Thursday, July 11, 2013

Behind the Scenes

More than a year in the making neither I nor my special guest Michael Pearce were willing to postpone our fishing trip to McPherson Lake even though it was cold, windy and totally miserable.

Besides, this was a dream come true for Michael…getting an opportunity to fish with your faithful and humble servant…the “Greatest Unknown Fisherman of all Time”…me…and I wasn’t about to ruin it for him.  (I am pretty sure this is how he looked at it although he didn’t actually say it.  I’m thinking he was probably too “awestruck” at the time to say so directly.)

Michael Pearce, for those members not living in Wichita, KS, is the Outdoor writer for the Wichita Eagle.  What you may not know about Michael is that he was a very accomplished outdoor writer and photographer long before applying his immense talents for the paper.  In fact, he has written outdoor articles for such prestigious publications as the Wall Street Journal and Outdoor Life magazine along with numerous other publications.  

Even if you follow his Wichita Eagle articles every Sunday (as well as his Blog) you may not be aware that he is also an extremely talented and recognized photographer having, as part of his resume’, one of his photographs published on the front cover of Outdoor Life magazine…!

NOTE: If you aren’t currently following his Blog (Michael Pearce’s Kansas Outdoors) you definitely need to…so please go sign-up now at  It is EASILY the best overall outdoor Blog in the state of Kansas where he covers a multitude of topics as only he can…and…it’s the second best Blog in Kansas when he covers fishing in the state of Kansas.  J J J

I have known Michael for probably 25-years…dating back to when he was doing freelance work and I owned one of the largest hunting clubs in the nation.  We often saw each other at sport shows around Kansas…usually him giving presentations and me manning my show booth.   Michael first came to my attention while I was living in Kansas City when he wrote a book on turkey hunting called “Eye on the Turkey”…a book no longer in print. 

Even now…many, many years later I still tell people it is one of the best outdoor books I have ever read.  In short “Eye” is the name of a Missouri turkey hunting legend Ray Eye and the book was about his turkey hunting exploits and techniques.  But…it was SO MUCH MORE than that.  So impressed was I after reading it I took it to a sport show and asked him to autograph it for me, and I still have that book to this day. 

Which begs the question…now that Michael has fished with me (a fishing legend) is a future book in the making about me…you know…the “Greatest Unknown Fisherman of all Time”…the “Hemingway of Fishing Blogs”…?   It could be called, “Clay’s Confessional…the Truth Behind the Legend”.    Hey…I’m just sayin’…!

Footnote: I’m hard at work on my own biography.  I'm calling it, “Dropped Kicked Through the Field Goal of Life”.   For those who don’t know what “dropped kicked” means in football language just “Google it”…it’s not a good thing…at least for the football…!

So that brings us to April of this year.  A day that demanded we fish because Michael had a paper deadline and I was his only subject matter for that week...which probably says something if I was to stop and think about it.   So…I’m not going to.

Now if you have followed this Blog for any length of time you know that “Murphy’s Law” was actually only a footnote in history until I came along.  I am the one personally responsible for popularizing “Mr. Murphy”. 

Well…you guessed it…he decided to ride along again on this trip…as usual.

It’s bad enough that the weather turned incredibly cold…the wind was gusting to 30-mph…water temperatures had dropped…and that a front was moving through.  But when “Mr. Murphy” decided that my entire boat trailer should come off the trailer hitch while traveling halfway up the steep gravel road leading to the lake…well, that just couldn’t be a coincidence.  I knew that this “Murphy” guy was at it again. 

How embarrassing was this…! 

Here I am, “The Greatest Unknown Fisherman of all Time” losing his entire fishing rig (boat/trailer) off the trailer hitch while Michael Pearce, the incomparable outdoor writer for the Wichita Eagle, is in the car with me planning to do an article for next week’s edition.  I just knew this little incident was going to show up in the article.  I just knew it…! But…surprise…it didn’t…! 

I say “surprise” because you also probably don’t know that Michael has a great sense of humor…particularly it seems if it involves me.  He calls me the “The Greatest Unknown Fisherman in My Own Mind”.   Seriously…he really does.  Can you imagine that?  What?  What do you mean, “You can”?  I have noticed that there are a lot of sick people that follow this Blog.

