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Entries in books (218)

Thursday
Feb092017

Battling the Big Ones

With the fish so well hooked, Dance understandably thought that he was about to land the biggest smallmouth bass of his young life, possibly even a world’s record. Based on mounts that he had seen at a taxidermist, he was certain that this bass weighed more than 10 pounds.

Excerpt from "The Big Picture," about Bill Dance and other notable anglers who tangled with trophy fish in Why We Fish: Reel Wisdom From Real Fishermen.


Monday
Jan162017

Fishing's Fascinating History Documented in Book by Duck Dynasty's Willie Robertson

If you like to fish and you enjoy reading about history, then The American Fisherman: How Our Nation's Anglers Founded, Fed, Financed, and Forever Shaped the U.S.A. is just the book for you. Written by Duck Dynasty's Willie Robertson and historian William Doyle and illustrated with 75 photos, it traces the significant, and often surprising, role that angling has played.

For example,  in "The Fisherman Who Created America," find out how fish, saved Washington's Continental Army at Valley Forge from starvation, although actual events might not be as dramatic a "fish story" as originally believed. The "Greatest Fishing Trip of All," meanwhile, was Lewis and Clark's trip up the Missouri River, in the wake of the Louisiana Purchase. An Army private from Massachusetts, Silas Goodrich, even was brought along as an angling expert.

"We don't know where he picked up these skills," Robertson and Doyle wrote, "but as soon as they hit the water, he was reeling in fish all over the place," including "the men's favorite, catfish, some as huge as 100 pounds."

In this book, you also can learn about "the fish that won the last battle of the Civil War," the whaling era, and the golden age of sportfishing. The latter possibly is the most fascinating, as it traces development of the sport, both salt and freshwater, from Ernest Hemingway to Kevin VanDam.

Female anglers are recognized too, as are U.S. Presidents who fished. A final chapter documents the remarkable healing power of fishing.

Appendixes provide interesting reading as well, including an article by former President George H.W. Bush and another entitled "Great Moments  in American Fishing."

Why We Fish and Better Bass Fishing, a couple of my books, provide nice complements to this historical perspective on fishing.

Friday
Dec232016

It's a Wonderful (Angler's) Life' 

I had been certain the smallmouth bass would cooperate following the afternoon rain, but they didn't.

After I lost my favorite streamer to a snag, I slapped my fly rod disgustedly against a branch. Droplets danced in a sparkling chorus line, but I barely noticed. Fishing had been poor for weeks and I was mad at myself for continuing to waste time on such a worthless sport.

Suddenly I heard an elephant-sized splash. I raced downstream and around the bend to the site of the sound.

An old man with unruly white hair bobbed along as the current filled his waders. "I slipped," he yelled through an equally white beard. "Can you give me a hand?"

I dragged him ashore and helped him pull off his boots. As he emptied his waders, two bluegills plopped out and tumbled back into the stream. "Been one of those days," he said as his river-green eyes appraised his dripping khakis and red flannel shirt.

For a second, I thought that I detected a brief smile on the old man's tanned face. Then, he squished over to a stump and sat down.

"Why do we fish?" he asked abruptly, and I had the disturbing sensation that he had just read my mind. "Most times, we don't catch fish. We get wet and cold. Bugs bite us. We spend a small fortune on tackle. I mean, what's the point?"

I said nothing, but I enthusiastically agreed. I remembered a reckless sidearm cast and a hook that stabbed my lower eyelid. The wound itself was superficial, but the visit to the hospital was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, especially because a worm was on the hook when it stuck me. I also remembered poison ivy and bee stings. I remembered broken lines. I remembered sunburns.

"What I'm trying to decide right now," the old man continued, "is whether to throw my rod and reel in the river or give it to my grandson. He would love to have it. but he's too young to know any better. I don't want it on my conscience that I influenced him to become a fisherman."

Again, I was taken aback. I remembered when I had been too young to know better. And I remembered the old man, a neighbor, who had influenced me to become a fisherman.

I remembered sleepless nights of expectancy. I remembered shivering in the boat so violently during the pre-dawn that I barely could bait my hook. I remembered how sharp and good the coffee smelled in the thermos and how the air on the water smelled of sweet cucumbers. I remembered the sun finally warming my face, burning off the mist, and making me inexplicably happy.

And I remembered how fishing continued to make me happy as I grew up. At first, I now recalled, I had thought it important to catch a lot of fish. Then I had wanted to catch big fish. And I had caught my share in both numbers and size.

But I knew for a fact that I had caught little or nothing on many of my fishing trips, and yet I couldn't remember a single time that I had come home from fishing unhappy.

Yet, I had been unhappy when I heard that splash, and if the old man hadn't started me to thinking . . .

What is needed, I decided is a guardian angel of angling. He could, of course, meander down idyllic trout streams to make certain that hatching insects look like the flies carried by fishermen who are about to come along, and he could whisper on the wind to bass anglers, telling them when to use chartreuse and when to use white.

But more importantly, he could keep us from forgetting that fishing is a lot more than just catching fish. He could remind us that fishing restores our souls through sights, sounds, and smells --- and the memories that it revives.

This is a rebirth for me, I decided. Never again will I fail to appreciate the sun's magic on raindrops. Never again will I forget the pure pleasure I derive from being on the water with ducks, dragonflies, bullfrogs, beavers, and all of the rest --- even if the fish aren't biting and I've lost my favorite streamer.

