Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Heritage Sites

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Forty Mile: Grayling Fishing at Forty Mile in 1938

The first enthusiast arrives and is so keen to start that he doesn’t even take the time to unhitch and tie up his dogs.

The first enthusiast arrives and is so keen to start that he doesn’t even take the time to unhitch and tie up his dogs.

Yukon Archives, Claude and Mary Tidd fonds, #7449
Chopping out the hole. (Pete Anderson using an ice chisel.)

Chopping out the hole. (Pete Anderson using an ice chisel.)

Yukon Archives, Claude and Mary Tidd fonds, #7451
Alertness on this fisherman’s part isn’t always noticeable; this boy believes in taking it easy but he catches ‘em just the same.

Alertness on this fisherman’s part isn’t always noticeable; this boy believes in taking it easy but he catches ‘em just the same.

Yukon Archives, Claude and Mary Tidd fonds, #7453
The fishing ‘basket’ is usually a small light box or an empty gasoline case; this makes a good seat too.

The fishing ‘basket’ is usually a small light box or an empty gasoline case; this makes a good seat too.

Yukon Archives, Claude and Mary Tidd fonds, #7298
Freshly-fried grayling over an open camp fire for breakfast.

Freshly-fried grayling over an open camp fire for breakfast.

Claude Tidd was an RCMP officer, outdoorsman and talented photographer. Tidd and his wife Mary lived and worked in many Yukon communities. After leaving the force in 1935, he worked as a fur trader in Forty Mile and Old Crow. In April 1938, he took a sequence of photos documenting the spring grayling fishery then used them to illustrate the following write-up.

During the spring months the supply of moose and caribou meat often runs short and the native Indians of the Yukon have to rely a great deal on fresh fish for food. Many of those living near Dawson City make a round trip of a hundred miles to the favorite fishing-grounds by dog-team. Little preparation is needed for the trip: a blanket, a tea-kettle with a little tea and sugar, a little flour are thrown into their toboggan and they are off. After the long cold winter months, travelling is pleasant during the sunny days of April.

On arrival at the selected spot, no time is wasted in deciding on the proper type of fly to be used – none is necessary. A thin willow is cut from the bank; almost any kind of twine will do for a line, and the hook, which is usually the only piece of equipment that has to be bought, is baited with a little piece of bacon, or if none of this is available, then a piece of old cotton cloth is wound round the hook and the fun is ready to begin; though perhaps cutting through four feet of ice with a good ice chisel can hardly be called fun. But once the hole is cut through to the surface of the water and the loose ice shovelled out, the rest is easy. The fisherman shown lying down in the photograph was observed to actually pull out ten fish as quick as he could haul them out and drop the baited hook back into the water. There are, of course, long periods when there are no bites; but usually an Indian has plenty of patience – and lots of time.