Grayling, Mich. That was easy. In the clear lake I could see sunfish swimming around as far as 50 yards away, and it was fun to lay a small piece of nightcrawler gently into the middle of a small school about 30 feet off and watch them race for it.
A 6-inch pumpkinseed won and pulled the float under, hooking itself in the process. But I didn't reel in the fish. Instead, I began pulling in the 32-foot European pole I was using, removing four-foot sections until I had the tip section in hand, which I used like a conventional six-foot rod to land the fish.
This rod wasn't equipped with a reel. Instead, a short fishing line was tied to a length of stretchy elastic fastened inside the tip section, allowing the fish to tug against it.
I have long been fascinated by European pole fishing, in which long, reel-less rods are use not to cast but to lay baits near spooky fish. The poles usually have a two-section telescoping top, 6-12 feet long, and from five to 10 removable butt sections, each 4-6 feet long
The angler deploys the rod by adding sections to the butt and pushing them out over the water; to bring a fish in, reverse the process.
For years, I limited my fascination to admiration, because the least expensive pole I could find, a 30-footer, was about $400. Top-level competition models, 54-footers made from exotic carbon fibers that weigh a couple of pounds, were $7,000.
Then Wacker Baits, a Chicago company that specializes in Euro tackle, had a clearance on a 31 foot pole for $88.
But there is little reason for pole fishing in this country. The big difference between freshwater angling here and in Europe is that in North America we fish mostly for aggressive predators, while Europeans fish mostly for members of the minnow family that are afraid of their own shadows.
However, I have found situations here where pole fishing is extremely effective. One is for reaching over reeds and other vegetation where it's impossible to cast.
Another is fishing a couple of tiny flies under a float to visible suckers in rivers. It's even more fun than using a fly rod.