KW Morrow, White River

May 17th, 2004

Never Take a Hunting Dog Fishing
By KW Morrow (silvermallard)

Several years ago, I was driving through Colorado on business and decided to lay over a day and squeeze in some trout fishing on the Arkansas River near Buena Vista. I stopped at a local truck stop and purchased a non-resident license. I had brought a pack rod and a small box of flies with me on the trip and brought along my faithful companion and personal "shadow," Jules, a black male Labrador Retriever. So Jules and I parked the truck and headed down a trail to some fishing water a few locals at the truck stop had pointed out.

The day was beautiful and the water was running well and crystal clear. I could see the occasional trout drifting by in the current. I didn't walk the bank too far before deciding to make my first cast with a rainbow egg pattern fly under a strike indicator. As the morning progressed, I became aware of Jules a few times when he would bark each time kayakers would drift downstream to our location or someone walked up behind us on the access trail (also kayakers, of course). I was the only angler on this stretch of water, which was only a few hundred yards or so. It was basically one slow pool in an otherwise grand high-mountain river.

I was having a great time of it and catching a few fish here and there. My intent was to keep one good fish (which was legal in this section of the river) to prepare for dinner. So my fishing day would end when I settled on a fish that suited me. Shortly after noon, I landed the fish I wanted to keep and put him on a stringer...a nice Rainbow very suitable for table fare. I heard Jules splashing around downstream of my location behind some large streamside boulders that were blocking my view of him. So I secured my gear, picked up my one-fish limit, and headed downstream to fetch the retriever.

When I rounded the rocks I was stunned and perplexed by what I saw. There was Jules, my faithful canine fishing companion, sitting on a boulder about three feet out into the stream with two more Rainbow trout between his front paws. I was immediately beset by an ethical conundrum. I hate wasting game, but the legal limit was one fish. Jules had never demonstrated his fishing prowess in my presence before, and I was completely taken aback. What to do?

Well, Jules was my dog. Therefore, Jules' fish were my fish. So I waded out and added these two fish to my stringer, knowing that if a warden checked me he would never believe that the dog had caught them. They were in pristine condition! And who has ever heard of a dog catching fish in a freestone river in Colorado? I was prepared to accept responsibility for my pet's actions and pay any fines that were coming my way as we returned to the truck.

Thankfully, Jules and I never met a game warden that day. And we had a very ample dinner that evening over our campfire. I'm sure that was the first and only time Jules dined on fresh trout mixed into his dog food. He seemed to enjoy his catch as much as I enjoyed mine. But I had learned a very important lesson that day; a lesson which harkened back to an old Southern saying I heard many times as a boy but never heeded: "Never take a hunting dog fishing." ~ Ken

About Ken:

Ken graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1988, and spent the next several years serving in the United States Navy as an intelligence analyst and Russian Language translator. He is a veteran of Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Leaving the nation's service in 1993.

Ken is also a published outdoor writer and historian, having penned articles and stories that have appeared in several national hunting publications like North American Hunter magazine, on, in regional and local newspapers, and historical and literary journals. He also provides hunting and dog training seminars for Bass Pro Shops and other sporting goods retailers nationwide and works with other outdoors businesses and conservation organizations in the fields of public relations, promotional marketing, fund-raising, and advertising. He also is a partner in Silver Mallard Properties, LLC. He currently resides with his wife, Wilma, their Weimaraner, Smoky Joe, and their Labrador Retriever, Jake, in Branson, Missouri, where he founded the Branson/Tri-Lakes Chapter of Ducks Unlimited in 1998.

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