It knocked me out of two traditional opening days I’d been counting on. First up was the dove opener, followed by the Aztecs [football]opener the following day. As it turned out, I was better off in an air conditioned hospital than the searing temperatures of Imperial Valley or the stadium parking lot.
One of the things that occurred to me while hooked up to an IV tube delivering an antibiotic, a steroid and the periodic addition of morphine when I needed to swallow something was how many terrific fishermen (and women) frequent SDFish.
It made me think back through my own past, the many great fishermen that have passed and what criteria if any should be used in assessing an angler’s skills and in many cases their mark on the sport.
If we go back to the first third of the 1900’s there were a pair of sporting goods store owners in Stanley Andrews and Adolph Muhlheisen along with Lee Wulff, who would become a legendary figure in the world of fly fishing and who like me graduated from San Diego High School, albeit 35 years apart. I would be remiss not to mention men like Dr. David Jessop who paddled a kayak to the Coronado Islands in pursuit of yellowtail or Mel Shears who cut his teeth in sportfishing by working on a fishing barge anchored off the coast as possibly the first pinhead to not only become a skipper, but a pioneering one at that.
During the 50s there were men like Cecil Collins who mastered local bass fishing while relying heavily on a Creek Chub Injured Minnow. Later, that decade saw the emergence of a very inventive and even more secretive mattress maker from Lemon Grove by the name of Red de Zeeuw who would buy curly monkey hair for his jigs at Whitey Perry’s Sport Shop on University Avenue.
Another great angler worthy of mention is Guy Huffman who in my experience fished exclusively from shore and aside from his spinning reel and line, made everything he fished with. His rod of choice was a nine-foot Herter’s fly rod blank that he outfitted with spinning rod components and his lure of choice was his own version of the Shannon Twin Spin spinnerbait which was one of the more popular lures at that time. Guy called his lure “The Creeper,” and it was deadly effective as he worked it slowly but steadily across the bottom.
While ruminating on who some of the great fishermen were or are and what criteria one might use for an objective measurement, my mind swung back to SDFish and its revolving cast of characters. I couldn’t help but to think about Werfless who seems capable of catching anything, while willing to help anyone whether they want to fish off a beach, jetty or a canal bank in Imperial Valley.
I thought of Rodmaster858. His haunts include the bays for halibut and local streams from the San Diego River to Penasquitos Creek for an assortment of species few people realize are there.
At some point while lying in a hospital bed I jumped as if whacked in the head by a carp with the following question: Are there better or more diverse anglers than Bruce Smith or Kevin Mattson (pictured top)?
When Bruce is not operating his sportfisher Fortune, landing tuna, or a largemouth bass, he might be at his trailer next to Pyramid Lake tying a fly that will catch his next giant Lahontan Cutthroat trout.
And how about a guy who runs offshore in a bass boat to catch a blue marlin, dorado or tuna or use that same boat a day later to stitch frogs and rats across mats of algae to tempt big bass. Crazy right? IMO the photos of Mattson holding live rattlesnakes pretty well answers that question.
In listing names here I have regrettably missed many past and present, for which I apologize. There are a lot of good fishermen, great fishermen we don’t hear much about or shun the spotlight.
I’m pretty sure there is no way to reasonably list the best in any kind of order. Is it the man or woman who is a master of a single species? How about the person who masters a method in the manner that Sam Nix of Ocean Beach pioneered saltwater flyfishing by traveling the Baja Coastline? Should it be based on the anglers with the most diverse skills ranging from saltwater to freshwater or rivers to lakes?
Frankly I don’t know, but what I do know is that when it comes to fishing, everyone of them shared the same quality which in my opinion is more important than any other in separating the best fishermen from the rest.