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Ten Thousand Miles Through Canada
Chapter VI

Lake of Bays—Fairy Lake—A honeymoon island—A smothered waterway—Mary Lake—The searchlight—Wawa Hotel—The “Joe” pleasure tug—Memories of Bigwin—A triplet of graces—Savage Den and its “chief”—Auld lang syne— Hollow Lake—Trout-fishing on Raven Lake—North Bay and Temagami; Facilities for colonization, The Forest Reserve, Angling rivers and lakes, The Land of Hiawatha.

RETURNING from Pickerel and French River, the Lake of Bays is reached by Parry Sound. At Huntsville there is a small steamer that plies on the lake. It is a favourite summer resort, and the Grand Trunk Railway supplies a good service from Toronto and intervening towns.

The “ Lake of Bays ” might with equal propriety be called the “ Lake of Lakes,” for it is in reality a series, one leading to the other with the exception of a narrow neck of land on which there is a railway portage. The convolutions of these lakes produce an effect most picturesque and romantic. The steamer, passing under a drawbridge, enters Fairy Lake, which by no means belies its title. It, like most of its fellows, is a mirror framed in an unbroken margin of woodland. An island called the Scotchman’s Bonnet is a favourite honeymoon resort. There

is a house on it, the only one on the lake, which shyly peeps through a tangle of balsam tamaracks and the closer foliage of the sugar maple. My first view of this exquisite spot gave the impression of being the finest forest and water scenery that I had ever beheld, and in the ten thousand miles I travelled I saw nothing more beautiful.

The steamer, which to the uninitiated seemed to be heading recklessly for a leafy bank, gave a sharp turn, and a foliage-smothered waterway opened up before us. So unexpected was our approach that the prow of the steamer ran amongst a flock of wild duck, which rose in alarm and with rapid stroke of wings flew off, loudly protesting against this rude invasion of their sanctuary.

Mary Lake is a two-hours’ sail from Huntsville Peninsula, with a railway portage lying between. It was late when we started, and the night fell suddenly, enveloping all the beauties that evening unveiled. The searchlight of the steamer made a vivid path across the lake. Its restless rays swept the water, focusing a leafy island, disclosing a dangerous reef, as if exposing its sinister intent, and calling on the pilot to beware. The border of the lake, far off, was picked out against the dark trees, and the patches on the bare rocks, made by the lapicida lichens, came into view. At length the landing-stage was discovered, and all its detail, including a peach basket with red netting, suspended on a girl’s arm. The Wawa Hotel was the destination of the pleasure craft. There all the comforts of modern civilization awaited us. A wide hearth on which the glow of a log fire flickered ; a commodious lounge room, where parties, segregated in groups, talked in the familiar American tongue. In corners, more remote, there were couples who whispered secrets not intended for public ears; and scattered units content with the inferior fellowship of pipe or cigar. Next day, through the courtesy of Mr. C. O. Shaw, of Huntsville, manager of the lake steamers, I went on an exploring trip on the ‘‘Joe” pleasure tug, in company with its cheery captain. We soon got off the beaten track, and traversed beautiful sweeps of water, skirting islands and rocks. Behind us the “Wawa” looked no bigger than the wild goose which its Indian name implies. Bigwin Island, where the Algonquin chief had no doubt often shot the bird in question, is a conspicuous object. Fairview and Belle Vue are beauty spots in the scene, and the islands of Faith, Hope and Charity are near enough to salute each other at sunrise, as gentle graces should. I landed at Savage Den, and enjoyed the delightful companionship of its modern chieftain, the Rev. Edward S. Young, of Brooklyn, who has established for himself on the Lake of Bays a local habitation and a name. He insisted on gillieing me in quest of trout, for which we trolled. He holds an enviable record amongst


anglers for his prowess amongst the big denizens of the lake. Like many Americans, he has obtained a freehold on one of the islands, where he has built a house and spends his vacation with his family every year. I had luncheon with them; and the charming hostess and sweet children, like buds of honeysuckle entwined amongst fuller bloom, made a group not easily forgotten. We all nibbled green corn like rabbits, and a few hours later, when the “Joe” took its solitary passenger away and the landing-stage began to recede, the notes of “Auld lang syne” rang out in the best of all impromptus, a heart overflow, until one voice cracked with—well, a high note!

I had still to make acquaintance with the resources of this section of Georgian Bay, and returned later in the season, when the Wawa tourists had taken wing, and Savage Den no longer held its merry party.

Dorset is the best centre for angling, and making that my headquarters, I spent a few pleasant days there. Hollow Lake is one of the favourites. It is an extensive stretch of water fed by many streams, where speckled trout, as well as the lake species, are plentiful. In the shipping office at Huntsville I saw a cast of one taken, thirty-one inches long and nine inches deep, which is as large a specimen as is likely to be caught anywhere.

