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Nessmuk's Adirondack Letters

By George Washington Sears ("Nessmuk") (1821-1890), 1880-3

Cruise of the Sairy Gamp, 6

Forest and Stream, Sept. 13, 1883

Little Tupper Lake, Aug. 12

I date from Little Tupper Lake, and a finer lake it would be hard to find. No desolate lines of drowned out lands here. All as it came from the hands of nature. Have been out this morning deer hunting, so to speak. Laid off for four mortal hours waiting for a deer to attempt the crossing of Dukett's Bay. No deer came. But there came a loon, and he settled within ten rods of the canoe, raised himself on hind legs (they are very hind, and he has no others), turned his white, clean breast to me and gave me his best weird, strange song. Clearer than a clarion, sweeter than a flute, loud enough to be heard for miles.

Never, as my soul lives, will I draw a bead on a loon. He is the very spirit of the wildwoods. Fisherman he may be. He catches his daily food after his nature. He is no trout crank. He does not catch trout at fifty cents per pound for the hotels. Don't, please don't, emulate Adirondack Murray and waste two dozen cartridges in the attempt to demolish a loon.

Every sportsman who enters the office of Paul Smith's hotel will notice the neat, well-mounted buck's head at the right, as one goes in. The head and horns are in nowise remarkable. The horns are only four points to the side. I have saved a score of better heads myself. But the head is flanked on either side by an immense speckled trout. Paul Smith gave me this account of them. He said: "Mr. Hotchkiss and his partner, of New Haven, went out fishing on Big Clear Pond. Mr. Hotchkiss hooked the biggest trout, and saved him. They had a lot more, weighing from one to three pounds. I said, what are you going to do with these big trout? Give them to me and I will have them mounted. They did. I sent them to Bell, of New York, and he sent them back, as you see, with a bill for $43. I don't regret it. I have been offered $100 for them."

The success of the St. Regis is as nothing to me. But, the grand old woodsman. The man who fell in love with the little canoe; who gave me points on the return trip; who talked with gusto of his guiding days, when he guided Charles Hallock and many other notables of the woodland fraternity; well, I am not likely to soon forget him.

I will pause to remark that, of the two big trout, the one on the left, facing the deer's head, weighed by scale five and one-quarter pounds. The one at the right four and one-half pounds. And I have been after a big trout for fifty years, and the biggest trout I ever caught weighed less than two pounds! Well, I am no trout liar.

Paul Smith's woodland resort is rather a high-toned institution--a sort of sylvan Long Branch; a forest Newport. Coaches arrive every day quite after the style of fifty years ago. Full inside, six on top; guard playing a loony tune on a preposterously long tin horn. Billiards, tenpins, finely-kept playgrounds, good drives, good livery, and, what I did not expect, good trouting and deer hunting within easy reach of the hotel. It was on the eve of August 8. I had packed my slender duffle, had "tied in," and was promising myself an early daylight start on the following morning.

The evening was fine, the walks and piazzas were thronged, a dozen guides were gathered in front of the hotel talking dog, deer, trout, parties, etc., after the manner of guides in the North Woods. And there came from the outlet a swift, double-ended blue boat with only a guide in her, and the guide was giving her an ash breeze for all she was worth.

He ran his boat high and dry on the clean sandy beach, came quickly up to the knot of guides, and said curtly, "Boys, Joe Newell's drowned."

"Where? When? How?" were the hurried questions.

"In Follensby, Jr. Two hours ago; fell out of his boat somehow and tangled up in the lily-pads."

There was silence and soberness among the guides. Finally one remarked, "Somebody ought to tell his wife."

"Jim, you go up and tell her."

"I--I can't. I've got to wash my boat and take my party up the lake. Why don't you go?"

"Wouldn't do it for a hundred dollars. Let the clerk send a boy."

Then the guides arranged for an early start over to Follensby Pond to grapple for the body; and a gloom seemed to settle on the pleasant surroundings as the news spread. And the question most often heard was "Has anyone told his wife?" I don't think I should like to be the one to carry her the news.

On the morning of the 9th at 4:30 am. I quietly stepped into the little canoe for the return trip by a somewhat different route. No one was astir about the hotel save the night watchman, who came down to the landing to see me off. Through the Lower St. Regis, Spitfire Pond, the Upper St. Regis, the two-mile carry, and I reached Joe Baker's in time for breakfast. Then a delightful trip of two miles across Big Clear brought me to Sweeney's; a half-mile carry to Little Clear Pond, with its bright waters and beautiful shores.

If I wanted to go into camp for a week or two for fishing and hunting, I have no ground I would prefer to the pleasant, lonely banks of Little Clear Pond. It is well stocked with both lake and brook trout. And a young Sweeney who helped me on the carry said, "Lake trout have been taken here weighing twenty-five pounds. Then, the fish commission had a hatchery just back of that point, and they turned thousands of speckled and lake trout into the pond--but few come here to fish--and there ain't a better stocked lake in the woods. Speckled trout don't do so well here, the paint bothers 'em."

"The paint?"

"Yes, ochre paint. You can catch a tin can full in a few minutes. Good paint, too. It keeps brook trout away from the spring holes, and in the deep water the lakers gobble them. Deer are plenty. I saw a big buck in the pond last evening, but he kept so near the shore I couldn't cut him off."

Over the two and a half mile carry to the Prospect House, across the Saranac to the Sweeney Carry, and down the carry to the desolate, drowned-out shores of the once beautiful Raquette River. And get down and out of the Raquette in the quickest possible time. A sluggish, sullen stream, with miles on miles of dead timber and unnatural marsh, is not the stream to linger on; and you will be glad, as I was, that there is a little steamer to speed you out of it and land you at the head of Big Tupper in time for supper.

Half a mile above the hotel you may see a foaming sheet of water tumbling into the lake over brown, wholesome-looking boulders. This is Boy Falls, and a carry of a few rods sets the canoe afloat above and beyond dead shore lines. The cruise up Boy Stream is bright and pleasant. The carries are a little rough and muddy, but the run across Round Pond and up the channel into Little Tupper makes amends while the hunter-like welcome to be met at the Grove House inclines one to lay off for a few days and take a little hunting, as it were.

For Pliny Robins is hunter and guide, as well as landlord, and has even now started up the lake with his rifle and two eager hounds in the boat. A guide with two more hounds is just launching his boat, and it looks a good deal like a hunt. I notice a quarter of venison still left in the store-room. I have not eaten a meal since I came here without trout or venison, one or both. Such fare is always to be had at Little Tupper. Both deer and trout are becoming more plentiful yearly, partly through better protection for the one and judicious restocking for the other.

The number of beautiful lakes and ponds in this wonderful region, no man knows, and Little Tupper is among the finest. Gamy as the gamiest, clear as the clearest, and seldom rough. Where there are so many delightful sheets of water, each with its own peculiar beauties, it is idle to claim any one as par excellence the finest.

The Sairy has been fairly paddled up to date. I am called on about every day to take her out and show her paces for the benefit of the curious or skeptical. I mostly comply. I am pleased to show people how light a boat will carry a man safely and comfortably. She is to go back by the Slim Pond route, and Long Lake, Forked, Raquette, etc., to my favorite stamping ground, the waters of the Moose.

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