Guest Shot: 09.07.2008

Me and Joe

by Les Booth

“Me and Joe went fishing on Wednesday night. Where we went ….”,

OK, I can hear the groans already. “NOT another so-called, ‘Me and Joe’ story.” Well, I’m with you on that. I’ve had enough of those old brag-pole, exploit riddled tales, too. But this is NOT just another, ‘Me and Joe’. This is a real life, honest-to-goodness, Me (Les Booth) and Joe (Joe Cornwall) fishing story.

It’s not what you’d expect. Really!

If you’re looking for photos of big, football shaped bucket-mouth bass, or platter sized bluegill, or rod straining trout, then you will be disappointed. This is not a story about ‘CATCHING’ or ‘SPECIES PORN’. This is a story about two guys who have known each other for several years in the online world of email, web sites, blogs and podcasts, finally getting to meet, face-to-face, in their favorite venue: fly-fishing.

We both belong to the Outdoor Writers Association of America and dance among the digital wave of New Media. But until Wednesday night, 20 August 2008, we’d never met in person.

Earlier this spring, I had an offer for a real fishing treat come my way. A contact made over a year earlier offered me and up to three friends, a ‘taste of trout fishing nirvana’. This was to be a real treat, too!  The source was a mid-state Ohio group, specializing in breeding huge trout and placing them into recovered natural streams in central Ohio.

I jumped on it.

Inviting my best fishing buddy on the blue orb, Ed Hauser, my son and the one fellow from the Ohio area whom I just knew would really appreciate such a rare experience, Joe Cornwall.

As luck would have it, Mother Nature had different plans. She decided to dump an unseasonably high rain event right over the watershed of our expected nirvana. In a couple of hours our plans were as blown out as the streams in that watershed. We reluctantly requested a ‘rain check’ and were graciously granted it by the owners.  “Whew!” When that adventure happens, I will – well, maybe, tell you all about it.

But once again Joe and I were to remain ‘virtual’ acquaintances only.

Not quite a month later, I invited Joe to come fish my ‘Home Waters’ for our shared personal favorite game fish, the explosive and ever entertaining, Smallmouth bass. Though the hallowed waters have held all summer, work, events and well – life, conspired against our futile attempts in setting and consummating a successful outing. Thus, the “Home Waters” venture remains a future event to enjoy and report on as well.

Then three weeks ago, I received an email from Joe saying he would be passing through my area on his way between business meetings. He wanted to know: if he chose to stay overnight in the area would I be interested in getting together and could I possibly have a bass pond where we could share a proper introduction?

I fired back an immediate response, saying: I sure would! Sure could!  I could definitely make that happen.

All he’d need to do was tell me WHERE and WHEN to meet him and I’d be there with pontoons-in-tow and a fabulous water where we could go!

The die was cast. The day awaited. And the fishing gods smiled. So did me and Joe.

Me and Joe were going fishing!

The weather that Wednesday was perfect. The temps were in the mid 70s, humidity in the low 40’s and only the occasional breeze chopped the waters.

Normally, I don’t mind that chop.  That night though, I really wanted a still-as-glass water.  One just right for those potentially explosive top water bass moments.  But you know, it’s interesting.  Life’s experiences educate us to realize, not all requests posited to the divine -provided or not -are necessarily what we truly need. Such may well have been the case for this evening, too.

The water was like glass; most of the time.  The top water action was full of potential.  But none of it happened.

Something far greater did come to the surface, though.

We had just missed the ‘bite’ forecast by the Solar/Lunar Tables; having ended just 2 hours before we could get on the water. For some that would just plain terminate any reason for being on the water.

What’s the point? The likelihood of a ‘real catch’ was lost; might as well pull stakes and wait for the next window.


I had long ago proven that such natural bio-rhythms really do work. So pay attention to them: when you’re out to catch fish.

Equally, I have learned that it is wise to neither dump all your eggs into one basket or believe in only a single line of thinking.

When interacting with the flow of nature, flexibility is a major KEY to a lasting, continued level of success. When you go afield, or on-water, do so with all the information you can muster.  But, you’ll be more successful trips ahead, the more you’re willing and able, to adjust on the fly.  This is flexibility in action.

Yes, all puns are willfully and gratuitously accepted!

