He was a beast! Big, black; the handsomest of Labradors. He really was
Montana Reserve Champion. His registered name was Deanna's Beast(an
under-the-breath slam at the Sir Marmaduke of
Highlands III breeder mentality.) Sometimes I
called him Beastie. The Beastie name came from the
Irish prayer, " ... God protect us from beasties and
goolies and things that go bump in the night ..."
Labs do "go bump in the night" — sometimes
because they have eaten rocks.
Fishermen and dogs have a special relationship.
Not everyone has had the experience of a dog being
their fishing buddy. Yes, a fishing dog. Beast would
sit, absolutely still, with ears perked waiting for the
sound of a fish. Really. And no one dared cast a spinning lure within hearing range of
Beast. A "kerplunk" would result in a running, flying, diving dog, swimming
furiously in the direction of the "kerplunk." You can see the advantages of fly
fishing here real fast.
The other problem was landing a fish. Just seeing a fish swim past his sentry
spot on the dock as enough to get him pacing. Any fish on a line was fair game — or
at least he thought so. Restraining him was sometimes necessary.
Beast was eventually joined by Pee Wee. Not another lab; this was a miniature
dachshund. His big deal was retrieving rock — underwater. The same rock you
tossed. I don't know how he could tell. Do rocks smell underwater? Beast was a
super retriever, and must have been a rather good teacher.
Beastie tried really hard to interest Pee Wee in fishing. The little dogs only
interest in live fish was what might be in a bucket. And then only if he could stand on
his hind legs and watch over the edge of the bucket. He would bark at the fish, but
never tried to catch one. Both dogs were addicted to rolling in any dead fish they
could find on the beach. I could understand Beastie wanting to be invisible so the
fish couldn't see or smell him, but with Pee Wee's lack of interest in the fish I never
figured out why he did it. Then again, maybe that was part of what Beast was
Beast has been dead for many years. A victim on cancer. Part of his life was
spent with us in the high country of Montana. Farmers up there use a defoliant to rid
the wheat fields of weeds weeks before planting. This defoliant is about one
molecule removed from Agent Orange. Labs have four very big feet. The chemical
is absorbed through the pads of the feet. Our vet was sure that was the cause of the
cancer. Beast was a true gentleman and my best friend to the end. Each time I see a
handsome lab I still hurt.
We fished a private pond a while back, and found to our delight a pair of fishing
dogs. Brother and sister, these two were very sophisticated. The dogs sat watching
the surface of the pond, separated by twenty feet or
so. It doesn't take a big leap of imagination to see a
pack-hunting style on this one. As a trout would rise,
the dog closest to the fish would dive in. The second
dog swam around behind the fish to keep it from
escaping. Neat! This appeared to be an old game
with them. Fortunately for the fish, it was a game. I
didn't see one fish caught by the duo, even though
they played it for hours. It was great fun to watch.
Then there was the lady standing on a bridge
watching returning salmon near a local hatchery. We
were all watching the Kings, Coho, and Humpies in the
creek. From time to time I mention that I've met the
neatest people fishing — or in this case looking at fish.
Anyway, she asked me if I knew if it was legal for dogs
to catch fish. Just taking a stab at it I replied, "what
kind of a lab do you have?" Bingo!
Seems these folks just moved here from Montana, and they live on a creek.
Salmon have been coming up the creek to spawn. They got suspicious when their
lab was wetter than usual. (Clean floors are tough with labs.) So they investigated.
Here was this big lad, standing chest deep in the creek, retrieving salmon. He
would catch one, get out of the creek, place it carefully on the bank and go back for
another. If one fish wriggled off the bank it was ok, he would just catch another and
put it up there.
Just so you know, good hunting dogs are known for having a soft mouth. That
means whatever they retrieve is without tooth marks or damage. Well, the fish did
not have any tooth marks at all. The salmon may have wondered if they had run into
a strange looking bear, but they were no worse for their experience.
The whole episode was harder on the dogs owners than the salmon. They tried
tying the dog up, but he chewed through the rope. They tried keeping him in the
house, but the howling drove them nuts. Eventually the run ended, and the dog sat
on the bank looking for his finny friends.
My oldest daughter is also a fisher with a fishing dog. Yes, it's a black lab. His
name is Guy. Her favorite fishing haunt is a tiny stream in the Nevada mountains. No
space to cast a fly rod, so she figured out a way to spin cast with a fly. Guy has been
her fishing companion for some ten years. At first they
fought over who had the right to fish, but he has mellowed
out. He sits by her side until she has a trout on. Then he
goes after it. They have compromised. She gets to hook it
— he gets to land it. No, Guy has never gotten a hook in
his mouth. Besides, she fishes barbless. That's so they can
both release the fish and play with it another day.
We really did go to the dogs this week. If you have a
story about your canine fishing companion, I'd love to hear
it! We might even publish it in the Readers Casts section.
~ The LadyFisher
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