My eyes met the old man's then and I jerked back to reality. I smiled and told him that I once filled my chest waders with a farm pond while reaching for a moss-wrapped fish that was just out of grasp. "It's all part of fishing," I said with a shrug."

"If I were you," I continued, "I wouldn't give that rod and reel to your grandson. I'd buy him a new one and take him fishing with you the next time."

He laughed and slapped a hand against his stream-soaked pant leg.

"You're right," he said. "But before I go, I want to show you my appreciation for your help. I want you to have this."

He reached into his tackle bag and then extended his hand to me. As I opened my hand, he dropped a streamer into it --- a streamer just like the one I had lost.

"We all need a little help every now and then," he said as he waved goodbye.

(This story is included in Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies: Growing Up With Nature.)

Copyright Robert Montgomery.

Monday
Dec122016

Honoring Our Angling Heritage

We fish mostly because of the personal gratification that it provides: We catch fish. We spend quality time with friends and family. We relax. We compete.

But as we do all of that, whether we realize it or not, we also fish to sustain a tradition and honor our heritage. We do that by passing on a code of ethics and etiquette to our children that makes them not only better anglers but better people.

*    *    *    *

This is an excerpt from "Honoring our Heritage" in Why We Fish, available at Amazon, along with my other books about fishing and nature.

*    *    *    *

Actions that reflect good etiquette and ethical behavior by anglers include the following:

  • Honor another’s trust. If someone shares with you his “secret spot,” don’t tell anyone about it, no matter how tempted you may be.
  • Whether in a boat or on shore, don’t cast your line across another’s or into “his water.” Doing so not only is unethical but could result in a tangled mess that keeps both of you from fishing.
  • Understand and follow fishing and boating regulations. Obeying the law is not only ethical; it also keeps you from paying fines and possibly even going to jail and/or having your fishing privileges revoked.
  • Handle fish gently. Don’t suspend them out of the water with fishing line. Don’t touch the gills. After you net or lip them, don’t allow them to flop around on shore or in the bottom of the boat. If a fish “swallows” the hook, cut off the line at the eye and leave it in.
  • Never keep fish just to “show off.” You should be prepared to clean and eat any that you take home.
  • Have your boat ready to go before you back it down the ramp. When you take it out, move it quickly out of the way so that others can use the launch area.
  • Help with loading, unloading, and cleaning the boat.
  • Take live bait home with you or dispose of it well away from the water instead of dumping it into the lake. Be certain that your boat and trailer don’t carry any uninvited hitchhikers, such as nuisance plants or zebra mussels.
  • Don’t move fish of any kind from one water body to another. In addition to being unethical and illegal, it could do irreversible damage to a fishery that you were trying to improve.
  • Always ask permission before crossing private property or fishing a pond or stream on private property.
  • If you are wading, try to avoid trampling aquatic vegetation. Enter and leave the water at places where the banks are low or at gravel bars, so you will do less damage to the shorelines.
  • If you are fishing on private land and keeping fish, offer to share your catch with the landowner.
  • Leave an area just as clean as you found it. And especially never discard line or soft plastic baits. Even better, pick up the trash left behind by others. Littering, of course, is against the law. Picking it up shows respect for the resource.
  • Avoid spills and never dump pollutants, such as gas and oil, into the water.
  • Share your knowledge and enjoyment of the sport by taking others fishing.
  • Through your own behavior, promote angling ethics and etiquette.

 And when you are fishing with children, be especially mindful of your actions. You are teaching by example. Consequently, your behavior determines not only what people today think of anglers but those of coming generations as well. In other words, the future of fishing depends on it.

Friday
Dec092016

What You Should Know About Taking Kids Fishing

First, and foremost,  the primary goal for a young child going fishing is to have fun--- not catch fish. Some adults have trouble remembering that.

Take them to a pond, lake, or small stream where the panfish are plentiful, and fish with live bait and the simplest of gear, such as a cane pole or spincast outfit. Also take a bucket or two, and maybe some jars with holes in their lids. Don’t try to fish yourself. If you do, you’ll just get frustrated. Your full attention should be on being a teacher.

Remember that most every child will want to keep the first few fish that he or she catches. It’s natural, perhaps that first awakening of the hunter-gatherer imperative that is a part of our species. If the fish aren’t biting, that same instinct will kick in when the child turns attention to catching frogs or crawdads.

Before you respond to a plea to keep the catch, start a conversation about its color, size, beauty, and/or uniqueness. Point out a frog’s webbed feet and its big, flat ears on the sides of its head. Spread a sunfish’s dorsal fin and explain its spines. Hold your hands up vertically by the sides of your face and wave them back and forth as if you are a fishing breathing through gills. It’s okay to be silly. Actually, it’s better to be silly.

Suggest placing the critter in a bucket or jar, without agreeing to take it home. Usually, that will be enough. By the time that you are ready to leave, the novelty will have passed, and you can turn loose the catch without protest. I’d suggest doing so with a little ceremony, maybe waving goodbye as the fish swims or the frog hops away.

If you meet with resistance, explain that the animal will die if taken away from its natural home. Most kids don’t think about that until it is explained to them.

When the time is right, too, keep some of those fish and teach kids how to clean them.

Above all, though, take them fishing.

From Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies: Growing Up With Nature.