Fishing for fish – a new fisherman’s tale
by Roger Daugherty

          A while back I got interested in going fishing.  I was looking for something different to do and I wanted to it to be more of an outdoors thing that some of my previous interests.  Fishing appeared to be a great pastime filled with satisfactions and a sense of being one with nature.  Besides, the idea seemed simple enough: get a fishing pole, a reel, some hooks and bait and go fishing.  Getting started was also simple since my local hardware store had these items.

          I’m not exactly sure how I came to be thinking of going fishing since it was not something I had done before.  Nor did I have any friends that I knew of who were into fishing.  Perhaps I read something on an airplane or a travel article or in the newspaper.  Whatever the cause, the idea was taking root in my psyche that I might want to undertake this adventure.  So, being the type of individual to do a little research before completely jumping into something, I decided to do some reading.  What to read though?  My local bookstore has a magazine rack you pass by on the way to the book stacks.  As I glanced over at the rack, a picture of jumping fish on a magazine cover caught my eye.  As I walked over I could see there were several fishing magazines.  What a treasure trove.  This had to be the way to find out what I needed to know.  Timely, fresh, the latest stuff, lots of how to.  I took them home and started my education.  The magazines indeed had copious amounts of information, and as I began to educate myself, I learned some very interesting things.

          For example, the best way to fish is in water, as this is mostly where you find fish.  There is the occasional exception such as the Northern Snakehead who might go for a bit of a walk but mostly, you should plan on fishing in water.  This is best accomplished by using a boat unless you are wading in water or you are standing on the bank.  The important thing is to have your fishing line in the water with something that can catch a fish on the end of it.  Countless articles confirm this and make suggestions as to what should be on the end of the line or what line to use or what rod might be best and what reel is the right choice.  There is certainly no limit to the variety of opinions about what is the best way to catch a fish.  To help you remember the suggestions for this brand or that brand as specifically mentioned in the article, ads for those items are often adjacent to the article.  I think this is a service of the magazine that is done to help your memory.

          Water certainly has a variety of conditions from clear to murky and cold to warm.  Water can be soft or hard, fast or slow.  And of course there is depth and there are interesting structures to any body of water.  I am taken back to high school by these thoughts and specifically to Mary Kay French.  She was somewhat murky in her attitude, a bit cold, and somewhat slow to respond.  I never did find out if she had any depth.  However, she had a great structure that was interesting.  But I digress.  The point is you need to learn how to read the water.  This sounds easy but it can be a rather difficult skill to learn.  And yet, if you master it, your catching should improve.

          For example, as you look out across a piece of water, it is helpful if you can tell which direction it is flowing, if it is flowing at all, and if it is deeper than you are tall.  I consider these points to be critical.  I think I have made some progress in this area although I know I have far to go.  But, I have reached the point where I can accurately ascertain that some water is deeper than other water.  I have accomplished this by stepping into holes and promptly sinking over my head.  As to direction, whichever way I fall over in the current is a pretty good indicator of which way it is moving.

          Location of fish and understanding structure is important.  There is one thing about which everyone agrees: learning to fish is challenging.  Although you can fish if you do not know where the fish are, catching them is even more difficult if they are not where you are fishing.  Mostly, fish are holding on the edge [of what?], unless they aren’t, in which case they are somewhere else— but still in the water.  In my recent experience if the fish are not where you think they are then they are somewhere else.  This pursuit, like lures, is good for endless discussions about fishing, and elicits the standard comment that the fish were not holding in the usual places.  I am convinced they never hold in the usual places.

          I have a friend who is not a fisherman.  Since I have only been at all this a short time, I’m not sure you can call me a fisherman either.  One day I commented to him that I had just been fishing and it was hard to determine where the fish were holding.  He mused that since they were underwater, it could be hard to determine anything about them.  Still, he was intrigued by the thought that they could be holding and he wanted to know what I thought they were holding.

          Now concerning the water, there is a great deal of information on what depth to run your line out to in looking for the fish.  Most conventional wisdom at the end of the day supports having your line out far enough to reach the fish.  This is not so easy because I have discovered that fish are not always in the same place as when I last saw them.  This results in a lot of guessing as to what depth you should run out the line.  Fortunately there is help: radar.  We will get in to that a little later, but for now lets move on to some other critical concepts.  Often when fishing and trying to find the fish, you are admonished to get down or to take the lure to the fish.  This is similar to advice given by James Brown during a musical performance.  (We still have that where are they question.)  In order to get down, several things are offered including lure lips, lead sinkers, bead heads, and sinking lines.  These tools help you get down, which increases your opportunity to hang up.  As Jimmy Hendrix once said, you have get over your hang ups and get down in order to get right.  So music does play a part in fishing.

          Based on the articles comments and ads I’ve read, being “deadly” is what its about.  A “deadly combination” seems to be very sought after.  In the magazine articles, there are jillion “deadly” something or other lures, combinations, rigs, etc.  The word deadly is used a lot.  In anything to do with fishing one is left with the impression we could possibly be considering reeking mayhem amongst the piscine population by the repeated use of the word deadly.  A fishing rig combination that is deadly is to have a hook with bait on it or a lure of some kind, or maybe a plastic type worm thing or a spinner or some kind of buzz bait unless you prefer a float and sinker with the hook.  I don’t have anything against causing fish to expire especially if you are going to eat them, it’s just that I associate the word deadly more often with guns, knives and possibly the IRS.

