Cermele: Bittersweet Fishing Achievements

Pictured below is a 30-inch muskie caught this past Saturday by friend and guide Dieter Scheel. We were taking a gamble that the local walleyes would be on the feed, so we put on our thermals and hit the water. The walleyes, however, were nowhere to be found. But after only 20 minutes of jigging a known wintering hole, Dieter hooked what we thought was the state-record 'eye when it first flashed. Wrong. This muskie ate a small olive-green crayfish jig. Go figure.

I have spent many hours (some with guides) trying to catch my first muskie in the Delaware. I throw expensive wooden jerkbaits, huge glitzy spinners, and the finest diving hardbaits. So far, I've yet to have a follow. Dieter drops a crayfish and hooks a muskie in a section of the Delaware arguably least targeted for this species. It's catches like this that can be bittersweet depending on who you ask.

I got my first fly rod in the middle of the summer and diligently practiced with bluegills, hoping to be proficient enough by fall for trout. It's late August and I'm casting a tiny foam popper to rock bass in a creek that is practically puddles this time of year. I hook rocky after rocky when suddenly, a scrawny 8-inch stocked rainbow that some how managed to survive the summer eats the bug. Yeah, I was happy, but that's not exactly what I had in mind for my first fly-rod trout.

When I was twelve, I had it in my head that striped bass feed best when the weather is downright rotten. So every weekend in the fall, I would pray for rain and walk from my family's boat to the bridge nearby and cast plugs. I had no idea what I was doing and I'm sure the water was two feet deep. Never caught one. Next July, I cast a single squid strip behind the boat in the marina, go out to lunch, and come back to find my bass on the line. I know it counts, but it just wasn't the way I wanted it.

Have any goal species showed up when you weren't hunting for them? And do you agree or disagree that the circumstances are just as important as the catch?- JC