The Proof’s in the Picture

How to Capture the Exact Moment in Photography

One of the strongest reasons we fish is to show others what we caught. The advent of video and digital cameras and their subsequent migration into cellphone technology has made picture taking a part of everybody’s trip to the lake. Sites like Facebook, Flickr, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn have given us the place to show what we caught.

Rick Lawrence of Fish N Fool Lures being photographed by Ben Fiest

Rick Lawrence of Fish N Fool Lures displays a fine largemouth bass taken from the edge of cattails on MacArthur Reservoir north of Sandpoint, Idaho where I live. His success is recorded by fishing buff, Ben Fiest of Sandpoint, and yours truly (for the sake of illustration).

Four Basic Types of Photos

The mug shot is when someone holds their catch up in front of the camera and that’s about all we see with a smiling fisherman in the background. Sometimes that’s worthy, especially with an exceptional fish; but more often it’s quite boring to look at. You won’t receive many comments from a mug shot.

Another type of photo common in the outdoors is the standard scenery or landscape photo. Some of those are absolutely gorgeous; but in my younger days of photography when I had to study in order to compete, I discovered that I sold more scenics when they showed human involvement and almost guaranteed when the human in the shot was either looking into the scene or doing something in it. Why is this? Because when there is someone else in the picture and they are anonymous or representative (not hogging the viewer’s attention), then the person looking at the photograph has reason to imagine themselves playing or standing in the same scene.

The action shot is usually best when the sport or activity is caught at the pinnacle of involvement. If you don’t have high speed digital settings on your camera (and cell phones don’t), you have to train yourself to see the pinnacle moment coming before it happens.

Combine All Three in Illustrating the Story

It took many years of shooting and analyzing before I learned to combine all three when I could. In the photo above, I anticipated the moment when outdoorsman, Ben Fiest lifted his cell phone and Rick Lawrence of Fish N Fool Lures held up his catch, lure dangling. Rick sells these fantastic plastic swim baits so he’s always looking for photographs that show proof. Ben, on the other hand, who works in construction just wanted to record the memory. I was there, not only to fish and write about it, but to illustrate my blog. So here was the perfect opportunity.

I saw it coming. I barked no orders. Just grabbed my camera from its case, turned it on and took a rapid succession of photos as Ben and Rick got into the action. The one you see here was my illustration for this article. That’s MacArthur Reservoir in the backdrop, June of this year. The photo is a mug shot, a scenic, an action shot and an illustration all in one.

Here’s a different kind of illustration, one I took this spring specifically for Idaho First Realty, owned by long-time friend and broker Ed Ostrom. That’s my famous Bijou, the registered long-haired chihuahua, an unpaid model posing as I captured the southern shore of Sandpoint, Pend Oreille River, our infamous Long Bridge and the Cabinet Mountains in the back drop–all in one to give Idaho First Realty’s website a unique and truthfully illustrated banner.

Last, I want you to look another kind of story illustration that can provide memories for you on your trip. I took it when I had no fish to photograph and little to write about accept the topic: what you do when you’re not catching fish.

Get the picture?

~Dwayne Parsons on Twitter @IFishWrite

Pick A System and Work that System

If you wonder why some bass fishermen are more successful than others, there are two good reasons. Neither one is more important than the other; so it’s not like one and two. They both count in the factoring of fish caught.

Crank bait system

When you're ready to learn, pick a system you know others are having success with and then use that system until your body memory understands the subtleties without you thinking about it. Switching back and forth between fishing systems weakens your confidence.

One is they choose a system and work the system. The system works. They’ve seen others using it, so they stay with it until they master the subtle techniques required in presentation bound inherently to that particular system.

The other is that they spend a lot of time fishing. Rick Lawrence, for instance of Fish N Fool Lures fishes his unique swim baits 3 or 4 times a week.

Al Lindner, of walleye and spiny ray fame, fishes close to 300 days a year–it’s been his business to do so.

Mike Robertson, a great trout crank bait angler is the same way. Pro anglers, like these, stick with the systems they select because they know it works and they master them.

Fly Fishing Guide Russell Moore has developed a unique system for deep water nymph fishing that has upped his catch and release count considerably over his competitors.

