Country Went to Town

Country Went to Town
As a kid I always loved reading about fishing and hunting all over the world. I can remember being mesmerized with Field & Stream filled articles about far-away destinations full of fish and game that I could only see in my dreams. Thoughts of places I have been and places I still want to go fill my thoughts every time I step on a plane or browse a magazine rack at the airport. It always seems that at these moments, for whatever reason, I get a reality check and put things back into perspective. For example, just recently I spent a week in Dallas coaching my son Hunter and his 14 year old baseball team at the Amateur American World Series. This has become an annual event for my family for a variety of reasons. Obviously the baseball competition is high on the list but it's certainly not the only reason we go.

My good buddy Steve Schiele is a well-known guide on Lake Lewisville so a trip to the Dallas area always means a day in the boat with him. Summer on Lewisville means schooling sand bass and hybrids by the thousands, it's ridiculous. Our trip was so good this year that we had a fish fry in the parking lot of our hotel and fed three baseball teams and parents. If you can close your eyes and imagine the Beverly Hillbillies in baseball cleats, that was us. The whole scene was wonderful, everybody loves a good fish fry and we had ourselves a blast.

Now the flip side to traveling and fishing with a guide is the do it yourself trip. I know most of you fall into the same category as I do on that subject, "Where am I going and how far is the closest place to fish?" Our annual baseball trip is the perfect example of this. At our hotel there is a retention or flood control pond that has been affectionately named Lake Costco due to it's proximity to the store. I'm not sure which was the highlight of the week-long stay, the baseball or the week-long fishing tournament the boys had. It was hilarious to see all of them scouring this no-name body of water for anything that would bite. As you might guess, they finally figured out the secret and eventually caught some very respectable fish. I believe a four pound largemouth took big fish honors. Opportunities like these abound for anyone willing to try, it's just a matter of getting out there and giving it a good effort.

As I write this column I sit in awe of my surroundings, the ridiculously clear water of Cozumel Mexico is all around me. In the words of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, "We're not in Kansas anymore." For years my family and I have made this trip and we always look forward to it. As you would guess, fishing is a big part of the trip for me. New water and new targets are tops on my list. The opportunity to fish with friends that live on the island is always exciting and I always come away with a new appreciation for how blessed my life has been.

My trip always starts with a visit to a tackle shop prior to my flight for a bag of goodies to bring down to the island. There are very few places on the island that sell tackle; most tackle items consumed locally arrive via mail order to individuals. The difficulty in obtaining quality fishing gear is a problem that all local anglers face so anyone who visits and brings goodies is especially welcome. Terminal tackle such as swivels, hooks, leader material, wire, and fluorocarbon leader are all top items that any resident fisherman would love to get their hands on. If you have a personal friend down here the higher-end items like reels, polarized sunglasses, and maybe some trolling plugs will earn you huge points. One year I brought several levelwind reels in the 30lb class to my best fishing buddy and you would have thought he won the lottery. Things like that really put into perspective how much we take for granted.

My mind just went blank. Hunter just made a frantic trip to my table to tell me about the stud-sized permit he saw minutes ago while snorkeling. Was I doing something important? Okay, back on track. Perhaps the most awesome do-it-yourself adventure I have seen down here was a pair of guys trolling on a jet ski not 300 yards from the beach. They had developed a system where they would sit back to back, one would drive while the other trolled. I applauded their ingenuity and good fortune as they caught jack after jack and an occasional wahoo, all the while howling with laughter, taunting landlocked observers. I was envious.

It seems so funny how we complicate things, especially in the world of fishing. I wonder at the sometimes ridiculous measures we take to become better and more successful anglers. We often take the simple pleasures out of a sport we love and turn it into a cold and calculated science. Every now and again it's good to just go fishing without all the details. I don't need to call Jim Cantore at the Weather Channel for all the meteorological data. I don't need to consult the internet for the latest and greatest reports. I don't need to dress in the fishing version of my Sunday best. All I really need from time to time is to just go, just find a stretch of water and see what happens. Let your mind wander and the rest of your body relax. You would be surprised at how it makes you feel. I know every time I get on a boat down here with friends it's just that, a chance to just go. Both ends of the fishing spectrum are represented. I have the latest tackle and gear while my friends use a triple drop rig on mono so heavy you could use it in your lawn trimmer. Both catch fish and each would gladly trade for the other just to see what it's like. It seldom gets any better.

Perhaps there will be a few bonefish and maybe a tarpon in my future, who knows. I do know that whatever or wherever I fish it will be an adventure that will surely be relived in my mind and stories for a long time. The opportunity to enjoy some of the finest water in the world and have your fishing brain re-calibrated is something that doesn't come along everyday. The adjustment in attitude is exactly what we need every now and again. I feel better already.