CATCHING NOT FISHING #2
Boudreaux finished reading a new book: How to be the King of Your Own Castle.
He stormed into the kitchen and walked up to Clotile.
"Don't 'hello' me, woman. I am the king of this castle!"
"Okay." Clotile kept cooking.
"Tonight you will fix my favorite food and bring me beer.
"Uh-huh." Clotile kept cooking.
"After dinner we will watch the football game and then make love."
"Um-hmm." Clotile kept cooking.
"Then you will fill the tub and scrub my back and bring me my robe. And after that, guess who's going to dress me and comb my hair?"
Clotile looked up from the pot. "The funeral director, I guess."
The advantage of writing is that occasionally you get to rant.
I'm not much on fishing. I like catching. I like catching a lot. I really don't like hiring a guide who gets excited about seeing a permit or tarpon or bonefish. I want to catch one. If trout are rising, I want to catch them. If they're not, I still want to catch them. I don't want to admire bluegill or bass on their beds; I want to catch the biggest meanest orange belly or hawg in the pond. If I wanted to watch fish, I'd put on a DVD. I'm not in this sport to be a spectator.
Today I am $600 poorer than I would be if I had not wasted a day on the flats watching tarpon and bonefish. Before leaving, hours at the vise were spent to produce a box of flies in every pattern said to be the fish-catchingest saltwater designs ever. New equipment was purchased in extra heavy weights I may never use again, even for bucket mouth bass. Adding in new special line for long accurate casts and special UV protective clothing (at least I can use that again) and other big fish accessories made this a trip cost the same as a mortgage payment. For which I got what? A look at some fish a long way off. Period.
I know a guide in Arkansas who puts me on so many fish my friends think I'm lying. He does this while teaching me to make a better roll cast and to better read the water. He does this for half of what I just wasted watching fish. [http://www.littlemissouriflyfishing.com] He also taught me that you can have the most beat up; eaten through, torn apart nymph and it will still catch fish. What great catching trips those are.
I also like a catching oriented guide. I really don't like a guide who is more naturalist than hunter. Consider that when we got back to the dock after the recent fishing but not catching trip, I saw tarpon swimming between the boats docked there and tossed in a piece of sandwich. More big fish slashed toward that hunk of bread than we saw all day. They were bigger fish than we saw all day. If you can see them at the dock, why would I want to just ogle them on the flats?
Okay, I know a guide can't guarantee fish, but come on....
If you go to the World Wide Sportsman at Islamorada, they feed tarpon by the bar, including one the size of a barge. Watching these monsters while tossing down a beer is an interesting diversion for bar entertainment. Imagining the thrill of matching muscles with that barge is something you do when you are not actually trying to catch him.
On a previous Keys trip, my guide (not the same one) couldn't find tarpon, so that guide put me on Jack Crevalle. Now no one in tarpon country is going to ooh and ahh over how many Jacks you caught and they may not end up on your table, but catching fifteen pounders will make your heart beat fast and your arms ache. That was a catching guide. And he felt so bad about not catching tarpon that he offered to refund half of his guide fee. That wasn't necessary, but he felt bad, and cursed the weather, the water, the fish and himself (diplomatically not his client) because he was a catching guide.
In between those trips I went out again and caught mackerel and grouper and flounder and practically anything but tarpon, permit or bonefish. That guide finally changed location and we caught Jacks. They were big jacks and we didn't see anything else. That's not wonderful, but acceptable.
While on the water, my recent fishing guide asked if I objected to chumming the water. All I could think of was "will it help me catch fish?" Captain Let's-watch-fish said some purist fishermen considered chumming a sacrilege. Okay, if you want to fish, fish. On the other hand, if you want to go catching, anything short of dynamite is okay, not that it made any difference on that day on that flat.
If you haven't figured it out by now, my luck with trophy fly fishing in the Keys (and these are just a few of the failed trips) pretty much stinks. I like the Keys a lot, but I've since found a spot I can wade for free and can regularly catch pompano and blue runners and mangrove snapper. Guess where I'm going from now on?
I really like catching. I have been stuck on waters were the action was abysmally slow and barely avoided getting skunked. What I remember of those places is the catch that got off my skunk stink. Changing flies ten times is not too often if the last fly you try finally catches something. Of course, by then, there better not be a more likely catching spot or I'm long gone.
Assuming (yes, I know, that can make an "ass" of "u" and "me"), but assuming there are lessons that will make catching more likely, consider:
Fly fishing shops usually tell the truth. If they say fish aren't biting, they aren't. Maybe it's the tide, or any of a thousand other things. You are not going to magically change whatever it is messing up catching just because you go fishing.
If your prospective guide asks if you'd consider spinning gear, do go.
If a guide says he'll provide the equipment, let him. Don't buy stuff you'll never use again.
If a guide says "things are a little slow" that means fishing not catching.
If a guide says "I'm taking you to my secret spot" it means things are a little slow.
Weather matters. Bad weather (excessive heat, cold, wave action, etc.) can put down fish, and it's pretty miserable to boat in. Thanks to the Internet, we can find out what the weather will be like tomorrow or over the next few hours and be confident we're not guessing wrong.
Fish don't bite everywhere. Every water body has "likely looking" spots. Nature rarely puts fish in waters you wouldn't expect to find them. Don't waste time on empty water.
Don't expect what the water can't produce. A fishing bonanza for some waters is one (1) good fish. That includes places I've been to but won't go to again.
Know what kind of food the target fish eat. Fish these even if they're not your favorite.
Effective flies need not be pretty or complicated.