Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Fishing Techniques From Fishing Fools

Those of you who rely on the Woodall’s Campground Directory may note that the 2007 directory contains a major story about fishing techniques. The story is incorrectly attributed to “Bill” Gildart rather than to me, Bert Gildart, as it should have been.

Editors tell me the mistake is a computer error, and because they’ve known me correctly for so many years, I’ll have let it go at that, knowing, in fact, that such mistakes do occur.

Regardless of the error the remainder of the article is correct, and knowing that there are many fisherpersons out there, I enclose a portion of the story here, suggesting that when you get your campground directory that you turn to page 80—for the rest of the story.

As well, you’ll see some of the fish I’ve been fortunate enough to land, particularly out of Alaska. Again, I’ve enclosed several here that might make you want to start checking lures and tying flies. Setting for the first photo is 400 miles up the Porcupine River in the Yukon Territory, which Janie and I reached in our Johnboat. That’s Duane James on the left and yours truly on the right. The boat is powered by a 50hp Yamaha, four stroke, and the people who make them are mighty good folks.

Ya hear!

(Note: All photos made on the Yukon and Porcupine Rivers during four-month trip in our Johnboat.) 

©Bert Gildart: My friend Bill Schneider is a fishing fool, a competition angler who likes to laud his knowledge over on friends and acquaintances. Typically, when on a trip, he begins by pulling out the latest Brown boots with Berkley hip waders uniting it all with an equally high-tech pair of Tilley Gators. Enviously, I look on, and that’s when he’ll rub it in.“What?” he’ll say, with a not-so-well-concealed look of smugness as he snugs his gators. “You don’t have a pair of these?”

Same with actual fishing paraphernalia. As he pulls out a bag containing patiently labeled clear plastic boxes of flies overflowing with a host of nymphs, streamers, terrestrial flies and other such esoteric angling accoutrements, he’ll ask—in response to my raised eyebrows—“What? You don’t have a Double Bunny? I thought everyone fished with one of those.”

But the infuriating fact is that the boxes are more than just a collection of items that might make you a better fisherman. Schneider, once the editor of the state’s hunting and fishing magazine, “Montana Outdoors,” knows how to use this stuff, something each and every one of us would like to know.And so you endure, and you ask if you could borrow one, and then (humbly), “Come on Bill; show me how to use it. Please.”

That’s the way I’ve picked up a lot of information. In fact, for years I’ve been humbling myself across the nation, picking up bits and pieces from fishing fools (they’re all a bit supercilious), trying my best to become a good all-around fisherman. In my pursuits, I’ve learned a bit about bass, trout, walleye, sturgeon and even pike—angling. In fact, I’ve picked up a few of the accoutrements, and would like to highlight what I’ve learned and detail just how to use this information, drawing at times on memories I’ve had with some of these dedicated fishermen…

Perhaps at this juncture, I should mention that you can catch many species of fish using very simple techniques, and pike are one of those species. Several years ago in Alaska, my wife and I spent the summer living out of a wall tent, traveling from hole to hole in our johnboat. In one case, we were cruising the waters for pike and had made a 70-mile trip from Circle down the Yukon to Fort Yukon where this sprawling river also accepts the Porcupine. Over the course of a week, we then proceeded 400 miles up the Porcupine River. It was hard, hard work, but you know the cliché; “Someone has to do it.”

Along the way we renewed acquaintances with a native friend, Duane James—and most assuredly, he is a fishing fool! His fishing gear, however, was—and still is—about as simple as you might get, and the incident serves to prove that you can get by very, very cheaply.

Duane was standing next to me and there I was, dapper in my Helly Hanson Hip Waders crowned with my Tilly Hat—and I was creating beautiful arcs with my line streaming out from an Orivs Rod.

My offering was a specially tied dragon fly nymph, and as I remember, both Duane and I were doing well. But confound it all, Duane was doing better, pulling out fish with almost every cast.

His gear?

Duane was using 20-pound line wrapped around a pop can. About the only thing we had in common were our lures—and the fact that we had both attached wire line to the end of our monofilament. If we wanted pike, we had to do that! After all, pike have sharp teeth, and they know how to use them for chomping through tough line, something fishermen should always remember when removing hooks. More than one person has required stitches following the slash of teeth from one of these tigers of the marsh.

Because pike and bass are both predators, you can catch them using similar techniques. Pike spawn in the spring and generally do so in shallow waters. The trick is to affix a weedless lure to your line and then generate the proper type of action. Both smallmouth bass and pike feed on frogs, and so a weedless lure (such as the popper shown in one of my photographs) that can navigate marshy environments works well. Try popping it along the surface and if they’re there, and if they’re hungry, it will send such species into a frenzy.

