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Follow your dream

POSTED February 12, 2018 11:27 a.m.
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By the time you read this, I will be in Costa Rica working on one more dream. Jimmy New from Russell has a winter home there and has invited me to come visit for a few days. Jimmy knows fishing down there and thinks we will have the opportunity to catch a sail fish on a fly rod. That is a wild dream that very few of us flat landers can even imagine.
I caught brook and rainbow trout with my dad and uncles in New Mexico near Chama and El Vada Reservoir as a youngster with fly rods. We had a cabin nearby and I can remember the wonderful fresh odor of those big pine trees and gazing into the mystery of rapid dark water gurgling over big rocks trying to see those beautiful trout that we caught for my mom and grandmother to cook. Pink meat that just falls off the bones is one of my all time favorite foods. He and I also caught trout like that in very small creeks and behind beaver dams in Colorado. My best memory of my father in his happiest moments were on those small creeks that you could step across in most places when he caught those 8-10 inch trout on a wet or dry fly. Heaven was almost visible on the occasions that we took a skillet and cooked them on the creek bank. I have ordered trout in several upscale and downscale restaurants and have never found a chef that can duplicate that flavor. I’m sure you and I know why. Some things don’t come in a frozen package.
I suppose those experiences determine our concepts of “catch and release”. I will cheerfully release the sail fish if I’m fortunate enough to catch one because I feel certain there aren’t enough of those magnificent creatures on this earth. I have released some big walleye and flathead catfish out of honest respect and the fact that the walleye were big females ready to spawn. It is interesting to me that the biologists say it isn’t necessary to release those big female walleye because the survival rate of the eggs is so low and the restocking programs that put thousands of young walleye in our lakes is adequate for maintaining a healthy population. My instinct remains firmly positioned that motherhood deserves our respect and I will put them back. Be aware that those legal males are headed for the frying pan!
My friend Andy Fanter has lived the dream. He entered and won a very unusual fishing tournament where the format was catch and release several species of big ocean fish in a given period of time. He catches and releases hundreds if not thousands of white bass, stripers, walleye and crappie here in Kansas. He and wife Erin are fishing machines and count all the fish. What a wonderful passion. The photographs of his tournament fish take my breath.
Another hero and proponent of “ catch and release “ was John Hahn who lived here in Hoisington. He tied his own flies which were huge, gawdy marabou things that looked like a wall decoration. He caught stripers on those things when people trolling or throwing crank baits couldn’t get a hit. My vision of John standing on the front deck of his boat with a 20 lb striper extended over his head roaring with laughter at Lake Wilson will always be with me.
My buddies that are now fishing in glory were big believers in fish fry events for families and friends. Lloyd Jaynes, Ed Briet, Herman and Vernon Skolaut, Gene Bitter and Ray Deutsch all kept and cleaned and shared so many memories and fish. I miss their fun.
Ice is on the Bottoms. On the 15th you can start using electronic calls on these schizophrenic snow geese and maybe kill a few. I’ll be in Costa Rica on the beach having a cool one not missing Kansas at all.

Doctor Dan Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusiast.

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