Life in the United States moves at a dizzying pace. We are a hard-working nation, and we work hard at relaxing. Of the many different ways we enjoy our free time, one of the most popular is heading to the great outdoors to engage in activities such as camping, backpacking, and canoeing. For me, relaxing in the outdoors means going fishing for my favorite fish--catfish, flounder, and rainbow trout. These fish differ in appearance, habitat, and the methods I use to pursue them.
From the way they look to where they live, even fishing for them, everything about a catfish is relaxed. The easygoing catfish’s appearance has much in common with the wise, old southern gentleman. Each wears a drab gray suit over a white cotton vest and takes pride in wearing a long mustache and chin whiskers. Even though both are partial to the slow life, the comparison ends there. The catfish prefers to be in fresh water and can usually be found inhabiting the back waters of most rivers. Muddy lakes and lazy streams are prime catfish habitats, too. When I fish for catfish, I do so by following their example; I am out to relax. My gear includes a pole, a lawn chair, a wide-brimmed hat, and a cooler. Since a catfish would rather smell its way to a meal than hunt for it, I use commercially available or brought-from-home stink bait, such as chicken livers. Once the line is in the water, it is time to sit back and work on the cooler. It is a proven fact that it is easier to empty the cooler fishing for catfish than for flounder.
The flounder is an odd looking creature whose surroundings are just as curious, making fishing for him a great challenge. To say that the flounder is only strange looking is to say that the elephant man was only strange looking, for the flounder looks as if it has been flattened and twisted. Imagine what a normal fish looks like; now squash it flat, and make the mouth open horizontally, and put both eyes on the top side of the body. This is the flounder. Whether it came looking like this or evolved into this shape, it has perfectly adapted to its saltwater dwelling. The flounder uses its unique shape to bury itself, leaving only its eyes exposed. Buried near piers, docks, or channels, the flounder waits as small fish and shrimp wander by, unaware of their fate. Fishing for flounder takes some work and a lot of patience. Once my line is in the water, I slowly bring it in, letting the live bait (shrimp or shad) drag across the bottom; I stop every few feet to let it “work” the area. I repeat this action innumerable times in a day, each in the hope of dragging my bait past an unsuspecting flounder waiting for that unsuspecting meal. When I am flounder fishing, the trips to the cooler become more infrequent.
Now if I double the work and patience, while adding cunning and stealth to the mix, I am going for the magnificent rainbow trout. The pursuit of this fish can take a person to beautiful locations while testing his fishing prowess and endurance. The rainbow trout can be compared to a bike racer. Just as a bike racer is clothed in colorful attire, so is the rainbow trout. Streaks of shimmering pinks, blues, and greens, mingled with small black spots, adorn the sides of the rainbow trout; he is sleek, streamlined, agile, and favors swiftly running water. High mountain streams and rivers provide the cold water temperature in which the rainbow thrives. The trees and brush which grow along the banks supply food to him in the form of insects that fall into the stream. Pursuit of the noble rainbow trout requires skill and patience. It takes the ability to look at a stream and imagine where the fish is hiding while waiting for food to be carried by in the current. Once I find a likely spot on the stream, I must approach it in a manner so as not to spook the fish, for the rainbow trout is a wary opponent. Once in position, one of my favorite methods for rainbow trout is to allow a tiny hook with salmon egg bait to flow as naturally as possible through the suspected area. If I am lucky enough to entice a rainbow trout into a meal, the reaction of the fish is lightning fast, requiring a quick reaction to set the hook. Once on the line, the speed of the fish, coupled with the rush of the stream and the hazards of trees and rocks, provides for a truly exhilarating fishing experience. The quest for rainbows is so thrilling I just leave the cooler in the truck.
The catfish, the flounder, and the rainbow trout are three varieties of fish that differ in appearance, habitat, and the methods I use to pursue them. I enjoy the relaxation of fishing for catfish; however, the saltwater air and the quest for flounder are hard to beat. But the pursuit of rainbow trout in mountain streams is what my daydreams are made of.