and not
being quite able to make them tally, the fish was reweighed by
all the scales which could be borrowed in Myers. These weigh-
ing machines, being those of sellers and not buyers, varied a

good deal, but we ultimately agreed to book this fish at 178 lbs.
The following clipping, from an American paper, is the
story of the smallest tarpon already incidentally mentioned:-

Mr. A. T. G. Parkinson now holds a tarpon record. He hasn't
beaten Mrs. Stagg's record of 205 lbs. for the largest fish, but he has
gone to the other extreme and caught the smallest
A Baby
tarpon on record. The baby tarpon was taken with a
Tarpon.
fly at Alva by him on 2ist January last, and weighed
11 lbs., length i8 in. Last week he was fishing for bass at the same
place, using his rod and reel with a phantom minnow, when he caught
another baby tarpon weighing 2 lbs. and measuring 19 inches. The
scales upon which the records are placed are not larger than a cent
piece, and make quite a contrast alongside the large three-inch scales
of the ioo lb. tarpon.




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THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


VII


Amongst the scraps which I cut out of the papers during

our sojourn in Florida was one which I here quote, not as

A Lake of an incident of sport, but as a curiosity of river
Fire. scenery at Fort Myers :-

Many northern tourists go to Nassau to see the lake of fire or
phosphorescent lake, for which they pay the privilege fee of forty cents.
Now the phenomenon is so common at Fort Myers that it is seldom
ever thought of, and it is treated so passingly common that the atten-
tion of strangers is rarely ever called to it, when in fact it would 'be
one of the greatest attractions to them. The waters of the Caloosa-
hatchie, during the darkness of the night, are not infrequently seen
glowing with a phosphorescent light; with every movement its waters
burst into brightness, and the refulgent waves appear like billows of
fire. The phenomenon is one of great beauty and magnificence. While
rowing a boat on a calm, dark night there will be a faint, delicate light
dripping from the oars, while, apparently, a streak of fire will follow
the boat. Fish can be plainly seen in the water, which makes them
easy victims of the grains," and furnishes great amusement for the
lovers of piscatorial sport. Steamers plying the waters often drive
before their bows two billows of liquid phosphorus, and in their wake
they will be followed by a milky train, which makes a seething and
hissing noise. If in the dark it presents a splendid exhibition of
aquatic fireworks, looking as though a thousand living rockets were
seen shooting from the steamer in all directions, and whirling about in
flame-like paths, till the whole river will seem medallioned with fire.


I I.






















VIII


SOME MONSTERS

IN the verandah, notably Murderer's Row, at Punta Rassa, the

evenings are whiled away over the cigars with marvellous stories

of monsters. There was tnuch talk of a certain
Fish Yarns.
Devil's Ray that is 20 feet across and weighs any-

thing up to a ton. These creatures are to be taken by the har-

poon, and there were samples of that form of tackle on board Mrs.

Stagg's yacht. From the few clear statements I could gather I

conclude that this undoubtedly must be Ceratoptera vampyrus.

As to tarpon, my biggest of 128 lbs., and Mrs. Stagg's

of 205 lbs., were mere dwarfs compared with the fish which

was said to have leaped on board a steamer between Fort

Myers and Punta Gorda, and smashed in the galley door as

if it had, been made of cardboard. Another yarn was that

an angler hooked, played, and lost a tarpon in the river,


III


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84


THE ENGLISH ANGLER IN FLORIDA


VIII


near Myers, and that the identical fish was caught within
four-and-twenty hours in a different river seventy miles dis-
tant. These and similar stories never lose in the telling, and
they are always well told and most diverting.
Personally I can vouch for a very large saw-fish. It was
the very biggest specimen which I have seen caught with

A Huge rod and line, and I had the privilege of assist-
Saw=Fish. ing in its capture. The photograph was happily

very successful.
We were out one day gorge-fishing for tarpon, and Mr.
Vom Hofe was anchored not far from my own boat. I
happened to look up just as he had hooked a fish; that it was
no small fry was soon evident. It was running deep down,
and there was no leaping in the air or breaking the surface.
It towed the boat about for nearly an hour and a half, and I
set off to render any assistance that I might. The boatmen
had decided, from the working of the game, that it was a saw-
fish, and I was able to photograph some of the closing scenes.
I put a man on board Mr. Vom Hofe's boat, and all in good
time the monster was brought alongside and secured by the
adroit slipping of a noose over the ugly saw, which was most
conveniently fashioned by nature for such an operation. A


3 11I I I II II




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