Catfish is an Osage selfbow. He originally pulled 43# at 27″, and was 67″ nock-to-nock. He was the first bow whose back I exposed from a stave. He taught me to pull the drawknife slowly or risk ruining the ring I’m chasing. He has proven himself as a successful bowfishing bow. He bears the burden of a beginner’s poor tiller like a champ. And he shines up well to boot.
But he’s also a bit of a butthead.
One day I met a neighbor bowfishing a drainage pond in our neighborhood. He invited me to join, so I went to fetch Catfish. “My new bow never misses!” I bragged, and it was true. At the time I had only taken two shots at fish, and both had connected. When I returned to the drainage pond I shot at four fish and missed them all, with my neighbor as a witness. He kept holding out his compound and laughing at me, telling me I could borrow his bow if I wanted to actually hit a fish. If bows could talk, Catfish would have ribbed me along with him.
There was also a time when Catfish took his name a little too literally. I was out paddling one morning with my uncle, enjoying the sunrise, when I heard a scraping on the gunwales of my NuCanoe, followed by a splash. Catfish went swimming! It took me thirty minutes of digging and wading through a marshy flat in knee-deep silt riddled with sharp sticks to finally find him. I think I invented bow noodling. To his credit, his soak didn’t affect Catfish at all. Even if water penetrated the four layers of polyurethane finish, Osage is a water-resistant wood.
For the rest of the summer I bowfished with that bow and didn’t hit any more fish. All joking aside, it wasn’t the bow’s fault. I had simply built a bow too underpowered and inefficient for the heavy fiberglass arrow I was shooting. I originally aimed for 50# at 27″, but took off too much wood while tillering and ended up at 43#. I think the fat, snub-nosed tips also stole some energy that would have otherwise transferred to the arrow for a faster flight.
To fix this I piked the limbs by 1 1/2″ each, bringing the nock-to-nock length down to 64″ and the draw weight to 50#. I thinned the tips considerably to hopefully improve efficiency. I also thinned the sides of the upper limb at 2/3 of its length to ease a stiff spot in the tiller.
It shoots like a new bow, but inspires the same old memories. I can’t wait to take it into the flood again this season and make some more.