Old School Fishing
I began fishing with ‘cane’ poles as soon as I was big enough to tag along with my Mother and Dad on fishing trips to local ponds around our home in rural Red River County. We fished mostly for bass, using live ‘shiners’ for bait. Our style of fishing was pretty basic but quite productive. A hook, weight and floater or ‘cork’ as we called them was attached to the pole and about 8 feet of braided nylon fishing line secured to the slender end.
My parents had access to many of our neighbor’s backwoods fishing ponds or ‘pools’ as we called them back in the day and most were full of bass, catfish and perch. Largemouth bass were the most targeted species and back in those days, a solid 5 pounder was a whopper. This was decades before the introduction of the Florida strain into Texas waters.
Our technique was as simple as the tackle we used. We would ease along the bank, using our long cane poles to precisely position the baits around lay down logs, brush or weeds; places we expected ole’ bucketmouth to be hiding. This was way before the practice of catch and release and we always ate what we caught, usually the same day. I don’t remember us stockpiling fish as is often the practice today, probably because we didn’t have a freezer. We scaled the smaller fish and fried them whole and cut the larger fish into pieces small enough to fry, bone in. My Dad knew nothing about filleting and would have thought the method a waste of fish.
A Mega Fish Fry in Short Order
Pecan Bayou was close to our house and we would often set out ‘set poles’ which were cane poles rigged without a floater. We would jam the butt end of the poles into the bank and bait with pieces of cut bait. The creek was full of eating size channel catfish and we would ‘run’ the poles every couple hours. This was a very productive method of collecting fish for a ‘mega’ fish fry in short order.
I never gave much thought to the cane poles back when I was a kid. There was a ‘stand’ of what we called switch cane growing in the back of our property and when our tackle needed replacing, we took a fine-toothed saw and cut our own.
Later at bait shops, I remember seeing ‘Calcutta poles’ for sale. They looked exactly like the larger versions of the ‘cane’ that grew wild on our property. The owner of the bait shop called these bamboo poles. At the ripe old age of ten, I gave little thought to the differences between cane and bamboo, or if there were a difference.
Fast forward to a couple weeks ago. I have a good friend that owns property adjacent a creek that holds water year around. The creek is on the upper end of a major lake that is well known for crappie and catfish.
Old School Fishing Rods
“Luke, let’s get a few friends together and catch some shallow water crappie during the spawn. We can have a big fish fry afterwards”, my buddy says. I was all in the instant he gave the invitation and later began thinking about my early years fishing with ‘cane’ poles. When I mentioned I knew where there was a stand of cane growing and I could fashion some ‘old school’ fishing rods to use as set poles for catfish, he was as fired up as I about the new adventure.
Well, I now have a total of 5 cane poles rigged and ready. When stringing them up with line, I somehow couldn’t force myself to use monofilament. Back in the day, we only had braided line. Besides, monofilament line was just too ‘slick’ and might not stay attached to the cane. Another good friend that will be fishing with us came up with a spool of ‘Low stretch braided nylon polyester line’, 18-pound test. The spool had a price tag of $2.89 and had been stored away in one of his old tackle boxes for years. The freshly cut cane poles are still green, they haven’t had time to dry and should serve us well on the upcoming creek fishing trip. A freshly cut cane pole has lots of ‘spring’ built in!
Cane or Bamboo?
So, are the poles we all have used for years cane poles or bamboo? I’m certainly not a botanist but I did a bit of research on the subject. It seems there are 3 species of bamboo common to the US, all of the Genus Arundinaria. Worldwide, there are 1,400 known species of bamboo. For practical purposes, I will continue to call these stands of free growing cane, cane breaks. Mostly because the name bamboo break just doesn’t have a ring to it!
In the mix of friends at our upcoming creek fishing trip are a couple of fishing guides. They have many years experience fishing for crappie using state of the art ‘jig poles’. Of course, we will use the cane poles mostly for catfish. It will however, be interesting to see how ‘old school’ technology stacks up against these rods made from modern day materials. More on our creek fishing adventure in a couple weeks. For now, I need to use some duct tape. I’m attaching 18-inch pieces of steel bar to the end of these cane poles. This should make it easier to jam the poles into the creek bank!
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