What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been

Fish Catching Travel

When I look back at 40 years (Hard to believe.) of serious hardcore fishing there are so many memories.  20 years of freshwater guiding, traveling to some beautiful places, and the lifelong love of fishing, has been good to me.  So it was time to sit back and write them down.  While this will take several days, it will be a labor of love.  And heck at my age the old memory could go at any minute.  So here they are, the craziest, and coolest, things I have ever seen or done on the water.

So where do you start on a list like that?  Best to worst, oldest to newest?  I think I will just write them down as they come to me.

Shoedog catches the Beaver  –  While on Lake of the Woods we saw a beaver swimming with a branch quite a ways from us, then he went down.  About 3 or 4 minutes later Shoedog had a huge bite.  He held on with all his might as a big muskie (he thought) came to the top.  The bait was hooked in the branch, the Shoedog was pulling, the beaver was pulling, and I am not sure who was freaking out more.

Shoedog and the Loon  –  He tossed his bait on this small point and a muskie came out of 2 foot of water and smoked it.  As the fight began, and is was a doozy, a loon appeared right on the tail of the muskie, mirroring every move.  With his wings spread he looked like a fighter jet.  It resembled a mid-air dog fight.  Flat cool.

Alligators  –  I have seen 2  ducks hit by alligators.  If you think you have seen a topwater bite, think again.  They just exploded on those ducks.  One night as I fished a small island there were a couple of ducks swimming in a shallow pool behind the grass near the bank.  A 6 foot alligator ran out of the cane on fully extended legs.  Hard to believe how fast an alligator can run.  No getting out on the bank to retrieve a lure on Coleto!

Moose  –  While canoeing in Minnesota we had a bull moose come out of the woods, wade into the wild rice, and sit their munching on it 25 feet from of us.  Those things are huge.

Opps  –  I came around a bend on Lake Norfork in Arkansas and there was the nose of a boat sticking out of the water and the guy was sitting on the bank, but he saved the cooler.  Think those two things might have been related?

More Oops  –  I saw my friend Clyde fall out of the boat twice in one month night fishing.  Good thing it was November.

A Little Windy  –  While towing a couple of honeymooners in when their boat quit I saw an ugly storm come up in one minute.  Next thing I knew a pontoon boat was on my head and I almost drowned.  A tornado hit me and the boat dock.  That was a close one.

More Oops  –  While living and working at the boat dock I saw all kinds of things, dropping boats off the trailer on to the ramp, even folks driving into, on, and over the dock.  I even ended up doing CPR on a guy who got so frustrated trying to back the trailer in he up and died.  That is crazy.

Not Full Yet  –  Last month I found a rubber grommet in the belly of a redfish.  Over the years there have been turtles, several mice, crappie, plastics worms, pop tops and I can not remember what else.  My favorite was a Kentucky bass with the clip of a chain stringer hanging from his lip.

Sailfish  –  My buddy Chris and I hand landed a sailfish in 2 foot of water off the North Padre Island coast.  Truly amazing.

Can I Hitch a Ride?  –  While fishing one morning a small fawn came out of the woods to get what I thought was a drink.  It walked in to the water, swam directly to the boat, and tried to get in.  One of the great outdoor moments of my life and no camera or phone with me.  Dang it.

A Dream  –  While this may not be crazy, when my blue marlin first broke the surface and started jumping as the big diesels roared and we backed down it was so surreal it seemed like it must be a dream.  I did it.  I caught a marlin.

Yikes  –  I was fishing with a partner in a winter bass tournament when he asked where is the water coming from in the boat?  It was freezing that night and I guess the plug popped out, so at 50 miles an hour, in 30 degree temps, I leaned over the transom and put the plug in.  Now that was crazy.

Shark!  –  As I headed in to the ramp at Coleto Creek I saw a big fish floating so I stopped to check it out.  It was a big blacktip shark.  It finally dawned on me I was downwind from the bridge and some wasteful fool had thrown it off the bridge.  But for a second there I did not know what to think.

