Sunday, August 3, 2008 I dun it...

Here it is midnite and I'm waitin' for the water to turn to coffee, so here I goes again...

I think I had one three many wisky sours tonite. (Yes, I know it's misspelt, but I'm pretendin' to be drunk. Or am I? Hmmm..) But I got to thinking about eating and came up with, "Self- you told 'em how to stack their store bought stuff and that's kinda dumb- you should'a told them how to fish and that way they can feed themselves."

Actually, I think that's a good idea. I will give you some ideas of hunting, as well- some city/urban (or is it urbane?) readers may need some tips. Not that I'm an "expert" hunter-no magazine has ever published any of my hunting stories- but I do manage to get deer, ducks, pheasant, partridge, squirrels and an occasional fox and lotsa fish for the freezer. (We won't talk about the neighborhood feral cats that go to the crows, or the crows, in fact, though they do have a certain 'chicken' flavor.)

Oopsie- sorry: fish is on tonight's menu. Let's get to eating.

Now, I'm a freshwater fisherman, unlike Mayberry who lives on the Gulf Coast- so he can explain how to catch sea bass and mackerel an 'cudas an sharks (when in season). I've only fished the Gulf once and the ten pound sea bass I caught gave my northern fishing gear a run for its money, so I'll shy away from salt water. However...

...Salt water gear will catch land-locked fish as well, and there's nothing wrong with using fresh-water fishing tackle in the ocean. Just expect to lose more fish unless you are really good at "playing" the fish. But I think there will be more people inland fishing than salt water fishing (golly-dang-gee, I wish I'd bought that sailboat a few years ago, I'd be livin on the Gulf...) when it comes time for push-come-to-shove sometime late this year. Many of the techniques used in either kind of fishing will work both areas, as will the hooks and style- with some modifications.

Let's begin with the basis of your equipage, the rod and reel.

For downright mean and low-down-dirty-sneakin-gonna-last-forever rods, I think there is none better than the Shakespeare "Ugly Stick". Toughest rod made ever, and the best rod to buy- in duplicate- for our situation, which is 'legal' fishing. By 'legal' I mean by the rules set forth by natural resources for any area. We'll get to the 'not legal in some areas' stuff in a minute. Ugly Sticks will come in any flavor desired, but for our general purposes, let's go with a 'medium weight' rod, and get two of them as a minimum, or one medium and one heavy-weight. Rods are defined by weight/action, and a medium will handle 99% of any freshwater fishing. (I have no idea what the other 1% is, so don't ask.) With a medium weight rod you'll be able to fish anything that swims in north America, from small Sunnies to monster Musky and even the mighty Steelhead. You will need a medium weight reel as well: a reel that will handle line weights up to fifty pounds, though each reel will have differing line weights on them. One will have from 20+ pounds, the other less than ten pounds. But I'm getting ahead of myself, kind of.

Once we have the rods, we must decide what kind of reel we need.

For 60+ years, the Zebco 303 has been the most reliable spin-casting reel made. Still is, though now made in China, I think, and with many 'plastic' or graphite parts. A simple 'push button' to use, easy to learn reel, it will handle most any fish that will bite your hook. Next is the 'open face' spin cast variety. These have a much better casting ability and will handle lighter lures, I believe, than the Zebco or any reel but a fly-rod (more on them in a minute). This kind of reel has a 'bail' that must be opened in order to cast the line, has the line visible, and is next in line for ease of use but with a slightly higher learning curve than the Zebco or comparable reels. Next in difficulty to master, and my personal favorite, is the 'bait casting' variety. This is the reel Grandpa fished with if he could afford a reel and wasn't a 'purist' fisherman but wanted to feed his family. Bait casting reels have line wound around a spool similar to a thread spool, some sort of level-winding mechanism, and a crank to spin the spool. Tough, reliable, hard to beat due to simplicity of parts, bait casters have been around for generations. There is one in my collection made in 1927, by Shakespseare, that still works fine. These reels are difficult to master but well worth the effort learning them. Also, as a 'trolling' reel, these can't be beat. Last on our list is the fly fishing reel (and rod). Only a string tied to a stick is more simple than a fly rod reel. All mystique aside, using a fly rod is an easy to learn proposition, if you have the time and inclination and want to spend time learning to cast rather than fishing. Honestly- anyone with a bit of patience can learn to fly cast, but for our purposes, fly fishing is not 'where it's at'. Also, IMNASHO (InMyNotAlwaysSoHumbleOpinion), I think most people looking forward to surviving may not be 'dyed in the wool avid' fishermen and be more in need of down and dirty techniques to feed themselves. So we'll forego the complicated and, in Mayberry's words, Keep It Simple, Survivor. Not to mention, as cheap as we can honestly go, though I feel going cheap isn't the best idea in a survival situation. So don't: we're looking for gear that will last years and years. When your gear wears out, you'll be going to string-on-a-stick, then to spear and/or arrow. (We'll get there, eventually.) Get a reel that matches your rod, whichever style suits your fancy: spin, open-face, bait or fly.

Terminal tackle is going to consist of hooks, sinkers and bobbers. Hooks first.

