give a sucker an even break.” —
W. C. Fields
Every now and then life sneaks in a surprise that leaves me flat footed,
jaws just slightly agape. I’ve been a fan of “underutilized” fish species
since I first learned to hold a fishing rod. Bullheads were an early
favorite, as were eels and blueback herring. My first carp on a fly was
an eye-opening experience that left me wanting more and more. But my
first buffalo on a fly… well that just made me weak in the knees. Like
most American anglers, I didn’t even know that buffalo could be caught on
a rod and reel! Imagine my surprise to find out that buffalo fish are,
and always have been, among our nation's most important wild food fishes.
Rob Buffler and Tom Dickson certainly know about the commercial and
sporting value of the buffalo. While researching an article on carp
fishing, I came across their book Fishing For Buffalo
(ISBN978-0-8166-6532-7). It had been originally published in 1990 by
Culpepper Press and republished by the University of Minnesota Press in
2009. Since the only information about Culpepper Press indicated that it
specializes in children’s books, there is little wonder that this volume
flew below the radar for a decade. I’m delighted that this important book
is now readily available to the angling community. Buffler and Dickson
have broken important ground and done so in a very deliberate and thorough
manner. This is a book that every Midwestern fishing fanatic should read.
“Just as many roughfish are odd, so is Fishing for Buffalo. We
don’t deny the absurdity of a book about catching carp on a fly made to
imitate a mulberry, eating reamed dogfish on toast, and advocating the
catch-and-release of redhorse” say the authors in the preface. While
the book’s concept may appear superficially absurd, the information
contained inside is serious, detailed and enlightening. The authors
certainly have the credentials to educate; Buffer is the Executive
Director of the
Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative
and Dickson is the editor of
These are guys who know their way around a fly rod. And they definitely
know their way around a creek.
Depending on where you live, you’ll get different things from this book.
I was most taken by the detailed approach to suckers as a sport and table
fish. Several species of sucker inhabit the cleanest and prettiest waters
we fish in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. I’ve hooked and landed several of
them, but I didn’t really understand their behavior and preferred
habitat. Having read Fishing for Buffalo I now feel that I’m ready
to truly expand my horizons next season. Suckers are challenging, strong
and aesthetically pleasing fish that get a bad rap because so few have
taken the time to delve into their natural history.
Although presented at face value as a book about buffalo, which are one of
the largest freshwater fish readily available to North American anglers,
this book is about a lot more. Buffalo are members of the sucker family,
and in this work you’ll find in-depth treatment of all the suckers
including the common white sucker, the redhorse family, and the buffalo
family. You’ll also learn more than you thought possible about gar, carp,
catfish, burbot and even whitefish and cisco. In the authors own words,
this work covers any fish that: “1. Weigh[s] at least a pound, can be
caught with hook and line, but are ignored or disparaged by most sport
anglers (such as carp and suckers); 2. Provide good sport and food, but
are known to few anglers (like drum and goldeye); or 3. Are for the most
part valued, but in the past were regarded as roughrfish or are still seen
as undesirable in some regions (like catfish and sturgeon)” is covered
in this work. From identifying your catch to determining the best recipe,
it’s all right there.
Fly fishing plays a big role in Buffler and Dickson’s work. While not
exclusively a fly fishing book, these gentlemen know how the long rod is
applied to piscatorial problems. And like the folks who bring you Fly
Fish Ohio, these guys aren’t fanatical purists. You’ll also learn about
bait and artificial lures delivered via spinning rod or casting rod.
Sometimes the fly rod just isn’t the right choice and if you want to hook
up you’ve got to get in front of the fish.
I’m enthusiastic about this read. I missed it the first time around, but
I made up for it with this republishing effort. For $18.95 this book is a
“no-brainer” Just get it.