Byron Dalrymple on Cane Pole fishing



"In early 1975 I was assigned by Outdoor Life magazine to do a story about the enjoyment, the art and, the productiveness of fishing with a cane pole, bobber and bait for bass and panfish.  The research for that story took me back to boyhood.  I have long claimed that bobber and bait fishing is one of the most dramatic of angling sports.  Many a youngster started that way. Then, as it is said, he "graduated" to casting with artificials.  Nonsense!  He gave up an infinitely dramatic endeavor for one really seldom half as much so.

Part of the time while renewing my acquaintance with the cane pole, I fished on a lake that I built on a property of ours.  I suddenly realized all over again fully,  what it meant to move a boat quietly.  With a cane pole, you have to get close.  I learned over again how to be quiet myself in the boat.  And how to reach gingerly out and put a baited hook into a small pocket without disturbing the fish.  Modern, big boat anglers never learn such arts.  They zoom and carom, cast a country mile.  As a cane poler I was put suddenly, by the restrictions of my tackle, on intimate terms with my quarry.  But the real drama was brought back to me as I watched the bobber.  Of c course, you can fish an artificial fly down below the bobber.  If you move it by crawling it along you may catch something.  But, try leaving it still and it is a total dud.  A fish may nose up to it, then turn aside. A worm - any bait - however is something different.

Any fish knows that it is good to eat, undoubtedly partly from past experience, but probably mostly from the smell.  It also looks edible and when nibbled it feels right.  If fish do have a developed sense of taste, which they may,  it tastes right.  So a bait, with out any question, has several advantages that artificials lack.  Regardless of propaganda to the contrary, if fish won't take bait it's likely they won't take an artificial either.  But time and again when fish won't strike artificials, they will eagerly seize bait.  So, it is awfully hard to argue cogently in favor of artificials.  You either want to catch fish, or you don't.

Recently, in fact again, on my own lake I watched from the cover of a tree shadowed by the dam, as a bass of possibly four pounds cruised slowly nearby.  Eagerly I pitched a lure out past the fish and worked it near.  The bass spurned it I.  tried several different kinds.  The brute would not even look.  So, the heck with him.  I rigged a worm baited hook and a bobber and tossed out to catch a redear sunfish if I could.  Shortly, I had one.  As  it protested on the way in, that big bass literally exploded out of the weeds and belted it.  He didn't get it, and I didn't get him, but he certainly knew what was good to eat -  in his then selective mood - and what wasn't. 

While I researched my cane pole story, I was reminded again of the beautiful anguish of watching dancing bobber with bait below.  It lies first inert upon on a flat surface.   Then, it suddenly jiggles.  You tense, you snug the line oh so gently.  The bobber skitters aside, goes under.   You start to set the hook but it pops up again. None of this would happen if an artificial dangled below.  Further, when you cast an artificial lure and wind it in, there's a strike and you grind away.  The strike is a split second thrill.  Bait fishing with a bobber drags the exquisite excitement out almost unbearably.  Suddenly the bobber goes. You haul back.  Of course this is an art!  Of course it is sporting!"

 - from How To Rig and Fish Natural Baits

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