These anglers are masters in their own right because they learned a system and stayed with it. Do they innovate? Yes, they do. Do they explore and try new things; yes, of course. But they rely on their system of choice for the most part.

Your object lesson is to pick a system that works and work it until you master it. Then do your innovations or pick another system. You’ll learn more and catch a whole lot more fish.

~Dwayne Parsons, Twitter @IFishWrite

Tough Bass Made Easy

When weather and water conditions seem less favorable, you go on the hunt.

Like a couple of Blue Herons, two bass fishers await their opportunity by casting through the dawn for small mouth bass feeding on crayfish.

Do this and you may discover some surprising things. Bass are feeding in that predawn light, especially the bigger ones. It’s an excellent time to be up and on the water because predator fish are taking every opportunity to find their days meal. The crawdads, a night-time creature, are still out on the crawl and minnows are doing their best to stay alive.

It may stretch your waking time, but if you want to tie into a big bass, this is one of the magic hours.

~Dwayne Parsons, Twitter @IFishWrite

Strike Motive–Fish With an Attitude

Strike Motive is not always Hunger

Fish strike lures or flies for a number of different reasons, not always related to hunger. Sometimes it’s the chase and catch motive, like big rainbows in open water. Sometimes its the swim to beat the competition, like a trout frenzy when you drop a tantalizing bait into a stream pool holding a number of hungry trout, or throw fish meal into a farm pond. Sometimes it’s a protection mechanism at work in a spawner on its redd, like this spunky Pumpkin Seed that hit a small crankbait cast into shallow water for bass.

Pumpkin Seed caught during spawn

This North Idaho Pumpkin Seed (Sun Fish) struck a lure much bigger than it's mouth.

Strike motive can even be sparked by a thunder storm or the change in air pressure as it comes in over a body of water. I once experience a surprising trout feed when I was caught by a November squall in a row boat on the wrong end of the lake I was fishing.

The storm came over the ridge in a hurry and realizing I had no time to return to the launch on the other end, I hunkered down in a rain jacket in the shallows of a grass bed. Until then I hadn’t had so much as a hit, fishing for an hour at least. But as I contemplated enjoying my misery, looking at the rain pelting the water, I saw the dorsal fin of a fair-size trout break the surface in front of my eyes. I was fly fishing. So I quickly changed over to a Pheasant Tail beaded nymph pattern and cast into the open water near the grass. In seconds I hooked and landed a 13″ cutthroat trout.

I was delighted of course and during the entire squall I caught 10 more averaging about 12″, normal for that lake and lost one a little larger–of course.

As soon as the squall passed over and the brisk gusting wind stopped, I was back to a fishless game as if that lake had never held a trout or anything with fins. What was the strike motive? What brought on that feeding frenzy. I’ve often wondered if I’m right. I think it was the fact that the squall and the resulting wave action on the surface kept the fish hawks from seeing these trout in the shallows where the nymphs were lifting to the surface during their hatch.

If anybody out there cares to tell me otherwise. I’ll consider your advice. But I thought that might be a valid explanation. That particular strike motive might be tagged: Uncover.

~Dwayne Parsons on Twitter @IFishWrite


What’s the best bass lure on the market?

As hot summer sun warms the bays, not all smallmouth bass have gone to deep water

This smallmouth came savagely to Tony Gunderson's sunfish spinner bait cast along reeds in shallow water on a late afternoon in June.

The dichotomous answer is enough to make one chuckle. The simple part is, “whatever works!” But that’s about as good an answer as “do the right thing!” to someone who really wants to know.

The truth of the answer is that there is no best lure. It’s the fisherman’s knowledge of bass, the species, their habitat and habits that distinguish who catches the most. It’s the angler’s understanding that brings some more big fish than others catch.

The “best” way to acquire that knowledge is by fishing with fishermen who are better than you. Watch what they do; ask questions and imitate their techniques. Then, the bass you catch will teach you what works and what does not.

Observe the nature of the environment you’re fishing, measure the water temperature, note the wind–its direction and speed. You don’t have to write these things down; I’m just suggesting that you note them because they are considerations in the factors that determine where the bass, large mouth or small mouth, are located on a given day, and why they may or may not strike.

