Saturday, February 23, 2013

Catfish on my mind

At the beginning of the month, I left the comforts of civilization to once again take the deer darting job in the woods. And though I thoroughly enjoy the job, I don’t get to fish for what I want or as often as I want to. Trust me, I’d much prefer to be chasing Reds than Bass, and Speckled Trout than Bluegill. But something is better than nothing, so you won’t hear me complain too much. 

One of the plantations that I work on happens to be situated along the edge of a river. And while sitting 40 feet up a pine tree at night, waiting for deer to show up, the thought occurred to me: I wonder if there’s catfish in that river?

Being crammed into a camper with two other people and a dog for weeks at a time will start to wear on you. So I took my new idea as an opportunity to get out of the camper and save myself from going completely and totally insane. I soon opened up my tackle box and began making preparations. With what tackle I actually had available, I figured bank lines would probably be my best bet. Using tarred line, an egg sinker, a swivel, 30lb mono, and various sized hooks (I had some strays floating around that I didn’t care about losing), I made three different bank lines. 

Once down at the river, I used some freshly caught cut bait, and tossed out my lines. I secured each to sturdy shrubs along the river’s edge and made sure that they were free of underwater obstacles. I then let them soak for about 5 hours. 
After lunch I returned to see one of my lines tight. Honestly I was rather surprised. And what was more surprising is what was attached to the other end: 

My first channel cat.

With such luck right off the bat, I was excited to see what was on my other lines. To my dismay, however, I discovered that the other two had been broken off completely. Something snapped my 30lb leaders. After a bit of examination, I determined that it must have been faulty knots. I really couldn’t think of anything else. So with this speculation, I tied on two more hooks, made 100% sure my knots were good, and rebaited all my lines. 

Once I climbed out of my tree later that night, I drove back down to the river to see what luck I did, or didn’t have. At first glance, none of my lines were tight. Figuring I’d caught the only catfish in the county already, I pulled my lines in. What I wasn’t expecting was to find that two of my lines were broken –again-. This time, however, I could see how they’d been broken. Frayed mono pointed to something having rubbed up against a nearby sunken branch. Eventually, whatever it was broke through and swam away. As I went to pull in my third line, I quickly discovered that it too had been messed with, but instead of being broken off, it had been dragged over to a sunken tree and was hung. After trying to muscle it loose, I was finally forced to cut the line. 

If there’s one thing in this world that will drive me crazy, it’s KNOWING that there’s fish around, but not being able to catch them. Over the next few days my offhanded idea about catching catfish turned into a full blown obsession. I wasn’t messing around anymore. I went to the store and bought triple strength 6/0 circle hooks and heavier weights. I also scrubbed the whole “Monofilament leader” idea and chose to make the whole thing out of bank line. Leader and all. I figured if this got broken off, then we were gonna need a bigger boat…or maybe explosives. Looking back now, I did however, make a horrible, HORRIBLE mistake. One that I should know never to do: I bought catfish skinning pliers. 

Yes, the agony of attempting to clean my one catfish with a knife and a leatherman tool made the skinning pliers seem like a good idea. But anyone who knows anything about the umbrella theory can foresee how successful my following trip was. 

Since I was now completely consumed with catching whatever had broken me off so many times before, I also scrubbed the “set and leave” idea. Instead, I drove down to the river’s edge one evening, baited one line, tossed it out, and held on to it…

…For two straight hours. 

After staring at the water for so long, hoping...willing…that something would hit the line, I ended up pulling back an untouched bait. Rookie mistake buying those skinning pliers. Much like bringing ice in a cooler, and consequently never catching a fish, I was brutally reminded of the umbrella theory after making this purchase. Frustrated with myself, I opted to just call it a night. I would have tied my line off to a tree, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to check my lines the next day. Plus, it was personal. 

Unfortunately, foul weather over the following week made most of the roads to the river impassible. And when the weather finally cleared long enough for me to drive back down to the river, I arrived to discover water levels had risen 6-8 feet and I no longer had suitable places to set my lines. 

So I’ve come to a stalemate with the catfish. I won’t attempt to catch them again until water levels recede. But once they do, the battle will continue. I know the fish aren’t going anywhere, and I’ve got plenty of time to plot and scheme. I just hope they’re ready for the fish fry.