We missed it. But, we still caught fish. This is neither a chock-one-up-for, or against, the block of fishermen who either swear-by, or swear-at the ‘tables’. Really, there’s no need to waste time in trying to be in either camp:  if you’re going fishing.

For you see here in lies the understanding of this particular, flexibility KEY.

There is a huge difference between FISHING and CATCHING.


‘Cause you see… Me and Joe had come to fish.

  • Fishing has no agenda beyond the moment. Catching demands outcomes.
  • Fishing doesn’t equate success with quantity. Catching doesn’t exist without it.
  • Fishing is ecumenical on all levels of human experience. Catching is purely denominational.
  • Fishing allows – even welcomes and seeks – serendipity. Catching fears and loathes it; demanding engineering precision.
  • Fishing is fun. Catching is work.
  • Fishing is open to anyone. Catching is a closed fraternity.

Me and Joe were fishing.

Me and Joe weren’t looking for food or numbers. And that is the difference. Had we needed food or desired stats for the brag-pole, we would have gone fishing with catching as the objective.

Catching fish was never our objective.

Getting to know each other – over a good catch-basin of protein rich water, while amply plying the combined techniques of fly-casting, fly selection and observation, interwoven with a sublime mix of individual solitude and in-depth conversation on a far ranging array of topics, was the objective.

I must admit, we hit the nail, squarely on the head! Bingo! Super success on the highest level possible. We accomplished what we set out to do … and then some. Our fishing included not only seeking serendipitous encounters of an ichthyologic kind, but we were fishing the personal waters of our own lives.

Joe and I both – heartily agreed – that the last line from, A River Runs Through It, were not only Norman Maclean’s most powerful, but strike deep and true to the very core of our nature.

We ARE both, “…haunted by waters.” and we love it.

For us, there is no better place to consummate a personal relationship than in the company of WATER. And fishing is our common choice of baptism.

Thus, Me and Joe fished.

Now, to be fully functional, every outing should also contain some element of learning. Something you did not know before. We added that to the retinue of the evening as well. However, it was not something to deal with the water, nor fishing. It was about my own home area.

Restaurants to be exact.

The Lafayette-West Lafayette, Indiana area is my home ‘urbanville’. It caters to a major Big Ten University. It’s a lively, fast growing area of étalement urbain, with more eating establishments than, frankly, is healthy.  But, I was totally taken aback with finding that nearly all restaurants, on weekday evenings, rolled up their sidewalks, closed their doors and were ‘lights-out’, by 10:00 PM!

WHAT !!! ? !!!

Hadn’t they read the memo?  Our area of Indiana, had been speed-jumped into the modern age two years earlier!  For goodness sakes! We are now on Daylight Savings time.  Hey folks!  People are up and moving about later.  And we like to eat later, too!

Well, I guess not, ’cause Me and Joe got fished.

We were hungry and not even close to being ready to lay the conversation aside. After heavy trolling on the likely watering holes for edible food and drink, we were forced to take refuge at the local B.Dubs.

Yeah, we didn’t know what they meant by that name either! We soon found out the odd vernacular was for the local franchise of a national chain called, BW3 (Buffalo Wings 3).

The beer as it turned out, was excellent; Joe’s suggestion.  The hot-sauce… well, left me wishing for a real Cajun cook.  The noise inside was utterly intolerable to normal conversation. Fortunately for us it drove us out into a most pleasant evening air. Shoot, 2-outta-3’s not bad. Eh?  We both agreed though, it would be another big mistake and an even bigger hunger that would land us in a B.Dubs anytime soon.

Oh well. Live and learn. Besides, we didn’t get together to eat.

Me and Joe went fishing and we’ll do it again…soon!

—–Epilogue —–

Joe Cornwall publishes a top-class web site full of interesting, useful and timely content called, Fly-Fish Ohio. Joe is an outstanding fly-tier and has a real talent for thoroughly engaging the student in both technique and conversation. His video segments on fly-tying are not to be passed up. As well, his podcasts are truly among the top 10 of all podcasts on the Internet. Give Joe’s website a visit and take in his offerings. You will not be disappointed. He is also the author of one of the best books on warmwater fly-fishing I’ve ever read (Fly Fishing Warm Water Rivers) you can find more information on the book and how to purchase it on his web site, too.

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