10/12/2017 9:19:00 PM It was time to try a Tight Line
If you promise not to tell my long-suffering wife, I will admit to owning too much fishing tackle. There is really no justification for the number of lures stored in our house unless you are worried about nuclear holocaust and its possible affects on the future availability of Mepps Spinners. In my case, I merely plead guilty by reason of insanity.
Thus, as someone who has more hooks than the latest pop song, I always feel odd when purchasing worms. I don't mean plastic Shatazuko Electro-Metal Flake Motor Oil Power Worms with molded-in fish scent, specialized air chamber and ambidextrous thumb safety. I mean worms, the kind that come in little plastic onion dip containers and wiggle painfully when you jab a steel hook into their little gizzards.
As summer ripens into fall, angling becomes a much more difficult pursuit, especially stream fishing. With the water low and warm, fish are wary and refuse to strike at anything without first taking its pulse and prior employment history. In such conditions, live bait is the only way to consistently catch fish.
Late last week on a warm, clear morning, after I suffered through the daily email torture freelance writers endure, I decided a fishing trip would be a good way to unwind.
At the bait shop, I purchased a container of fat Canadian wigglers and then headed to the creek that I consider Home Court Advantage. After parking, rigging a single rod and slipping into an old pair of boots, I entered the water. The creek looked thick and greasy, with brown algae filling the backwater pockets and long lasting white bubbles formed below the riffles. The water was also slightly murky from a recent thunderstorm several miles upstream.
My method of operation was "tight-lining", a live bait technique that requires finesse, patience and great reserves of attention. The gist of this system requires the drifting bait to be kept on a tight line while using minimal or no weight. In theory the method is extremely simple, but in execution, it becomes apparent that live bait fisherman are not necessarily less skilled than their technologically-advanced crankbait-slinging counterparts.
The technique requires a sensitive rod and line combination, along with an intense focus on the proceedings to prevent dragging the bait in an unnatural fashion or allowing too much slack in the line.
Keeping the line tight serves several purposes. The primary benefit is that light biting fish can be caught with a lightning quick hookset and, with little weight or terminal tackle waving around, spooky fish are more likely to approach the bait. Secondly, a tight line, along with circle hooks, prevents fish from swallowing the hook too far and allows catch and release to be practiced, something not often associated with live bait.
After tearing a worm in half and threading the remainder onto the hook, I eased toward a big rock in midstream. During the warmest hours, fish not actively feeding are usually tucked underneath rocks and debris and bait needs to be gently placed almost against such cover if there is any hope of hunger overcoming natural caution.
Casting near the rock, I waited for what seemed like hours, though it was only seconds. I then recast and recast, the interval between throws getting shorter and shorter. Eventually a small truth became apparent: artificial bait fishermen need to readjust to a much slower pace when throwing something made from real protein.
I made the mental note to slow down and let the bait rest for at least three minutes before considering another cast. It was necessary to enforce this rule with a wristwatch, something that spoke volumes about the pace of modern life. When a timepiece is needed to regulate the act of drowning bait, you should conduct a brief reexamination of personal priorities.
One of the nice things about bait fishing is the element of surprise. During the trip, I caught representatives of each indigenous gamefish species, and it became a game trying to determine what type of fish was currently bothering the bait. After a bit of practice, it was easy to distinguish from the fast "nip-nip-nip" of sunfish to the sudden grab of rock bass or the steady pecking of channel catfish. There were also several smallmouth bass that performed a smash-and-grab that would make any street thief proud.
Even though the conditions were tough, enough fish were caught to keep the day entertaining. While I have not forsaken the collection of plastic and stainless steel residing in my collection of tackle boxes, an occasional trip back to the world of organic fishing makes for a wonderfully uncluttered and slower-paced way to spend a summer day immersed in nature.
I just hope my new robotic Super Crappie MegaMauler Xtreme Spinner with the Artificial Bacon Scent doesn't get jealous.