By Mike Carey
Anglers know fishing has its seasons. We follow various fisheries, enjoying certain times of year for one type of fishing, looking forward to other opportunities with the progression of the year. Springtime trout and walleye transition to springer fishing, transitioning to summer chinook, fall coho, and so it goes.
The changing of the leaves to bright reds and oranges signals for me a tradition now in its fourth year. So it’s time to put my boat in storage, save for a trip or two to target chums at Hoodsport, or cutthroat on Lake Sammamish, and travel east to pursue my fall passion, pheasant hunting in Montana with my son Matthew.
Montana has captured my imagination ever since we sent Matt off to Carroll College in Helena. Along the way Matt got a degree, became a teacher, and married his college sweetheart. Matt’s new in-laws, ranchers, introduced him to hunting, and Matt introduced pheasant hunting to me. I have often contemplated the similarities of fishing and hunting when I reflect on my new found pastime.
Daybreak - the glorious sunrises that bath us with brilliant colors, smells, and sounds of the awakening day ahead, full of anticipation and hope. Just like fishing...
Walking the uncut pastures with Matthew and his Britany springer, Murphy, we notice Murphy suddenly change from search mode to track mode. In and out of the tall golden grass he goes, sniffing and getting more agitated, until suddenly, he stops and goes on point. Matt and I prepare for the flush, shotguns at the ready. “Get em Murphy” we call out. With a surge forward Murphy digs deeper into the brush and the crashing sound of wings breaking free of the no longer protective undercover reveal a beautiful rooster pheasant. The long tail and red-banded neck allow us to take our shot as Matt calls out “rooster”! Guns tracking, we fire away. This time, the bird manages to fly away unscathed. It’s early in the day and we’ll blame the sun in our eyes on our missed shots. Murphy chases after the bird as he flies out of our range. We call and he returns, back to work on the next likely looking holding cover.
As with hunting, fishing certainly has it’s parallels to the above scenario.
Imagine you’re trolling along, gear at the ready. Your fish finder suddenly begins to show some classic archers. You know you have everything set up right and with anticipation you whisper “come on fish, bite!” Just then your rod starts dancing wildly. You race to grab it out of the rod holder and the rod goes quiet, fish off. Disappointed, you re-rig and resume your search for your quarry.
Yes, fishing and hunting certainly share many similar traits. Take preparation, for example. Like fishing, long before Matt and I went out we discussed our plan of attack. I had three days to hunt with him. What locations would we hunt? What were the bird reports? No Northwest Fishing Reports website to check, darn it! How about maps? Travel time to hit the block areas at the start of the hunting day – like fishing, “crack of dawn” applies as well to hunting.
Clothing - can you imagine heading out to go steelhead fishing and not be properly layered up? Being comfortable is a critical part to being able to focus on fishing, and with hunting it’s no different. I always start out with a high quality base layer like Grays Harbor Unders. They keep me warm in the early hours of the day and later as I’ve stripped off heavy coats and bibs they keep me cool as the afternoon sun beats down.
A good pair of sox and hiking boots to safely traverse uneven terrain is essential. The fishing equivalent would be compact lifejackets that can be comfortably worn all day. Or a nice pair of waders, you know the kind without a leak! Coats and bibs are a must have. I’ve had great success with Columbia gear, both fishing and hunting outfits. Their Omni-shade and PFG line of products have kept me comfortable and fishing (or hunting) for long hours of miserable weather. Which, by no coincidence, have been some of my best fishing and hunting moments. It pays to spend more and get quality clothing gear that will allow you to fish or hunt through those miserable periods of the day. In fact, I would go so far as to say spend a little more on quality clothing and a little less on top end rods and reels. In the long run I think it will pay off in more fish.
Gear – the tools that allow us to do what we do – gear will make or break your day. Like clothing, you don’t want to go cheap, but it also it isn’t necessary to break the bank. I’ve caught a lot of kokanee using a $20 eagle claw downrigger rod. I will admit, that’s pretty low end but it gets the job done. What I’m saying is, don’t get caught up in the “latest greatest” game. There are a lot of excellent moderately priced rod and reels out there that will get the job done just fine.
Meanwhile, back on our hunt, the day is drawing to a close. Murphy has been a bit wild today - he is only two years old after all and sometimes his enthusiasm gets the best of him, ranging too far afield. We work with him, training him to stay out a certain distance but no farther. We are fortunate to be able to hunt some private farmland. Murphy drops down into a cattail-filled ditch. I’m above and to his left, Matt is off behind us and to the right. It’s obvious Murphy has found something he’s interested in and is crashing into the cattails, working on following a bird. I watch him working the bird and then he breaks to the left in front of me, climbing the berm and then dropping down into a field of tall grass to my left. I’m about to call him back in to me when I notice he is taking higher jumps, tracking a bird. Suddenly Murphy digs down into the brush. A rooster explodes up and takes flight. I’m ready and raise my gun, firing away. The bird is ranging away to my left. My first shot misses, but I make a quick adjustment and the second shot finds the bird. He crashes into the brush and I call for Murphy to “get him”. Murphy bolts into the brush and a moment later has the rooster firmly in his grasp. It’s a beautiful rooster with a 16-18” tail that Murphy proudly retrieves for me. Good dog!
Days like these make memories that will last a lifetime. Whether I'm hunting or fishing with my sons, it's always a special time. A bonding of father and son seen over and over, generation to generation, since man first began this journey on earth. It's these days that I wait for and treasure. Yes, fishing and hunting have a lot in common.