10/10/09
Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.   Blue-winged Olives
3.   Little Yellow Stoneflies
4.   Slate Drakes
5.   Cream Cahills - hatching in Isolated locations
6.   Little Yellow Quills
7.   Needle Stoneflies
8.   Beetles
9.   Grasshoppers
10. Ants
11. Crane Flies
12. Helligramite
13. Streamers - matching sculpin, baitfish and small crawfish

The Learning Process - Part 73
When the TV series had been underway a year or two, the first series ever done on
saltwater fishing, there were a lot of people and related businesses interested in it.
At the time there were no cable stations, only 3 networks and a few independent TV
stations. The shows pulled some very good ratings and eventually got a few prime
time spots in some big markets, like Orlando/Tampa.

Charter boats were all willing to participate to get the advertisement from it, but I
soon learned that wasn't adding up to be to my advantage. They would have easily
turned the TV shows into nothing short of info commercials. Most of the shows were
done aboard private boats that the owners didn't and wouldn't charter. To be quite
frank, many of the private, big boat guys had pretty big egos to go along with the
boats. That played much to my advantage. In a very short time, I had some big
yacht companies that helped sponsor and worked with me with access to boats and
crews to fish anywhere I wanted to go.

Two large boat dealers that were sponsors had new boats in the small to medium
size range rigged out for me to use, one on the Atlantic and one on the Gulf Coast.
Several of the private big boat owners were extremely helpful and invited me to
travel North and South America and many of the islands fishing on their million
dollar boats. The oil business boomed in the eighties and there were plenty of
people that had the money it took to fish the big game circuit. New tournament
circuits were cropping up everywhere from Hawaii to Martha's Vineyard. Many of the
related big game manufacturers helped me. One in particular, Mold-Craft Products,
big game lure manufacturer, helped arrange trips for me with the very best anglers,
captains and mates in the world. Frank Johnson, owner of Mold-Craft, even helped
me with the production of some of the programs.

When I say money, make sure you understand that if someone gave the average
person a multi-million dollar boat, it wouldn't be much help in fishing those
tournaments. You have to have a captain, a mate or two, store the boat and
maintain it. An average 54 Bertram cost at the very least a quarter of a million
dollars a year just to operate. I had guys that would send their private jets to pick
me up to go on a fishing trip. Marlin tournaments were a team effort, not a one man
event. These guys hired the best captains and mates they could find.

When I fished the big game marlin tournaments, I noticed the same trend I saw on
the pro bass circuit. I saw the same guys winning over an over. The prizes were
nice trophies, but the Calcutta's paid huge amounts of cash money. I am reluctant
to state any details, but the average Calcutta pot was something like a $100,000.00
and there was one or more taking place every week of the season. It was easy for
me to see that the same exactly principals that accounted for success in bass
fishing, accounted for success in the big game circuits.

Some of the people involved were complete nuts. I had a guy (I want embarrass by
name) buy a new boat, bet $10,000 on us in the Calcutta, and fished the first day
offshore he ever fished with me running his boat. I chartered an airplane and flew
the offshore waters of the Gulf looking for schools of small tuna trying to increase
the odds of finding the elusive blue marlin. The next day I ran the guy's new boat to
a spot I had marked on the plane's loran-c, and we hooked a nice marlin. It took him
forever to get in the fighting chair. He lost the fish about two minutes after he
started fighting it. His newly hired mate didn't show up at midnight when the
tournaments started, and no one on the boat knew a marlin from a tuna other than
my cameraman. When the marlin tail walked away, he justed laughed and said "did
you see that fish jump". I answered, yes, I saw $100,000 of your money jump right
off the hook. My cameraman captured the potential winning fish on video.

Every trip I would learn something different than I had witnessed and participated in
somewhere else. Everywhere I fished, the local captains, mates and anglers would
tell me that "the fish here do such and such". I remembered that same thing
happening when I pre-fished bass tournaments on new lakes. The locals would say
"you need to do such and such on this lake". As a general rule, when locals fished
in the tournaments they didn't place in the top half of the field, but they always had
the answers to everything.

During the shooting of the 200 plus TV shows, I was able to compare fishing for the
different species from what I had learned at different places around the country. I
also learned that it always got down to what the fish ate. It didn't matter what kind of
fish you were after, the key to finding and catching the fish was always ithe food the
fish ate. While the green horns gleamed over lures, the pros focused on what the
fish were eating.

I could give many specific examples, but that isn't the purpose of this. I will give one
that illustrates it well. One of the first shows i did was on the Alabama Deep Sea
Fishing Rodeo held every year at Dolphin Island. There were many people that
entered the event which was strictly a big fish deal. Whoever caught the biggest fish
of any species eligible won some very nice prizes. I wanted to do a shark fishing
show because the TV stations kept asking me for one. Everyone told me that Dan
Negus, a young man from Mobile, was the best there was. He had caught the first
place shark several times. He was always in the top two or three. His family owned a
boat company, Negus Marine, and he grew up fishing. He agreed to allow me, my
assistant and a cameraman along. We left late in the afternoon and went west to
the Mississippi Sound in his 23 foot Negus boat. He anchored the boat in 90 feet of
water with a mud bottom and we started chumming. In a few minutes we started
catching Bonita that averaged about 5 pounds each. He would throw them back. In
a few more minutes he caught one that would probably go over ten pounds. That
was what he was after. He put up the tackle and got out the shark rig. He had
fabricated all the terminal tackle by hand. The big Bonita was the bait. It was the key
to catching a big shark. Everything went back in the boat but one rod.

