Thursday, June 4, 2015

Fish much?

To all my fishing buds throughout this great nation and to readers here at home, north of the border, and across the ocean - many of you will identify. And the rest of you, well, you know who you are...

I'm asked all the time - "How do you fish so much?" Usually the person asking has a sort of sulking demeanor with a hint of self pity about them as the words roll off their tongue. Maybe they don't even say it out loud, or in those exact words, but the message is conveyed loud and clear.

That's a puzzling question really. I didn't know that I did fish all that much. It doesn't feel like I do. I certainly don't go half as much as I want to. I can't imagine I've got rod in hand more than a typical fisherman who has their priorities in line.  I've got the usual constraints keeping me off the water - a family to raise, a day job, my wife's jam-packed calendar, hunting seasons, ice, etc.

I want to ask in return "why do you just WISH you fished this much?"
Do something about it.  Look for opportunity. Make it happen. Mark the full moons on the calendar. Make plans to leave early or to come home late. It doesn't have to be anything more than whatever is available. A bluegill caught by the fountain of a city park before starting the daily grind is time well spent.  Toss a trot line in the river and swing by to check it on the way home.

I truly don't fish much, at least not by my definition of "much." Perhaps more than the regular license holder, but certainly not nearly as much I'd like, or nearly as much as I could handle, or even as much as in my more care-free past. Some people think I live on the water. My wife is likely among them, although I suspect she's blotted the pre-kid days from her memory.  Fishing is like food - just grab a snack when you're hungry.  You gotta eat.  And eating always seems to happen.  Fishing can 'just happen' too.  People can't make it a week without a favorite TV show... yet complain from the couch that they don't get to fish often.

I've lived in lots of places across the country.  Fishing opportunities were different in every spot - but I capitalized on what there was to offer.  That much hasn't ever changed.  Those orchestrated opportunistic and somewhat random opportunities include trout and smallmouth in North Carolina, largemouth, white bass, and redfish in Texas, steelhead and salmon in Washington, trout and pike in Montana - plus a multitude of visited spots and vacations in between where fishing wasn't the purpose of the trip but got squeezed in - bass and snook in Florida, flounder in South Carolina, carp in flooded timber, trout at summer camp, bluegill anywhere, bowfin in coastal swamps, creek chubs in urban streams, brookies in Colorado, pickerel in a Piedmont creek, rainbows in South Dakota, white bass and buffalo in the Great Lakes, browns in Michigan, trout and bass in Georgia, browns in Wyoming, crappie in Pennsylvania... and so on.  I'm NOT talking about planned events penciled onto calendars that you look forward to for weeks on end.  Those trips exist too.  I'm talking solely  about the trips inserted into regular life.  Spontaneousness.  Or at least semi-spontaneousness. 

I do catch some pretty awesome fish.  The screensaver on my computer gets longer all the time. But the thing about it is, half of those fish were caught on opportunistic trips.  Planning may be involved, but I'm catching fish on hour-long deviations here and there.  Of course I find them on actual day-long or multiday fishing adventures, but all those "extra" stolen opportunities add up.  Give me six or eight quick trips during a prime month on prime water to one day-long trip anytime. One of those quick trips will line up with ideal conditions, and casts made will always be to the best spots. Trips once a month or a handful of times a year don't amount to much. Rarely do they fully overlap ideal conditions - clarity, weather, moon, hatches, etc. Don't tell me you've never checked in at the local bait or fly shop to jump start your 'trip of the year' and heard "Should have been here last week."  And if you're not keeping your finger on the pulse of what's going on with the waters you fish, then likely you'll spend a chunk of your once-in-a-blue-moon fishing trip figuring things out.  Not to mention you'll just be plain rusty.  Any skill takes practice.  Any workout requires reps for results. They say even a blind hog finds an acorn on occasion - but if that hog checks the same tree on a frequent basis he's going to find more than one.  He might even discover that little divet at the bottom of the hill where acorns seem to collect.

What am I saying? I'm saying Always travel with fishing gear. If fishing isn't your thing (which I have no idea why you'd be reading this if that's the case), then pack along the equipment needed to do whatever IS your "thing."  Hiking boots. A camera. Your bike. Heaven forbid a game boy.  If I were a golfer, I'd be driving balls off scenic overlooks. Perhaps your 'equipment' is simply a book. Readers seem to have this licked - they always produce a book out of nowhere and read it in any spare moment - in the bank drive-through line, waiting for kids, during lunch, on the can - you name it. They don't whine about not having time, they just plow through book after book as life goes on.

If you want to fish, pack your stuff. Always. View daily life as an opportunity yet to be discovered like the readers do. Pull over at bridge crossings. Don't have your gear? Shame on you. At least spend five minutes putting your polarized glasses (or squinty eyes) to work. You might see something useful for next time - actual observed water levels to compare to USGS flow graphs, crawdads on the bottom, a bunch of insect shucks, a weedline, rising trout, a hatch, a deep hole, a spray of fleeing baitfish, structure, a bass suck in a frog. There's just no telling.
You do have your gear, but no time? Cast anyway! Even if its just twice. See if you get a follow or a looker. What was it? Did you just learn something?
So many times I've done this in a fishery where I wasn't sure what it supported, or in a place where I wondered if maybe I was too far below a dam in a tailwater for trout to be there. Five minutes of ripping a plug or swinging a fly and I see a rainbow swipe and miss. Maybe a brown followed or I hooked a 6-inch smallmouth.  Time to head back to the truck and get on down the road, but I'm armed with info for a later trip. They're there!....

If you've got time at all, jet down a side road and look for an access point for future. Mentally map out some floats or hikes.  Better yet, scribble on a map, take gps points. Build a catalog of spots you can hit. Some you can hit more often than others. Some you simply need to pull off at routinely, like you do at your favorite gas station or coffee shop. 10 minutes under a bridge isn't going to kill anybody's schedule. Neither will 45 minutes most of the time. 
Ignore the weather, and by that I mean go no matter what. You can take those 10 minutes under a bridge in the freezing cold, or getting poured on, or getting pelted by mosquitoes. 

Fair weather fishing equates to barely ever fishing.

Its absolutely fine if none of this appeals to you. No sense in doing something you don't enjoy. But at the same time, don't whine about how you never get to go. Just enjoy when you do, or when you choose to. I've been called crazy a thousand times for what I'll endure and what I'll finagle to carve out some fishing time. But if that's not your style, then you can hardly complain that I fish more than you. The truth is, I do the same thing you do. I look around and see folks who appear to live on the water and have all the luck - sponsors, world travel, writing gigs, guiding connections, TV shows, blogs with actual reader traffic. 
And then I whine. Just like you.

1 comment:

  1. You may seem to fish a lot to someone who hardly makes time for it. It’s all a matter of making time for what’s important. For some people, playing golf may also be an activity they enjoy and they make time for that as well as fishing. In other cases, people who really like being out on the water may do that more often.