Tales of Fishes - Zane Grey - ebook

Tales of Fishes ebook

Zane Grey

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Zane Gray is best known as a fishing writer for wild adventure catching giants of the world record in oceans around the world. He published a collection of stories about individual places and types of fish. Fish tales are a great collection of stories that cover the most popular types of fish found in salt water. These are turtles, sailboats, marlins, swordfish and tuna. This is a perfect example for the shade of appetite of every fisherman. Zane Gray was one of America’s most productive and beloved writers. Being most famous for his Western novels, he actually spent more than 300 days a year on fishing.

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Liczba stron: 374

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Contents

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Chapter IX

Chapter X

Chapter XI

Chapter XII

Chapter XIII

Chapter XIV

I. BYME-BY-TARPON

TO capture the fish is not all of the fishing. Yet there are circumstances which make this philosophy hard to accept. I have in mind an incident of angling tribulation which rivals the most poignant instant of my boyhood, when a great trout flopped for one sharp moment on a mossy stone and then was gone like a golden flash into the depths of the pool.

Some years ago I followed Attalano, my guide, down the narrow Mexican street of Tampico to the bank of the broad Panuco. Under the rosy dawn the river quivered like a restless opal. The air, sweet with the song of blackbird and meadowlark, was full of cheer; the rising sun shone in splendor on the water and the long line of graceful palms lining the opposite bank, and the tropical forest beyond, with its luxuriant foliage festooned by gray moss. Here was a day to warm the heart of any fisherman; here was the beautiful river, celebrated in many a story; here was the famous guide, skilled with oar and gaff, rich in experience. What sport I would have; what treasure of keen sensation would I store; what flavor of life would I taste this day! Hope burns always in the heart of a fisherman.

Attalano was in harmony with the day and the scene. He had a cheering figure, lithe and erect, with a springy stride, bespeaking the Montezuma blood said to flow in his Indian veins. Clad in a colored cotton shirt, blue jeans, and Spanish girdle, and treading the path with brown feet never deformed by shoes, he would have stopped an artist. Soon he bent his muscular shoulders to the oars, and the ripples circling from each stroke hardly disturbed the calm Panuco. Down the stream glided long Indian canoes, hewn from trees and laden with oranges and bananas. In the stern stood a dark native wielding an enormous paddle with ease. Wild-fowl dotted the glassy expanse; white cranes and pink flamingoes graced the reedy bars; red-breasted kingfishers flew over with friendly screech. The salt breeze kissed my cheek; the sun shone with the comfortable warmth Northerners welcome in spring; from over the white sand-dunes far below came the faint boom of the ever-restless Gulf.

We trolled up the river and down, across from one rush-lined lily-padded shore to the other, for miles and miles with never a strike. But I was content, for over me had been cast the dreamy, care-dispelling languor of the South.

When the first long, low swell of the changing tide rolled in, a stronger breeze raised little dimpling waves and chased along the water in dark, quick-moving frowns. All at once the tarpon began to show, to splash, to play, to roll. It was as though they had been awakened by the stir and murmur of the miniature breakers. Broad bars of silver flashed in the sunlight, green backs cleft the little billows, wide tails slapped lazily on the water. Every yard of river seemed to hold a rolling fish. This sport increased until the long stretch of water, which had been as calm as St. Regis Lake at twilight, resembled the quick current of a Canadian stream. It was a fascinating, wonderful sight. But it was also peculiarly exasperating, because when the fish roll in this sportive, lazy way they will not bite. For an hour I trolled through this whirlpool of flying spray and twisting tarpon, with many a salty drop on my face, hearing all around me the whipping crash of breaking water.

“Byme-by-tarpon,” presently remarked Attalano, favoring me with the first specimen of his English.

The rolling of the tarpon diminished, and finally ceased as noon advanced.

No more did I cast longing eyes upon those huge bars of silver. They were buried treasure. The breeze quickened as the flowing tide gathered strength, and together they drove the waves higher. Attalano rowed across the river into the outlet of one of the lagoons. This narrow stream was unruffled by wind; its current was sluggish and its muddy waters were clarifying under the influence of the now fast-rising tide.