More Shark  –  Boca Grande Pass is one of the craziest places to fish in the world.  Dozens of boat drifting feet apart, and when the bite is on there may be 10 boats fighting tarpon.  Fish rolling and jumping everywhere, people screaming, it is insanity.

I had just finished a 1 hour fight with a tarpon when my lovely wife said there goes a bill.  Now there are no sails or marlin in Boca Grande Pass so we motored over and there are 2 hammerheads, as long as my 17 foot skiff, eating a 100 lb tarpon.  That area is known for the big hammerheads that follow the tarpon, many of them are caught well over 1000lbs and those guys were easily in that category.  There are a couple of tarpon fisherman who visit that area every year and hire a plane to find the big concentrations of tarpon.  They said they would never get in the water around Sanibel and Boca Grande.  I love the ocean, kill or be killed and good luck to ya.

Nice Day for Getting a Tan  –  I was guiding my old buddies Albert and Tony and as we headed around a sharp little turn in the back of a cove on Lake Norfork there were a couple of topless girls sunbathing in lawn chairs who did not see us coming.  They were embarrassed, we were just enjoying the great outdoors and the fine creatures that inhabit it.

It Must Be Us – You Think?  –  Speaking of girls, Clyde, Max, and I were camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe area and were literally in the middle of nowhere when here comes 2 cute girls in a canoe.  We asked them to join us at our camp but for some inexplicable reason they went on their way.  So not only cute but smart.

Figure 8  –  The  very first muskie I saw follow my bait to boatside I caught using the figure 8 technique.  The figure 8 may not mean much to you, but try hooking a 15lb muskie with 2 foot of line out at the boat.  It is one spectacular bite.

Thanks for the Help  –  While fishing the coast I felt something hit me in the leg.  There on the floor of the boat was a nice pompano that jumped in the boat.  As hard as it is to catch fish sometimes any help I can get is appreciated.

Experience Saved Me  –  Mac and I were headed in after some serious night fishing when my Champion bass boat rocked just a little and I knew instantly it was a wake.  I pulled back on the throttle and we stopped 15 feet short of a pontoon boat.  Loaded with 8 or 10 people, they were idling with their lights off, and we almost hit them at 40mph.  The only time I have yelled at someone on the water.  It would have been a real disaster and people would have died!

Nice Cast  –  I had a guide customer throw his topwater in a tree and he was yanking like a madman to get it out.  It popped out, flying over our heads and the boat.  When it landed 30 feet behind us a 3lb bass promptly jumped it.  Nice cast dude.

Just the Bait –  While in law school I took Hastings Hanshaw fishing with me and he promptly threw my casting rod and reel in the water.  We got it out and I am not making fun of Hastings because over the years I have tossed several in the lake.  Heck I did it last year on the Lavaca River.  I even had a brand new one get caught on an overhanging branch and I noticed it was gone when I stopped at the gas station.  I headed back and found it hanging from a tree.  Lucky.

Those Crazy Swimming Squirrels  –  Old timers in the Ozarks talked about the rare occurrence where squirrels migrate due to nut shortages.  When I actually saw lots and lots of them swimming the lake one October I was a believer.  It was definitely weird.

It is only Money  –  As we cut across the bay the Shoedog yelled stop the boat!  As I turned the boat around there was a trail of paper money.  As we were running it was blowing out of his pocket.  I think we found most of it.

It Felt Like a Bite  –  As I drug my worm around for bass on Lake of the Ozarks it got heavy so I set the hook.  After a funny feeling struggle I managed to reel in, but definitely not land, a big pair of underwear.  Must have been a hell of a party.

Double Team  –  While fishing with a couple of little kids they managed to catch the same bluegill at the same time on both their rods.  Kid number one will never be a fisherman, feeling a bite eludes him.

Where is the Net?  –  While whacking and stacking redfish one day I leaned down to get the net and it was gone.  I happened to be filming and when I got home and looked at it as I unhooked the redfish I promptly threw the net in the lake.  It is hell getting old.

