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Piscatory Archery.
Part 6 of 6

Yonder is our canoe; the paddle has stopped it short, just where you see those faint bubbles; the water is very deep beneath them, and reflects the frail bark and its occupants, as clearly as if they were floating in mid-air. The bowman looks into the water-the fish are out of sight, and not disturbed by the intrusion above them. They are eating busily, judging from the ascending bubbles. The bowman lets fall the "heel" of his arrow on the bottom of the canoe, and the bubbles instantly cease. The slight tap has made a great deal of noise in the water, though scarcely heard out of it. There can be seen rising to the surface a tremendous carp. How quietly it comes upwards, its pectoral fins playing like the wings of the sportive butterfly. Another moment, and the cold iron is in its body. Paralyzed for an instant, the fish rises to the surface as if dead, then, recovering itself, it rushes downwards, until the cord that holds it prisoner tightens, and makes the canoe tremble; the effort has destroyed it, and without another struggle it is secured.

When the fish first come into the lakes, they move in pairs on the surface of the water, and while so doing they are shot, as it is called, "flying." In early spring fifteen or twenty fish are secured in an hour. As the season advances, three or four taken in the same length of time is considered quite good success. To stand upon the shore, and see the arrow-fisherman busily employed, is a very interesting exhibition of skill, and of the picturesque. The little "dug out" seems animate with intelligence; the bowman draws his long shaft, you see it enter the water, and then follows the glowing sight of the fine fish sparkling in the sun, as if sprinkled with diamonds. At times, too, when legitimate sport tires, some ravenous gar that heaves in sight is made a victim; aim is taken just ahead of his dorsal fin; secured, he flounders a while, and then drags off the canoe as if in harness, skimming it almost out of the water with his speed. Fatigued, finally, with his useless endeavours to escape, he will rise to the surface, open his huge mouth, and gasp for air. The water that streams from his jaws will be coloured with blood from the impaled fish that still struggle in the terrors of his barbed teeth. Rushing ahead again, he will, by eccentric movements, try the best skill of the paddler to keep his canoe from overturning into the lake, a consummation not always unattained. The gar finally dies, and is dragged ashore; the buzzard revels on his carcass, and every piscator contemplates, with disgust, the great enemy to his game, the terrible monarch of the fresh-water seas.

The crumbling character of the alluvial banks that line our southern streams, the quantity of fallen timber, the amount of "snags" and "sawyers," and the great plentifulness of game, make the beautiful art of angling, as pursued in England, impossible. The veriest tyro, who finds a delicate reed in every nook that casts a shadow on the water, with his rough line, and coarser hook, can catch fish. The greedy perch, in all its beautiful varieties, swim eagerly and quickly around the snare, and swallow it, without suspicion that a worm is not a worm, or that appearances are ever deceitful. The jointed rod, the scientific reel, cannot be used; the thick hanging bow, the rank grass, the sunken log, the far reaching melumbrium, the ever still water, make these delicate appliances useless. Arrow-fishing only, of all the angling in the interior streams of the southwest, comparatively speaking, claims the title of an art, as it is pursued with a skill and a thorough knowledge that tell only with the experienced, and to the novice is an impossibility.

The originators of arrow-fishing deserve the credit of striking out a rare and beautiful amusement, when the difficulties of securing their game did not require it, showing that it resulted in the spirit of true sport alone.

The origin of arrow-fishing we know not; the country where it is pursued is comparatively of recent settlement; scarce three generations have passed away within its boundaries. We asked the oldest piscator that lived in the vicinity of these "dry lakes" for information, and he told us that it was " old Uncle Zac," and gave us his history in a brief and pathetic manner, concluding his reminiscences of the great departed as follows:

"Uncle Zac never know‘d nothing ‘bout flies, or tickling trout, but it took him to tell the difference ‘twixt a yarth-worm, a grub, or the young of a wasp‘s nest; in fact, he know‘d fishes amazin‘, and bein‘ naturally a hunter, he went to shooten ‘em with a bow and arrer, to keep up yearly times in his history, when he tuck inguns, and yerther varmints in the same way."