19th & 20th Century

The Michigan Grayling

FishPerhaps the most important of these efforts to describe fishing beyond the East Coast was by the editor of Forest and Stream, Charles Hallock, in his The Fishing Tourist (1873). Hallock describes his travels across much of the United States in search of salmon and trout. Of particular importance to us is a chapter titled "The Michigan Peninsula." In this chapter Hallock provides the first published description of the Michigan grayling, thymallus tricolor. This and succeeding books were so successful in extolling the virtues of this fish and attracting increased angling pressure that the species was essentially extinct in the Lower Peninsula by 1900. Today it is difficult to imagine that in 1874 an angler could board a train in New York City, ride to Fort Wayne, Indiana, and then switch to the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad-"The Fishing Line"-with Reed City, Michigan, as his ultimate destination in order to angle for the Michigan grayling. But both The Fishing Tourist and the popular Forest and Stream inspired exactly that type of trip. The Clarke Historical Library also owns a very scarce copy of Charles Hallock, Vacation Rambles in Michigan (1878), which describes his own trip through the state via the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad in search of the Michigan grayling.1
Hallock was not the only author to reveal the secret of the Michigan grayling to the sporting public. George Dawson, Angling Talks (1883), and A. Judd Northrup, Camps and Tramps in the Adirondacks and Grayling Fishing in Michigan (1880), provided significant books about the grayling. Some two years after the death of the esteemed Thaddeus Norris in 1879, an article attributed to him titled "The Michigan Grayling," which contained a number of errors, was published in Scribner's Monthly. It is not clear that "Uncle Thad" authorized the publication of this article before his death.

 

Other Late-Nineteenth-Century
Works of Importance

Many other classic works on fishing followed in the 1870s and 1880s. John Lyle King, Trouting on the Brulé River (1879), relates the tale of a group of Chicago lawyers fishing for brook trout on the river bordering Michigan and Wisconsin. Charles Stevens, Fly Fishing in Maine Lakes (1881), and D. W. Cross, Fifty Years with the Gun and Rod (1880), were both important works of this period. Alfred Mayer, Sport with Gun and Rod (1883), reprinted many significant magazine articles of the time, including the previously mentioned article on Michigan grayling by Thad Norris. L. B. France, With Rod and Line in Colorado Waters (1884), is an example of classic angling literature from the western portion of the United States.


James Henshall, The Book of Black Bass (1881, 1889), and More About the Black Bass (1889), provided an important new emphasis in American sportfishing for this species. In the 1904 edition, he extols the bass, describing it in his famous quotation as "inch for inch and pound for pound the gamest fish that swims."


Charles Orvis and Frank Cheney, Fishing with the Fly (1883), followed by Favorite Flies and Their Histories (1892), compiled by Orvis's daughter, Mary Orvis Marbury,provided some of the first colored representations of American fishing flies. Of equal importance is the fact that these authors also invited contributions from anglers around the country, who described their favorite patterns and successes. In Fishing with the Fly, Henry Vail of Cincinnati writes about "Fly-Fishing on the Nipigon" in the Lake Superior region for the world's largest brook trout. "I believe that trout in the Nipigon River would rise to a moderate-sized canary bird if it could be properly cast," he asserts at one point. In another chapter, the famous fish culturist Fred Mather details the history of the Michigan grayling.


In Favorite Flies and Their Histories, Mary Orvis Marbury gathered comments from many anglers regarding effective fly patterns and illustrated them with wonderful colored plates. Not only was she one of the first American female angling-book authors, but also in this book she wrote about the large number of women fly tyers who labored to create the many colorful patterns in use during the latter part of the nineteenth century.


Fish Culture

The Draper Collection houses some unique materials from the nineteenth century. Although New York State is famous for its Fish and Forest Commission Reports (1895-1904) that contain many outstanding Denton fish prints and bird and animal illustrations by other artists, earlier it published a very scarce twenty-three-volume set of Report of the Commissioners of Fisheries of the State of New York (1869-1894). These volumes are particularly useful because they detail the increasing practice of fish culture and the development of the trade of fertilized eggs and young fry of trout, grayling, whitefish, and other species between various state agencies. One of the first plates of a Michigan grayling is found in these reports, as is one of the first illustrations of a rainbow trout that had been transplanted from California to the eastern United States.