That’s a fly fishing technique, but you can also use a spinning rod and often do so more effectively than you can using a fly rod. But then, of course, you are no longer a purist. If that’s OK, and this time, you want to try for bass, begin by loading up your spinning rods with a rapallas or some crank bait, such as the Bomber 6A Red Crawfish or the Luhr Jensen Baby Hotlips (Don’t you just love these names!). You can also load them up with one of a thousand other lures, for the number of lures that have been created for bass fishermen is endless—and if the choices are overwhelming, you can easily simplify.

What I’m saying is, of course, heresy, but you don’t have to have a Loomis Rod, Shamino Reel, or even a Berkley high-tech line. In fact, if you really want, you can get by using a red and white Daredevil (which I’ve found works most everywhere), or one of the many variations of Mepps Spinners. To simplify even more, you can fish like my Native friend Duane fishes. You can use a pop can.

In fact, the next time I’m with Bill Schneider I may do exactly that. And because I can guarantee his boxes of accoutrements won’t contain Duane’s setup, at the propitious moment, I’m going to pull out a carefully assembled line attached to pop can and then pose the question:

“What, Bill? You don’t have a Pepsi, swivel and an old Mepps spinner? You don’t have a set up like this?

Predictably, Bill will shake his head, and that will be my clue.

“Well, honestly, Bill, you really must get one of these.”

6 Responses to “Fishing Techniques From Fishing Fools”

  1. Tim Says:

    Hi Bert,

    You are a fishing fool!

    “Shamino Reel”

    Did you mean Shimano?

    I am a fishing fool too. I like to do it simple and sneaky. My all time favorite rod is an Ugly Stick I got from Kmart. It is surprisingly sensitive. My favorite bait is grasshoppers, and my favorite place to fish is any creek east of the divide.

    I started out fishing, as many kids did, with a bamboo cane pole and a bobber, fishing off some pier in MN or WI. Catching tons of bluegills and perch and whining, “Can we keep it?” every time I lifted out a wriggling little 4 inch fish.

    When I got a little older, my Dad gave me a fiberglass fly rod and some poppers. In the spring, I would thrash the lilypads furiously for a few casts and then let the popper sit, then SPLASH! A good sized bluegill would drag it under and I’d have a fight, the way all fish fight harder on fly tackle.

    Now I like to stalk the wily trout with my Ugly Stick and a grasshopper. I usually stand/crouch in the water far enough upstream from a likely hole so as not to spook the fish and then I patiently let out line, using the water’s drag on the hopper to pull out line. I angle the rod tip back and forth to guide my little water skier down the channel. By following the threads of current as they wind through the rocks I can always assure the hopper will enter the hole right in the main food funnel. I usually don’t even use the reel, I just haul back on the line with my left while lifting the pole with my right, swinging the wriggling brookie onto the bank.

    I usually keep all the brook trout I catch, because they are non-natives, and are even classified as an invasive species, like knapweed, and because trout don’t have to be a particular size to be worth cleaning. But I wonder about your Gwichin friends. Did they keep all that they caught? That pike that Duane has in the photo looks pretty small, not a size I would want to bother with cleaning.

    Also, I have caught a few pike at different times on a tiny No. 0 mepps with no leader that I was using to fish for perch in the sloughs of the Flathead. Amazingly they did not rip though the line as they were hooked in the front of their bony maws.

    I enjoyed your article. I look forward to hearing the story of Bill’s comeuppance!

  2. Bert Says:

    Tim, except for rare occasions I’m always glad for the presence of editors. In the actual published story, they did pick up my misspelling of the word Shimano. I’m glad you picked it up here.
    Thanks, too, for exposing yourself as a “fishing fool.” But be ready in the future to share your knowledge in any followup fishing fool stories I might do. After reading and then re-reading your message I can see that you are more than just a contender…

  3. Bert Gildart Says:

    Tim, I see that one of your questions has gone unanswered, specifically the asking if the Gwich’in keep all the pike they catch. The answer is yes, but not so much for themselves as for their dogs. Most Natives in Alaska prefer the meat from the abundant salmon, and if I have a choice, I do too. Still, I thorougly enjoy the meat from freshly caught pike, particularly when cooked right. We did, incidentally, eath the meat from that huge pike seen in the picture accompanying this story.

  4. trevor Says:

    HI, I was looking at your photo and reading your blog, I am wondering if the Duane James you are fishing with is my old college roommate? Do you know if he went to University of Evansville?

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