Tim Mead Fishing
Fishing Buddies
By Tim Mead        February 19, 2019

Bill Shumaker fights a bass
Bill Shumaker fights a bass

Welcome

Welcome to timmeadfishing.com, the cyberhome of Tim Mead, aka The Ancient Angler..   .   Each month there will be a new feature article highlighting some aspect of freshwater (maybe a saltwater article from time-to-time) fishing.   Both “how to” and “where to” will be covered.    Articles will be archived.   In addition, selected photo galleries will appear.

Who is Tim Mead

Tim Mead is an established outdoor writer and photographer with hundreds of credits in national and regional magazines.   Since beginning his angling career with his dad over 60 years ago, Tim has fished from Alaska to Florida, Texas to Pennsylvania, Montana to Georgia.   Tim has won Excellence in Craft awards from both the Outdoor Writers Association of America and the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association.   He is a Past President of the latter.

Intro to photo galleries

I have been unable to include all photos available.   If you need a particular photo, contact me with a specific request.  The archives may contain just what you need.   All photos are copyright and may not be used without permission and payment.

Fishing Buddies

Many good friends I’ve met fishing.   Richard West from California.   Jim Low and Bill Powell from Missouri.   Jeff Samsel from Georgia.   Chris Madsen from Wyoming.   Tim McDermott of Montana.   Squeak Smith, Scott Van Horn, Bill Matthews and Tony Garitta from North Carolina.   Gordy Johnson from Wisconsin.  

And, no doubt, my best fishing buddies of all time have been Dad and Craig.   Part of that, of course, is in passing on the tradition.   I hope Alexis and Thomas can be swept into it.   When they were born, I sent money to buy them Lifetime North Carolina fishing licenses.   Time will tell.  

Among the others I’ve fished with, three others stand out as “best buddies” – Clyde Osborne, Banks Miller and Bill Shumaker.   They share several qualities.   Perhaps most important, after hours of fishing together, I respect each.   Another, we’ve fished in multiple states and provinces over a long period.   That each taught me about fishing and myself – that helped, too.

In no particular order.

Clyde Osborne

Clyde suffered a brain abcess caused by a common cold as a young man.   When I met him, about 35 years ago, Clyde had no use of his right arm and modest use of his right leg.   Yet he fished vigorously.   On one of my first trips with Clyde, to Clark Hill Reservoir on the Georgia-South Carolina border, we stopped at a convenience store to purchase gas.   Clyde was doing something, I can’t remember what, away from the boat.   The chap operating the store came out to me and asked, “You fish with that guy?”

I answered, “Yes.   Why wouldn’t I?   He’s damn good.”

It took a while.   Banks Miller told me, “Clyde won’t accept your help.   He ties his own knots.   He takes his own fish off.   You can offer to help, but he won’t let you.   Don’t make an issue of it.   Over time, if he has confidence in your friendship, he’ll accept help.”

Perhaps my acceptance came at the upper end of Mountain Island Lake, outside Charlotte.   We were fishing in a tournament held by the small bass club we belonged to.   We were each fishing alone, in our own boats.   It was cold.   Clyde was sitting in his boat, fiddling with his gear.   I needed a cup of coffee, so I maneuvered my boat next to Clyde’s.   He was tieing knots on several lures in the event he broke one off and would need to gear up.   When I offered to help, Clyde accepted.   When I finished, Clyde said, “Sometimes I forget I’m handicapped.”

I said, “Better to forget it than to dwell on it.”

Clyde has to be one of the best topwater anglers I ever met.   When Clyde and I began fishing together he had a belt with a leather holster.   After casting, Clyde jammed the rod handle in the holster and reeled with his left hand.   To manipulate a topwater, he swung his hips back-and-forth.   He did poppers, jerkbaits – whatever.  

Shortly after I met him, Clyde got battery operated reels.   He then cast and reeled with one hand.   The belt was gone.   We were pre-fishing a tournament at Lake Murray in South Carolina.   Off a boat dock just upstream from the bridge crossing what is called Crystal Lake, Clyde caught a largemouth bass on a Bang-O Lure (one of Clyde’s favorites) about five pounds.   As we released the fish, Clyde turned to me and said, “That’s the first fish I’ve caught holding the rod in my hand.”

Rare in my fishing with Clyde was a day we spent on Jackfish Lake in western Ontario.   It was one anglers covet.   We caught smallmouth bass, one after another.   When we got back to the lodge at Ross’ Camp, Clyde said we caught a hundred.   Could be.   I did not count.   But Clyde said about my catch, “It’s not very often I get beat with topwaters.”