By a sunken log near shore we rested for lunch. I found the shade of the trees on the bank rather pleasant, and became interested in a blue heron, a russet-colored duck, and a brown-and-black snipe, all sitting on the sunken log. Near by stood a tall crane watching us solemnly, and above in the tree-top a parrot vociferously proclaimed his knowledge of our presence. I was wondering if he objected to our invasion, at the same time taking a most welcome bite for lunch, when directly in front of me the water flew up as if propelled by some submarine power. Framed in a shower of spray I saw an immense tarpon, with mouth agape and fins stiff, close in pursuit of frantically leaping little fish.

The fact that Attalano dropped his sandwich attested to the large size and close proximity of the tarpon. He uttered a grunt of satisfaction and pushed out the boat. A school of feeding tarpon closed the mouth of the lagoon. Thousands of mullet had been cut off from their river haunts and were now leaping, flying, darting in wild haste to elude the great white monsters. In the foamy swirls I saw streaks of blood.

“Byme-by-tarpon!” called Attalano, warningly.

Shrewd guide! I had forgotten that I held a rod. When the realization dawned on me that sooner or later I would feel the strike of one of these silver tigers a keen, tingling thrill of excitement quivered over me. The primitive man asserted himself; the instinctive lust to conquer and to kill seized me, and I leaned forward, tense and strained with suspended breath and swelling throat.

Suddenly the strike came, so tremendous in its energy that it almost pulled me from my seat; so quick, fierce, bewildering that I could think of nothing but to hold on. Then the water split with a hissing sound to let out a great tarpon, long as a door, seemingly as wide, who shot up and up into the air. He wagged his head and shook it like a struggling wolf. When he fell back with a heavy splash, a rainbow, exquisitely beautiful and delicate, stood out of the spray, glowed, paled, and faded.

Five times he sprang toward the blue sky, and as many he plunged down with a thunderous crash. The reel screamed. The line sang. The rod, which I had thought stiff as a tree, bent like a willow wand. The silver king came up far astern and sheered to the right in a long, wide curve, leaving behind a white wake. Then he sounded, while I watched the line with troubled eyes. But not long did he sulk. He began a series of magnificent tactics new in my experience. He stood on his tail, then on his head; he sailed like a bird; he shook himself so violently as to make a convulsive, shuffling sound; he dove, to come up covered with mud, marring his bright sides; he closed his huge gills with a slap and, most remarkable of all, he rose in the shape of a crescent, to straighten out with such marvelous power that he seemed to actually crack like a whip.

After this performance, which left me in a condition of mental aberration, he sounded again, to begin a persistent, dragging pull which was the most disheartening of all his maneuvers; for he took yard after yard of line until he was far away from me, out in the Panuco. We followed him, and for an hour crossed to and fro, up and down, humoring him, responding to his every caprice, as if he verily were a king. At last, with a strange inconsistency more human than fishlike, he returned to the scene of his fatal error, and here in the mouth of the smaller stream he leaped once more. But it was only a ghost of his former efforts–a slow, weary rise, showing he was tired. I could see it in the weakening wag of his head. He no longer made the line whistle.

I began to recover the long line. I pumped and reeled him closer. Reluctantly he came, not yet broken in spirit, though his strength had sped. He rolled at times with a shade of the old vigor, with a pathetic manifestation of the temper that became a hero. I could see the long, slender tip of his dorsal fin, then his broad tail and finally the gleam of his silver side. Closer he came and slowly circled around the boat, eying me with great, accusing eyes. I measured him with a fisherman’s glance. What a great fish! Seven feet, I calculated, at the very least.

At this triumphant moment I made a horrible discovery. About six feet from the leader the strands of the line had frayed, leaving only one thread intact. My blood ran cold and the clammy sweat broke out on my brow. My empire was not won; my first tarpon was as if he had never been. But true to my fishing instincts, I held on morosely; tenderly I handled him; with brooding care I riveted my eye on the frail place in my line, and gently, ever so gently, I began to lead the silver king shoreward. Every smallest move of his tail meant disaster to me, so when he moved it I let go of the reel. Then I would have to coax him to swim back again.

