Capt Gus: Snagging an owl isn’t in the pro manual
Michelle Armstrong of Denver is a regular on the Women’s Bassmaster Tour, now in its third year.
When she is not fishing, she is busy raising her two children, Fischer, 9 and Brooke, 5, or working at her nail salon.
She also conducts bass seminars for her sponsors. She enjoys sharing her fishing experiences with everyone. The following is from one of her recent fishing adventures:It was the dawning of a beautiful day, the first of three stops on the Women’s Bassmaster Tour at Old Hickory Lake. We had just arrived at our first spot of the day. The steamy fog was settling in patches just above the surface of the water. During practice, I had found the morning top water bite to be fantastic, so my obvious plan was to keep my “crazy shad” glued to my hand.
Right away, I had a few short strikes, but I was not worried. I knew the potential of this area. I cast my bait next to the bank and let the rings fade. I kept an intense eye on the twitch-twitch, pause, twitch-twitch, pause action of the lure.
The upper right side of my peripheral vision was suddenly distracted by something quickly approaching. Before my brain could digest what was happening, an owl swooped down and grabbed my bait. As he ascended upward from where he had come, he hooked himself. At this point, it appeared as if I were flying a kite.
My amazed co-angler asked, “What are you going to do? What are you going to do?”
I said, “There isn’t a thing in the ‘pro’ manual that tells me how I am supposed to handle this one.”
The owl swooped back down and landed in the water. He was terrified and so was I.
I tried to collect my thoughts. I knew I didn’t want to cut the line and lose my great lure ó only kidding!
But I also knew that the owl would get twisted around the line or stuck in a tree and die a horrible death. As that thought entered my mind, off he flew again. His wing span appeared to be about 12 feet. In reality, it was probably more like 4 feet.
As I flew the owl like a kite again, a small sparrow began to attack the poor trapped bird. The sparrow dove at the owl’s head about five times before the owl headed for the water again. I tried to reel him closer, but he flew off each time the sparrow attacked him. Finally, I was able to reel him close enough to the boat and swing him in. At this moment, I realized that one claw was hooked. Then, in a panic, he began to kick his legs and he hooked his other claw. Now, all six hooks were embedded in his claws.
My co-angler gave me a glove for my left hand and my pliers. I could see the horror in the owl’s eyes. I tried to place my hand over his face, but he wanted no part of that. He pecked fiercely at me and pushed his claws outward toward me as far as he could. I removed my sunglasses (in hindsight, that could have been bad), and said softly, “Look dude, either let me help you, or you’re going to die.” I then placed my hand on his chest and began to work on the first three hooks. This is when I noticed, and paid very close attention to just how long his nails were. Being a manicurist, this scared me.
The first set of hooks came out fairly easy. The second three, however, took a little more force and time, but they came out all the same. Ironically, there was no blood and he never even flinched. I backed up slowly and said to the owl, “You’re free!”
He laid there and stared at me without moving a muscle. I said, “Dude, get off my boat so we can go fishing,” and just like that, he stood up, spread his beautiful wings, and flew up to the tree he had come from.
As I left the weigh-in stage on day two, a boy asked if I would sign his autograph book. As I was signing it, he told me he had heard about me catching the owl the day before. He asked, “Will you put under your name, ‘the owl whisperer’ so I will remember who you are?”Visit www.fishingwithgus.com or call Gus Gustafson at 704-489-0763, or e-mail him at Gus@LakeNorman.com.