"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Recent Rambles
Copyright © 2006 by Bill Scifres

There are many outdoors pursuits I like about the month of October, but one of the greatest is one of the smallest--I call it throwin’ naturals. It’s a form of fishing . . . natural baits . . . insects.

Most often I am thinking of big, yellow, flightless grasshoppers when my mind wanders--and so do I--as thoughts of throwin’ naturals cross my decrepit mind. But there are many adults and larval stages (instars, if you prefer) in the insect kingdom that simply drive fish mad.

Take, for example, one of my fishing rambles of many years ago. This is not one that I care to admit--it involves what I recognize now as a monarch butterfly larvae. I was fishing (alone) in a small boat and had used grasshoppers for bait without a lot of success when this beautiful wormy-type (obviously a larvae) came crawling up one leg of my trousers.

How nice, I thought, and snatched up this critter. A quick change to a to a slightly smaller wire hook and soon I was dunking larvae, hooked lightly at the middle. You know the results, of course. 

Almost in the blink of an eye I was fighting a nice bass, and before I lost the bait two more bass followed the path into the boat. This was in the days that we ate 'em.

As I said before, you never know how good the insect you see will be as fish bait. Lots of naturals are fantastic.

I think those big yellow flightless hoppers best of all because they tend to be easier to catch, especially in late summer and into fall when nights grow chilly. Aside from the fact that you can catch them with your bare hands or a small net on a long handle and store them in a coffee can, there are many ways to get your bait, even seine them with a minnow seine in stubbleand weed fields.

One time, many years ago, a Noblesville angler told me of such an experience. A most reputable man of the community, he said he and a son were seining minnows when they decided on the way home they could use some hoppers. So (clad in hip boots, straw hats, and bib overalls), they we catching hoppers by dragging a minnow seine through a wheat-stubble field.

Two guys in a Model T became so enthralled with this strange activity that their car left the road and lightly hit a utility pole. 

The car backed onto the road and was making dust as its occupants scratched their heads getting out of there.

Most of my insect fishing technique is based on fishing those big yellow grasshoppers.

When I want to fish other natural baits, I simply alter my methods. This may involve changing hooks, to have the right size to match the size of the bait, adding or using less weight (split-shot or wrap-on sinkers, bobbers, and any other modifications).

 The big issue is wrapped around the fact that you want the hook (it should be wire because wire is lighter) is a good match the bait in size. This, of course, does not mean that you can’t use a large hook with a small bait. With many natural baits especially those big, yellow grasshoppers) a long-shanked wire hook is right, but as what I think of as big, black pasture crickets become available, I tie on a smaller-gapped hook, shorter hook. Same with other smaller insects.

Incidentally, those afore-mentioned crickets, and some others--including some worms) are right at home under dried-up cow pies. They like the cow pies a little moister, too, but that can be messy, although it may help break an angler of chewing his/her fingernails.

One of the other good features of fishing live and natural baits will be found in the fact that they can be fished wet (under water at varying depths) or dry (on the surface). To put the bait where I want it, I use both split shot of various sizes, and wrap on strips of pounded out lead. The 22-caliber rifle bullet cab be pounded out to make excellent strips of wrap-on. But use only the lead projectile. The casing might explodeb.

For many years I used strips of lead toothpaste tubes. Small bobbers will also be handy on some occasions. Ice-fishing bobbers are excellent to keep an insect off the bottom.

I look for deep holes of streams and rivers, but natural live insects are good in lakes, ponds and other waters. The idea with this thinking is to find the spots where fish spend the bright part of the day, like under drifted wood or around rocks. Even live hoppers and insects fail if the fish are not where you put the bait.

One time many years ago I was lunching in a downtown (Indianapolis) eatery when I (by approximation) eavesdropped a pair of well-dressed gents. I couldn’t keep from hearing this one fellow telling his lunch partner about floating a grasshopper back under a willow tree and pulling it into the water at the right time to catch a nice bass.

I didn’t know either of them, but the fellow telling the story showed up in a municipal court a few days later representing a client (it seems he was an attorney), and he got quite a charge about reeling both me and the bass in again. His story, without his name, had already appeared in my newspaper column. I have always thought it made a good item.

October is, as noted earlier, known for many outdoor activities--hunting, fishing, and just plane nature--that have been published over the years. You will find them by the month and year in the “archive” pages of this site.

Bookmark us and stay in touch . . . come back for next month's new "Ramble," a regular feature of this website.


All columns are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com
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