John McCoy is the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette’s award-winning outdoors writer. His "Woods & Waters" page appears weekly in the Sports section of the Sunday Gazette-Mail.
In 32 years of outdoors writing, John has had articles published in Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Bowhunter, North American Whitetail, Hatches and other publications. His works have earned more than 50 state, regional and national awards for writing and photography.
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This week’s column takes a look at how we, as anglers, sometimes sentence ourselves to the same old same-old:
Jeremy Wade is a fisherman after my own heart.
Wade, who hosts cable TV’s “River Monsters” show, values results more than technique. He’s interested in catching big fish and doesn’t much care how he goes about it.
I’ve seen him use lures to catch Eurasian “pike-perch” from the cooling pond at Ukraine’s infamous Chernobyl nuclear site. I’ve seen him fly fish the headwaters of India’s Ganges River for mahseer. And I’ve seen him use live bait to catch everything from African tigerfish to giant Mekong River stingrays.
It’s almost as if the mind of Al Davis, the late Oakland Raiders coach, has made its way into a world-traveling angler’s body. Davis’ motto was “Just win, baby.” Wade’s seems to be “Just catch fish, baby.”
These first few paragraphs might confuse those of you who know me or have followed my weekly columns for the past 33 years. Yes, I prefer to fish with a fly rod whenever possible, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy fishing hardware or bait.
The top shelf of my fishing closet contains tackle boxes filled with crankbaits, buzz baits, spinnerbaits, grubs, tubes and twitch baits. It also contains a small box filled with small spinners and all the necessary gear to fish, like worms, minnows, salmon eggs or PowerBait for trout.
There are fly rods, sure, but there also are spinning rods in several actions and two or three casting rods. And the collection is by no means complete. Before I cash my chips, I plan to purchase (and make good use of) a muskie rig and a spinning rod heavy enough to be used for big catfish and hybrid striped bass.
One of the best things about living in West Virginia is that its angling opportunities are so very diverse. From tiny headwater brook-trout streams to rocky smallmouth rivers to deep-channeled inland waterways where monster catfish lurk, there’s something for everyone.
People have preferences. I get that. Heck, I have them too. My personal preference is to use a fly rod to cast for trout, largemouth or smallmouth bass. But I’ll happily use minnows to fish for crappies, dough balls to fish for carp, plastic grubs to fish for sauger, chicken livers to fish for channel cats, or strips of baloney to fish for creek chubs.
I know people who fish using only one kind of tackle for only one species. I’m not about to criticize them, because they’re doing what they enjoy and they’re doing it in a way that makes them happy. Personally, though, I don’t like to limit my options.
I also like to learn new things, and the best ways I’ve found to learn more about fishing are to fish for different species and to try different baits, techniques, rods, reels and lines.
A good friend once invited me to go bass fishing. He knew of my reputation as a fly angler, and he knew that I preferred to fish for trout. When I showed up carrying a bait-casting rig, he did a double take.
He did another double take when I fired cast after cast without a single backlash. He did a third double take when I cast a spinnerbait over a sunken log, teased it up to the log and let it fall as soon as it crossed over.
“You’ve done this before, I take it?” he asked, grinning.
“A time or two,” I replied. “Hey, man doth not live by fly rod alone.”
The goal of fishing, after all, is to catch fish. The more or bigger fish anglers catch, the more they tend to enjoy the experience.
Perhaps, then, we should all take a lesson from Jeremy Wade and start caring more about catching fish than how we go about doing it.
We’d probably catch more fish, and we’d certainly have more fun.