How Many?

I routinely catch “flack” about my fishing tackle from family and friends. Comments like “how many rods and reels do you really need?” or “why can’t you pick one and call it good?” And my favorite…”I can’t believe you have a “fishing room” in your house!”

I usually shrug it off or try to explain, but it never makes sense to them. The reality is that as a person gets older, other hobbies fall by the wayside. After a major back surgery and three shoulder surgeries…it’s not a good idea to continue rock climbing and mountaineering! Even kayaking and canoeing takes a toll. So I’ve essentially been left with camping, fishing and amateur radio. I only have one teenager left at home, but soon he will move on to start his life. And I have plans for my retirement that involve a lot of fishing.

I have loved fishing for decades and have no plans to stop until my body gives up. So how many rods DO I REALLY NEED? There is not an obvious answer to that! If all you do is sit on a bank and bobber fish with worms then you can get by with only one or two rods and reels. But you can’t effectively use a trout rod to catch bass or pike. Big catfish and stripers mean bigger rods and stouter tackle.

Fly rods come in an assortment of lengths and weights for a reason. The 5wt is the all-rounder that almost everyone buys as their first setup. But what if it’s windy…which is all too common in Oklahoma? You need a heavier rod in 6wt-7wt as well. And if you want to try tight-line nymphing then you’ll need a slightly different outfit.

I think tackle of any sort needs to suit the application and therefore I purchase accordingly. Certain streams need certain rods, certain styles of fishing require something completely different. And that’s what I do! THERE IS NO SINGLE MAGIC WAND.

Truth be told, I’m leery and skeptical of a fisherman with only one rod. Unless of course its a young angler just starting out.

If you like fishing as much as I do, in all of it’s vagaries, then you’ll need several rods and reels whether you like it or not…just sayin.

You Might Want to Keep This Meme Handy…

This meme stays on my phone at all times. Invariably when I send a picture of a fish that I’ve caught, my friends always ask that ONE QUESTION: “Where’d you catch it?”

The picture is usually followed by another text that includes this meme. At that point, it’s probably a good idea to just turn your phone off, because you know what their response is going to be.

Just Sayin!

The Honest 20 That Got Away…TWICE!

I have never considered myself a fisherman that was only after trophy fish. I enjoy fishing and catching fish is always a bonus.

So let me set the backstory a little bit.

We had embarked on a trip to the Boundary Waters and were on Day 2. This was a traveling trip where we paddled all day and set up a new camp every night. The fishermen would have to squeeze in any fishing they planned to do. Camp #2 was set up and all of the chores were done so I had a bit of free time. It was approximately 10:30 in the evening, with fading light.

I grabbed a rod and reel and slipped into a canoe by myself and paddled out to some promising spots for Pike. I had caught a few small pike (hammer handles) and a couple of smallmouth before I decided to upsize my lure to a big Mepps #5 inline spinner with squirrel tail garnishment on the treble hook. I was using a 6ft Medium rod and a 2000 size spinning reel.

I noticed a huge swirl just off a point by some reed beds and made my cast. I felt my lure get slammed and it was immediately followed by an explosion in the water. The line went tight, the rod bent and the drag started screaming. Then the “Texas Sleigh Ride” began. My canoe was being towed all around that little bay as I fought to control that fish.

With a fishing rod in one hand and a paddle in the other, I truly had my hands full. As I was towed a little closer to our campsite I started yelling for them to help me (like a dummy, I didn’t bring a net or even a pair of pliers.) I was waving at them to come help me while they started lining the shore and waving back! To me it was surreal. I waved more frantically and yelled louder for help. They waved harder and smiled more. The American Gothic painting flashed through my head when I saw a couple standing there with fishing poles in hand. OK I thought, I’m on my own!

After about 10 minutes of this madness, I managed to get the fish to the canoe. It was HUGE! At first I thought it was a Muskie but the teeth layout and coloration was wrong. It was a Monster Pike! Next I tried to figure out how in the heck I was going to boat this beast. No net, no pliers. Can’t lip it like a bass! I reached to the head to pick it up by the “eyes” but there was no way my hand could reach across…it was too thick. That’s when I knew I had an Honest 20! A pike that weighed 20 pounds or more. A true trophy pike.

