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From the Mouth of the River

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From the Mouth of the River

Casting techniques

As most everyone knows I love to fish. Size and quantity notwithstanding, I catch my share and not just locally. I fish not only in America but abroad as well. I have fished in far away places, such as Minnesota, where I was the guest of renowned steelhead and salmon guide Tim Johnson of the famous family of Johnsons, as seen on TV. “Ya doesn’t have to call me Johnson,” Howard, Jimmy and Bubba, all known for their fishing abilities. Bubba was known mostly from his TV show, Noodlin’. Fishing for big catfish using only his hands, the show was canceled after the first episode when a big Mississippi cat tore his right arm off at the shoulder. Because Bubba couldn’t do anything left handed but hold a beer he had to revert to doing beer commercials.

One of my more memorable fishing companions has been Patrick F. McManus, the famous writer of humorous stories for outdoor magazines and of books about mistakes he made growing up. He has recently retired from the privileged life of high finance and worshipping fans and now writes detective novels for shut-ins, novels with titles like, “Someone Stole My Teeth, Leaving Me To Gummer,” and who can forget the all time best seller, “The Dead Fisherman Had Leaky Waders.” As a fisherman Pat was known throughout the fishing world for having cleaned two gunny sacks full of small perch in one night in the kitchen sink. His wife still talks about that.

Another of my fishing companions is the world renowned international sportsman and Indian guide, David L. Lisaius, whose feats as a guide are extensively written about in the Patrick F. McManus novels. Dave’s ability to catch fish when no one else can has brought him much acclaim. He’s the only man ever to catch Scotland’s famous Loch Ness monster. But in keeping with his sportsmens’ code of catch and release there was no physical evidence brought to shore.

Dave’s outstanding career almost came to an end in Montana. It happened while he was fishing on Lake Koocanusa, a large lake that starts in western Montana and extends into Canada and is known for its large rainbow trout and multitudes of kokanee. While having a cold brewskie in the local watering hole, Dave noticed on their bulletin board the results of the latest fishing derby. First, second and third place in the kokanee division all exceeded four pounds. Dave was ecstatic. Kokanee over four pounds would make a meal fit for a king. The pink meat of this land locked salmon was to die for. Being the fisherman he was, a five pounder was in his sights, but after three days of fishing and catching over six thousand kokanee with none weighing over eight ounces, Dave was devastated. He had thrown every fly and every lure he had in his tackle box and couldn’t come up with even a four pounder, let alone a five pounder. Disgusted, Dave went back to the lodge to seek out the winners of the derby and find out what secret lure they used to entice the bigger fish to strike. While sipping on a beer he asked the bartender if he was familiar with how these four pounders were caught.

“Four pounders,” the bartender said. “This is Lake Koocanusa and there was a twenty fish limit in the derby. It took twenty fish to weigh four pounds. We haven’t seen a four pound kokanee in this lake in thirty years.” Dave is slowly recovering in fisherman’s rehab. 

One other fishing companion I spend time with is the noted fly fishing expert and guide Clifford Dare. For fifty years his expertise in the instruction of fly fishing on Montana’s Kootenai River as well as the Clark Fork in Idaho has preceded him. He has been sought out by kings, queens, presidents and dignitaries from around the world, all hoping to use his knowledge to catch a record book wall hanger. With the Kootenai River holding Montana’s largest rainbows and where the record book is almost rewritten every time Clifford takes a float trip down it, it’s no wonder when that momentous day came to catch a world record it was I who accompanied Clifford on that historic trip.

 While drifting slowly through the deep emerald pools of the Kootenai and with the sun glistening off the fly line as its back cast curled for a perfect cast to feeding ‘bows, Cliff broke the silence.

“You’re doing that wrong, Cliff exclaimed. “I thought you wanted a wall hanger. You’re casting to five and six pounders. The fish you want are down below these feeders and they’re so big and fat they can’t get two feet off the bottom, let alone rise to a hopper. Take off that dry fly line and put this sinking line on. We’re going down deep for the big ones.”

 Clifford has also been known for having invented the type of flies that are the most productive fish catchers in the world. After switching out my floating line for a sinking one, Clifford unlocked his private tackle vault and unfolded from a velvet envelope a fly so spectacular in color it almost blinded me.

“Hand me your leader. I’ll tie this on for ya. It’s from my secret stash.”

On my third cast Cliff blurted, “You #@$ %&^, give me your fly rod. I’ve told you and told you how to cast my flies. I’ll show you one more time!”

On his first cast, and a beauty it was, and just as he started to mend his line, it happened. The line snapped tight. “Fish on,” I yelled as the rod started to fold over. You could hear the drag screaming as the big fish started to run.

“Here, here, take your rod,” he yelled.

“No way in hell,” I said. “You know the rules of the river. You hook’em you land’em.

Clifford stood up and braced himself in the drift boat stanchion, all the while making snide remarks about not only me but the fish’s family tree as well.

“Grab the oars and keep the boat steady until we see which way he decides to run,” Cliff exclaimed. “Not with just one oar, you idiot, we’re going in circles."

While my skills in drift boat handling were being criticized the fish made a run down stream and kept going deeper and deeper.

“Row, row,” Cliff screamed, “use both oars.”

The big fish circled the hole and not finding a hiding place he escaped down river to an even bigger and deeper hole.

“Hurry, hurry,” Cliff shouted, “I’m way into my backing.”

When the big fish reached the bottom of the big hole he stopped circling. Slapping and slinging water all over the river with the big long drift boat oars I was glad to be swept into the deep hole by the current. Settling into the back current I was able to stabilize the drift boat. Cliff had retrieved enough line to feel he had some control over the fish, but this monster had discovered a hiding place and would retreat into it at every chance. Every time Cliff would gain a little line the fish would take it back. They seesawed back and forth until I thought the tippet would break as Cliff had put so much pressure on it. Beads of sweat were dripping off of Cliff’s nose and his shirt was soaked. I had never seen Cliff get this determined over a big fish before. With the sweat dripping into both his eyes and his shoulders playing out on him, Cliff finally conceded that the fish had wrapped itself around a log or some other obstacle and was unable to get free. He sat there soaked in sweat breathing heavy, but still had a tight line on the big fish.

I said, “Well, break him off and we’ll try another day.”

 “What?” Cliff blurted. “Get your clothes off and dive down there and unwrap that line. I’m not giving up this easy, besides this was your idea!”

“This water is ice cold!” I exclaimed slipping over the side of the boat.

“Hurry up before you get hypothermia and I lose this fish,” Cliff said.

When I regained consciousness there were two doctors standing around my bed with their arms crossed, starring down at me. “Then what happened?” one of them asked.

“Yeah, what happened to the fish?” inquired the other one.

“Well, as near as I can remember I couldn’t get ‘em.” I said. “He was in an old car body and every time I reached for ‘em he would roll the window up. And that’s when Cliff hit me with the oar!”

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Boots Reynolds Boots Reynolds The "internationally-renowned cowboy artist" Boots Reynolds has moved his comedic interpretation of life into the writing field with his regular column in the River Journal - From the Mouth of the River.

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humor, fishing

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