          Anyway, the four basic elements to a rig are a pole, reel, line, and a hook.  Simple enough.  Poles or rods come in a variety of designs, materials and lengths.  This means you can be quite specific about which pole you use in a particular situation to catch a specific kind of fish in a particular place.  You want the right tool for the right job.  It makes sense to me.  Thus we have the Bill Woodward 7 foot bass bait caster pole for an 8 lb. test mono line with a hard action for flipping (that’s an underhand throw) in warm southern waters in the color red.  To throw over hand would require a different pole.  Possibly an 8 foot medium action Bolt Out of the Blue Super Action rod depending on the time of year, the time of day, the temperature, and possibly the velocity of the wind.  You can begin to see the problems a kid with wood pole, string and hook can encounter.  By the way, Bill a very nice guy who makes his living fishing, wears shirts with the logos of equipment manufacturers he feels strongly about sewn on them.  I tend to wear clothing that with logos for my favorite baseball team so I understand this particular fashion statement.  Because I do believe in the right tool for the job, I now own more fishing poles than the number of fish I have actually caught in these few months since I have begun fishing.  I am prepared.

          Reels are another important item.  These are devices for storing your line on, casting out your lure, and reeling in a fish that you have hooked.  Typically they have a crank handle that turns the spindle upon which the line is located.  The complexity of this operation, and the surgical precision required, often results in a device that carries a price tag exceeding a used car or at least my used car.  When I went to the store to buy one, it sounded like this: 
          “What are going to use it for? asked the sales person. 
          “Catching fish” says I displaying the depth of knowledge I now had and a bit of a wise acre response. 
          “What kind?” asks he. 
          “I’m not sure” says I, “but I am planning on going fishing at the local lake.” 
          There were at least 100 different reels displayed in the case we were leaning on. 
          ”That would be Bass then” says he.  “Largemouth”.  “This reel right here would work very well for what you want to do.”

          “I do like to have the right tool for the job.  Why is this the one?” says I.
          ”Well” says he, “it has a variable control for release rate on cast using magnets that reduce or eliminate the likelihood of overrun or creating a bird’s nest.  And, the retrieve rate is a 5:1 ratio for burning cranks and having the power to get the fish in not to mention this active adjustable drag plus the option on/off line clicker to signal a hit.”
          Although I am not sure I got all of that, I’m thinking this was pretty much the sports car I never got to buy when I was younger.  ”How much?” I ask.
          ”We can arrange financing.” he says.

          And then there’s fishing line.  Like fishing poles, lines have very specific attributes.  Stretch, no stretch, round, oval, thin, fat, super line, normal line, all of which contributes their part to creating a “deadly combination”.  This is tough stuff and will hold up to about anything including being scraped, bitten, yanked and knotted.  This being the case I was a bit taken back by the consistent recommendation that the line be changed often lest if fail you at a critical time.  Not too worry.  Given the number of hang ups, line fouls, and birds nests, line replacement in a timely manner is pretty routine for me. 

          And the fourth element, the hook.  A hook is important and most anglers use one of some kind.  (Before you completely think me a fool, there is one state in the union that recommended fishing without a hook and simply counting the number of times a fish tried to take your hookless lure.)  Hooks are central to the concept of lures.  When thinking about this particular facet of fishing, it is best to have memorized several brand names of lures and what the specific lures are called.  It is not that you need this information to actually fish as much as it is useful when talking to other fisherman. 


Very few artificial lures are directly straight forward in description, but instead have many nuances as does fishing in general.  Most articles focus on artificial lures and do not spend much time on natural lures and such.  As a result, one may come to believe the manufactured lures work better that the real thing.  (Although I suspect there may be a great deal of fishermen using natural bait but claiming they used a particular lure.  This is because it is hard to beat being able to say, “I caught him on a quarter ounce Abner Jenkings double long with a 45% degree lip and a tail gunner with one of the belly trebles cut off and a skirt added with glass beads to kick the sound up.  I personally shaved the sides to get a more realistic movement.”  This is much more satisfying than saying I used a worm. 

          This brings us back to radar which helps us find where fish are holding.  Radar units are installed in the boat and can see the area below which includes the bottom and structure as well as any fish that may be milling around.  There is even a unit you can attach to your fishing line and cast out into the water.  The problem with radar is that it removes hope.  As long as you don’t know what’s down there, you can hope.  Radar confirms what you suspected all along and that is that there is nothing down there.

          I remember our neighbor when I was a kid coming home from a day of fishing empty handed.  “We couldn’t find them” he would say.  “But, we had a great day on the water.  It was a beautiful day and my brother Joe and I had a great time trying to catch them”.  Trying was based on hope.  If you had a radar unit, you would just have to come early and work in the yard.  I for one would rather be fishing.


Roger Daugherty


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