While I was wasting time trying to figure out how to get this monster in the boat..Mr. Pike was using his time wisely! He was resting and regaining his strength. At that point we made eye contact…when you look a pike in the eye, he looks at you like you owe him money and he’s there to collect! In an instant, he thrashed his head back and forth and snapped the treble hooks off my lure. He stayed boat side long enough to smile, give me the middle fin and glide back to the deep. I was stunned. All I could do was sit there and drift.

Eventually I paddled back to camp and gave everybody a good chewing for not helping. They of course couldn’t understand what I was saying and thought I was waving and having the time of my life. UGH! They just started waving back and cheering me on. “Crushed Dreams”…needs to be a lure color!

Fast forward to 2 years later and I was in the same spot ready for Round 2. I wanted MY PIKE!

I made the cast and set the hook. The fight was on and it was a good one, lasting almost 15 minutes. I was pretty certain it was the same fish…I recognized the smile!

Said fish is brought to the side of the canoe and I start trying to haul him aboard. Pike are SLIMY and I lost my grip. And yes…SNAP! As he made a last ditch effort to escape by diving deep…I had forgotten to open the bail on my spinning reel. With my drag setting being too tight, the distance between the fish and the reel being too short and coupled with his surge to escape…the line couldn’t hold and snapped. Again I was stunned to silence…the scoreboard flashed 0-2! My fishing partner in the canoe even had a tear in his eye. It was over.

I never tried for Mr. Pike again…content to leave him be, safe in his little Bay. An old warrior that was best left to history. TRUE STORY

Patience Is A Virtue…I just don’t have any!

I FINALLY received notification that my new fishing rod was out for delivery. 26 miles in 3 days…hmm. But at least it’s moving in my direction. Second-string carrier pigeon perhaps?

Of course, it’s 17F outside and we’re socked in by ice. It looks like a “crystal palace” out there. So the odds of the rod actually showing up today are slim.

It’s not like I’ll be able to fish anytime soon, but still…”We Wants It, we needs it!”

Chalk it up to a character flaw or something. But I want my rod! All of the admonishments circulating in my head are valid…”this generation wants everything now!” etc etc. But people should realize that you NEVER get between a fisherman and his gear!

So I’ll sit here drinking my coffee and staring out the window. I’ll pace the floor for awhile. And I’m sure I’ll venture out and check the mailbox multiple times…all the usual things a fisherman does waiting on “his Precious.”

Stay warm folks!

Fish Farts?

No, this is not a dissertation about piscatorial bowel movements. Nor am I trying to be crude. It’s just an observation.

Many times when I’m fishing one of our local streams/rivers, I’ll be wading along and from behind me I hear something akin to flatulence. ( No, its not coming from me!) It’s not a “barn burner” or anything like that. It’s much more subtle.

Just a little “brrrrrrtt”. I am really curious by nature and often times I will sit on the riverbank and just observe things for awhile. So as I was sitting there one day, I happened to catch a smallmouth fingerling rocket out of the water while making that sound. Aha! That’s what it is…the sound of the tail smacking the water in extremely rapid succession as it breaches the surface while chasing some insect. If you’ve ever caught a fingerling you’ll know exactly how “wiggly” they really are.

Several times the wife and I have quietly approached a shallow bend in the river only to be greeted by a cacophany of “fish farts.” It’s really quite funny but it is also encouraging. We’re staring at the future!

It does our hearts good to know that our rivers and streams are healthy and that the native smallmouth bass ( the Velox ) are doing well and reproducing in meaningful numbers. With concerns of pollution, genetic inbreeding from introduced species etc etc. it gives us hope. And in this day and age, with everything going on…we need that.

Stay safe out there.


Not long ago, had you called me a Twinkie we would’ve been trading punches.

But age has a way of mellowing a man and forces them to see things differently.

The wife and I are now Twinkies. We have accepted the moniker and embrace it. It started off innocently enough through fishing rods. I had one she really liked so I bought her one. Next came the reels…same thing. Following that came the Patagonia Stormsurge/Stormfront Sling Pack. I bought us each one since it was perfect for our fishing style. Next up was the wading boots. She tried mine on and fell in love with them…yep, I ordered her a pair.

I bought a high-end Japan made spinning reel recently…”my Precious!” I’d catch her casting sidelong glances at it. I’d notice her playing with it. The Smeagol reference is perfect since that’s how she was looking at my reel. “She Wants It!” So what does any self-respecting husband do…order her one as well!

The irony of it all comes from the actual packaging of the Twinkies. I’m pushing 50 and have gained 10 pounds (who am I kidding…more like 15!) So the spongy, goo filled snack seems fitting. I guess I AM a Twinkie!

