Real fishermen

Published 8:28 pm Saturday, January 20, 2018

Susan and Biff Andrews

At this time of year, real fishermen sit around a fire with a cup of coffee or a beer…and other real fishermen… and tell and retell old stories. How can you tell they’re real fishermen, not wannabes? Fresh water or salt, they all share the same traits:

  • They don’t brag and they don’t lie. There’s no need to. They’ve caught great fish under difficult circumstances. Other good fishermen will understand. And they’ll spot a lie in a heartbeat. They have caught dozens and dozens of citation fish and have the plaques and paper to prove it
  • They don’t talk much about their trophies or favorites trips… you can’t tell it. It’s private and sacred. Other fishermen get it; “lay” people can’t picture the special circumstances; other real fishermen understand. Reliving trips with buddies who were there is extra special.
  • They love and cherish their surroundings as fondly as the fish they produced. An Eastern Shore marsh with ospreys catching big trout; an offshore wreck in early fall; barrier island beaches and sloughs, a hidden trout stream: each in turn is a magical setting that gets the blood racing.
  • They buy top of the line equipment- and they take care of it. One or two full days in winter will involve cleaning and lubricating reels, re-spooling them with high quality line, and fixing any eyes, rod tips, reel seats that may need attention. Same with their boats. I’ve never come in at the end of a stiff rope – nor do I plan to. (Paddled in once or twice…, but that’s another story.)
  • They don’t tell people about their favorite fishing holes. In our heyday my buddy and I made it a point to change the location of every citation we registered… and we’ve registered over a hundred easily.
  • Real fishermen remember their failures and misses as vividly as their successes and hits. It’s painful to watch an 8-pound flounder throw a hook and just lie there on the surface while you scramble for a net. Or try elbows-deep to net a big fish and knock him off the hook. Oh, well.
  • Real fishermen love to put rookies and neophytes on fish…lots of fish and big fish. Young fishermen out there…find a mentor. Buy the old guy a beer and listen to the stories, go along on a trip when invited, and express your gratitude when included.
  • And finally, real fishermen love kids and love “hooking” kids on fishing. It can only be done with success. Bluegills. Spot and croaker. A school of tailor blues. They make sure there is a bite every minute or two.

Winter warmth in Tidewater, the warm memories of times asea, on the lakes, on the rivers, walking a coastal beach. Stories around a fire.

SUSAN and BRADFORD “BIFF” ANDREWS are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at