Of course, on a comparable topwater trip fishing on Line Bay on Pipestone Lake in Ontario, Clyde outfished me by a remarkable margin.   Had I been fishing alone or with someone else, I would have returned to the lodge bragging about my success.   Clyde probably caught three times as many smallmouth as I did.

Clyde Osborne with huge largemouth bass
Clyde Osborne with huge largemouth bass

A number of years ago, Suzanne Hamlin, major domo of Colbert County Convention and Visitor Bureau, invited me to north Alabama.   She said she would set me up to fish Guntersville, Wheeler, Wilson, and Pickwick, all reservoirs on the Tennessee River.   I told her I would come, fish a day with whomever she lined up, fish a day by myself, then move to the next lake.   But, I claimed, I needed to bring a buddy to take “grip and grin” photos.   She said that would work.   And I asked Clyde.

No doubt the highlight of our trip was a request from Mark Davis, then the media contact for PRADCO, a lure manufacturer in Fort Smith, Arkansas, to join a group he was supporting at Lake Wilson.   I told Mark I had a companion, not a member of outdoors media.   Mark said he was good with that, join us.   And we did.   Lots of big hitters on the professional bass fishing tournament trail – Tim Holton, Guy Eaker, others.  

Next morning, as we gathered near a ramp to put boats in the water, Mark came toward Clyde with two large garbage bags filled with lures.   Clyde assured Mark he was not an outdoor writer, he should give the bags to me.   Mark replied, “No, these are for you.   I’ve got more bags for Tim.”

Many years later, Clyde still touts Swimmin’ Image jerkbaits and Poppin’ Image Jr.   poppers, lures we first encountered in the bags Mark gave us.   Clyde’s confidence is well-founded.   We caught scads of schooling largemouth on Wilson with the lures Mark gave us.  

In the many years Clyde has accompanied me to western Ontario, he’s caught trophy largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, muskies and walleyes.   He’s caught pike and lake trout he would never have caught had he stayed in the Carolinas.  

Clyde and I, over the years, have not seen eye-to-eye on every issue.   Friends need not agree on every matter.   They need to respect one another.   Clyde and I do.

Banks Miller

Banks Miller, when I met him, was Principal at Alexander Junior High School, just south of Huntersville, North Carolina.   Banks identified with me as a fellow educator (confession: I thought of myself as a university professor, not an educator or teacher).

Banks was born and raised outside Shelby, North Carolina, a small agricultural community.   I was raised, in town, in a small agricultural community.   Banks learned to hunt quail with his dad.   I learned to hunt rabbits with my dad.   We both learned in parallel environments the value of hard work, honesty, loyalty.   Banks once invited me to speak at a men’s group in Huntersville.   I had a speech prepared for another occasion and I used it.   I’ve often wished I had taken the 12 Boy Scout Laws and used Banks to illustrate what each meant to me.  

Fishing a tournament together on Lake Wylie, an impoundment on the North Carolina-South Carolina border, Banks and I were propositioned by a woman on the shore.   She assured us the invitation was extended to each of us, either serially or together.   Banks told her we were fishing in a tournament and could not take time for such an enterprise.   As we moved further and out of her earshot, Banks turned to me and asked, “Was that what it seemed like?” Yup, that’s what I thought.

Banks was a top-notch tournament partner.   From him, I learned how to execute respect for a partner.   Many, perhaps even most, tournament anglers who fish from the front of the boat make certain they hit all the likely fish holding cover before giving the guy in the stern a chance.   And I’ve fished with some like that.   Banks never operated that way.   If fish were on piers, for example, Banks only cast to one side of the pier.   One of the tournaments I won was at Lake Hickory in the North Carolina Piedmont.   Banks caught a nice bass off a pier using a buzzbait.   First fish of the day, dawn still half an hour away.   I tied on a buzzbait and the next pier we came to, Banks cast toward the far side of the pier, leaving me the near side.   And I caught my first fish near the corner pier piling.

Banks Miller with a smallmount on Yoke Lake
Banks Miller with a smallmount on Yoke Lake

On one of our trips together to northern Ontario, Banks and I were fishing Yoke Lake.  