There were many important volumes published in the nineteenth century on the practice of fish culture. There were few laws regulating the distribution of eggs and fish, and the practice was widely hailed as augmenting the sport of angling. In addition to the 1868 book by Thad Norris, we find works by Theodatus Garlick, A Treatise on the Artificial Propagation of Fish (1857); Seth Green, Trout Culture (1870), and Home Fishing and Home Waters (1887); H. Slack, Practical Trout Culture (1872); Livingston Stone, Domesticated Trout (1872, 1877); Seth Green and Robert Roosevelt, Fish Hatching and Fish Catching (1879); and Fred Mather, Fish Culture (1900). In addition, the United States Fish Commission began its annual Reports in 1871, and the Michigan Commission on Fisheries provided its first report in 1873-1874 (published in 1875).


During the early 1870s Michigan lakes and streams were planted with many varieties of salmon. It has been claimed that the very first brook trout to be planted in Michigan's Lower Peninsula was deposited in the Tobacco River in Clare County in 1870 by the father of the famous turn-of-the-century lumber baron, author, and conservationist from Saginaw, William Mershon.
Shortly after 1870, brook trout became widely distributed throughout the Lower Peninsula, while rainbow trout (1876) and brown trout (1884) were later planted in Michigan waters. The brown trout planted in the Pere Marquette River represented the first planting of this species in the United States.


Fishing Clubs

Although Norris described angling as an individual experience, American fishing clubs began to emerge as social organizations even before the Revolutionary War. The Schuylkill Fishing Company of Philadelphia was founded in 1731, and a memoir of this club was first published in 1830. Sportsmen's clubs were often created for purposes of natural-resource protection and, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, occasionally provided sites for fly-casting competitions. However, many of these clubs were simply places where like-minded men could come together for convivial and sporting purposes. An example of such an organization is the Pere Marquette Club, which was founded in 1892 by William B. Mershon and his associates from Saginaw. Such clubs were common throughout the United States. Mershon also bought or leased three different railroad cars that served as both the transportation and the "clubhouse" for his well-known "Saginaw Crowd" for the group's fishing and hunting trips around the United States.


Fly lureMershon was an extraordinary sportsman and conservationist. He authored two wonderful volumes that focused on conservation. The first book, The Passenger Pigeon (1907), chronicled the years leading up to the extinction of this species, including some unbelievable descriptions of Michiganhunting scenes. His second book, Recollections of My Fifty Years Hunting and Fishing in Michigan (1923), is the best available account in book form of the extinction of the Michigan grayling. Mershon also published hundreds of articles in sportsmen's magazines around the country and helped found The Michigan Sportsman. William Mershon labored unsuccessfully for many years to encourage Michigan to reform its game-warden system and also to pass laws restricting the open season for grayling fishing. In 1907 he established the first flies-only waters in Michigan on the North Branch of the Au Sable River.


The Draper Collection contains an extraordinary holding of paper booklets from the Second Presbyterian Fishing Club, which sponsored annual cruises from Philadelphia down to Delaware Bay. A hilarious comic summary was published annually as a log of these adventures. These works were titled Log of the "number" Annual Cruise of the Second Presbyterian Fishing Club of Philadelphia on the Schooner "boat's name." There appear to have been twenty-one annual cruises; and, according to Henry P. Bruns and his definitive Angling Books of the Americas (1975), the first eight existed only in manuscript form. While he had never seen volume eighteen, he thought that volume nineteen was the last published. The Draper Collection contains fourteen copies (1882-1892) of these extremely rare club logs, including at least four different Logs that Bruns never saw.


