Flannelmouth sucker, on a fly, in Colorado, in February

I spend a fair amount of time reading about fishing—in books and online—and, as I’ve noted elsewhere on this site, I’m weary of the preponderance of trout writing and trout photos. As I’ve also said, I am a big fan of trout and trout fishing. I just don’t like to see fishing limited to a few types of fish. I’ve wondered if the many bloggers and authors posting amazing trout photos have shots of other fish that they’re not posting in the belief that no one is interested. Then, last month, the guys at False Casts and Flat Tires wrote about the largescale suckers they caught in Montana.

Yesterday this arrived:

Angler with flannelmouth sucker on Roaring Fork River, Coloradoflannelmouth suckerThe date: Feb. 13, 2012. The place: the Roaring Fork River, near Glenwood Springs, CO. The fortunate angler is Tom Gart and the guide is Kyle Holt of Taylor Creek Fly Shops. The fly: a #18 BH pheasant tail.

The fish: a  Flannelmouth Sucker (Catostomus latipinnis). It is good to see such a healthy-looking specimen, as their range and numbers have decreased due to loss of suitable habitat and competition with introduced species. They are not listed in Colorado, but Nevada lists the flannelmouth as a sensitive species and Utah lists it as being of special concern due to declining population.

The caption accompanying the photo on the Taylor Creek facebook page reads: “We all knew that Tom Gart was a sucker for winter float trips on the Roaring Fork but this is getting out of hand. Thankfully that’s one heck of a sucker! I don’t care what they say, that’s a cool fish! Gotta love the exotics.”

The fish is a native, of course, not exotic, unless by exotic he means “impressive, out of the ordinary, surprising and awe-inspiring.” It is one heck of a sucker.

No word on how Mr. Gart felt about this catch, but I hope he was suitably impressed with himself.

Taylor Creek’s Kirk Webb reports that they catch quite a few suckers. He wrote, “There’s plenty around here….and we all love them as much as the trout.” That’s the kind of attitude I like! If I could afford it, I’d buy a plane ticket and book a trip right now for flannelmouths, blueheads (and an occasional trout).

Thanks to Taylor Creek Fly Shops for permission to post their photo. I asked them to let me know if they find more shots like this. If they do, I’ll post them here. In the meantime, check out their photos on facebook. There’s even another sucker photo among them (not this same sucker).

Taylor Creek’s website is http://www.taylorcreek.com and their facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000439370575

Largescale Suckers on the Fly, Montana, January

The lucky SOBs highly skilled anglers over at False Casts and Flat Tires got a surprise gift from the Bitterroot River recently, and I’m jealous: a bunch of 20″ largescale suckers (Catostomus macrocheilus) and some trout to keep them busy while waiting for another sucker to bite. I can’t go home to Montana and catch fish like these now, so I’m grateful they chose to post excellent photos (and give me permission to post them here). I wonder how many fishing bloggers catch and photograph suckers and other cool fish but don’t bother to post them.

Click these to see them a little larger, but for full effect follow the links below and view them in much higher quality.

Their report: http://falsecastsflattires.com/2012/01/15/fly-fishing-is-for-suckers/

The follow-up with more sucker shots: http://falsecastsflattires.com/2012/01/19/as-requested.

There’s also a video of the day’s fishing, with a little sucker action, at Yukon Goes Fishing: http://www.yukongoesfishing.com/2012/01/cutties-are-for-suckers.html

Jealous. So jealous…

More on C. macrocheilus at fishbase and the Montana Field Guide.

Cowardly pike, sportless walleye, evil gar, holy trout & virtuous whitefish

Looking for Insults

I tend to get pretty angry when I find anti-sucker (and other roughfish) sentiment on the web or in current publications. By now, shouldn’t everyone know better? In older sources, however, I make a point of looking for insults, dismissals, diatribes and condemnations of the fish I like. It’s fun to read. While I wouldn’t expect old books aimed at a popular audience (how-to-fish manuals, fishing guidebooks, memoirs of fishermen) to cover fishing for suckers, the problem is that very few of them ever mention suckers at all, even in passing. (See this post on suckers as vermin for one exception.)

In addition to suckers, I always look to see what—if anything—these authors had to say about some of my other favorites, such as gar and bowfin. As toothy predators from the time before trout, gar and bowfin are easy targets for insults. Like suckers, they are almost never mentioned at all—except in scientific books. I think I’ve found mention of bowfin in only one or two old collections of fishing stories, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen any mention of gar in any old book about fishing.

The scientific books are more fertile ground. Any half decent scientific work of any age that covers the fishes of North America has to include the undesirables I’m looking for, if only briefly, and they usually do it without much entertainment value. The most entertaining prose, unsurprisingly, tends to be in the non-scientific works (see below).

When an author—popular or scientific—feels the need to go beyond simply ridiculing a fish for not being a trout or bass, the usual course is to blame them for harming other, more desirable, species (and it doesn’t matter whether the accusations have merit). Suckers are maligned as mud-eaters lacking esthetic or commercial value, but are also be blamed for eating the eggs of trout and walleye. Gar, bowfin and other predatory fish (other than trout) are blamed for gorging on whatever species are most profitable in a given body of water, be it trout or walleye.

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