OLD FISHERMEN TELL a lot of stories. Old fishermen have a lot of sayings. Most of the things old fishermen say are fibs and some things they say are outright blatant lies. I know that for fact, for I am an old fisherman.

There is one paragraph of old sayings, most likely made up by an old fisherman of the time, that many folks today still believe in. It goes something like this “Wind from the west, fish bite the best. Wind from the east, fish bite the least. Wind from the south blows bait in the mouth. Wind from the north, don’t go forth.”

To that I add a modified version of one part of the saying which doesn’t rhyme, but who cares? I say, based on my outing last Saturday “Wind from the east, don’t even begin.”

Choosing fishing over mowing the lawn, much to my lovely wife’s chagrin, I settled on fishing a lake that day where a couple of weeks ago, I caught a bunch of fat, sassy northern pike in a short amount of time with very little effort. I settled on this lake because a cousin of mine told me that he had found some very nice perch in the 9- to 11-inch range there. I believed him, even though he, too, is an old fisherman who often tells lies.

I should have known better. Whether it was the steady, strong wind from the east that did me in or maybe some deliberate misinformation, I did not find those big perch. Truth is, it took all my old fisherman savvy to catch a half-dozen perch, none of which topped 6 inches. 

But not all was lost. After spending three hours rowing all over the lake with essentially nothing to show for my efforts but tired arms and a sore back, I was cussing the east wind and an old fisherman who dared tell me untruths.

Making a last ditch effort I slid into a small sheltered cove. On the very first cast my yellow bucktail was savagely attacked. After a strong tussle with the combatant on the end of the line, I brought a nice 25-inch northern aboard. The fish salvaged the day. It would have been a good time to quit. Yet, there were four more last casts to make. 

The last one was sort of successful. An overeager 13-inch pike grabbed the bucktail and like his bigger brother he was quickly released. But aside from those last-ditch casts, the east wind and a lying cousin did me in.

Contrast that day with the day before. On that day, this old fisherman couldn’t decide if a brisk northwest wind, trending somewhat to the west, meant he should go forth because it might be the best or not go forth because the north bent of the wind told him he should stay under warm covers until summer decided to arrive.

Fortunately, as it turned out, he sallied forth in the company of a new friend, Steve of England, and the Englishman’s American cousin, Jeff of Fond du Lac. With the wind slightly more out of the west than north, fishing proved to be the best.

With light rain dimpling the water at 7 a.m., it didn’t take long until the bass started hitting. My English friend had told me they have no bass in England so we scratched a northern pike outing in favor of catch-and-release fishing for bigmouths and bronze backs.

His first bass was a largemouth of about 14 inches, nothing huge, but an eager and willing fighter. Casting with a favorite plastic minnow of mine in a matter of about 15 minutes, he had two more bass in the boat, all largemouths.

Jeff got in the action as well, landing his first bass shortly thereafter. Working around a favorite island drop-off with a rock bar extending well into the lake, I had the guys switch to crawlers. Three more bass, smallmouths all, were landed and quickly released.

Then, the rain started up in earnest. A little harder at first, then harder, then coming in buckets. I’ll give the boys credit. In conditions that would have sent this old fisherman scurrying back to shore, they hung in there.

Back to casting artificials, Steve caught more bass, all 15 inches or less. The big guys were apparently taking the day off. Then, he hooked into a good fish, which turned out to be a toothy pike. All was going well until he had the pike, guesstimate at 6 to 8 pounds, almost to the boat then, ping. As is most often the case with pike, monofilament line and no wire leader, the fish and one of my coveted plastic minnows was gone.

Just for the heck of it, I gave Steve a yellow bucktail, defying fate and northern pike still with no wire leader. In short order, he had a couple more largemouth in the boat. Coming up on a summer home where, last summer, I caught a 21-inch largemouth 10 feet off the end of a pier, I told Jeff to fling a cast in there, even though no dock was in the water yet.

When he let fly with the cast, the line caught his finger and the bucktail slammed into the water maybe 15 feet at most from the boat. He cussed himself for clumsiness. I barely had said that sometimes the worst cast catches the biggest fish when, wham, a fish grabbed the bucktail.

A 19-inch bruiser of a largemouth put up a stout battle before it was landed. With the rain seeping through my Stormy Kromer® and down inside the back of my rain suit, I was kind of hoping that was a fish we could call it quits on. The boys must have read my mind.

At their suggestion and before they could change their minds, I had the oars pulling fast back to the landing. A little bit soaked, make that a whole lot soaked, we headed for home.

Despite that north bent to the wind which said “Don’t go forth,” we had defied a saying that some lying old fisherman probably made up and we caught lots of fish. For Steve, it had been a new experience and a good one.

Hopefully, he’ll find his way back to Wisconsin, again. Maybe then we can fish with a gentle west breeze blowing its best with a warm sun on our backs. 

That’s the way it should be for old fishermen.