A storm raged on the morning I proposed fishing in Hollow, and a smaller and more sheltered piece of water had to be selected. Hollow is six miles’ portage from Dorset; Raven was only four. The former has boats and gillies on the spot; the latter, on the other hand, entails freightage of canoe and tent, as there is no hotel accommodation there. Whilst this is inconvenient, it also constitutes an advantage. With the growing popularity of the resort, the fishing is not likely to improve. It is not merely the number of fish that are caught that affects the angling, but other pastimes interfere—canoeing, bathing, etc. The wash of steamers is a potent disturbing element that puts fish off the rise. A distant lake entailing portage is preferable, other things being equal. To get there is, however, not always practicable. Labour is scarce in Canada, and proportionately dear. At times neither love nor money can procure it. It is not superior airs or graces that limit the supply— there is none of that It is simply that those who might be employed have something else to do. In one case, when engaging a man that was a skilled angler, the arrangements were complete, all but fixing the time. When I mentioned it, he exclaimed, "Oh! I am sorry, I cannot go that day. I have to attend a meeting of the Telephone Company, of which I am Chairman.” The substitute I obtained at the same rate—12s. 6d. a day—was the owner of his house and grounds, and had been a successful mine prospector. He was willing to carry a canoe and baggage nearly three miles over a rough trail which rose to a height of some hundreds of feet above sea-level. I confess the bearer equally rose in my estimation. The value of the superior workman is soon discovered. The angler finds in him a companion as well as a servant, generally a well-informed man, and an ardent fisher. Every reasonable duty is scrupulously discharged, and he supplies a supreme example of the dignity as well as the efficiency of labour.

High up on the trail, we got a glimpse of Raven Lake, lying beneath us. Autumn footsteps had already made rapid strides in the forest, and the red of the maple was spreading like a fire amongst the green. We stopped to catch mud minnows, which, mounted on a small spinner, are the best bait for trout They are found in pools almost stagnant, and have close-set gills like eels, which give them greater vitality out of water. This provision adapts them to their mud environment, and accounts for their survival. Bundled carelessly into a tin vessel, they will live for hours, a feat impossible in the case of ordinary minnows. One mounted on a spinner is good for catching several trout, owing to the toughness of the skin.

Raven Lake is three miles long, and consists of several expansions with connecting rivers between. We launched the canoe from a gravelly beach, fringed with coarse bent grass, which gave good cover for water-fowl. The gillie hugged the shore, which is the best place to find a trout as the season advances. During the hot months they take to the cool depths, emerging after dark to hunt for food on the shallows. As the weather becomes cooler they return to lighter water. There the temperature is more to their taste, as trout do not like extremes of of either heat or cold. The weather changes in the early autumn, and there is a decided fall in the thermometer. Handling the wet line chilled my fingers painfully. The smaller fry on which the trout feed take to the gravelly shallows as summer advances, and the trout follow them.

During the morning hours we failed to find them anywhere, and with the exception of a couple of small fish the creel remained empty. After luncheon the temperature improved, and with it the sport. The trout came on the feed, and the rod bent and trembled beneath the struggles of one-and-a-half and two pounders. On one reach they kept breaking the surface of the water, and I tried to induce them to take a fly, but all such overtures were unavailing. They were not feeding on surface food, but simply gambolling, as fish do, and in such a humour ephemeridae do not interest them.

It was getting dark when we left the lake, by no means dissatisfied with the results, allowing for the fact that it was late in the season. Raven would, no doubt, afford splendid sport in May or June, when trout feed much better. A month earlier, I looked into the well-lined creel of an angler who had paid it a week-end visit. It held a couple of trout that must have been close on four pounds each, and five and six pounders are by no means an exceptional take.

Nearly 300 miles north of Toronto lies North Bay, the southern terminus of the Temeskaming and Northern Ontario Railway. The enterprise marks a new departure in nationalization, as the Ontario Government owns and works the line. It is controlled by a commission.

I spent a delightful day in the fruit country of Southern Ontario with Mr. Engelhart, the Chairman, in company with Col. Matheson and Mr. A. C. Pratt, of the Ontario Government.

The Temeskaming and Northern Ontario Railway was undertaken in the interests of colonization, and the progress that has been made during the short time it has been opened justifies the project.

In the official report ending October 31st, it is shown that the line consists of 252 miles of rail, with a revenue of £318,370, worked at a cost of £87,226. But that the venture has not unfavourably affected the ratepayers is shown by a profit of £84,000, paid to the Government Treasurer.

The number of passengers in five years increased from 573,000 to 2,800,000.