There’s one proverbial truth that never changes. “You can’t catch fish if you don’t cast.” Here’s a second truth worth considering if you have time, “You can’t cast successfully if you’re not on the water.”

So if you must go through the failures and mistakes in order to attain the knowledge you desire, speed up the process by fishing with anglers who know what they’re doing–as often as you can.

~Dwayne Parsons on Twitter @IFishWrite


Peace for the Soul

What is the Sound of Quiet?

I have experienced a place where there are no interruptions, no sounds of city or man in any way. The sound of flowing water, birds, insects and leaves rustling softly to the rhythm of a breeze–these are quiet sounds. They sooth the restlessness in my heart, calm the fears, subdue the anger. These sounds gladden me. They bring me around to a keen awareness where I sense my soul is not disturbed by self-conscious desire, but rather that I am part of something much larger and more significant than self.

There is a place in each of us where solitude can be found, where all that is labelled is shed for a mindless quiet that allows and recognizes only the environment around us. Then there is the sudden awareness that we are part of it and it is much bigger, much greater than we who are graced to wade through it.

These are rare moments. They may happen only a time or two, at best infrequently in anyone’s life. I suspect the greater majority of human beings passing their lives on this planet never experience what I’m writing about. But I do…once in awhile and it’s enough to put me in awe of my surroundings, enough to put peace in my soul.

~ Dwayne Parsons, on Twitter @IFishWrite

The Greatest Factor Involved in Consistently Successful Fishing

Believe Like a Child Believes

As we drove up to the Point of rock, this boy said, “I’m going to catch the biggest fish and the most, ’cause I always do.” Four of us went about it for an hour or so and sure enough, this kid was right!

Believing you can is more than half the battle in fishing success.

Not only did he hook and land the largest of the bass caught that night, he fought it extremely well, keeping himself calm, not giving slack as the fish swam hard, pulling line on a drag set just right. It took a minute or two to bring the bass in where his Father could net it.

Look at the beam on this young man’s face. Who can deny his excitement. The great thing was that even his brother, who would have liked catching that fish himself, said something like, “Man, it’s great when someone catches a fish THAT big.”

We were all excited and the mood went home with him that night to be shared by his entire family. I thought about it and realized how important it is that fishermen believe they are going to catch fish. Al Lindner said the same thing once, I believe it was Al, that those who believe they are going to actually catch more fish than those who cast with apprehension, skepticism or doubt.

Can there be any doubt about that? Look again at the beam on this boy’s face and tell me you don’t believe.

# Dwayne Parsons, Twitter @IFishWrite

Fishing for Knowledge

I enjoy my time on the water enough to ask myself why. Sometimes it is in fact the solitude I find of just being in the zone. But more often, especially in this portion of my life, I find a greater pleasure in sharing the experience with another.

Rick Lawrence of Fish'n Fool Lures has become one of my favorite catches on the boat companion side of fishing. He's extremely knowledgeable and very creative when it comes to catching bass of either species. His experiential wisdom applied to fishing has greatly increased my catch to cast ratio.

Rick Lawrence of Fish’n Fool Lures has become one of my favorite catches on the boat companion side of fishing. He’s extremely knowledgeable and very creative when it comes to catching bass of either species. His experiential wisdom applied to fishing has greatly increased my catch to cast ratio.

In my opinion, this guy is quite outside the proverbial tackle box. It’s not uncommon for him to show up with a new prototype bait he’s just designed and is testing. He’s one of the more accurate bait and spin casters I’ve ever met. His body memory, developed from countless numbers of casts, places his bait time and again in the exact spot of his mind-eye coordination. I’m talking precise. Sometimes I can only shake my head at it and wonder how the human body knows exactly how much whip to put in a rod tip to place a lure weighing so many ounces exactly where the man thought it ought to go. I admit, I’ve never detected a laser beam emanating from his eye nor seen a red dot on the water on the edge of those reeds, but “plop” there goes his swim bait or floating mouse or sinking fool. And the next thing of course is a nice bass. If it’s large enough, it’s brought into the boat, weighed and photographed and then released again for another day.