Tucked away in the northeast corner of the lake is a small bay.   I had fished there many times; Banks had not.   We reached the end of the bay and started down the other bank.   “See that rock sitting alone 20 feet from shore?   Cast to the left of the rock and hang on.” The water was shallow and Banks looked at me as though I was crazy – no fish there.   But Banks did as I suggested, gave his popper a couple of jerks and smash!   What I knew and Banks did not was there was a deep hole near the rock and it often held dandy smallmouth bass, like the four pounder Banks caught.

Our morning was productive.   Shortly after lunch, while releasing a fish, I got a hook embedded in my thumb.   In a move I had read about but never experienced, Banks extracted the hook with minimum damage.   He wrapped stout line around the bend of the hook, told me to push the eye of the hook tightly against the offended flesh.   Grasping the line, Banks gave a sudden jerk and the hook exited through the hole it used to enter.   (Part of what makes it work is telling the victim the sudden jerk will come on the count of three and jerking on the count of two.)

After the surgical bit, we moved along the shore, casting to pockets in pencil reeds.   We went back and forth fishing reeds, logs in the water, anything that suggested a smallmouth might be present.   Whatever we threw, smallmouth hit.   Topwaters, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits.   All worked.   Big fish.   Two pounders were the little guys.   We caught several smallmouth bass pushing five pounds.   Action was constant.   Sometimes we both had a near trophy smallmouth at the same time.   How many did we catch?   I don’t know, but the action was fast and furious.   As we finished the day, I told Banks, “There are lots of smallmouth bass fishermen who are pretty good who have not caught the numbers or size of smallies you and I did this afternoon.” Banks recalled my remark many times.   A golden afternoon with a golden friend.

Needing photos for an article, I asked Banks to meet me at the Neck Road Landing on Mountain Island Lake.   When we got to the boat ramp, I loaded Craig in the boat with Banks, told Banks where I wanted to pose him and Craig and away we went.   A mile or so from the landing, I tied my boat to the shore, waded into shallow water and told Banks, “Cast your buzzbait right at me, as close as you can get and I can get a good shot of the lure throwing water.” He did.   And he caught a small largemouth bass about 15 feet from where I was standing.   Often Banks has assured me in all the years he fished Mountain Island, he never before caught a fish there.  

Among the things Clyde, Banks and I have shared is a diagnosis of prostate cancer.   On one of our times together Banks noted the irony that the three persons Banks thought closest of those in the small bass club all suffered from the same disease.   A bitter irony, though more than a decade later, we all survive.  

Bill Shumaker

Bill Shumaker was Professor of Philosophy at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte.   Our offices were in buildings across a major open space at the University.   Someone, noting our mutual interest in fishing, put us in touch.   One of us, and I can’t remember which, wandered across the campus and made the introduction.   Shortly after, we were fishing together constantly.

Our first trip together I remember vividly.   Scuttlebutt reported striped bass were in mid-winter peak and feeding on gizzard shad at Lake Norman.   Lake Norman is a huge Duke Energy impoundment, the largest of the 11 on the Catawba-Wateree River, north of Charlotte.   Bill and I took his boat, motored toward Duke Power State Park.   Once in the water, we turned west and saw boats with striper anglers dotting the lake.   Gulls were whirling and diving, feeding on the shad stripers were driving toward the surface.   We were sure action would be fast and furious.

We started to cast.   Within a few minutes, Bill caught one, perhaps seven pounds.   And that was the last we had.   Once, chucking our Spooks over feeding fish, the two lures, walking-the-dog as the retrieve of these lures is called, came back to the boat a dozen feet apart.   A wake appeared, heading toward the approaching lures.   We told one another one of us would catch the fish making the wake.   Instead, a striper took a shad between the lures and left ours unmolested.  

Bill and I traveled together often.   Bill made half a dozen trips to Ontario with me, several including Clyde and Banks.   On one of our visits to Yoke Lake Bill and I were fishing up the western arm of the lake.   It was raining, but we were catching smallmouth bass and we kept at it.   Then it began to lightning and hail.   We tied the boat to a tree and huddled under dense white cedar trees.   But the hail pounded us nonetheless.   In a lull, we made a dash for the landing.   Once there (and more details are in Boats, Tents and the Ones That Got Away), while standing in shallow water unloading the boat, I felt an electric shock caused by lightning hitting the lake far away.  