The effect of these facilities for colonization is shown in the growth of towns along the new railway track. The same features are seen in connexion with the Canadian Pacific, the Grand Trunk, and Canadian Northern, which are linked up with the new Government line. The population of Temeskaming in six years has increased from 2000 to over 50,000. Similar development has taken place in Temagami, Engelhart, and Liskeard. Where there was nothing but a wilderness and the absence of life, other than the fish in the streams and the big game that wandered unmolested amidst the wild grasses and cover of the forest, there are now farm-houses, hotels, and the general features of civilized life. Were it not for the convenience of these travelling facilities, one would have a grudge against railway enterprise, which so soon transforms the primeval forest and primitive simplicity into comfortable habitations and the luxuries of conventional life.

The Government has followed up railway extensions with the establishment of normal schools at North Bay. There, 600 feet above sea-level, in a pure and invigorating atmosphere, the youth of the colonists enjoy all the advantages of a fully equipped educational system.

The railway runs from North Bay through rich agricultural land, ultimately reaching Cochrane over 1000 feet above sea-level. Woodlands, Widdefried and Muloch are traversed en route. Nipissing and its mines, French River and Georgian Bay with its fish are in turn exploited ; opening up to the tourist the fleeting joys of sport and to the settler the more solid opportunities of lucrative industry.

The Canadian Pacific, the Grand Trunk, and the Canadian Northern open up further tracts of this interesting country.

It was along the great waterway of Temagami that Brebceuf travelled to Lake Huron, intent upon his mission to the Indian tribes. An extensive Forest Reserve conserves all the primitive conditions of wild life with which the district abounds. The town of Temagami has undergone the oft-repeated miracle of Canada—the metamorphosis of desert into civilized life. Its forests and chain of lakes set in margins of pine and tamarack have become magnets in drawing the busy merchant and professional man to the enjoyment of its cool climate and exciting sport. As I traversed the district, I found myself drinking in the fine air, which acted like a tonic on the exhaustion incidental to a fatiguing journey, and looking at its lakes with that thrilling sense of expectation which lovers of the gentle art feel.

The lighter water found in many of these lakes supplies the essential condition to bass fly-fishing. There is no need to spin in half a fathom deep with a heavy sinker, which destroys the fighting power of the bass, and which after a time robs fishing of much of its zest. Donning a pair of waders, and carefully stepping along the shore, a fly can be landed amongst the boulders that make dark shadows on the water, and the bass will pounce upon the ephemera. Then the reel recoils as the quarry makes a bold dash for liberty to the time of accelerando crescendo.

I have fished the outlet of a lake on one of the hottest summer days. Wading with the temperature at ioo degrees in the shade is simply delightful. The water was smooth as quicksilver, with a light upon it that dazzled and flashed almost to blinding point, but the cool that lapped round the waders constituted a temperate zone that extended to the rest of the body. One would no more think of fishing for trout under such circumstances than of flying without an aeroplane. English trout on such a day would bury themselves in the weeds or skulk under a bridge or bank; yet, strange to say, the black bass rose with the greatest freedom. A small silver doctor, a Jock Scott and other patterns attracted them repeatedly. Some creeled were over 2 lbs., and all proved to be hard fighters.

This characteristic of the bass is most important, as the tropical weather in Canada exists to a dumping degree, and to enjoy sport and keep cool at the same time, combine the maximum of mercies that one can hope to enjoy in this present evil world.

In the deeper water the big lake trout make their haunts, and to have a tussle with them the flies must give place to the spoon or minnow. With a hundred yards of line and a light trolling rod, it is not difficult to get on fighting terms with them. They run to a great size, and it is possible to find lakes where they are so unsophisticated as to be ignorant of any kind of angler’s lure.

I met two young fellows who exhibited with boyish delight their tackle. They were provided with a camp and canoe, and their plan was to get high up on the chain of lakes and paddle from place to place. This is an admirable way of spending a holiday and getting “ far from the madding crowd,” which is to be found in the beaten paths of Temagami as well as New York or Toronto.

There are other features of New Ontario which are calculated to attract settlers. Those in quest of agricultural projects have a wide field to choose from. In extent the Province covers an area of 140,000 square miles. Those intent on carrying away lasting impressions of magnificent forest and lake scenery can find material for the reflections of a lifetime. The literary man will be face to face with memories of Hiawatha. The Ojibwa Indian that paddles his canoe or with silent tread guides him through the pathless forest, belongs to the tribe of that legendary hero. Mr. Schoolcraft, in his “Algic Researches” and in his “History, Conditions, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes,” gives the form of the tradition, as recited by an Onondaga chief, and the transatlantic poet set it to the music of an immortal epic, which will always remain fragrant:—

“With the odours of the forest,
With the dew and damp of meadows,
With the curling smoke of wigwams,
With the rushing of great rivers,
With their frequent repetitions,
And their wild reverberations,
As of thunder in the mountains,
From the forest and the prairies,
From the great lakes of the Northland.”

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