Lead into Gold: A Review of Kenn Oberrecht’s “The Angler’s Guide to Jigs and Jigging”(1982)

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Lead into Gold: A Review of Kenn Oberrecht’s “The Angler’s Guide to Jigs and Jigging”(1982)

 

People sometimes ask me “Hank, why do you read these old fishing books?” My answer is “Shakespeare.” Awkward silence generally follows, or someone accuses me of being a professor.

Let me explain (that’s what professors do, after all). First, there is no such thing as an “old book.” Every book is new the first time we read it. And just like any other book, we ease into it, fit our mind to its author’s style in the early pages, slip into ideas and characters that it presents, etc. We all remember the first time we read Hamlet in high school. It was like learning a new language. If you stuck it out you were rewarded with a mighty drama about choice and regret.

Second, there is no such thing as a “fishing book.“ That’s just a phrase we use to describe writings composed by people who spend a lot of time holding fishing tackle around water. What we call “fishing books” are really just books that explain how a person thinks through a specific type of problem. The central premise of every fishing book is basically “How can I trick and catch a living animal that cannot directly be seen (most of the time).” As such, fishing books are really books about the art of tricking an aquatic animal. Or, if you prefer, books written by people who think too much about fishing.

Does thinking ever get “old?” I hope not. And what would life be without choices, or regrets? I wouldn’t want to know. For one, the fishing stories would be few and far between.

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A Bucketmouth for the Bucket List

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You may be wondering about the title. “Bucketmouth” refers to a Largemouth Bass, a big Largemouth Bass. A “Bucket List” is of course something we keep, checking off an item or two if we are lucky, or we endure. But there is more to this title. There were many options to consider as I drove through the scrub forest, swamp and farmland, watching the horses on ranches run and the slow rivers roll.  And it came to me then because I started thinking about the great Western films in history. I was thinking specifically of a little known Spaghetti Western by an Italian director named Damiano Damiani, a film called A Bullet for the General (1968). Set during a revolution, it is a film loaded with counter-revolutionary plots and surprises of all kinds. Damiani’s film is one of the best Westerns of its time, and it ranks high on my list of favorites. It’s a complicated film about complex people in crazy times, and as I came to the trail head of a complicated trip, it seemed to point in the direction I wanted to go as I tried to answer the question “How do I explain what happened on that lake?”

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Fly Fishing for Bowfin

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Here is a well illustrated and informative post from Isaac’s Fishing Corner, a fishing page I follow. In it Isaac describes fly fishing for Bowfin (note his use of larger flies and a strong leader, but also a lighter 5 weight fly rod). There is not much available about fly fishing for Bowfin in the fishing literature so this was a welcome sight from Bowfin Country.

I can clearly remember the first time I ever saw a Bowfin: I was fishing a little irrigation ditch that ran through some corn fields when this strange looking fish slowly surfaced and gulped some air before disappearing back into the muddy water. As soon as I saw that fish I knew a new obsession […]

via Fly Fishing For Bowfin — Isaac’s Fishing Corner

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Bowfin Country Field Journal: Kayak Topwater Largemouth

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Topwater fishing, late May. The clock said noon but it was still early morning in the cove. Contrary to popular belief, bass will strike all day on topwater in low light, depending on circumstance and presentation. Stealth is essential; I was in 4 feet of water and the cove was only 30 feet wide. A single paddle bump on the kayak would have spooked every fish.

They never heard me coming.

 

Bowfin in Outdoor Life magazine

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The latest issue of Outdoor Life magazine (April 2017) contains a short feature about Bowfin fishing. The article is largely based on an interview with yours truly. For some reason, the editors chose to place it on a page entitled “Ugly Fish.” Look at the Bowfin I am holding in the photo – it’s a beauty. Nonetheless, it’s always good to grab some positive press for this under-rated and misunderstood native species, and I am particularly honored to be included in a magazine that I have read since I was a child. Thank you, Outdoor Life!

The Erroneous Classic : Dr. James A. Henshall’s Book of the Black Bass

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James Henshall ‘s Book of the Black Bass was published in 1881. Today it is a considered a classic; for example, the edition I read was a reprint published by B.A.S.S. It is a strange book to qualify as a classic because it is littered with hearsay, the prose is often extravagant (but not always) and many of the scientific facts it alleges are simply wrong. Furthermore, Henshall was limited by tackle options (in those days, fly lines were made of silk and horse hair that had to be hung and dried after use, and bait casting reels –minnow casters, he calls them – were a new idea). How then is it a classic? Because Henshall was the first to argue at length for the merits of the Black Bass species as game fish, and to do so mustering all the available scientific knowledge  to make his case. What is most interesting is that he did so at a time when the Black Bass was not considered a sport fish (he uses the term “Black Bass” to describe the Largemouth, but implies the Smallmouth and other sub-species). In short, Henshall’s book is filled with mistakes, but if you read it Book of the Black Bass carefully you can hear the modern bass angler’s bluster and bounce; read it with an eye for his arguments against the American trout monopoly, and you will see why he was eventually persuasive, even prophetic.

Nonetheless, to the modern bass angler looking for fishing advice or modern scientific data (not to mention a more readable style of prose), the Book of the Black Bass will resemble a work of fiction written by the good Doctor Frankenstein. In the first place, the book is longer than Abe Lincoln’s beard, numbering 455 pages. Henshall divided it in three parts, each with its faults and merits, so I will review each section in turn.

Spine of the B.A.S.S. reprint of Book of the Black Bass

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