Stalking the wily Andes trout

Trusted tips for fishers of men

Meat fisherman

2020-09-23 | fishing, Bolivia, trout, confession

Before I go further with this blog, I have a confession to make. I know it will cost me readers. Some of you will turn away in disgust. Maybe a lot of you will.

Nevertheless, conscience dictates that I bare all.

I am a meat fisherman.

Please, before you go, hear my confession. I do sincerely admire all of you anglers who use barbless hooks and strictly abide by catch-and-release protocol. Some of my best friends do this and they are still my friends. I think.

To be brutally honest, my goal when fishing is to securely hook a trout and get it to shore and into the creel with dispatch. Then I take the little guy home to toast in the fry pan or on a charcoal grill. Yum!

Yes, it sounds totally disgusting. I deserve the wrath of Millennials and ecologists. Of course, I do follow the rules on size and bag limits to protect fisheries. But I confess that I have not been able to break the habit of eating my catch. It’s just so . . . delicious.

Let me point out that meat fishing has been immortalized in song.

Fishy, fishy in the brook,
Come and bite on daddy’s hook.
Mama fry him in the pan.
Baby eat him like a man.

I can credibly claim that meat fishing is in my DNA. My grandfather owned an 80-acre farm on a lake in northern Indiana. Said grandfather and said lake will go unnamed here because Grandpa was a meat fisherman big time.

Understand, he had five kids to feed during the Great Depression. To survive, he illegally trapped the bass and bluegill that abounded in the lake--and still do, matter of fact. I could tell you how Grandpa built and operated his fish traps, but of course I won’t, on the grounds that it might incriminate us.

I started life on Grandpa’s 80 acres. Just before I arrived in the world, Dad and Mom moved there to help Grandpa with the farming after he fell from his hay mow and severely injured his back. I am told this arrangement lasted until I was a year old. I spent most every summer thereafter on the place with my siblings and cousins, helping with farm work, fishing at every opportunity and chowing down on fish fries once or twice a week.

So, if anyone can claim that meat fishing is in their genes, it’s me and the rest of Grandpa’s progeny.

Now that I’ve spilled my guts about the family history, I might as well tell all. I use treble hooks to fish trout. My tackle box is filled with the most lethal threat to fish ever invented. I can only hang my head in shame before the fly-fishing community, those who would never stoop to stalking trout with anything but a long, lithe pole and microscopic nymph. May they find it in their hearts to forgive me.

I have suffered for using treble hooks, as has any fisher person who has snagged a finger or earlobe or bicep with one, or two, or sometimes three. The hours I’ve spent extracting them from creels, clothing and landing nets are enough to earn a B.A. degree. I consider this my penance. Yet, I remain committed to treble hooks because I’ve found nothing works as well to securely hook a fish and get it to shore with dispatch.

My worst life-threatening encounter with a treble hook in the Andes was when fishing a feeder stream on Corani Reservoir with buddies Mark and Roy. This was a century ago, when the three of us were fresh-faced youth and there were plenty of trout in Corani feeder streams.

There were a lot of boulders in this particular stream. Sure enough my treble hook snagged one. A short, quick snap of the rod tip did not dislodge it. A second short, quick snap only set the hook deeper into the rock. I backed off the line, pointed the rod tip straight at the treble and gave it a quick, violent snap.

The next instant, the lure was headed like a speeding bullet straight at my face. I had only enough reaction time to twist my head around before it struck with lethal force. All three barbs embedded themselves in the back of my scalp, exactly in the center of the little open space in my baseball cap above the adjustable straps. A perfect bullseye.

I stood there for an instant, stunned, my pole pointing skyward and the line gathered limply at my feet. When I realized my dangerous predicament, I did what any experienced angler would do. I started running frantically up and down the stream bank with pole tip waving in the air, high-stepping over the limp line to keep from tripping myself, and pondering how in the heck I would get those treble hooks out of my head.

Then I remembered Mark and Roy. Oh my! I thought to myself, how awful this will be for them when they see my dangerous predicament. At that moment, I happened to look up to see Mark and Roy in the pasture field above, rolling in the grass in a fit of laughter and wiping tears from their eyes.

The sight had a strangely calming effect on me. I stopped running around, reeled in the limp line and gingerly climbed the bank to ask for help. Mark offered his Swiss Army knife, but said he could not cut the hooks out because the sight of blood nauseated him. Roy was fine to perform the surgery and took knife in hand.

The procedure seemed to take five times as long as necessary, and I started to protest.

“Your scalp is like leather, my man,” Roy said, in his laid-back Kiwi tone. “I can leave them in there, if you want.”

I shut up and let him take all the time he wanted.

I share these gory details about meat fishing, dear reader, to test the thesis that confession is good for the soul. I believe this confession has been good for mine. I am at peace now. You may have a different view, and that’s okay. After all, it’s not your soul that is at issue here.

Permit me to say a bit more about confession for those times when your soul is at issue. There are a lot of different opinions in the world today about right and wrong. It seems that good and evil are in the eye of the beholder. What is virtue for some is vice for others, and vice versa. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, right?

Perhaps, but don’t forget that there is only one opinion on right and wrong that really counts. That would be God’s. He is an infallible expert on the subject. Wanna argue with him about it? I suggest you don’t.

Instead, I suggest confession. That’s a good place to begin any honest conversation with God. In the Bible, “confess” means “to say along with.” When you and I confess our sin, we are literally saying along with God that we did wrong. We admit to doing a deed or uttering a word or holding an attitude that, in His opinion, is totally out of line, contrary to moral law, downright disgusting.

Should you ever feel the need to come clean with God, I suggest you just flat-out tell Him what you did. Get it out in the open. No excuses. No hiding the facts. Just plain, old-fashioned confession.

You will be amazed at what it does for your soul.

Next time: Casting for success.