Where is My Rod?  –  The Shoedog and I were in a small cove in Canada and it was literally loaded with small pike.  We were killing them, probably catching 25 in there in nothing flat.  So the Shoedog unhooks the pike,laying his rod down with the spinnerbait in the water.  A second later, where is my rod?  We never heard it leave.  Good thing it was brand new.

Its Not Cold  –  As Clyde and I launched the boat in an ice storm the truck lost traction, screaming down the ramp as I pressed on the brakes for dear life, and then we promptly slammed to a stop at the waters edge.  The winch strap broke, the boat slid in, and a huge wave came over the motor and froze everything solid.  Later as we cut across Bull Shoals Lake Clyde pushed the throttle down and the handle broke off in his hand.  It was cold.  For once it wasn’t my boat.

His Eyes Were Almost Bigger Than His Stomach  –  Shoedog and I watched a blue heron spear a redfish at least 3 pounds.  He then walked over to the bar and worked like the devil to get it down.  For a while it looked like he wasn’t going to make it.

Eye to Eye  –  My first trip to the Everglades, the first cove, I had the bite of a lifetime.  As my spook came to the boat along a mangrove shoreline an easy 100lb tarpon came out of the grass like a freight train and absolutely smoked it at boat side.  I set the hook, he jumped eye level with me, what a moment.   Next jump he was gone.  Talk about getting your blood going on day 1 of your week long trip.

Whirling Dervish  –  Albert and I were fishing the North Fork river on a cool spring day when all of a sudden a whirlwind started up.  It grew to about 50 feet tall and was sucking water 3 feet up at the base as it passed thirty feet from us.  It is hard to describe the sound but it sure was impressive.

Probably Going to Leave a Mark  –  As Chris, Shoedog, and I flew across 6 inches of water in the air boat we saw an area with a bunch of reds.  Chris stopped the boat, a redfish lost his mind and charged right in to the side of the boat knocking himself plum out.  God that had to hurt.

A National Geographic Moment  –  As Clyde and I trolled off Lighthouse Point near Key West Florida here came a dolphin, and another, and then more and more as they cruised by us.  There were literally hundreds and hundreds of them.  It really was a tv moment.

Who Needs Shoes?  – Speaking of my buddy Clyde, over the years I have seen  him ice-fish, pheasant hunt, and boat fish, all in tennis shoes.  The only problem with that it was below freezing with snow everywhere.  He may not always be the most prepared, but that boy can take it.

Dark Shadows  –  Do you see a theme starting here?  Clyde and I were returning down lake from a night tournament.  As we cruised along we had to round a big shallow sand point.  It looked like a shadow so I asked Clyde, he promptly yelled it is the bank!  I slammed the throttle back, our wake lifted us up, and politely placed us on the bank.  We hurried and floated the boat before anyone of our buddies saw us.  Another one of those things that could have been worse.

It was Only a Mile Down to the River  –  As I headed down the big hill towing the boat we had to cross the White River Bridge.  The boat started bouncing and then the hitch came off the ball.  In a moment of clarity I sped up and towed it over the bridge and stopped with my nose pointing up hill.  The whole time the boat was chasing us but I managed to keep it from either ramming the rear end of the truck or hopping the guard rail and falling into the river.  Last time I went without remembering to put the pin in the coupler.

An Eye for an Eye  –  As I hoisted a 23″ trout out of the net a dolphin raised his head out of the water about 8 feet from me.  He stared at me, the fish, then me and fish some more.  We were in an aquatic stand-off.  He finally gave up and swan away.  When you have an encounter like it reminds you that there are some creatures in this world that are truly astounding.

That is clearly enough for now, I don’t want to bore you with the ramblings of an old man.  These are some of the memories that live in my fishing mind, and as time goes on I will add to the list.  How about you?  You all have to have seen and done some amazing things on the water, and we would love to hear from you.  So send me some, lets add to this list of those memories that make fishing what it is – the greatest sport in the world.  Keep stopping in and thanks for reading my stuff.

Good Luck and Tight Lines

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