Dan and I would catch the large Cobia or King Mackerel that came in the chum line
every once in a while, by casting a live bait to it, but that was it. Hours went by with
nothing happening. Every once in a while Dan would dive off the boat to look under
it to see if any Cobia were hiding there. We always wondered if he would come back
up in one piece. He was diving on the other side of the boat from where the chum
was being put in constantly. There was an oily slick as far as you could see. When
everyone was just about asleep, the clicker on the big reel started clicking very
slowly. Dan jumped up and watched the reel closely. In another two or three
minutes, it screamed. He grabbed it out of the rod holder as I strapped on his belt
and set the hook with all his 225 pounds of muscle. In about twenty minutes the
shark was up at the boat. With the rod in a holder, he lassoed the shark with a rope
and quickly got another one around its tail. We headed back on the twenty mile run
to Dolphin Island at about 3 or 4 miles per hour towing the shark. It was longer than
the boat was wide. I don't remember the length, but the bull shark weighted 391
pounds. The scales showed that for just a few seconds, and then the entire setup
fell down into the water. The shark started trying to get off in mid air and tore the
scales down at the rodeo weighin station in front of a large crowd. It was still very
much alive, after being towed backwards for hours. Over the next few days, what I
didn't know or understand about all the details of the chum and the rigging, etc., I
learned from Dan. The Mississippi Sound, or areas we were fishing, was heavily
netted for shrimp during the summer. The Bonita and other trash fish like Jack
Crevalle, were there because the huge shrimp nets plowed up the bottom of its
shrimp, it also brought up tons of small mullet, pinfish, flounder, crabs and many
other things the Bonita ate. The Bonita attracted the bull sharks to the area that
appeared to be fishless with nothing but a mud bottom. The largest Bonita attracted
the largest shark.

By the way, he won the rodeo that year for about his fifth time. There's only a few
hundred entrants that participate in it each year. Dan never stopped fishing. He ran
a charter boat for many years out of Orange Beach, Alabama. I recently heard he
has retired.

Producing and hosting the show was a lot of fun at first. Then it rapidly became a lot
of work. Coming up with 52 shows a year wasn't easy. It took time to go where we
fished, meet with sponsors, and of course the time to do the actual fishing each
week. There was no room for error - no fish, no show. If I was sick, I went fishing.
When a show was shot, I had to spend a day or two in the TV studios helping to edit
the show. There was no one I could just turn that part of it over to. I did that at the
closest TV station to where I was fishing that carried my show, from Houston to
Miami, or up in the Northeast. I lived in a motor home, a boat and a TV station
editing room.  I got a nice new motor home every 3 months from a sponsor, but it
was still a motor home. I worked seven days a week, every day of the year
practically. The pay was okay but the hours were terrible. Some weeks I got down to
within hours of not having a show to air. At the end of 1985, I suddenly quit. It was
Christmas and I wanted to be with my family.

In early 1986, I edited together my first instructional video, called "Fishing the Gulf
of Mexico". Many homes had VCRs at the time and I thought that was the thing I
needed to do. It must have been because that is what I have done since then. The
fishing continued and the video production continued, but there was far less
pressure and I got to be with my daughters more often.

For the next few years, I traveled to even more places fishing. I eventually moved to
Orange Beach, purchased an older 27 foot boat, but never had much time to use it.
Most of the time I was fishing at Bahia, Costa Rica, St. Thomas, Cayman Islands,
Hawaii and everywhere but my own back yard in the Gulf of Mexico. About three
years later, I moved to Panama City Beach, Florida, where I lived up until a little
over five years ago. My fishing, boating and instructional GPS/Sonar/Radar videos
were (and still are) sold (since 1987) by Bennett Marine Video of Vince, California. I
did some saltwater fly fishing but it was mostly limited to big game.

Around 1990,  I changed back almost exclusively to small boat fishing. Ranger
Boats came out with a saltwater series of boats and I was one of the first ones to
fish from one. I started fishing the SKA or Kingfish Tournaments, and anther
saltwater circuit called the SAA, which involved a little of it all. I was sponsored by
Ranger and involved on their promotional staff for the new line of boats. I was
running all over the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico fishing from a 25 foot center
console, with twin 225 outboards. Running wide open for 40 miles in a five foot sea
is rough on a young man, much less one that was getting to be my age. In 1997, I
made another big change in fishing. I started fly fishing exclusively, mostly for trout.

I ran through the last several years rapidly (although not as fast as some of you
probably wished I had) to get back to the point of the article. I learned that it doesn't
matter if it is a large tuna, marlin, shark; or a small bonefish, redfish, tarpon, or
snook; or a bass, walleye, or bream you are after; catching the fish always comes
down to one thing - the food it eats. You either use the actual food the fish eats as
bait, or you use an imitation of it. .

When I started fly fishing for trout in the Smokies, I was told the small streams had
very little food for the trout, and that the trout would eat whatever they could find to
eat. I was told the fly wasn't important because there was not enough of any one
aquatic insect for the trout to pay attention to. I still don't know who or where that
was started, or where it came from. It was insinuated, if not outright stated in the 2
or 3 books I read about fishing the Smokies. It still is commonly repeated fly shop
talk. It still is apparently accepted as fact by many anglers (and an excuse for the
lack of knowing anything about the insects by many), but it turned out to be not only
completely false, but very misleading. To sum it up in one word, it turned out to be
pure baloney.  

Copyright 2009 James Marsh