Fish with the Bish
July 12, 2007
Sometimes, ignorance is the best quality of a fisherman.
With the attribute of ignorance, fishermen don’t get snagged on overanalyzing.
Experienced anglers can often be heard saying remarks such as, "You have to fish this way because the moon is in its Waning Gibbous phase," or, "it’s been a full moon and the fish have been eating all night; the barometer is too high, so (insert advice)." You might get, "the hot weather will make it (insert advice), the water temperature is 50 degrees which means (insert advice), the bug hatch is (insert advice) etc."
But sometimes, all you need is to throw out a hook with something on it.
Wayne Eggbert, a full-time guide on the Bighorn River in Ft. Smith, Montana, observed similar habits. He said people make it too complicated and sometimes get too involved with tying flies that look exactly like a scud, caddis pupa or a beatis mayfly, instead of just fishing.
On one occasion, floating the Bighorn River with him on an August afternoon, Eggbert held up a San Juan Worm, a simple fly pattern that represents one of the oldest of fishing baits. It’s far from technical, and some fly-fisherman scoff at its use.
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After telling me how anglers complicate the sport, he said the San Juan Worm would catch fish anywhere, because there are various worms everywhere. When nothing works, that fly is often his go-to fly.
The magic of ignorance was illustrated by my 11-year-old nephew, Cameron, who just moved near Utah Lake. For many boys, the temptation to throw something in water with hopes of catching anything with fins is too much to resist, and it was obviously too much for him. He kept asking his patient parents how to fish the lake. So, naturally, they turned to me.
I was dumbfounded. I’ve never fished in that muddy lake filled with masses of carp and catfish. It’s almost impossible to throw flies into the muck and I haven’t been bait-fishing since I was, maybe 11.
But, I remembered hearing somewhere that people have caught huge catfish by sticking meat on a hook. So I said to my sister, Cameron’s mother, "I don’t know, stick a piece of meat on the hook."
The following week I heard a crazy story from two very excited kids. Cameron and his sister Kaecia, went to a section of the lake, pinned some turkey on a hook and sunk it to the bottom of the muddy abyss, which wasn’t very deep. Utah Lake only gets to be about nine feet deep. It wasn’t long before the line started slowly moving towards the weeds. Unaccustomed to fighting large aquatic monsters, Kaecia and Cameron didn’t know what to do. But the 27-inch catfish on the other end didn’t want to let go of the nicely sliced turkey either. The kids took turns holding the rod until the fish got tangled up in the weeds and Cameron jumped in the lake to dig out their prize.
Both were repulsed and excited to see such a magnificent and ugly creature in their hands. The thing was, they didn’t know how to get the hook out so they took it home for mom to cook.
A catfish is an impressive animal; it grows large and is incredibly hardy. But for some reason, the whiskers, spines, color and the nasty water they swim in don’t usually make for a prized possession. Although, their fight is as tough as any fish. People brag about catching large trout and bass. But rarely does one brag about large catfish or carp.
An ogre-sized trophy catfish caught with some grocery store turkey won’t put them into the fly-fishing hall of fame. But, they do have one thing over their uncle: I’ve never caught a catfish that big.
For these kids, ignorance is bliss.