Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Voices from the Past: A Big Musky (1914)

Sometimes you find neat pieces of fishing literature in strange places. Take the following epistle, which lead an article called "Getting the Big Ones" that appeared in Technical World Magazine for November 1914. The article wasn't about fishing, it was about how we learn a lot from little things. It's a thing of beauty.

JUST as the spring wagon which had brought us from the station drew up in front of the house, I saw him, for the first time, stepping out of a light skiff, with a huge muskellunge in one hand and a workman-like split-bamboo rod in the other. He had a bit of a squint in one eye and a beautifully tanned skin beneath a weather-beaten felt hat, and wore an expression of ecstatic satisfaction.

It was a great catch, and we all gathered around, admiring the fish and congratulating the angler, while the old fellow who kept the fishing resort determined its weight and proclaimed it the biggest "musky" ever taken out of that lake. As I had come out on a little fishing excursion myself, I was naturally curious to learn just where this lucky fisherman had hooked his fish, what kind of bait he was using, and other particulars fishermen the world over are keenly anxious to know. So at the dinner table I endeavored to get as much information as possible; but what I really got was a bit of practical philosophy which has been of service to me ever since.

"I have always wanted to catch a big fish," said I to the lucky fisherman, "and I have fished for them everywhere without success."

"Well," he replied, "I've fished most everywhere — around the Catalina Islands, and down off Florida, in the Columbia River, and through all of these Wisconsin lakes—and my experience has been that you usually catch the big fellows when you are fishin' for the little ones."

I said nothing more. There was nothing to say. He had given voice to a truth as old as the world, which, like many another truth, had been overlooked or forgotten and had to be discovered anew. "You usually catch the big ones when you're fishin' for the little ones." Of course that is true. Why had I not thought of it? Why had I wasted so many joyous days armed with gaff and spoon hooks as big as my hand, and caught nothing? When this old fellow went out, he did not turn up his nose at a perch or a crappie. They formed mild sport—and there was always the glorious possibility of a forty-pounder. I had been going out after the forty-pounder and not even getting the little fellow.

-- Dr. Todd

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