Al Campbell, Field Editor

January 5th, 2004

Ultimate Fish Detector
Al Campbell

(Actually, this is just a way to write about a popular subject (Buford) while telling another boring and useless story, which is a cheap writer's trick; but it works, so I'm all for it.)

Some guys just know where to look for fish. I've heard it said that they can "sniff 'em out." While I'm sure it's true that some guys have a certain "sense" that helps them locate fish, there is nothing better than having a good fish detector to help you find a fish. I think I have found the ultimate fish detector, and I suppose it's time to tell you about it; but first I need to lead into this story like all good writers seem to do.

My basset hound (Buford) thinks he gets to go with me anytime I get into my vehicle on a day when I'm not working. That is especially true if I have a fly rod or camera in my hand. I don't think he really cares if I'm going fishing or just running to the hardware store to buy something I need for the latest honey-do project. He just likes to go for a ride anytime he can get one.

One thing I have learned about Buford is how well his nose works. That hound can smell ten-day-old rabbit tracks after a hard rain. I'm betting he can detect the breed, sex and direction of travel of any cat that crossed his path in the last month, and he gets just as excited over a cold trail as he does over a fresh one. Another thing that nose of his can detect is fish. Not that he has a special fondness for fish or anything, in fact, I think they bore him; but he certainly has a nose for the creatures of the deep, and that can be very useful. (Notice how I'm leading you into this story?)

Before I sold my powerboat, I occasionally took Buford with me fishing for perch and crappie. He would get all excited standing in the bow, wind flapping his ears around and making his cheeks puff out. He enjoyed that more than sticking his head out of the window while driving down the highway. However, if we cruised over a school of fish, he would lay down in the boat and roll his eyes back in that "I'm bored" expression he always gets when he knows I'm going to stop and try to catch a fish. It was a foolproof way to know if I was over fish. (More leading in.)

I'm a firm believer in observation. In fact, I think the first 15 minutes on any body of water should be dedicated to observation. I think that belief started the first time I took Buford fishing. It takes about 15 minutes for him to sniff and hydrate all the streamside vegetation. Careful observation during this initial fact-finding session is very important. For some reason, dogs have this acute desire to acknowledge any markers left behind by other creatures. Watching Buford attempt to reply to a message left by a Great Dane or Doberman is worth the trip right there. In that case, the initial observation period usually takes more like 30 minutes, but it's definitely worth it. (A slight literary detour designed to lure you away from the actual plot.)

After the observation period, there is the fact-finding period. That's when Buford heads to the water's edge and sniffs it for clues. Since I don't have that boat anymore, this is now done on a favorite stream. After depositing a few more business cards on streamside bushes, Buford usually heads upstream looking excited and alert. However, as soon as he smells a fish, he lies down, rolls his eyes and starts looking bored. He doesn't even get excited when I land a fish. He just looks up at me with those eyes that say, "Are you having fun now?" (Notice how I supported this paragraph with an earlier paragraph? I think you're supposed to do that in a good story.)

I can even tell if the water is loaded with a lot of fish or a big fish. The expression on his face says it all. Severe boredom means lots of fish, while serious boredom means a big fish. A slight roll of the eyes indicates a small fish hardly worth the attempt. He always knows what is there, and about how long it will take before he gets to search some more.

Since Buford hates to get wet, I don't have to worry about him ruining my fishing by swimming in a fishing spot. He doesn't even like to get his feet wet. If it weren't for the fact that he likes to follow stray scents, I wouldn't have to worry about him at all. (Another slight detour, but this one will take me to the point where I go for the kill.)

There has to be some name for a talent like Buford has. I think we should call him a "sniff fish finder" or "ultimate sniff fish detector." My friends have other names for him, but I think they are jealous of my talented fishing buddy. I just know he can accurately detect the location of any fish. In fact, his talents are so accurate; he hasn't failed me yet. Well, I guess there was that time he discovered the not-so-cold skunk track, but I don't want to go there again. EVER! ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns

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