I just hope the myth is true. They never go stale or expire!

One Of The Best Men I’ve Ever Known…

My friend Dennis is a humble guy with a big heart and more patience than the law allows. He’s older than me, old enough to be my father in fact, but we’ve had a pile of adventures together. I’m truly blessed to know him and consider him a true friend. By his definition…”a true friend is someone you call for bail money in the middle of the night, a true friend asks ‘how much’ NOT ‘what did you do’?” He has a way with words that makes a guy think.

I was in the middle of a divorce and whining about how I never drank, didn’t do drugs, went to work everyday etc. And BAM! He dropped a wisdom bomb on me…he said, “those are things you’re supposed to do, you don’t get extra credit for THAT!” So true.

When it comes to politics we are diametrically opposed. And boy have we had some humdingers for arguments! But no matter what, I respect him and we end up realizing (somewhere in the political middle) that we’re really not that far apart.

I count my true friends on one hand…people I would take a bullet for…he’s one of them. Maybe in some weird way its a “Fishing Mafia” and since I’ll take a bullet for you…that extends to your whole family. Weird I know. But that’s how it is.

He and I have paddled all over the BWCA (Boundary Waters Canoe Area) and had a blast during all of it. He was right next to me when I was handed a whiskey bottle and “you betcha” he took a long pull too.

I have no idea what he saw in me and it was fate that brought us into contact. But I count my lucky stars. He has a way of reading people better than anyone I’ve ever seen.

How he put up with my youthful arrogance I’ll never know. He wanted to take everyone to the Boundary Waters. I wanted to seal it off and only allow certain people in. I was one of them of course. Youth! He didn’t understand the depth of my reverence for the area. It was hallowed ground to me and I only wanted to share it with like-minded people. It wasn’t a trip to Disneyland like most people acted…I thought it was akin to visiting one of the Great Cathedrals and demanded they show respect.

Over the decades that we’ve been friends he has begun to understand my thought process on the subject. And for that matter I’ve accepted his position as well. I’ve taken all four of my kids and my wife up there so they could get a glimpse of the splendor and quite possibly a peek into how I think and operate.

Dennis and I had talked about a trip together, just the two of us for 20 some odd years. We finally pulled it off and it was amazing. One of the all-time best trips ever. We boated in, set up a base camp and explored new waters for the first time. No schedule, no itinerary…just an actual vacation. We finally felt that we didn’t have to “earn it” by only paddling our way in.

There is not another soul that I would hunker down with in the woods. A storm so fierce that it flooded our camp and forced us to seek shelter under the tree canopy. Cold rain water pouring down my spine from a defective rain jacket…laughing like mad men and passing a whiskey bottle back and forth among the lightning and thunder claps, and daring the storm to get worse!

Good Times with True Friends!

A Day in the Life of a “Guide”

I hope you dear readers don’t mind me sharing these memories. It’s the middle of winter and I’m stuck waiting for warmer weather and the fishing to kick off. So as I sit here sipping my coffee, I’m throwing some filler material into my blog.

As I’ve stated elsewhere, I’m not “Guide Material” but on this particular trip that’s what they called me. Turns out I was more of a “Navigator/Sheep Herder.”

Day One started out normal. I was co-leading a youth group from a Lutheran Church on their first “epic adventure.” (Red Flag #1.)

As usual it took forever to get everyone off the portage and onto the water heading in the right direction. (I will speed this week up as fast as possible to keep from boring you to death.) End of Day One was uneventful and we made the 13.5 mile paddle to our first campsite.

Day Two started off in question. The kid in charge of navigation (Red Flag #2) informed us that he had forgotten the maps back in the van. Yeehaw! I must interject here that this was a co-ed crew and as such it had a Female Leader. You want to see a city person go off the deep end? Tell them we don’t have maps and we’re deep in the Wilderness. They absolutely lose it. My buddy, being the stoic he was…looked at her and said, “you wanted an adventure!”

Fortunately, I have a good memory and had a decent idea where we needed to go. So off we went.

