BIGE had the oars and was gently and without a splash dipping them into the water, while the boat slowly glided along parallel to the shore of the lake. We had been up around the big island and were crossing the bay at the mouth of Bald Mountain Brook, which is the outlet of the pond of that name, located in a bowl shaped pocket on the shoulder of Bald Mountain three miles away. I was in the stern seat of the boat with a rod and was casting toward the shore, hoping to lure the wily bass from his hiding place under rocky ledge or lily pad, when I discovered another and a rival fisherman.
He was operating with an aeroplane directly over our heads and about two hundred feet above the lake. Slowly sailing in circles, with an occasional lazy flap of wings to maintain his altitude, and at intervals uttering his sharp, piercing, hunting cry, the osprey had a distinct advantage over us, as with his telescopic eye he could penetrate the lake to its bottom and could distinctly see everything animate and inanimate in the water within his hunting circle. He could thus, accurately, locate his prey, while we could not see deeply into the water and were always guessing. We might make a hundred casts in as many places, where no bass had been for hours. So I reeled in my line, laid the rod down in the boat and gave my entire attention to watching the operations of the fish hawk.
For about ten minutes the aeroplane fisher continued to rotate overhead; then I observed that the circles were smaller in diameter, and were descending in corkscrew curves, until from a height of about fifty feet the body of the bird shot straight down and struck the water about twenty-five yards from our boat with the blow of a spile driver’s hammer, throwing a fountain of spray high into the air. For a few seconds nothing was visible but troubled waters; then appeared flapping wings and the floundering shining body of a big fish, lashing the water into a foam, through which it was difficult to see whether bird or fish was on top. Suddenly, both disappeared under water. Bige excitedly yelled, “He’s got his hooks into a whale of a fish! He’ll never let go! He’ll be drowned! Gosh!!” Then he rowed the boat nearer to the place of battle. A few heart beats later, and the fight was again on the surface. Wings flapped mightily, fish wriggled and twisted and again the water was churned into foam. We now plainly saw the two pairs of ice-tongs-talons of the bird, firmly clamped on the body of the pickerel, which exceeded in length (from head to tail) about six inches, the spread of wings from tip to tip. Wings continued to pound air and water but the big fish could not be lifted above the surface. One more desperate pull on the pickerel’s fin-shaped oars and the bird went under water for the third time, but with his wicked claws as firmly clamped into the quivering body as ever. Coming to the surface more quickly the next time, the osprey swung his head far back, and with his ugly hook shaped beak struck the fish a mighty blow on the back of the head. The pickerel shivered, stiffened, and lay still.
The fight was over, but the panting hawk still hung on to his victim.
Recovering his breath in a few minutes, the bird spread his wings and with much flapping, laboriously towed the dead fish along on the water across the lake, where he dragged it up on a sand beach. Here he sat for a long time, resting. Then with his hooked beak he carved up that pickerel for his strenuously acquired meal. I have many times seen hawks catch fish, but on all other occasions they have been able to pick up the struggling fish and fly away with it. This fellow hooked onto a fish so big he could not lift it.
Categories: English Literature