It doesn't matter how a person goes about doing something they
can do reasonably well. Once you become aware that other people
recognize your talent at doing it, human nature kicks in. You start
feeling obligated to keep doing this "whatever thing" the same way,
over and over.
Case in point: In the FAOL Archive my early efforts as a contributing
writer are marked by story after story detailing my preference for fishing
out of a canoe. And if sheer numbers are considered, over the last four
years I've spent hundreds, perhaps thousands, more hours fishing from
a canoe than fishing from dry land.
One early spring evening two years ago this "canoe first" focus
suffered its first serious fracture. As usual, it happened as a
result of an error on my part.
I went to the lake that evening with the canoe strapped on my
pickup's roof rack. It takes me around ten minutes to unrack
my canoe, rig the bow and stern anchors, load the boat with fishing
and paddling gear and then launch it. But that evening I got to the
lake so late there wasn't time to do all these necessary steps and
still have enough daylight left for fishing (due to the distance I needed
to paddle to reach the spot I wanted to try). Angry at myself, I left
the boat on the rack and half-heartedly stepped to the shoreline at
the would-be launching point to make a few absent-minded throws.
Just something to do for a few minutes before heading home.
And what happened? I ripped into a school of crappie that was
holding about thirty feet off the shoreline. This "failed trip" impressed
on me that if I had arrived a few minutes earlier and launched my canoe
I'd have unwittingly paddled right over the top of those crappies and
not caught a single one. Moreover, I might not have caught any fish
at all that evening anywhere in the lake if I'd forced the issue
by pressing my canoe into service.
In a story he wrote for FAOL this summer, Rick Zieger made
passing reference to trying a few casts in the shoreline zone prior
to carrying his boat down to the water? Rick is as dedicated a
canoe fisherman as you'll find. I don't know if "casting before
launching" is one of his standard techniques, nor do I know how
long ago the idea occurred to him to start doing this. Regardless,
this was yet another of the smart, seemingly little things Rick does
that I read about, try hard to mentally file away and occasionally
remember to emulate.
But that's not what I mean. What I'm talking about here is the
number of trips I've done in the last couple of years where I arrived
at the lake with my roof rack empty because I didn't take the canoe
at all. I deliberately left it at home, gambling that it wasn't needed.
Usually my motive involved a desire to quickly catch ten or fifteen
panfish so I could hurry home, fillet 'em and have 'em for supper that
It's fine being in a big hurry to enjoy a meal of panfish, but haste
alone will never fill your tummy. There must be a population of
keeper-size panfish inhabiting the water you're casting into. And
even if those keepers are present, somehow you must catch enough
of them to make a meal. Whether casting from a watercraft
accomplishes this collection task better, or faster, than casting
from shore or casting while wading
I don't know; all three ways
can be endlessly advocated and intelligently debated.
Since taking up fly fishing seriously four years ago, what I'm
learning is that it's all good. My first couple of years in these
cyber-pages I doubtless came across as an advocate of canoes
being the very best choice for a fishing platform. Two years is a
long run, doing something the same way almost every time? And
it still feels strange, hopping into my pickup and driving to a lake
or pond with no canoe on my roof rack. But I'm getting more
comfortable with it.
The weird thing is, starting at the age of five and lasting until I
was in my mid-fifties fishing from the bank was about all I ever
did! For years, though, I secretly yearned to fish successfully
from a canoe. Not until I cobbled together my 2-anchor system
could the ambition finally be pursued with any semblance of boat
control. After the 2-anchor system proved itself, enthusiasm and
behavioral momentum took over and canoe fishing was all I wanted
So is the Great Wheel of Fishing Techniques now spinning around
to where I'll soon be in another exclusive groove, one that has me
fishing only from the bank again? No; I won't let that happen. It
feels too good, catching fish from my canoe and from the bank.
now that's something I need to work on. If only
I weren't the world's biggest baby when it comes to walking in water
where I can't sense the depth ahead.)
One of the funniest things about fishing in lakes is watching people
in boats prowl the shoreline, slowly moving parallel forty or fifty
feet out, expertly casting lures or flies to within mere inches of the
shore. Ask them why they do it and they'll say, "Because so many
good fish are in water only inches deep, right up against the bank."
And they're right.
Now watch people who are fishing from the bank. They step
to the water's edge and cast as far out into the lake as their tackle
and skills allow. Ask them why they do it and they'll say, "Because
so many good fish are out there deep, where the water is cooler
(or warmer, depending on the season)." And they're right.
Evidence, I submit, that people who love fishing never do feel
100 percent happy or confident operating in whatever spot they
happen to be occupying at any given moment. We're a restless
Just the other morning I was standing on a lake shore, casting
to a spot thirty feet out. Near my left foot lay one end of a
braided nylon cord, the other end was tied to a floating fish
basket. The fish basket was in the water and behind its mesh
swam eight bluegills and one crappie all nine destined for the
skillet. (Before the morning was done a green sunfish and eight
more keeper 'gills would join this group.)
A bass angler in a powerboat was slowly approaching. He
trolled past moving left-to-right, about forty feet out. To my
surprise, he pivoted in his seat and sent a cast toward the bank,
his lure splashing into the water very close to shore and no more
than ten feet away from my right foot. It was an incredibly rude,
aggressive invasion of my fishing space; surely he knew this but he
did it anyway.
On retaliatory instinct, the Nile crocodile region of my brain told
my left hand to strip fifteen feet of line off the reel so my right arm
could gun a hard cast smack into this jerk's face. I thought about
it but didn't do it. And I didn't complain out loud either because,
well, this guy was a powerboat bass fisherman? Most bass
fishermen who use powerboats are poster boys for Attention
Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; which is to say there was a high
probability that within seconds he'd be gone, relentlessly in pursuit
of the elusive largemouth "hawg."
Still, this guy had abused me. I couldn't resist entertaining myself
at his spiritual expense.
"Doin' any good?" I asked with a smile.
"Ungh," he grunted. "Coupla little bass. Back there," indicating
with a gloomy nod over his shoulder the direction he'd come from.
Like I hadn't noticed.
"Really? Try a cast into this water right here in front of me.
I've been doing real good at this spot." Like he hadn't noticed.
He immediately pivoted farther around in his swivel seat and no
surprise laid a cast across my floating fly line. And as happened
on his first cast, for this second rude effort he didn't get a touch.
"You using a little spinner? I didn't see what it was you dropped
at my feet on that first cast."
"Oh. Well, me, I'm after bluegills and they're really hammering
this little nymph I'm using. You ever eat bluegills? Man, they're
Giving no vocal or physical response that would indicate my
comments had triggered an intellectual comprehension within
the synaptic confines of his skull, the man silently resumed trolling
downshore. Moments later his boat was out of view.
See what I mean? This is exactly the kind of tummy-filling fun
that's so hard to find unless you're standing on some lake shore
using fly tackle. ~ Joe
From Douglas County, Kansas, Joe is a former municipal and
federal police officer, now retired. In addition to fishing, he hunts
upland birds and waterfowl, and for the last 15 years
has pursued the sport of solo canoeing. On the nearby
Kansas River he has now logged nearly 5,000 river miles
while doing some 400 wilderness style canoe camping
trips. A musician/singer/songwriter as well, Joe recently
retired from the U.S. General Services Adminstration.
Joe at one time was a freelance photojournalist who wrote the
Sunday Outdoors column for his city newspaper. Outdoor
sports, writing and music have never earned him any money,
but remain priceless activities essential to surviving the
former 'day job.'