Joel Reichenberger: Finding fishing stories
July 7, 2012
Steamboat Springs — My first guided fishing trip was the result of one of the more unusual stories I've ever pursued.
I can't even remember how I stumbled upon "Catdaddy," but he was a character. He was a mammoth of a man, unshaven and far more grizzly than most people who found themselves in my newspaper at the time, a small-town weekly outside of Kansas City, in suburbs where most of the kids shopped at American Eagle and Abercrombie and Fitch.
I don't remember how I found him, but when I contacted him about tagging along for a story, he couldn't have been more excited.
Catdaddy led guided catfish fishing trips on the Kansas River — the "Kaw," to most who can locate it without a map. He had a boat, and I joined two customers, a soon-to-be Marine and his uncle, enjoying one last outing before boot camp.
Catdaddy wasn't one of the guys who sticks his arm down a hole looking for the fish. Instead, we set bait on large hooks tied to tree limbs along the shore. We cruised the river in the boat, looking for any unusually strained limbs.
The game we hunted were giants. Catdaddy offered adventurers the chance to nab catfish that weighed in excess of 100 pounds.
Of course, we didn't even get a nibble in my time with him, so I didn't see these dinosaurs. That's got to be for the best. What does a 100-pound catfish eat? A fear deep down inside me says reporters' arms.
I've never been a regular fisherman. One of my favorite days on the water came when I was about 6 years old and we tied hooks and bait to milk jugs and had a contest at a party my parents hosted. Everyone got a jug and whoever's jug caught the first fish won.
Other than that, most of my formative fishing years involved trot lines in a pond tucked between woods and wheat fields about a half mile behind my house.
Milk jugs and trot lines don't require minute-by-minute maintenance. They don't discourage conversation in fear of scaring the fish. They're my kind of fishing.
I've been ever so slowly coming around to fly-fishing, however.
I took my second fly-fishing trip on Friday. It wasn't a work excursion, although it did produce a couple of photos for this week's Outdoors story, an investigation of available fishing waters in the area.
It's easy to see why so many people get, well, hooked on fly-fishing. It seems impossible to get right. Or, at least for me. I cast and cast and cast, trying to get everything to fall exactly where I want it. When I finally hit the spot, I feel a little bit robbed when a fish doesn't bite.
"Hey fish, I did my part," ya know.
The casual floating of the flies downstream, however, combined with the attention-sucking quest to "get it right" is a combination I'm coming to appreciate. And the fish stories are good … almost as good as Catdaddy's.