The boat touched the bank. I stood up and carefully headed my fish toward the shore, and slid his head and shoulders out on the lily-pads. One moment he lay there, glowing like mother-of-pearl, a rare fish, fresh from the sea. Then, as Attalano warily reached for the leader, he gave a gasp, a flop that deluged us with muddy water, and a lunge that spelled freedom.

I watched him swim slowly away with my bright leader dragging beside him. Is it not the loss of things which makes life bitter? What we have gained is ours; what is lost is gone, whether fish, or use, or love, or name, or fame.

I tried to put on a cheerful aspect for my guide. But it was too soon. Attalano, wise old fellow, understood my case. A smile, warm and living, flashed across his dark face as he spoke:

“Byme-by-tarpon.”

Which defined his optimism and revived the failing spark within my breast. It was, too, in the nature of a prophecy.

II. THE ISLAND OF THE DEAD

STRANGE wild adventures fall to the lot of a fisherman as well as to that of a hunter. On board the Monterey, from Havana to Progreso, Yucatan, I happened to fall into conversation with an English globe-trotter who had just come from the Mont Pelée eruption. Like all those wandering Englishmen, this one was exceedingly interesting. We exchanged experiences, and I felt that I had indeed much to see and learn of the romantic Old World.

In Merida, that wonderful tropic city of white towers and white streets and white-gowned women, I ran into this Englishman again. I wanted to see the magnificent ruins of Uxmal and Ake and Labna. So did he. I knew it would be a hard trip from Muna to the ruins, and so I explained. He smiled in a way to make me half ashamed of my doubts. We went together, and I found him to be a splendid fellow. We parted without knowing each other’s names. I had no idea what he thought of me, but I thought he must have been somebody.

While traveling around the coast of Yucatan I had heard of the wild and lonely Alacranes Reef where lighthouse-keepers went insane from solitude, and where wonderful fishes inhabited the lagoons. That was enough for me. Forthwith I meant to go to Alacranes.

Further inquiry brought me meager but fascinating news of an island on that lonely coral reef, called Isla de la Muerte (the Island of the Dead). Here was the haunt of a strange bird, called by Indians rabihorcado, and it was said to live off the booby, another strange sea-bird. The natives of the coast solemnly averred that when the rabihorcado could not steal fish from the booby he killed himself by hanging in the brush. I did not believe such talk. The Spanish appeared to be rabi, meaning rabies, and horcar, to hang.

I set about to charter a boat, and found the great difficulty in procuring one to be with the Yucatecan government. No traveler had ever before done such a thing. It excited suspicion. The officials thought the United States was looking for a coaling-station. Finally, through the help of the Ward line agent and the consul I prevailed upon them to give me such papers as appeared necessary. Then my Indian boatmen interested a crew of six, and I chartered a two-masted canoe-shaped bark called the Xpit.

The crew of the Hispaniola, with the never-to-be-forgotten John Silver and the rest of the pirates of Treasure Island, could not have been a more villainous and piratical gang than this of the bark Xpit. I was advised not to take the trip alone. But it appeared impossible to find any one to accompany me. I grew worried, yet determined not to miss the opportunity.

Strange to relate, as I was conversing on the dock with a ship captain and the agent of the Ward line, lamenting the necessity of sailing for Alacranes alone, some one near by spoke up, “Take me!”

In surprise I wheeled to see my English acquaintance who had visited the interior of Yucatan with me. I greeted him, thanked him, but of course did not take him seriously, and I proceeded to expound the nature of my venture. To my further surprise, he not only wanted to go, but he was enthusiastic.

“But it’s a hard, wild trip,” I protested. “Why, that crew of barefooted, red-shirted Canary-Islanders have got me scared! Besides, you don’t know me!”

“Well, you don’t know me, either,” he replied, with his winning smile.

Then I awoke to my own obtuseness and to the fact that here was a real man, in spite of the significance of a crest upon his linen.

“If you’ll take a chance on me I’ll certainly take one on you,” I replied, and told him who I was, and that the Ward-line agent and American consul would vouch for me.

He offered his hand with the simple reply, “My name is C––.”

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