Bill also made a trip with me to Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park.   Quetico Park (see Quetico Adventures) is a special place for me.   It’s rugged travel, portaging between lakes, paddling canoes.   The year Bill went, weather was terrible.   Cold.   Rain.   Wind.   Bill and Glen Burne, another faculty member at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, caught lots of big smallmouth bass.   One day at McKenzie Lake, Bill and I fished south of camp.   We came to a long, narrow island.   On both sides of the island, we caught pike after pike after pike on floating minnow jerkbaits.   It was the sort of day anglers cherish.

Bill Shumaker with a nice largemouth bass.
Bill Shumaker with a nice largemouth bass.

Bill also went to Montana several times, trout fishing, with me.   When we made our first trip, neither of us had been trout fishing in Montana.   Jay Burgin of Five Rivers Lodge provided a comped trip for two and I took Nancy, my wife, as the second person.   But I did not want to go to Montana, fish a few days and come home.   I persuaded, without much effort, Bill to drive to Montana, fish a couple of weeks and fly home when I started the trip with Nancy.  

We began our trip in Livingston.   We drove into town and found Dan Bailey’s Fly Shop, one of America’s famous trout retailers.   We asked if there was a small stream running into the Yellowstone where we could fish.   Chap directed us to Mill Creek.   Bill and I found Mill Creek Road and headed away from the Yellowstone.   Soon a bridge crossed the stream.   Bill and I stopped, got out and peered at the water.   Shallow, inches deep.   Running through cobble rocks.  

As we debated whether there could be any trout in such skinny water an old, blue Buick eased to a stop.   The driver had a once white felt hat, a large, white, handlebar mustache and eating a banana.   He asked what we were doing.   I explained we were hoping to catch some trout but suspected there weren’t any here.

The local allowed, “You might catch some here, they are there.   But if you want to catch some trout, you need to go up beyond the oil.” He nodded his head backward, in the direction from which he had come.   “Go up and there’s a sign.   You can park there.”

After he drove off, Bill asked what he meant, “beyond the oil.” I knew.   When I was a kid, the County spread old oil on gravel roads to keep dust down.   He meant to go until the paved road ended.  

Following his advice, Bill and I parked, walked through some trees and came to a stream about 30 feet across with deep pools.   It was the first time I had seen a river with more water upstream than downstream.   Irrigation dewatered the stream.   In the years I’ve fished Montana, this is a common occurrence.   Bill and I did catch trout in Mill Creek, not only on our first trip there but on subsequent occasions as well.

Among the highlights of our first trip, Bill and I met Tim and Jesse McDermott.   Bill and I were camped along the Gallatin River, south of Bozeman.   The Gallatin flows north out of Yellowstone Park and joins the Missouri River north of town.   While we were fishing, Bill asked if we could eat a couple of trout.   We kept two brown trout and had them for dinner.   While we were eating, a small truck pulled into the site next to us.   Soon a man and his son had their tent up.   Jesse, the son, was engaging and eager to show us caterpillars he found, explain the dog was friendly, and ask our names.   Tim, the father, came over, apologized for the trouble.   No trouble, we assured him.   As conversation developed, we found Tim was a faculty member at Montana State University.   We soon had a lively discussion of universities, students, the failings of deans and department chairs and other subjects of interest to professors.   Bill and I were retired or nearly so, but Tim had years to go.  

In turn, on subsequent trips Tim invited Bill and me to stay with his family.   Tim took Bill and me on floats down the Yellowstone, in the early years with Jesse as well.   We met Gabi, then two years old, and she stole our hearts.   Martha took us into her home with grace and hospitality.   Though Bill no longer travels with me, I still stay at McDermott’s and consider them among my dearest friends.  

Long trips in the cab of a pickup, nights spent in tents, fishing in the rain and hail, catching bunches and catching none.   Bill and I share these days.   And cherish the friendship.

Coda

What makes a top-notch fishing buddy?  

Opportunity, for one thing.   Clyde, Banks, Bill and I often fished together.   We over-lapped memberships in a small bass club and attended meetings and fished with one another in tournaments.

Another is we fished together in a variety of places and for a variety of species.   We travelled together to distant venues scattered across North America.   To do so, we shared motel rooms, restaurants, boat ramps, camp sites.   Those experiences helped build personal bonds.   Shared rainstorms, heat waves, lousy diners, fishless and fishfull days all built a shared experience.

Personal respect counts for much in cementing friendship.   No two of us share the values of the other in every detail.   Yet, we respect the personal integrity of the others.   And we respected the environment which offered us opportunities to be together.  

  

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           Last updated on May 6, 2019