Float Fishing Fanaticism
I've learned that attitude is everything. Take Jerry and John for example. Friends since childhood and in their late 60's now, I've never seen two guys get more excited about a float fishing trip thean these two. Our trips will be planned weeks in advance. Every detail will be considered and nothing will be left off the table for consideration. I've learned much from them. Not least is a valuable life-lesson, "treat each day as if it's your last on earth"! Two more considerate men couldn't be found if you searched for a lifetime. I've watched them debate who should have the front seat in my big canoe for minutes, each trying to defer to the other, until I stepped in and helped with the decision to simply share the position during the course of the day's float. I've also been on fishing trips with them when fishing was so poor that dynamite would have been the only dependable bait. As a guide, those days are always a bummer, but to John and jerry, every day on the river is one of the best they've ever had. I've ben fishing Ozark streams my entire life and if you took a look around my place you'd find at least one of everything when it comes to fishing tackle. I've got all kinds of lures made as far back as the 20's and 30's and I'm the type that just needs to pick up something when down at the local tackle shop on a regular basis, too. After all, being without what's needed on a fishing trip is just unacceptable. Fishing guides are supposed to have everything. It's the same way with canoes. I'm not sure how many are out in the yard now, as I'd have to stop and count. I've got several old, 19-foot, square-stern Grumman's. Do I need so many? Absolutely!! They don't make the old ones anymore and that first one I got in '75 might eventually wear out. I feel the same way about the old Zebco Cardinal reels. I'm still using the first ones I bought back in the 70's, plus, I've got a dozen or so spares, just in case those finally give out. How much do you need to go float fishing? I'll let you in on a little secret......... you don't need much! It's an outdoor adventure where the formula, "keep it simple stupid" fits perfectly. That principle goes back to my childhood. I grew up on an Ozark farm in the 50's and 60's and that should be explanation enough. Grandpa had an old Pflueger Summit with braided line, a 5-foot steel rod and one Lucky 13 lure. If I hung his fishin' plug over a Sycamore limb or on a Button Bush in the middle of a farm pond, the choice was simple......go get it. The thought of losing the plug and disappointing Grandpa was almost as bad as the thought of no more fishing. That old red and white Lucky 13 was the only plug I was allowed to use. Fishing today can be almost that simple. Grab your fishing license and load a canoe with a good, stout paddle, then, get your rod and reel, a couple of Rapalas and perhaps a handful of Curly-tail grubs and head to the creek. You might want to bring along a PFD, a sandwich and something to drink. Now, I've spent so many days float-fishing that I am familiar enough with the Ozarks (and Ouachitas) of Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma that I could make a float trip every day for the next year, perhaps two, and never see the same stretch of water twice. So, I should be more practical here for the less experienced. There are canoe rentals and "outfitters" galore that are designed to handle those with a budding interest in float fishing. Find one on a stream that's handy, call them up and tell them you'd like to go float fishing. I'll assure you, they'll have everything you need including fishing tackle, available to rent. You'll have to buy your fishing license; but, you can even do that , one day at a time. Many rental services will also provide shuttle service and even a lunch. Missouri's Current River and Arkansas' Buffalo River would be a couple of likely places to start looking and there are other rental services on many of our streams. Another option is to just hire a guide and let them handle the rest. Honest, either choice is the best way to spend your time and money to get started. By doing so, you've kept it simple. More importantly, you will learn more and spend less money in the long run learning from those that are in the business to provide you the service. Furthermore, you will then be better informed to know what you really need, and how to spend your money, if float fishing becomes your passion. If you decide to do it on your own, I can give a little advice. First, I'd recommend a canoe made from "Royalex". Essentially this material is a tough and durable plastic used by most reputable canoe manufacturers. I believe "Buffalo Canoes" out of Jasper, Arkansas makes about as good a canoe for the money as any. I think I've got three of them in various lengths. There are some good Kayaks made from the same material that are fine fishing rigs, too, I just don't like them because I'm older now and want more size and comfort. Besides, I've used handmade Sassafras boat paddles for years and maneuvering my canoes with one, for me, is a little more complicated then chewing gum, but not much. The key to a Rolalex canoe is their durability and the ease of floating in shallow water. There are some excellent canoes made from Aluminum and I have several; but you will spend more time dragging the canoe over shoals on small streams than you will with a plastic canoe, plus, they typically are much heavier. For tackle, I'd get started with a good spinning rod/reel combination. Good choices are too numerous to mention. Shimano, Mitchell, Okuma, Pflueger, and Quantum are some of the names that come to mind. One thing most folks miss though is they tend to think "too light" when it comes to line and rod. The idea sounds good: "I want to fight those pesky little Smallmouth with a light rod and reel in clear water". When I hear that statement from a new client, for example, I automatically know that they've never set the hook on a 20 inch Smallmouth and hauled her out of an underwater log pile! Let me set the record straight: a four-pound, stream-bred Smallmouth eats light tackle for lunch! I prefer a six-and-a-half foot rod with a short handle, a sensitive tip and lots of backbone. As far as fishing line, jaws drop when clients hear my spools are loaded with 14 lb test on my old Cardinals. I'm not saying that's what YOU should use, but personally, I know there's going to be three, five, maybe and many as ten times during the course of a year where I'm going to lay back on a lunker bass with my hook set. As often as I can, I like to be in charge when that happens. I'm not pleased when the line breaks or the rod snaps in half. Naturally I believe in catch and release, including the big ones, but I do have a lot of photographs. It's called CPR amongst float fishing fanatics.......catch, photograph and release. As I grow older I'm beginning to understand Jerry and John a little better, just getting out there is enough. Sometimes the fishing's poor, but it's not every day that a person gets to see and experience the beauty and solitude of a river. I often take a "father-son" combination on float trips. Not long ago, one such trip included a son that might have been six years old, eight at the most. In the course of the day, he caught a fish or two, but he was even more excited about the "huge" turtles that he saw, the crawdads that he caught and the rocks that he skipped all the way across the river. His dad and I took heed. Do you remember the last time you skipped rocks with a youngster? Maybe the little rewards from days like that mean more that a big stringer of fish. It is a matter of attitude.