Ten years ago, Missouri Life columnist Ron Marr filled us in on the zen of catfishing. He muses on the rules of flyfishing and why he finds catfishing more to his liking. Find why Ron knows there is more to catfishing than meets the eye..

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By Ron Marr

OVER THE years, I’ve noticed that an awful lot of trout fishermen cast for status rather than fish. This species is identified by five-hundred-dollar vests, designer-label waders, Rolex-inspired rods, and late-model Land Rovers. They carry lambskin wallets bulging with high-dollar flies resembling cheap earrings sold at small town carnivals. With superior mien, they hint that their imitation insects were painstakingly handcrafted by immortal mystics who formerly spent their days illuminating Cistercian manuscripts.

Fly folk speak in reverential whispers regarding the nobility and refined sophistication of their quarry—rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout—but I’ve never understood how a critter that consumes bugs could possess a royal bloodline and impeccable character. It’s a little like assuming that the kid who would eat anything off the school-bus floor was destined to cure leprosy and achieve living sainthood before the age of twenty-five.

I know how to fly fish. You can’t spend a decade living within spitting distance of Montana’s Madison River—one of America’s foremost trout streams—and not know a thing or twelve about whipping a bamboo rod. Still, I detested all the rules, rituals, and posturing. The enterprise seemed geared toward “anglers,” whereas I considered myself a guy who fished. The dirty looks thrown my way by trout aficionados when I’d proudly walk past with my Walmart reel, can of worms, and stringer of fish amused me greatly.

I don’t know what happened to my fly rod. I seem to recall breaking it during a marathon session of swatting down mud-dauber nests.

Don’t misunderstand; I have known sane fly fishermen. Missouri has a much lower population of stiff-necked trout louts than Montana … mostly because the majority of Montana trout louts hailed from California. The folks at Bennett Springs and Roaring River look perfectly normal. I suspect most of them even enjoy pursuing that most patrician of bottom-dwelling, garbage-eating, piscatorial carrion-gulpers.

Say it loud and say it proud.

My name is Ron. I am a catfisherman. I simply want to toss my line, plop down in my chair, wedge my rod against a stick, and wait. These actions are generally accompanied by deep thoughts, warm Coke, stale pipe-tobacco, and a coma-like ignorance of the passage of time. I can (and have) gone catfishing for twelve hours at a shot, achieving a state of satori that ends only when I trip over my pole in the dark.

This summer past witnessed a resurgence of my catfishing mania. My seven years on the Gasconade River were largely spent paddling about in a canoe. In contrast, Summer 2012 was so hot that all the catfish chartered a Greyhound bound for Canada. Joyfully, 2013 provided near-perfect conditions for hooking those marvelously hideous critters that think rotting guts (their favorite meal is the innards of another catfish) are haute cuisine.

I’ve hit every hole I could find. Strip pits, stinkin’ rivers, lakes, ponds, large puddles … it made no difference to me. I’m good at fishing, which is not to say I’m good at catching. I simply enjoy being out there, away from everything and everybody. I love watching muskrats chomp on weeds, adore the scream of blue herons, and am gladdened by the occasional bored horse that wanders over to say howdy. 

And, when it happens, I get a massive rush from watching the line rise off the water, scream away and grow taut. Each time my pulse quickens; my adrenal glands kick into twelfth gear. Each time I wonder if I’m about to tie into a leviathan that will make my deep fryer sue me for federal violations of the deep-fryer labor laws. It warms my heart that the channel cat is Missouri’s official state fish.

Some folks, primarily the aforementioned breed of haughty fly fisherman, consider catfish little more than finned offal, underwater trailer-trash. To that I can offer but a single response:

I’m also a big fan of carp.

Read another fishing story here. 

Article originally published in the October 2013 issue of Missouri Life.