Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



The mountain sucker presents a relatively easy catch, but an important teaching opportunity for nearby young anglers

COURTESY PHOTO: LUKE OVGARD - The mountain sucker is not a large fish, but the author found a population of ready biters.SALT LAKE CITY — I'm a sucker for a good story.

Not only do I enjoy writing stories, but I enjoy reading and listening to stories. As I drive around, living the content that will become my own tales, I'm almost always listening to an audiobook, drinking in the entertainment value of some other writer and keeping my mind engaged.

That's not to say fishing isn't a cerebral game; there are types of fishing that require intense concentration, problem-solving, flexibility and all of the other mental faculties you can imagine. But fishing has been such a dominant part of my life for so long that there are times when it's automatic. The nuance and conscious reactions meld with instinct after a certain point, and you're left with a symbiosis of the perfectly human and intensely animal.

These experiences where everything goes well are hard to put into words because the bank of skills developed over the years make something that is difficult comparatively easy, and the narrative loses the daunting obstacle to be overcome.

It's the nature of the beast, though. Fishing is just so complex and changing.

Less dangerous and violent than hunting, more active and varied than golf and far less boring than walking, biking, running or hiking, fishing is the standard for lifetime sports.

A golf course or a running trail doesn't change enough from one day to the next that the course of your activity is fundamentally altered. But a river? It's dynamic. It always changes. And to further the challenge and diversity of the experience, you are pitting your wits against those of a living entity. Sure, hunting offers that, but there are no rematches when success results in the death of your foe. Fishing allows for rematches. Fishing never loses its flavor because it is a contest between the sapient angler and the sentient, unfeeling fish.

Sometimes, the match is even. Sometimes, the match is lopsided. Rarely is the contest so unfairly stacked for the angler as it was one beautiful summer day in Utah ...


On numerous occasions since I began my #SpeciesQuest, I've targeted the humble mountain sucker, Catostomus platyrhynchus. The diminutive bottomfeeder can be found in 13 states, making it the most widespread purely Western sucker.

Despite its impressive range and despite several attempts to find one, before that day this summer, I never had.

Normally, suckers rarely live up to their name and involve above-average difficulty to catch, but my friend, Chris Moore, assured me he could buck that trend. At his direction, I went to a small stream in the greater Salt Lake City area in hopes of finding them. I came to a small stream with a clear pool that had two boys fishing in it.

I asked them what they were after, and they told me "Trout" in a youthful unison.

I asked if I could join them, and they didn't seem to mind.

Within seconds, I spotted the little suckers grazing on the bottom. I unwrapped the short length of line from my tenkara rod, put a tiny piece of worm on a micro hook that wouldn't draw blood from a human finger and dropped my bait in front of one of the fish.

In seconds, it bit, and I began to lift it out of the water. It fell off, but the kids had seen the witchcraft and were now watching me intently. My second drop resulted in another hit, and I landed a fish the rough size and shape of a hot dog. After snapping a quick picture and examining the dull, desert camouflage of the fish, I let it swim right back to the school feeding on the bottom.

The kids were fascinated, so I gave them a quick lesson on tenkara, microfishing and the importance of native fish species like mountain suckers, cementing my lesson with another handsome little fish.

Not wanting to interrupt their fishing and having accomplished what I'd wanted, I walked back to the car slightly shocked by the ease of the experience. In that 90-degree desert heat, it took longer for my feet and legs to dry than it had to catch the suckers I was after. You likely spent more time reading this than I did living it. That, my friends, makes for an interesting story.

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