Sporting Show in 1897 at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

What follows is a fine example of a “Rangeley fish story.” Most notable is that it is shared by one of the greatest Guides the region ever produced: Daniel E. Heywood.

Heywood once served as John Danforth’s Head Guide at Camp Caribou on Parmachenee. He was a true woodsman in every sense, and he wrote a regular column in Shooting & Fishing published in New York, which was the leading sporting publication of its day.

Heywood would later become quite a naturalist, credited with being one of the first to capture photos of wildlife at night. He also was a regular participant representing Maine at major outdoor shows with Fly Rod Crosby and others.

(To learn more about Heywood and other notable personalities from Rangeley’s iconic past, stop by the Outdoor Heritage Museum in Oquossoc.)

Below is Heywood’s descriptive tale of a successful fishing trip with a physician from 1904. Enjoy.

Maine Woods, March 7, 1905
(Reprinted from Shooting and Fishing)

The Prize Fish

As a guide, the best and most companionable fishermen I have ever met have been doctors. They are always good fishermen if they are good doctors. Their business brings them so constantly in touch with the human side of life that they have learned patience, forbearance, and seem to have the proper appreciation of everything.

For good humane thoughts and ideas, for an impartial outlook upon human nature and upon natural causes and effects, and the qualities that make a good fisherman, I would put a good family physician against all others.

Last summer it was my good fortune to fish with a doctor about two weeks. He was a state of Maine man and came from a locality where hunting and fishing are central locations. To him the fishing was only incidental to his being at the Rangeley lakes, for he was in company with an invalid who furnished him with a guide and insisted on his enjoying himself. This invalid, though not a doctor, was the right sort, but he was not much of a fisherman.

Fishing was poor. There were many small ones and any day we could catch a bunch of them; but we did not care a cent for the little ones. The Doctor cared no more for them than did I, so we got on together very well.

It was a pleasant pastime and there was always a chance of getting a big one. To add to the interest of the sport the man offered a large cash prize to the guide who landed the largest fish.

The Doctor wanted me to get the prize.

There was only one other guide to compete with, and as the man did not go fishing very much, I thought I stood more than an equal chance of getting it.

The man was a lucky genius. One day I saw him haul in a 3-pound salmon on a hand line, hand over hand, and throw it roughly into the boat. By similar rude work and good luck, he managed to keep ahead of the Doctor and myself the first week.

One evening, after an unusually hard day, the Doctor and I headed for the hotel, about a mile away. We were apparently the last boat to go in, having been detained on account of some quite heavy strikes near a certain place. This was the last trip over the ground, for we knew dinner had been long since waiting.

The wind that had been very tiresome all day suddenly abated; leaving the lake smooth but rolling. The sun had just disappeared behind the hills, crimsoning the western sky, and promising a fair day on the morrow. Suddenly the Doctor’s rod swept backward with a violent swish, and he struck vigorously and then let the reel spin.

“There’s something worthwhile!” I exclaimed.

At the same moment a salmon appeared and rushed along the surface like a wounded duck, splashing the water in a very strange and unusual manner. It went down, and the line soon swept away to one side. I reeled in the other line, for we were using two rods, then attended to the oars.

As a rule, I do not row after a fish is well hooked, unless it runs toward the boat or the fisherman requests me to do so, for I can see no use in towing them around. So, I sat still and let them work.

Before very long the salmon was directly under the boat and down about 40 feet, as near as we could judge. It was no doubt as near the bottom as it could get. Gradually, the Doctor worked it up near the surface, until only some ten feet of line was out; then with a great rush it dashed away, taking a lot of line, and again sought the bottom.

The performance was repeated at regular intervals for more than half an hour.

Several times the salmon sprang into the air, but in such a way as not to give us much of an idea of its size.

Daniel Heywood was a naturalist and author, and wrote a regular column in Shooting & Fishing published in New York, which was the leading sporting publication of its day.

The day was fast fading and there were some things that we were unable to see that made the situation awkward.

The line on the reel might pile upon one side, or it might get twisted around the handle, in which case there was not light enough to aid much in handling it. I could not see the knot where the line and leader were connected, consequently it was a matter of guesswork just how near in the salmon was. An owl in the nearby woods began hooting merrily and seemed to be either cheering us or the salmon.

I suppose we used more time than was necessary, because we were especially careful not to lose it. Finally, it came to the surface. Its tail and dorsal fin showed in the sheen toward the sunset and the line could be seen indicating where its head was.

Ye Gods, what a fish!

It was 30 inches long if it was a foot and the tail looked to be as wide as the blade of an oar.

I stood up and wet the landing net. It was a big one, intended for just such work.

Slowly and steadily the Doctor towed the fish toward me, until almost within reach, when with a great splash it disappeared; but the screech of the reel assured me that the connections were still intact.

Again, it came to the surface and was towed toward me. It was evidently getting tired and would hold out but little longer.

I got the net below it this time and raised it swiftly, and the salmon fell inside and was safe. I brought it to the boat and hoisted it aboard.

Then, we looked about us. It was pitch dark, so to speak, and our absence at the hotel might well be causing alarm, so we hurried in as fast as possible.

When we got in, we examined and weighed the salmon. It turned out to be a racer — one of the long, dark colored fellows, with enormous head and fins, but with a slender body. It was long enough to have weighed 10 pounds, but instead it only weighed 6 1-2.

It held the record, however, for several days. But one day, while I was out with a picnic party, another guide went out to row the Doctor, and in less than 20 minutes had hooked a salmon which they eventually landed, that beat mine by more than two pounds.

That’s the way it goes — fisherman’s luck.

—D. E. Heywood, in Shooting and Fishing

For over 180 years anglers have been coming to the Rangeley Region to etch their names into narrative of battles both won and lost with the great trout and salmon found here. The size or number of fish caught are far less than the enduring memories created, so be sure to get out there and make some outdoor history of your own!

Bill Pierce is executive director of the Outdoor Heritage Museum in Oquossoc.