Carmans River Trout Etc

From: Richard Thomas [[email protected]]
Sent: Thursday, February 07, 2008 1:04 AM
To: Van Lith, Marty
Cc: Deitz, John
Subject: Descriptions of Trout Fishing at Sam Carman’s from 1847

I found the following in the 1859 edition first, but exactly, or nearly, the same text appears as an Appendix to The Complete Angler; by Isaac Walton that was published in 1847, beginning at p. 145.

Frank Forester’s Fish and Fishing of the United States and British Provinces of North America.  Illustrated from Nature by Henry William Herbert. New Edition, Revised and Corrected, with an Ample Supplement by the Author, Together with A Treatise on Fly-Fishing by “Dinks”, New York: W. A. Townsend & Company, 1859.

[Nearly the same text that is quoted below also appears in the 1851 third edition, which does not include the “Treatise” by “Dinks.”]

(The entire section is his own work quoted from “Dr. Bethune’s very beautiful edition of Walton’s Angler, the following paper, which was drawn up and contributed to that work by myself, on the Trout-fishing of Long Island, at the request of the accomplished author.”)

From the book published in 1859, p. 265:

“At Patchogue, yet a few miles further, there is a very large pond, which was formerly perhaps the most famous on the island, both for the abundance and the size of the fish which it contained. They have, however, become latterly so scarce, that few persons from a distance think it worth their while to pause there, but proceed at once to Sam Carman’s, at Fireplace, eighteen miles eastward from Liff. Snedecor’s [i.e., at Islip, Connetquot River]; these two being in fact the par excellence fishing grounds of the Island, and the difference between the two rather a matter of individual prejudice and fancy, than of any real or well-grounded opinion.

“The character of the fishing at Fireplace is nearly similar to that at Islip; the stream flowing from the pond is larger, and contains much larger fish, the most beautiful, both in shape and brightness of color, of any on the island. In this stream, two pounds is a very common size; perhaps, fish are as frequently taken of this weight as under it, and upwards to four pounds. Their flesh is very highly colored, and their flavor, as I have observed before, second to none. Indeed, it is but a few years since Carman’s fish were estimated by old sportsmen the only fish worth eating; of late, however, fashion—which rules in gastronomic tastes as otherwise—has veered a little in favor of the Islip Trout, and it remains at present a debatable point between the two. The course of Carman’s stream lies chiefly through open salt meadows, and the banks are entirely destitute of covert, so that very careful and delicate fishing is necessary in order to fill a basket. Even with ground bait it is desirable to keep completely out of sight, walking as far from the bank as possible, and to avoid jarring the water, so wary and shy are the larger fish. It is also advisable to fish down wind. Trolling is very successful in this water, the same precautions being taken, and the bait-fish being dropped as lightly on the surface, as if it were a fly, so as to create neither splash nor sound. The pond above is likewise deservedly celebrated, the fish averaging at least a pound in weight, and equal in all respects to any pond Trout in this or any other region. The fly-fishing here in season is probably the best on Long Island, although of late, here, as everywhere else, Trout are becoming comparatively few in number; so that it has been found necessary to impose a limit on sportsmen. “Not so many years ago, a celebrated English shot and angler, who has since left this country, and who, I believe, was among the first, if not the very first, to use the fly on Long Island waters, took between forty and fifty good fish in this pond before dinner, and in the afternoon basketed above a dozen of yet larger size in the stream below.

“This feat, the like of which will not, I fear, be soon heard of again, was performed with a fly, the body of which was composed of hare’s-ear fur, and the hackle of a woodcock’s wings—a very killing fly, be it observed, for all waters, especially early in the season.

“On the same stream with Carman’s pond, and at but, a short distance above it, is another called Middle Island Pond, with a saw and flour-mill at the outlet, which contains a great number of fish, of very large and very uniform size, running from one and a half to two pounds weight. It is remarkable, however, that the Trout in the lower pond being esteemed the best, those in the upper should be the worst of any taken on the south side of the island. Such, notwithstanding, is the case; they are long, shallow, ill-fed fish, dingy-

colored, and woody-flavored. They are not,  however, black-mouthed, as are the fish of a pond which I shall have occasion to mention hereafter. “I remember that a fact of the same sort is recorded of two lakes, I think in the north of Ireland, connected by a short stream running through a bog meadow. In the upper of these lakes the fish, as here, are worthless—in the lower superlative; and they are never known to intermingle. How this should be, cannot well be explained; for, granting that the excellence of the fish arises from the soil and food, and that the inferior fish improves on coming into the superior water, still there must be a transition state.

“With this pond I shall close my notice of the south side waters, merely adding that at Moritches, and yet further east, there are many streams and lakelets abounding in fish, though inferior to those of the waters I have enumerated, both in size and quality; and these are, I believe, all open without limit to all persons who desire to fish them.

“It may be worth while here to mention, for the benefit of strangers, that the houses kept by Snedecor and Carman are by no means country taverns, at which nothing can be obtained, as is often the case in the interior, but hard salt ham and tough hens just slaughtered. Being frequented by gentlemen entirely, they are admirable hotels in every respect.

“I will now turn, for a moment, to the north side, on which there are also many streams Containing Trout, but none, with a single exception, which can show size or numbers against the southern waters. That exception is Stump Pond, near Smithtown, now rented to a company of gentlemen, and of course shut to the public in general. The fish in this large sheet of water are very numerous, and very large, but are for the most part ill-shaped, ill-conditioned, and inferior in flavor—long, lank fish, with very large black mouths. I have been informed that in latter years the fish in this water have been gradually improving, but of this I cannot speak from personal experience; it is, however, notorious, that occasionally Trout of very fine quality, both in appearance and flavor, have been caught here; which is somewhat remarkable, inasmuch as the same feeding grounds rarely produce two different qualities of fish.
A story about catching “The Big Trout” that involves Mr. Carman appears in “The American Angler: The Contemplative Man’s Magazine,” Vol. 3 (1918-1919), that is in the Harvard University Library and the University of Michigan Library.  The only part of the story I’ve found is this snippet: ” ‘Big Trout,’ as he was familiarly known to the sporting world, continued to ignore the flies and baits that were unceasingly presented to him.  Finally Carman decided to trap the fish in the flume below the dam; . . . ”

The 1821 story about the fish caught by Samuel Carmen also appeared in “Niles’ Weekly Register,” edited by Hezekiah Niles, Vol. 20, 1821, p. 302 ” . . . about 70 miles from New-York, Mr. Samuel Carman, jun. on the 25th ult. caught at the “tail of his saw mill” a trout three feet in length and 17 inches . . .”