Fishing

Slump busting on Brownlee Reservoir

Catfishing the Snake River

Check out some scenes from catfish fishing on the Snake River, where they are abundant.
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Check out some scenes from catfish fishing on the Snake River, where they are abundant.

I should have known I was doomed the moment I answered the question.

The ask was innocent enough, coming from the crowd of Boise Centennial Rotarians I recently spoke to.

“You pretty much always catch something, right? Do you ever get skunked?”

My answer was honest. It does happen on occasion, I said, though I couldn’t recall the most recent skunking off the top of my head. On my very next trip, the fishing gods served up a helping of humble pie as I returned home emptyhanded. It was a somber reminder that even diehard anglers get whupped from time to time.

My next planned outing never got off the ground, washed out by rough spring weather. I made it over to Hagerman the following week, only to catch a bunch of small fish. Despite our best efforts, my buddy Justin and I failed to hook a single keeper.

It was official—this was a slump. But slumps are made to be broken, and I was determined not to let this one last. With a free Saturday on the horizon and friendly weather in the forecast, I dialed up my go-to fishing partner, Caleb.

“Let’s head to Brownlee,” I said. “I need to go slump-busting.”

I de-winterized my boat and loaded it with bass, crappie and catfish gear. No matter what was biting, I was going to be ready.

It was a crisp, clear morning as we arrived at the Idaho-Oregon border. In a welcome sign, Caleb landed two monster crappies right off the boat launch while I was parking the truck.

“We’re not getting skunked today, boys!” he announced.

I took a few casts and reeled up a hilariously small crappie. The skunk was off, but my slump was intact.

We motored off in search of Brownlee’s giant flathead catfish. My hard luck continued as Caleb reeled in one 19-pound beast, and then another.

“Next one’s yours,” he said. “I can feel it.”

Like a baseball player mired in a hitting slump, the key to turning things around is patience and a positive outlook. I stayed loose by taking in the sights and sounds of the Snake River and enjoying Caleb’s run of success. And then, like a hanging curveball in the heart of the plate, my opportunity arrived.

The fish bumped my lure once, twice and then BOOM! My rod doubled over as it ran for deeper water.

“We’re on!” I confirmed. “It’s a nice one.”

Big flatheads play the slow game, hugging the bottom while your gradually work to regain your line. Caleb seemed even more giddy than I was, nervously scanning the water for a glimpse of this big cat.

Finally, the flathead surfaced. A huge, mottled green head and gaping, whiskered mouth never looked so pretty! At 13 pounds, he wasn’t our biggest catch of the day. But Caleb and I agreed—the slump was officially history.

We closed the day with some more big crappie for the frying pan, and I also wrangled a big channel catfish on my ultralight rod. The bite was never red-hot, but we worked hard enough to make it a successful day. Which, ultimately, was the important lesson this whole experience refreshed in my mind.

Sooner or later, every angler hits a slow patch. When yours comes, use persistence and a positive attitude to send your slump packing. Tight lines!

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