A friend of mine has fished the Ohio River right on through the winter and caught fabulous numbers of sauger and walleye.
He’s done it when the river was at normal pool and when it was up and muddy.
He has caught them when it was rising and he has caught them when it was falling.
These successes he keeps to himself and perhaps one or two confidants. He doesn’t want to advertise, especially to someone who writes publicly about fishing.
“Don’t tell Piatt about this and don’t invite him along, decent a chap as he is, because he’ll publish directions to our honey hole, tell what they’re hitting on, and how to rig up and make the cast,” he said to a mutual friend. “Next time we go down there every fisherman from Scioto and Greenup counties will already be there.”
“I hear you’ve really been slaying the fish down on the river,” I said to him the next time I saw him.
His first reaction, I could tell, was to bolt, to look at his watch and say he was late for an appointment.
But, after fidgeting about, adjusting his cap several times, like a baseball player at bat, he said, “”We’ve been…taking a few now and then.”
“On the Ohio River?” I asked.
“I see. And exactly where on the river?”
“Right down there between Greenup and Vanceburg,” he said, with just a hint of a smile.
Of course, there’s something in the breast of every fisherman that makes him want to boast of his conquests. He couldn’t resist telling me of catching four walleye in a row that went over three pounds each.
“Was that at the mouth of the Scioto River?” I asked, quickly.
He studied the question a moment, then his face brightened. “Yes. Yes it was,” he said.
Which, of course, led me to deduce that he had not been there at all.
When I catch fish I want everybody to catch fish, and I have been guilty of telling readers where a good spot is, how to get there, and what to use when they get there.
But if someone takes me to their honey hole and asks me not to publicize its location, then I will generalize, much as my friend did on his Ohio River location.
When I’m on a lake or stream and catch just one or two small fish, or maybe none at all, while everybody fishing around me is nailing a limit, I’ve been known to hedge a bit.
For instance, if a reader asks me of such a trip, “How many fish did you catch?” I’ve been known to respond with, “Fewer than a dozen.”
Or, I can use the all-inclusive “we caught” when reporting on a “limiting out” by my party, of which I happened to hook only one small one.
One of the most asked questions around a fish camp is, “What’d you get ‘em on?”
A fisherman comes into camp with a nice string of fish. A crowd of fishermen, some of whom haven’t caught a fish in two days, gathers round him. He’s already made certain to detach the lures he caught these fish on from his poles and tucked them away in the recesses of his tacklebox. Maybe he has engaged in a bit of deception by tying on in their place some lure he hasn’t caught a fish on for three years.
Someone in the crowd will get around to asking the question, “What’d you get ‘em on?”
Another friend of mine, the late Bill Sauer, would answer that question with the name of some fictitious lure, usually the first thing that would pop into his mind.
”A Bugs Bunny,” I heard him tell one inquisitive angler.
Later, when we entered the office/restaurant for supper, we saw this same fisherman standing at the counter, and the proprietor was saying to him, “Sorry, we don’t have any Bugs Bunny lures. I never even heard of it.”
John Gierach and his friend and fellow writer and fly fisherman, A.K. Best, were in West Yellowstone, Montana, for a book-signing and fishing trip. They had been fishing the Yellowstone for several years and had finally found a stretch of the river far from the more famous spots that everyone fishes.
It was “our spot,” Gierach said in telling about the episode in his book, “Dances With Trout.”
“In all the time we’ve been fishing it, we’ve seen two other anglers and a bull moose.”
One day, in the restaurant over buffalo burgers, they ran into an East Coast guide that A.K. knew. The guy knew the two had been fishing the area off and on for years, and so naturally assumed that they knew what they were doing.
“After the usual pleasantries, the guy asked how we’d been doing – the standard opening move,” Gierach said.
‘Oh,” I said,’ ‘we’ve been getting into some fish.’
“I was trying to sound as if, you know, we’d been holding up our end, but it was nothing really fabulous or anything, while at the same time leaving open the possibility that it had been fabulous and I was just being cagey.”
Then the guide waded in brazenly on A.K.
“’Where,” he asked casually.’
“A.K. answered, ‘On the Yellowstone,’ glancing at me now because we were getting into a sensitive area.”
“Oh,” the guide said, “where exactly on the Yellowstone?”
“The interviewee is then faced with either telling him or ending it right there without being too rude.
“A.K. looked up from his buffalo burger and said, with finality, ‘Not where you think.’”
Reach G. Sam Piatt at email@example.com or (606) 932-3619