Many other important angling books of the late-nineteenth century represent advancements in fly-fishing. J. Harrington Keene, a transplanted Englishman, authored Fly Fishing and Fly Making (1887, two copies), which contains actual fly-tying materials pasted onto the pages of the book. Frederic M. Halford (1886), an Englishman, wrote Floating Flies (1886), and Modern Development of the Dry Fly (1923). His work emphasized the use of dry flies and was instrumental in shaping the work of others. Mary Orvis Marbury's book illustrated twelve of his patterns.2


Twentieth-Century Literature

In the early part of the twentieth century in the United States, perhaps due either to the diminishing number of new frontiers or locales with easy-to-catch trout or to the greater population of finicky brown trout in many streams, American angling literature increasingly focused on fly-fishing and "matching the hatch" of natural trout-stream insects. Emlyn M. Gill, Practical Dry-Fly Fishing (1912), focused entirely on dry fly-fishing; and George M. L. LaBranch, The Dry Fly and Fast Water (1914), and The Salmon and the Dry Fly (1924), furthered that emphasis. The Englishman G. E. M. Skues, in The Way of a Trout with a Fly (1921), advanced the use of nymphs. Edward R. Hewitt, Telling on the Trout (1926), Better Trout Streams (1931), and Secrets of the Salmon (1922), expanded the knowledge of fish vision underwater and how such knowledge should influence the development of fly patterns.
Louis Rhead was one of the most talented angling illustrators, writers, and innovative fly tyers of the early twentieth century. His Speckled Brook Trout (1902), is a lovely book, while American Trout Stream Insects (1916), contains beautiful and detailed examples of what he called "natural" flies.3 Although Rhead's influence on twentieth-century angling literature was immense, he drew much criticism for his willingness to abandon entomological classification schemes in favor of his own nomenclature. He also omitted the details of how to tie his flies and restricted the availability of his patterns to firms such as William Mills and Son in New York City. Today, Rhead is also known for his very rare magazine posters from the 1890s-for Century, Scribners,and Bookman-as well as for his many illustrations in early children's books.


Many fine books from the mid-twentieth century are represented in the Draper Collection: James E. Leisenring, The Art of Tying the Wet Fly (1944); W. H. Lawrie, All-Fur Flies and How to Dress Them (1944); John Alden Knight, Modern Fly Casting (1942); Preston J. Jennings, A Book of Trout Flies (1935, 1971); Art Flick, The Streamside Guide (1947); Charles K. Fox, Rising Trout (1967); Ray Bergman, Trout (1952, 1959), and Just Fishing (1952); John Atherton, The Fly and The Fish (1951); William F. Blades, Fishing Flies and Fly Tying (1951); Vincent Marinaro, A Modern Dry Fly Code (1950); Ray Ovington, How to Take Trout on Wet Flies and Nymphs (1951); Charles M. Wetzel, Trout Flies, Naturals and Imitations (1955); Harold H. Smedley, Fly Patterns and Their Origins (1943, 1944, 1946, and 1950); and Helen Shaw, Fly-Tying Materials, Tools, and Techniques (1963).


There are also a series of more recent books that evoke memories of Walton and Norris in their references to the aesthetic values of fly-fishing. Frank Pennell, Thread of Tranquility: Essays, Observations, and Reflections (1967); Dana Lamb, Not Far from the River (1967), On Trout Streams and Salmon Rivers (1963), and Woodsmoke and Water Cress (1965); and Herbert Hoover, Fishing for Fun (1963), are examples-as are several of the books of Roderick Haig-Brown, including his season's books and A Primer of Fly Fishing (1964), and A River Never Sleeps (1946). Reflection often turns to commitment, and Alexander MacDonald, Design for Angling (1947-two copies), provides an excellent classic work on fly-fishing in the western United States. He also writes humorously about those who are faint of heart in their approach to angling. In a chapter titled "The Trials of the Faithful," MacDonald reveals that he has standards for his fishing companions:
They should all be anglers, and by that I do not mean those who merely enjoy the sport in a half-hearted way, but those who love it above all else. They should not only be willing to spend long hours upon the stream, and when not so occupied should limit their conversation to fishing topics. Ordinarily I do not approve of garrulity in a bridge game, but I see no objection to interrupting the progress of a rubber with an anecdote about fishing. Finally, our ideal companions should have no inhibitions against a "wee drappie" when the day is done and before the evening meal.

