I head to the river to catch dinner. It takes me about ten minutes to get ready. Half an hour to the bank from home. I bring one pole, two lures and a pair of pliers. No tackle box, no fancy poles, no scents, no lights and no time to wait. I hit the bank in about ten minutes I have either my daily limit or what I wanted to clean and cook fresh. I get up to leave and the scene is predictable. Three to four fisherman come on over, guessing they have been there for an hour or longer and are still wondering why they can’t catch anything. They are usually excited to see so many fish in so short a time. How did you do that? What bait are you using? How much do those weigh?
I rarely answer with details. Mostly because I see sheep when I see people, partly because what you, the speaker, says isn’t heard. The questioners frame what you say in some way that makes sense to the way they think. This is not a good translator. They listen but do not hear anything. I have learned just to tell a joke, toss out a snarky remark about government stealing the fish or something and they laugh and go back to their fishing.
Occasionally there is one person who is looking and considering, not out of jealousy or wonderment, but the wheels are turning. They are considering the fish, my 1972 fishing pole I got at a garage sale for a dollar, the hand carved wooden lure with single point barbless hooks and my lack of gear and myself. Bearded, tattooed, in shape and with a general sense of intensity most people don’t understand. When I see this person, guy, girl or kid I find a way to give some signal I am receptive to talking. I see what they are, thinking and patient people with a will to learn. They are not interested in what I use but the way I think. What I know and how I know it, not what I used to trick the fish. This really does not happen often.
I admit that when I was young I did not get it either. I had no one to teach me the way I now do things and I had more important things to consider than fishing. I spent my first few years fishing reading about lures and water temp/patterns. Rainfall, time of year etc. I tried many a pole, lure and bait. Impatient, in a hurry to be successful. More often than not, the person that is really listening is an older guy, a local that sees that I think differently than the sportsmen around and can genuinely follow the type of thought that makes me an easy fishermen and hunter.
One day I realized I was thinking like a consumer. A problem solver as opposed to a tactician. You may hear platitudes like, think like the fish, think like the bait, it’s about the color, the sunlight changes, etc. While those are factors, putting fishing, or anything that you spend time doing into a spreadsheet of data loses what you have naturally. The intuition of being a predator. We are just that and it should not be forgotten. I sat by the river one day, all day. It was a day when the water level was higher than normal, the clouds were constantly changing the light on the water and the temperature was moderately warm. I had no pole and no plans to fish. I wanted to understand my prey. Not in a meaningless way, which is where most people would either lose interest in the explanation, though they see the results in my hand and think it is some special lure or technique. I cannot explain things better than that without robbing you of learning it for yourself. I know what the fish are doing. I know where they are in a river, when they will bite and what they are looking for. I don’t even research the type of food that a particular fish eats any more. I know what they eat and how they go about it because I have eyes and I can see the food they are eating. Fish are predators. We are predators. The fish think, as it were, the same way you do. You already have it in you to know. They need to ambush, attack and compete for food that same way we would have to outside of an urban environment. I step outside my house, feel, and I know if I should go fishing. I go to one of the rivers or lakes, look around and know where to put my line in. I chose a lure before I left by deciding what is going to bite today. I bring a spare, usually one, as I get hung up on occasion too. Usually on other line. I don’t need to hunt hard spots like bass fisherman do and avoid looking for the biggest fish. I am there for food. I have other things to do, I need the meat, I catch it, I go home to eat.
Looking at the water tells me where to cast, how to move my lure and how deep to let it go. I carve my own lures now. I make them move the way a wounded fish would move. Fish are predators and they need to eat while spending the least amount of effort possible. They will attack the wounded fish before a healthier and larger meal that may be as easy to catch. All the bait in the water, all the other lines in the water and I see my spot, I cast, I catch.
Some days they will bite all day, you can feel it outside. Some days you need to wait until the sun is almost down. Mornings are great but make the fish sensitive to artificial food, they need to eat but are fresh awake and alert. I catch my limit in half an hour at the most every time I go fishing. One pole, one line, two lures, no gear. The line is always large, braided line that can stand some wear during a fight. The fish doesn’t see it if the bait moves attractively. This does not mean it has to move a certain way, just looking odd, slow or in pain. Try carving a lure that moves perfectly. Near impossible, so the more you screw it up, the better it usually works as long as it does not spin around.
About once per year, sometimes twice I get to explain this to someone and it seems received. This happened last night. I cast three times and caught forty pounds of striped bass in a spot that another two fishermen had been fishing all evening. They made some room for me when I showed up and dropped jaw when I hooked a twenty pound fish on my first cast. The pole was older than both of them, the lure a carved trout, broken in the middle and reconnected. It looks like something in a cartoon. They were surprised, glad they saw a good fight and a good fish and then went back to fishing themselves. On the third cast I caught the other striper and after watching the fight, they were both quiet. Once could be luck, twice that fast in the spot they were in was not luck and they knew it. They looked at the lure, me, the pole and were quiet. I saw this and after deciding they were not simply jealous, explained what I have written. Be a predator, not a consumer. Understand yourself, not the fish. Feel what right is, not what data says is right. See, don’t look. Eat, don’t waste. If you follow the laws of survival, you are the apex predator and you are already successful, before you begin. That is the most satisfaction you can have as a hunter, the knowledge that you are the best and it takes very little effort and mostly thought to win the fight you have chosen. The fish in the picture were caught in ten minutes on three casts with a pole older than I am, because I knew that when I stepped outside, it was time to go fishing, when I got to the water, it told me where to cast.