A long, long time ago, I used to do some bow-hunting. Actually, I started shooting a bow before I ever went to school, kindergarten that is. Back in those days, bows did not have wheels and wires, and arrows had cedar shafts. The only thing I ever knew was a Bear recurve, and the arrows my Dad manufactured.
Along about grad. school, I really got into fishing in the fall. Oh, it is not that I do not love to hunt, I do! Trap too! But, there comes a point when there is so much to do and so little time.
So, I fish.
But, I know enough to know that right now is absolutely the best time to be in a tree stand with a bow in your hands. If you are trying to arrow a big buck, you better be sitting in your stand “24/7” right now.
Come to think of it, I do that, a lot. Just is my “stand” is on the water.
You see, I am on the hunt for big fish in the fall. As a matter of fact, I will readily admit to you that there are a lot of anglers who catch more fish than I do. I will also admit that there are a lot of days I could catch a bunch of bass or panfish. Sometimes I do, but most of the time I am looking for something bigger than that, much bigger.
I spend a lot of time standing in a pair of chest waders. No, I do not own a boat, not yet anyway. Yes, I try to stay mobile, you cannot catch ’em where they ain’t, but a person just cannot cover as much water in a pair of waders as he can in a boat. Sometimes the best strategy is to identify high percentage spots, spots likely to attract big predator fish when they are feeding, set up stand, and wait. When the time is right, the monsters will come.
That is what I do. Cast after cast.
Some times it is a long time between fish, hours. Many trips I know I am fishing for one strike, one fish. A good outing will produce a couple; a really good one more than that. But, I can go fish-less for a long, long time if I know the pay-off will be big.
It is not just about the fish, just like the hunt, it is not about the kill. Beautiful sunsets, starry skies, murmuring waterfowl, prowling mink keep me company.
It takes a huge amount of confidence to make it work. Knowing the bait is right and is being put in just the right place. Positive feedback can be few and far between. Patience is tested especially as the water cools and retrieves get slower, and slower, and S-L-O-W-E-R.
I hunt big fish as often as I can in the fall. Oh, I love ice-fishing, cannot wait, but I want just a few more warm days. It is simply a matter of time. Given enough, there comes that moment when it feels just right. . . .
On the next cast, when I am grinding a big bait back so slow, I will feel a “thunk”. Something big just ate the bait, all of it. I live for that moment. When I set the hook, it will not budge, but it will be alive. I will play her carefully, it may be the only fish of the trip, but then put her in the net. Left in the net, in the water, I will touch and marvel at the big, glorious creature. I wonder how she has lived so long, been so successful, gotten so big?
After posing for “selfies” with her, I will thank her for playing the game with me. Then, watch her swim away.
And then get back on stand.