As far back as the oldest old timer can remember, anglers have been looking for the miracle lure that catches fish “beyond belief,” or a virgin lake filled with naive fish. To these people may I say, “Don’t hold your breath.”
Now I will be the first to say that all good fishing is not gone. However, rarely will you have great fishing without plenty of effort and good old fishing savvy, the latter being the most important. Understanding game fish, their habits and biology in general will help you catch more fish than any fishing rod made from the latest space age material or fifty tackle boxes filled with the latest lures.
A number of years ago, a few friends and I decided we were going to go to Lake Superior and take in a little steelhead fishing. None of us had ever fished these overgrown rainbow trout before, but we were willing to learn. I decided the first thing to do was to read up on Great Lakes steelhead fishing. At that time there was very little information available and I ended up ordering a book from Michigan. It was the best thing I ever did.
Several months later, I was in the Brule River along with several other runny-nosed, shivering anglers methodically drifting spawn bags through deep holes. The fishing was as cold as the air; not a single fish moved.
I decided to leave the crowd and do a little exploring upstream. Perhaps there were some undisturbed fish that just might hit. After a few hundred yards the river got shallower-looking more like the rivers referred to in the book I’d read.
“Ah! This looks good.” I said to myself as I slid down the bank.
Slowly, like it was my last chance on earth, I cast toward a spot where fast water dropped into a deep hole. I could feel the imitation spawn sack skip along the bottom. Then it stopped. My first reaction was frustration. Stuck on the bottom again and it was one of my last baits, but just then I remembered a phrase from the book I’d read “…always set the hook when your bait stops. It may be a rock, or it may be a trophy steelhead.”
“What the heck!” I lifted my rod and held tight. For a moment there was a dead weight. Then it began to move upstream. There attached to my line was the prettiest fish I had ever seen. Through the clear water I could make out it’s olive green back and vivid pink sides. At first the rainbow seemed oblivious to the hook embedded in it’s jaw, but the realization soon set in. With a flip of it’s broad tail, it was into the fast current, with me stumbling after. Three sets of rapids, a borrowed net, and several close calls later, the big fish slid into the net.
Even though I’ve caught several steelhead since, this is still the most memorable fish of all. Why? Because even though I was as green as they come, I was able to take a trophy fish when everyone else caught nothing but colds. I had caught this fish on book learning and the experience of those before me.
Today there is an array of educational fishing material beyond belief; books are written about every specie of sportfish there is, televison shows feature fishing experts imparting their sage wisdom and sportshows tout big name fishing professionals giving instructional seminars. Not to mention the internet, where it all is.
Before you think you already know so much that the experience of others won’t help, think again. I’ve met many of the best anglers in the country and they still study extensively.
Posted by Jeff Howard on July 25, 2011
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