You can’t help but love to fish with a guy like that. For me it’s always a lesson in learning, always a new discovery either in technique or presentation and so I’ve enjoyed one of the best seasons of my life, because this kind of learned knowledge coming from the other person in the boat allows me to pass it on to the lesser experienced guests I like to host.

Aside from methods, lures and the what-not of bass fishing I’ve learned something else from this gentleman of the water. Quite often he will invite a third person, someone he barely knows, who has inquired about his lures through some store where he’s given a clinic or through his FaceBook page. That person is always along to learn and Rick demonstrates great candid patience in assuring that they understand how a particular bait is to be presented and where it should be cast. He’s a natural teacher in that way, never lecturing, always willing. And when our guests watch him boat one fish after another with relative consistency, they start to pay attention.

Me too!

# Dwayne Parsons on Twitter @IFishWrite

Five Good Reasons We Like to Fish

Have you thought about that? Have you thought about why fishing attracts devotees who in some cases become so passionate about it that they actually become addicts of it? I have. I’ve found fishing as an addiction in my own heart at different times in my life. Sometimes, by watching myself closely, by openly examining the reasons I chose to fish over other things I learned things about myself and about the nature of man. Here are some of my conclusions.

A shoreline caught walleye is an unexpected prize for an hour on the rocks of the Pend Oreille River in North Idaho. Walleye, a delicacy, are among the best table fare of all edible fresh water fish in North America.

First of all, we like the Surprise. We like the fact that as we learn the craft, there’s always the chance we’ll land a larger than normal fish. In many cases, for good reason, I’ll release a fish so the catching of it again can be enjoyed by someone else. I also, like many, release them to keep the gene pool working for the next generation. i release them so they can spawn and continue their genetic wonder into the future. But there are also fish that I will harvest because I’d rather eat fresh fish or home-canned fish than buy it packaged from a store. So it’s the anticipation of surprise that rises first to the forefront of reason. I remember that was one of the reasons for my youthful enthusiasm and why my eyes brightened when someone told me I could go fishing.

There’s another reason that’s prevalent among men and women, especially, who fish. Some children carry this motive as well, particularly if they are from an unhappy or troubled home environment; but for the most part, I think this is an adult trait. In one word it is Escape. Fishing offers escape to people who feel confined or trapped or stressed in a work or home environment. By the nature of being on or around water, whether flowing or still, fishing offers a place of solitude where one can more easily work through the problems, difficulties and struggles of life.

Following closely this second motive is a third. I discovered this one being a writer for a fishing magazine years ago. For a relatively short stint I was lucky enough to be the editor of the Federation of Fly Fishers magazine. At that desk I realized that what we were truly bringing to the table of our readers was not so much the information they eagerly sought, as it was the transplantation of themselves onto a river or lake. If we provided stories written well enough, people could transport through their imaginations right out of an office cubical or subway ride or waiting room and for just a few moments dream and plan and think about being there, wherever that might be. I call this one Being in the Day Dream.

A forth reason, I discern is that fishing offers a kind of shared experience that bonds people to each other. We formulate fishing buddies and fisher friends as people we like to be around when we go fishing because there is something in their personality that relates to the pleasure we’re having as we fish. So I class this one as Shared Experience.

The fifth reason is less common and is generally found among the experts, the masters of the art. It is an experience that happens only on occasion and usually only within one’s private, very personal awareness. It happens in other sports as well where experience, understanding and body memory all come together and the brain stops thinking. It’s the real reason why we often say “fishing gives me solitude”. In these circles of intellectual understanding and of pondering what it is that happened, we have come collectively to refer to it as Being in the Zone. It means that for a string of moments, we forget all the pressures of life. We forget trying to understand anything. We forget to analyze what we’re doing. For some moments we meld into everything around us and it’s as if the fish were part of us, as if they know we are there and that the catching, the fighting and the landing of them is all part of creation. The insects are there perfectly. The sunlight or shadows are just right. There is no thought. It’s all perfect and the hooking and landing of a great fish happens not because we have gained the skill but because we have become the relationship with it. It’s called again, Being in the Zone, where no thoughts take place, but awareness is enhanced and the experience, keen beyond our normal existence.

