Within the family, we occasionally refer to my brother P.H. as a bit of a psycho-only in the best possible sense, of course. In truth (and because I know P.H. will read this), it’s actually a term of endearment that refers to a number of admirable qualities.
First, P.H. is very enthusiastic. You need only see him dance to appreciate this (which is not to say he’s a bad dancer, just a very, very enthusiastic one).
He is also self-assured, totally unabashed, and utterly unconcerned with appearances. Again, you need only see him dance.
Finally, perhaps more than anyone I know, he is fiercely determined. If P.H. sets his mind to something, he will make it happen. Just every once in a while, these qualities come together in such a way as to produce some eccentric behavior. This seems to have happened on a trout stream last year when P.H. invented an entirely new and innovative way to stalk fish.
I learned about it one weekend while visiting my folks. P.H. was there and suggested I have a look in the freezer. There, stretching from one wall of the icebox to the other was a narrow tin-foil-wrapped package of an instantly recognizable shape.
“Wow,” I said. “This one must go over 20 inches.”
“Twenty-two,” P.H. said.
Gibson’s Creek is a thin ribbon of a trout stream interrupted by beaver dams that create a number of long flat pools inhabited mostly by brook trout but also by a few browns. On a good day, you can expect to catch lots of small trout, maybe a couple over 12 inches, and once in a while a 15- or 16-incher.
In the stretches of fast water, the fish are pretty easy to catch here. Even in the slow water, the brookies are about as gullible as ever. But the browns in the slow water are tough-very skittish and difficult to approach.
So P.H.’s fish was impressive in two ways. First, a 22-inch brown is an absolute monster on this stream-a freak. Second, it couldn’t have been easy to catch. I asked him how he did it.
“Well,” he told me, “I could see the fish holding on a shallow ledge of one of the big pools-and I could see he was huge. But I couldn’t see any way of getting within casting range without spooking him. The water was low and clear and there was no timber or brush to hide me. But then I noticed a blue heron silently stalking baitfish on a wide open flat nearby. So I watched him for a while and thought, hmm.”
In short, right then and there, P.H. had developed a stalking method now known to a small number of people as “The Heron” (and to a smaller number of people-namely my brother Greg and me-as “The Psychotic Heron”). Grabbing his fishing rod for effect, P.H. demonstrated it in my parents’ living room.
“Okay,” he started, “first you lift one knee up high while inching that foot slowly forward.” (Picture the Karate Kid with a spinning outfit in one hand.) “Then you ease that foot down and start over with the other leg.” In conclusion, he pointed out that intermittently bobbing your head or craning your neck can help with balance.
You can probably guess what my first thought was, but there was no denying that the method did help him catch a monster brown that he might not have otherwise. Still, I haven’t tried the technique. Even on the streams at home, where there’s about a 99 percent chance that no one would see me slinking around the shallows like a giant bird, the remaining 1 percent has so far been enough to dissuade me. Nonetheless, for bolder anglers than I, there’s no reason why “The (Psychotic) Heron” couldn’t be put to good use. What’s more, there’s every reason to believe that its application can go well beyond the small trout stream to virtually any situation in which fish are difficult to approach, from spawning steelhead or bass to bonefish on the flats.
All you need is the right combinationn of enthusiasm, unabashedness, and determination. In short, you need to be a bit of a psycho.