Trust me when I say the pressure was on to catch a fish…the pressure was on.  Michael didn’t care how bad the weather was…he needed me to catch a fish.  I needed me to catch a fish if only to keep the “Streak” alive at 19-consecutive lakes without being skunked. 

But…regardless of how tough the conditions…I felt it was my personal responsibility to insure he caught the first fish.  Hey…that’s just the kind of guy I am.  Besides, this was his “dream trip” remember.  So…using my incredibly well honed fish catching senses (not to mention my well developed fish location skills) I quickly motored us to a nearby bank.  What a coincidence…it just happened to be the only protected bank on the entire lake.  Imagine the good luck…!

This bank not only allowed us to fish but kept me out of most of the strong wind since I had failed to bring a warm jacket.  So…with all the skill I could muster… (And trust me it took a LOT of skill…!) I finally got Michael to catch a fish.  Not just one…but two…both crappie and one of them a nice size crappie (Actually I pretended it was to make him feel good). 

Why did I let him catch those two fish instead of me catching them?  Well, that’s like asking Mother Teresa why she did all the nice things she did for other people…it’s just part of our nature.  In our golfing group I am known as “The Giver”.   Of course I’m also known as “Hit and Hunt”…but that’s not really important for this posting.

But…once I finally got him a couple of fish…it was time to catch me one.  Tapping into the years and years of experience honed during thousands of hours of tournament fishing, personal fishing trips, thousands of hours watching fishing shows on TV, hundreds of hours researching and reading magazines and books and mostly by applying the incredible mental toughness gained from being a great athlete, I managed to catch…….a 14” bass…! 

Michael says it was less than 12”…but this comes from a guy that likes to fly fish!  What?   Are you kidding me?  Seriously?  Fly fish?   Is that really considered “fishing”?

Nope…you didn’t read that wrong…he not only likes to fly fish…he actually PREFERS to fly fish over any other fishing method. (Is fly fishing actually a “method”?)  No…even the “Hemingway of Fishing Blogs” couldn’t make something like that up.   Fly fishing?  Really?  As they say, “The truth is stranger than fiction”.   

Indeed it is…!  ”?   (PS: Apologies to my friend and Blog member Jim H.!)

Anyway back to real fishing…using real fishing equipment…I don’t know who was happier when I landed that fish…me or him.  (Or is it “him or I”?)  I needed it for the “Streak” and he needed it for his article.  Either way we were both happy.  I seem to clearly remember him saying “You’re amazing!”…over and over and over again.   I’m pretty sure that’s what he said.   Okay…maybe that isn’t EXACTLY what he said…but, this is my Blog and his article is already published…so it’s how I remember it.

Once that fish was caught Michael’s real professionalism kicked in.   He took over telling me how to hold the fish while considering angles, light, etc.   Then he decided to take the picture of me in the boat with the lure splashing as it landed in the foreground.  He got on shore and had me go out 30-40 yards and cast a lure directly at him while he crouched down with the camera held only inches from the water.  (NOTE: The video shows only some of this action but the actual picture he used in the article was taken earlier while crouched down at the water’s edge while I made perfect casts...cast after cast after cast…to the target.) 

Did I mention “cast after cast” and “perfect”?

(Stop) He asked me if I could cast the lure and have it land close to his camera lens.  Really?    Land it a foot or so from his camera by casting into a 30-mile per hour wind using a baitcasting reel…without backlashing it…!  Did he actually say, “Could I…”?  Really?

(Rewind)  For the record.  I am the only person in history to have the Worlds of Fun theme park in Kansas City banned (no that is not a misprint…BANNED) from participating in one of their games.  When our kids were young we visited the theme park and at the time there was a casting game where you stood 2-3 stories high on a “boat” platform and cast a practice plug into floating rings of various sizes ranging from a hula hoop size down to dinner plate size.  Each size represented prizes ranging from trinkets to large full size teddy bears.   Keep in mind the equipment wasn’t exactly top of the line and the reel was a closed faced (push button) spinning reel…!    But…at least it qualified as actual “fishing equipment”…it wasn’t a fly rod!

