"He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty four days now without taking a fish." — Ernest Hemingway, "The Old Man and the Sea"
Once upon a time, when I was a lot younger and slightly less in girth, I would sometimes address a companion as we sprinted around a fairly steep hillside. This was usually associated with chasing some particularly aggravating, gobbling turkey. I say the turkey was aggravating because he would not do the decent thing and simply walk into our calling and get decently shot.
As it usually happened, the unfortunate soul hunting with me that day would stop and gasp for breath for a few minutes. Often they would take this opportunity to question my methods and ask, "Why does it have to be so hard?"
Having anticipated this question, I would rise to great heights of sanctimony and tell them (after I caught my breath), "I never want it to be easy."
Well, if I really meant that, I should have been muskie fishing.
Muskie lore has always been that you cast all day and maybe see or "raise" one fish. A muskie will often show itself, rise out of the depths like the watery leviathan he is, follow the fishermen's lure a short distance, but not take it.
Over the years when I would see this happen, it was somewhat of a surreal experience. A log-sized fish appears 10 yards from the boat. You see it, but is it real? You know, like the time you spotted a flying saucer.
The muskellunge (Esox masquinongy, scientific name) is a large, predatory game fish that stirs emotions in anglers like no other fish that swims. Muskie fishermen (sometimes called muskie hunters) are known for being tenacious and long-suffering. They don't give up and they don't care about bad weather. Some of the best muskie fishing may occur during times when the weather is not that pretty. Die-hard muskie fishermen are out on the water when most of us are not thinking about fishing.
Bo Wolfe is a fishing guide on the New River in West Virginia, the owner-operator of New River Bronzeback Adventures.
Here's what he told me: "The best advice I can give people that want to fish for muskies is to have patience, patience, and more patience."
Bo has seen interest in muskie fishing increase in the past few years.
"You have to have patience, and I fish a lot," Bo said. "You need to know where you can find them at what time of year.
(Hence the term muskie "hunter.")
"March is really good for me catching muskies," he said. "I do well in the fall and winter months, if it doesn't get too terribly cold. Here where I am at on New River, the muskies spawn in April, and the fishing is really dead then; you may catch a male muskie at this time, but I don't fish for them much during the spawn."
So if you manage to figure out when, what do you catch them with?
"I throw a lot of glider-type lures for muskies, and they are my favorite," Bo explained. A glider lure is a plug type, like a crank bait, but without the lip. Some anglers refer to them as a "jerk" bait, as the fisherman will jerk the lure and then it will "glide" through the water, imitating a bait fish.
"Muskies are known to hit the lure sometimes right at the boat," Bo said with a laugh. "If you have a 40-inch fish come out of nowhere and hit your lure two feet from your boat, it can scare the heck out of you!"
This isn't the type of fishing that you do on warm summer days and you may catch dozens of fish in a day. However, if you want to join the muskie fanatics and long to hunt this large watery predator, give muskie fishing a try.
I would warn you, though, catching a big muskie can change your life. You could become an addict, because as Bo put it: "The muskie guys are a funny bunch; not everyone wants to be on the water when there is snow on the ground."
But then, you didn't want it to be easy, did you?
"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at email@example.com.