In fresh water fishing there is only one style of hook to use if you want to eat, though other styles have worked well for generations and generations. Technically (and copyrighted by) known as "Tru-Turn" these hooks will seldom 'miss a strike' but set every time. Remember now: we're talking surviving, not sport, and there is a difference. That being said, I have to admit not all my hooks are Tru-Turn. I use a lot of 'heavy metal' for fishing, always have and always will, seldom get 'skunked' on a trip and have lots of fun catching fish. The problem with heavy metal is that hooks easily get lost, snagged or ripped from the line. What we are looking for is hooks that range in size from #2 to #10. Anything smaller than #10 is going to be fly-weight. Number two will hook even monster cats and bring them to the net- but if you're worried about bringing in a forty or more pound cat, get an Ought size and tie it to a rope attached to a bleach bottle. (more on that in a minute.) Get a variety of sizes, dependant upon the area being fished- the smaller the fish, the smaller the hook is a good start. Usually, smaller fish are found closer to shore, though some species of large predator love nearby shoreline for grocery markets. Again, go with your instincts.

Attached to the hook and then the reel, your line is the 'fighting' edge of your tackle. Modern 'super braids' have replaced 'old fashioned' cloth braids in many arenas of fishing. Super braids are even making inroads into the areas once dominated by monofilament lines. I've tried a couple- Spider Wire most recently- and find them to be very very strong. I much prefer them to monofilament lines in my bait caster. However, I do wonder very often about their longevity. To answer this question, I've been using the same Spider Wire since it came out lo those many years ago, on the same reel. I need to have an answer to this, and experience is the best teacher. Still, I also maintain a supply of braided nylon/dacron/cotton blend for all my reels. My line weights are from ten to 25 pound weights, which will handle anything I've caught to date, and some of those northerns and musky are pretty big. Not to say you should not go lighter and heavier- that is the idea: get one of each and take tackle to match the situation. Whichever, the last choice I would have is monofilament lines, good as they are, they don't seem to have to lifespan we are looking for.

So the hook goes on the very end of the line. There are some simple to learn knots for tieing hooks to line- not just your ordinary every-day overhand will do, so spend some time googling for 'fishing knots' and learn them. Above the hook for bait fishing will be the sinker. Once upon a time these were made of lead and simple to find and use. Nowadays (thank you Sierra Club ilk) they are made of nearly any damn thing, and still simple to use but more costly. If you're stuck fishing from shore or close to it and using a worm or some kind of bug attractant, the sinker will be placed somewhere about 12 inches above the hook. Go as light weight as you can get by with to just keep your bait from floating. You're looking to use the weight to get the hook 'out there' and sink it to the fish yet have it be light weight enough to allow the fish to take the bait with minimal note of the hook, line and sinker-bobber combination. For the majority of your fishing, simple to use 'split shot' sinkers will be perfect. If you feel the need for more weight, then 'rubber core' is the next step. Being larger and cigar shaped, these sinkers have a rubber insert around which the line is wound to keep it on the line. My least favorite sinker cuz they tend to fly off, they do the job required for the most part. Going up in style, there are the 'bell' style sinkers with eyelets through which the line is run. These are great little sinkers that come from small to monster size for monster size bait and fish. They work well but aren't as seemingly 'simple' as rubber core. Most simple to use of sinkers is the cigar shaped lead with a hole through its middle for running the line through. They don't get lost by flying off the line or require any fancy knots. Their biggest drawback is how to keep them above the bait and from sliding down the line to the bait.

Hmm...bait. That word gets bandied about a lot these days. or cut bait...however it's spelled, bait is probably the absolute best way to catch fish. It looks like food, tastes like food, feels like food, must be food. Fish are no different than people. Worms are in every fisherman's vocabulary. (Oops, sorry, Ladies: just realized I'm showing a bit of chauvinism here. Well, it can't be helped sometimes. It isn't that I'm a chauvinist pig- I absolutely love women.) I've caught fish on worms, minnows, leeches, corn, chicken guts/livers/skin, flour and oil mixtures, and fish roe (eggs), so bait can be almost anything. Corn is a favorite in this area for trout and steelhead. Worms work wonders for those with empty stomachs and a need for catching dinner. Probably more worms are drowned each year going after fish than an other bait available, so don't be afraid to use them. Also, don't be averse to using those creepy-crawly things you find after turning over a log or pile of leaves in the yard. As kids, when Grandpa told us to head for the garden, we always knew at the end of the gardening was a fishing trip, so we always collected the worms we found. Nite crawlers are just big worms and best caught after a rain, or by sprinkling the yard and hammering on a board and watching them crawl out of the grass, or at night with a flashlight when the ground is dew-covered.

And me-oh-my...this is getting long-winded, so perhaps we'll close tonight and get to the 'illegal' fishing methods tomorrow. If not tomorrow, then on the next page...good luck, happy fishing.



  1. The Zebco 202 / 404 and 33 older (U.S. made) models are bulletproof reel designs that last the test of time. In spinning, the old French made Mitchells are quickly picked up, and not just by collectors. They just take a beating and keep on asking for more - with some care, will last you a good long while.

    This is a great blog sir - I hope you continue writing it.

  2. Anon, for sure, the 202 and 404 are good reels, though made mostly from plastic and old-fashioned as I am, I tend to shy from plastic in mytools, especially something my life can depend on.
    I have a Mitchell 300 open face on my Ugly Stik and love it- it is a workhorse.
    Thank you for the compliment- it's nice to know you're being read and appreciated.
    God bless, Shy


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