Well…two casts later I had won a full sized teddy bear for each of our two girls.  BAM! Then people behind me asked me to cast for them.  8-10 teddy bears later management came and asked me to stop and forbid me from doing it ever again.   I think everything was okay until I turned around and cast the plug BACKWARDS over my head landing it in the smallest ring winning yet another teddy bear for someone.  That little move didn’t seem to settle very well with management.!

(Fast forward) Now Michael wants to know (not “WOULD I”) but “COULD I” cast a lure and make it splash within inches of his camera…while asking me to be careful not to hit him since it was a real lure with real hooks.  “Could I”?   ”Don’t hit him”…!   REALLY…?

So…that’s how that really cool picture was taken for the article showing me in the background and the splash from the lure in the foreground.   But in truth I had the easy part.  Thankfully, I was using real fishing equipment not some fly rod.  Piece of cake! 

Note to self…I wonder (since I am saying so many nice things about him in this Blog posting) if Michael would give me that picture?  Maybe even sign it and frame it for me?   I wonder?

In truth this was a GREAT experience to see how a real pro goes about their job…and trust me Michael is a REAL pro.   There is a LOT more involved in putting together his Sunday articles and Blog than the rest of us understand.  What he went through in that incredibly cold windy day to get his pictures and do the article showed me a lot of dedication, commitment and professionalism.  It would have been easy to quit given the terrible conditions…postpone it for another day…or just quit once I caught that fish.  But he didn’t.  In fact, we stayed for other 45-minutes while he got exactly the pictures he wanted and needed.  

A real pro in action.

I know he must feel the same way about me too.  Not just because I caught a fish in impossible conditions, (and let him catch two fish first!) but he asked if someone should ever cancel at the last minute could he call me as an emergency last minute fill-in.    He said people cancel all the time and he needs a “go to” professional kind of guy he can count on in the last minute if necessary.   Naturally, being the “Giver” that I am, I said, “Yes”.

Funny thing though.  Like all the other members I have fished with he has not called me yet either.   Humm.   But, he will because he knows down deep that I really am “The Greatest Unknown Fisherman in My Own Mind of all Time”…!

There is no “What We Learned Today” video because the best thing to know is NOT to go fishing in such terrible conditions.  Unless of course, like in Michael’s case, it’s an opportunity to fish with the “Hemingway of Fishing Blogs”.

The following video is an assortment of video shots taken by me during our trip.  Actually, almost all of the video was shot accidently because I didn’t realize I had left the camera turned on.  DUH…!  In fact, except for a couple of minutes showing the fish and the last closing minute of the video…EVERYTHING in between was captured accidently…!  Note the incredibly strong winds that just happen to be blowing directly into and across the launching ramp.  Thanks “Mr. Murphy”.   But…for the record…I put that boat on the trailer first try…BAM…take that!

What a day…!  Cold, windy and miserable but we caught 3-fish in less than 90-minutes…!  That speaks to the quality of fishing on this lake (one of my favorite lakes!) and a “never give up” attitude regardless of conditions.  So when faced with adverse conditions…make the most of it.   That’s what Michael and I did and it resulted in a great article. 

Thanks Michael for a great day…!

NOTE: I accidently left the camera running for more than 20-minutes without knowing it…and most of the video and audio was Michael praising me over and over and over again about my fishing abilities.  Honestly, it got kind of embarrassing for a guy as humble as me.

Unfortunately you will have to take my word for it.   I would gladly post that part of the video so you can see it for yourself but unfortunately it seems that exact portion of the video was accidently deleted…permanently…!  What a coincidence…it just happened to be the only segment deleted from the entire video.  Imagine that.   What bad luck to have that happen.  I’m certain it was that “Mr. Murphy” at work again…!   JJJ

Fly fishing?  Really?   What a great sense of humor!

I wonder if he is ever going to call? 

As usual you can access the Blog by going to the Website or and clicking on the “Button” that says, “Click here to go to fishing Blog”.  

Until next time go fishing…catch a lot…keep some to eat…release the rest.

Clay Dixon