These are the primary reasons I fish. If you have some of your own and can enunciate them. I’d love to hear from you; please leave a comment. I hazard to say that my growing list of readers would also like to hear what you have to say, so let us all know what you think is the number one reason you fish.

# Dwayne Parsons @IFishWrite on Twitter

Teaching Kids How to Fish

I’ve discovered something incredibly important for myself related to fishing and why I fish. It’s probably perfect to come into this consciousness at this time in my life, full circle, as they say.

The best of fishing is a shared experience. Why, therefore, don't we teach others how to enjoy this very complete form of recreation where sustenance is found on all levels?

I am blessed to live on the water at Dover where I can watch the changing conditions of the Pend Oreille River. This water now has several game species in it, all feeding and available. Three varieties of trout: rainbow, cutthroat, and brown. It yields on occasion two kinds of char: dolly varden and mackinaw. It also contains both large mouth and small mouth bass in relative abundance. It has a relatively untapped abundance of small landlocked salmon we refer to as Kokanee. And it is showing itself to be a productive source of walleye (though that boom hasn’t arrived yet).

On the scrap side are large and relatively common pike minnows, tinch, suckers and complimenting them are occasional winter- and spring-caught mountain white fish and Lake Superior whitefish. The river has an abundance of perch, some bluegill, a lot of black crappie and a wide assortment of minnows.

In places, the main channel goes ninety feet deep, but the bays and bay-size eddies are for the most part in the 12 to 15 foot depth range. There are huge mud flats too where the bottom is a mix of sand, glacial silt and just plain mud, all giving a rich crop of aquatic weeds including a millfoil problem. What body of water isn’t plagued with invasive species.

But the fishery is currently alive, rebounding and quite productive; so we who live here simply accept these things and do our best to enjoy the water and the catching. But that’s not what I discovered, and my discovery wasn’t a sudden flash of insight. It was a gradual dawning of awareness that something was more important to me than just me catching fish.

Living where I live, I’ve had the great privilege of being visited by a number of families with kids in all age ranges. So over time, I found myself collecting and restoring “yard sale rods and reels” so that when you folks came for a visit, they’d have a rigging available, ready for use, with new line and a variety of gadgetry to bait and lure the fish in. Last year a troop of boys caught 34 perch off the end of my dock, filling a picnic basket with their catch. I taught them how to clean them, skin them and eat them. This year, they come back with eagerness and my shores frequently give up the sound of “I caught another one!” or “I got one! It’s a keeper!” (They are taught to release the fish that are too small for consumption, and sometimes a larger one depending on the child).

Here’s what I discovered: the joy it brings to me to see the beam of a young boy’s smile or the gleam in the eye of a girl who’s caught a fish she’s proud to show. I discovered that I enjoy more, seeing young people unfold with a new understanding and a connection to the water that will bring them a life-long appreciation for the outdoors and for food sources, where they are caught, how they are kept (if and when) and how they are prepared for eating.

This discovery has caused me to think back on my own life. I was raised on this same water about two miles from where I currently live. Several years ago when I nearly died in a timber-falling accident, I had to sit and ponder while I healed. I did a lot of reflection at that time, waiting hopefully as a fractured neck and broken back found their places again so I could get up and become active again. I pondered my childhood and the many fishing experiences i had.

Last year, I called up and took fishing the very man who first took me fishing now 60 years ago. We had a blast! It meant a lot to him that I would bother to do so. This year, I’ve made an appointment with his son, Larry, to fish again together like we did in high school. These are profoundly good memories.

So I’ve resolved that I have a new purpose for writing this blog. A new and better reason for writing about fishing and taking pictures that tell a story. I’m going to specialize on teaching fishing, especially to children. I’m going to teach adults how they can teach their children how to fish. It will include everything from how to set the drag properly and why to how season the fish you caught so that it tastes really good coming out of the fry pan.

That’s what this blog is now all about.

It’s better to teach another how to fish, how to catch them, dress them and prepare them for the table than to provide them with store-bought, packaged fish. It’s just as valid to teach them how to release a prize catch they don’t need to eat, or may not want to, than it is to let fish spoil. Some fish need to be released; some need to be kept, and if kept, eaten.