When people make claims we doubt, we sometimes ask them to either prove what they're saying or stop saying it. Most of the time they just quit, but every once in a while something quite different happens.
Having grown up in the Northeast, where the lakes and streams were fished out early in our history, I knew almost nothing about fresh water fishing. When I landed in a corner of Missouri where just about everyone fished I wanted to join in, but didn't know where to start. I went to the library, but when I got there I found a shelf that was totally bare except for one thin book, a sad looking thing barely the thickness of a slice of bread. I picked it up thinking I wasn't going to learn much about fishing from a book that was only half an inch thick.
Then I read the introduction. Here, as well as I can remember them, are the first words of it: "I know what you're thinking right now. You're thinking, ‘What can I learn about fishing from a book that's only half an inch thick?' Well, if you go fishing tonight and you don't catch anything, the reason isn't going to be what you don't know; it's going to be all the things you do know that just ain't so."
That was without a doubt the best challenge to keep on reading that I had ever run across. So I began turning pages and soon learned that the author, having come across so much conflicting fishing lore in his life, had decided to go directly to the source.
What? He asked the fish?
Well, no. He got himself some scuba gear and a couple of people to help him and he stretched out on his back at the bottom of ponds and streams and watched what the fish did. He didn't have to wonder how the fish responded to this lure or that one, what difference it made whether the light was weak or strong, how rain changed things, what effect water color or temperature had, how the quarter of the moon should be factored in, and so on. He went down there and watched what the fish actually did while his two helpers fished.
That innovative thinking fisherman blew some fishing lore out of the water. For example, conventional wisdom says that if you are out after bass and you cast over an area a few times and nothing happens, you may as well move on. His observation was that if a spot looked like a good bass hole, it probably was a good bass hole, and that if you cast over it enough times the bass would eventually get irritated and begin striking at your lure. He said that those big old fellows waiting down there, who might ignore three or four casts, tended to show real irritation after 10, and just couldn't seem to keep from biting after 20.
Another piece of conventional wisdom he amended was the idea that motor noise scares away the fish. Not always, he observed. Here's what he saw with his own eyes: When a powered boat passes along the edge of a lake or stream, its wake washes up along the shore and knocks insects into the water. Rather than shying away from the motor noise, the fish swim toward it, darting into the wake the minute the boat passes, hoping that a meal is waiting for them there. Try it. Run along a bank, letting out just enough line so that your lure is riding just behind your wake. The number of strikes you get may amaze you. Worked for me, anyway.
Reading that little book changed my life in more ways than one. Ever since that day I find myself stopping now and then and asking myself how many other things I know "just ain't so."