I was doing “my thing” and we were heading where we needed to go. With all the muttering and second-guessing going on from the back of the group, I knew it was going to be a long day. And boy was it! After 8 hours of solid paddling we slipped through a shortcut that I remembered and tried to enter out onto the main body of water. Nothing doing. The wind was absolutely howling! The waves were huge. I paddled over to the co-leaders and said we need to find a campsite and sit this out. Nothing doing. They were hell bent on getting to the campsite that was on their itinerary. I cajoled them, I consoled them to no avail. (Red Flag #3)

I gathered up my flock and ordered everyone to cinch up their PFD’s and get off of their seats and onto their knees. I told them to buddy up, paddle hard and keep the bow pointed into the wind. Also, if they tipped, they needed to hang onto the canoe and let the wind push them to a shore and that I wouldn’t be able to get to them before the wind blew them out of reach. It was white-knuckle time!

The waves were so big that when I looked over to my buddy canoe they would drop out of sight after they crested a wave. What should have taken 25 minutes to cross ended up taking 3 hours. But we made it! I fixed dinner that night and made sure everyone was taken care of. I huddled with the co-leaders and voiced my displeasure at their decision. I ordered a rest day as these kids were done for and needed time. Not one single argument was presented. We had covered 26 miles of water from 0600-2115. Helluva day in anyone’s book.

The rest of the trip passed uneventfully until the last day. The weather changed big time. The temps were dropping and the rain was coming down. We were miserable. The only obstacle confronting us was the last portage. A half-miler uphill and it always turned into a muck-fest when it rained.

The kids shouldered their packs and paddles and headed up to the parking lot and the waiting van. I ended up making that round trip 3 times. Once with my gear and twice carrying canoes. My friend and I were whooped.

The rain intensified and I was struggling to get the canoes onto the van and strapped down. It’s really frustrating being cold and soaking wet trying to stow gear and lash everything down while 12 sets of eyes are staring at you from inside the warm, dry van. But it had to be done and we completed the task.

Then, from the distance I hear a voice shouting at me (Red Flag #4-or so I thought!) Standing 50 yards away was an older gentleman who was getting ready to begin his trip into the Wilderness. He and his crew had been watching us struggle to button everything up and finish our trip. He took one look at me and the van, which said “something something Lutheran Church” and asked my friend and I “are you boys Christians?” (SideNote: my teeth are chattering and I’m drenched to the bone. Picture the proverbial Drowned Rat!) I’m not going to lie…I was mad as a hornet at the lack of help from our own crew. I looked that man dead in the eye and said “not today!” He smiled at me and from behind his back pulled a big bottle of Hudson’s Bay Whiskey out and handed it to me. You betcha I took a long pull on it! I thanked the gentleman profusely and wished him well on his adventure. Finally glad to feel warm again, I headed back to the van to begin the long ride home. My friend and I agreed to down-grade it to a Pink Flag!

For the rest of you…be careful what you wish for and safe paddles!

Don’t Ever Tell Me I Can’t Do Something..

It’s April 1998 and I’m rapidly losing my ability to walk. Sciatica is killing me…pain in my back is excruciating. I was 27 years old and had recently passed my 6 months probationary period at a new job. I was left with 2 choices…put a gun to my head or go see a doctor.

The X-ray and MRI showed my back was broken in two places. I was involved in a head-on car wreck 2 years earlier, Valentines Day 1996. I just didn’t know it.

The damage was so bad that my Orthopedic surgeon pulled out his flip phone and called my insurance company direct. Surgery was the ONLY option. I remember him putting his hand over the phone and asking me if I needed time to think about it or if I was OK with surgery. This was a Wednesday. I said I was fine with the surgery (desperate for relief). I was on the operating table that Friday morning.

It was a 7 and a half hour surgery, everything a Neurosurgeon and Orthopedic surgeon could do to a lower back…they did! It took 29 staples to close up that 7.5 inch incision, the end result being that it looked like a zipper! I was classified as a 1 percenter. After I had healed from the initial surgery, the doctors said there wasn’t much in the way of physical therapy for it. They started listing off things I’d never be able to do again.

At moments like that a person has 2 choices…go with the flow or swim upstream. I mentally started swimming for the “spawning grounds!” If you’ve ever seen salmon trying to surmount a waterfall, you’ll understand. That’s what it seems like…an insurmountable obstacle. I started pushing myself HARD.

One year after the operation and I was back to playing soccer, rock climbing, backpacking and fishing. I was able to portage my beloved canoe again deep in the Wilderness (and a good fishing buddy put a handicap sticker on my canoe…lol). Six lag bolts and two rods gave me my life back. Where there’s a will there’s a way! Never tell me I’m done!!! I’ll tell YOU when I’m finished.

23 years later and I’m still going….