[Once, a companion of MacDonald's] suggested naively that we should take a day off and go to see Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park. Aside from the fact that we had already seen this wonder, any angler knows that the only importance Old Faithful has in the scheme of things is its proximity to the Firehole River.

In addition to those works previously mentioned, books on Michigan and the Great Lakes are well represented in the Draper Collection. For example, Edward Cummings of Flint wrote Fly Fishing (1934); the previously mentioned William B. Mershon wrote Recollections of My Fifty Years Hunting and Fishing (1923); and more recently Hazen Miller produced a companion book, The Old Au Sable (1963). Art Neumann, the former owner of the Wanigas Rod Company in Saginaw, is represented by Michigan Fly Hatches and Their Imitations.Ernest Schwiebert, Matching the Hatch, a Practical Guide to Imitation of Insects Found on Eastern and Western Trout Waters (1955); and Harold Smedley, Trout of Michigan (1938), are among other works with Michigan content.
Finally, one looks back at the wonderful writings of former Michigan Supreme Court Justice John Voelker. His writings, under the pseudonym "Robert Traver," properly capture the true mood and spirit of fishing that one should aspire to while immersed in the Reed Draper Collection of Angling Books. His writings in Trout Madness (1960), Trout Magic (1974), and Anatomy of a Fisherman (1964) all convey a sense of humor about the business of angling. He notes that fishing is older than even love and chess; he muses that fly-fishing is so much fun that it should be done in bed; he states that all fishermen are probably a little mad; he keeps big "gram paw" trout to eat; he assails the arrogance of trout swamis; and he assiduously avoids any notion of being pretentious. He writes:

Trout Fisherman, like Gaul, may be divided into three parts; those who fish mainly to get fish; those who fish mainly to get away; and those who fish because they love the act of fishing and love to be where trout are found. This fisherman counts himself among the last breed, where I suspect most true trout fisherman belong. For trout, unlike men, will not-indeed cannot-live except where beauty swells, so that any man who would catch a trout finds himself inevitably surround by beauty; he can't help himself.
In his Testament of a Fisherman, he adds:
I fish because I love to;
because I love the environs where trout are found ...
because in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion;
because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed with power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience;
because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don't want to waste the trip;
because mercifully there are no telephones on trout waters;
because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness;
because bourbon out of an old tin cup always tastes better out there;
because maybe one day I will catch a mermaid;
and, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant-and not nearly so much fun.

 

We have traveled a long way, only to return to the beginning of the Draper Collection: Robert Traver restating the very views of nature expressed by Izaak Walton more than 350 years ago in his streamside escape from lawyers and businessmen. In the spirit of Traver and Walton, we invite you to enjoy the wonders of the Reed Draper Collection of Angling Books in the Clarke Historical Library. We regret that a tin cup of bourbon is not allowed in the reading room, but we think you will find that a symbolic cast into the collection will be a great deal of fun and at least as important as anything else you might be inclined to do-except angling.

 

 

1 Hallock later published many other works, including Camp Life in Florida (1876), The Salmon Fisher (1890), and the 688-page encyclopedic Sportsman's Gazetteer (1878, 1883).

2 Space limits our ability to recognize all of the American angling works that were published toward the end of the nineteenth century and which grace the Draper Collection. However, a few classic works must be mentioned, including G. O Shields, American Game Fishes (1892); Henry Van Dyke, Little Rivers (1895) and his Fishermen's Luck (1899). Dean Sage, of Bay City fame, authored Salmon and Trout (1902). Charles Hallock, AnAngler's Reminiscences (1913); and Fred Mather, Men I Have Fished With (1897), and My Angling Friends (1901), provide exceptional portraits of prominent fisherman of that era. John D. Quackenbos, Geological Ancestors of the Brook Trout and Recent Saibling Forms from Which It Evolved (1916), provides interesting commentary on the char family tree, and the book's colored plates of trout evoke memories of Allerton's 1869 book.

3 Other works by Rhead include, Bait Angling for Common Fishes (1907), The Basses, Fresh Water and Marine (1905), The Book of Fish and Fishing (1908), and Fisherman's Lures and Game-Fish Food (1920).

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