Fishin’ for Dumbasses

It was one of the most miserable weather days I have ever fished in. And believe me in 31 years as a professional angler I have seen my share of bad weather including a case of hypothermia after getting soaked in three degree weather in the middle of a huge lake in northern Alberta. This time I was fishing in early June on one of the best walleye lakes in the world. Gunisao Lake produces more master angler walleye than any other place probably on earth. Located in north eastern Manitoba this body of water is a trophy factory and on this particular day despite the weather, we were enjoying some of that spectacular fishing. Along in the boat with me was John Toone Jr., author of the new book, Fishin’ for Dumbasses. John is not to be confused with his dad, John Sr., who was also along on this trip in a boat next to us, looking almost as miserable as we did.  We were fishing a current area next to the lodge, a highway for the walleye in and out of a huge bay that was used as a spawning area. The fishing wasn’t complicated; drop a jig and power bait and drift with the current. Sure enough in no time, John had himself one of those Master Angler walleye that this place and Manitoba is famous for!

 yes, it is cold John but that fish is worth it!

 I relate this particular story for two reasons. Last week I was at the launching of John’s new book at McNally Robinson. It was a fun night and the excerpts from this new book had my wife and I laughing hysterically. This book’s about John’s experiences growing up in a fishing family presented in a way everyone can appreciate. If you enjoy good writing and have a sense of humour, this book is for you!

Hey Dumbass!  There is Strength in Numbers.
Marshal Fries is a freelance writer from Winnipeg, Mb and grew up fishin' in the Whiteshell.
This is his review of the book, which offers a little more in-depth look at the mind of John Toone!
The book is available at McNally Robinson in Winnipeg or visit John online at

John Toone’s new book speaks to a different crowd with an interest in fishing.

Think you know everything about fishing? Or maybe the sushi bar is the closest you have ever come to live fish.  Either way, poet and woodsman, John Toone, has a book that will satisfy your angling urges. 

Fishin' for Dumbasses could be described as an outhouse book.  It is an easy-read, and often hilarious with Toone’s brutal flare for self-depreciating humour.  His stories draw you into the fishing culture, and will appeal to people who have never fished, or even those with no intention of fishing.

“The original idea was to write a book for hipsters who are interested in sourcing their own food,” said Toone.

“It turned into a book about fishing for people who have no clue, or those who think they know it all.  From my perspective, it’s not just about ‘catching’ food, it’s about the experience of ‘going’ fishing.”

So what is the difference between catching food and going fishing?  According to Toone, a whole lot.

“When your mindset is catching, a good day is measured by what ends up in the cooler.  But when you are out there for the fishing, that experience includes the preparation, the journey, the sacrifices and indulgences, the time with family in the great outdoors, et cetera.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to catch and eat fish, but there are good times to be had even if the fish are nowhere to be found.”

Although Toone writes in a pseudo-hillbilly voice, the macho stereotype of a fisherman doesn’t jive with this generation of anglers.  Fishin' for Dumbasses attempts to walk the line between the two camps, but the strength of Toone’s opinions and politics will likely raise the ire of both.

“Fishing is not only for the wild man — it’s good fun for women, kids, foodies, hippies, conservationists, just about everyone has a reason to seek natural and local food sources and think more about the impact their food has on the environment,” said Toone.

Toone is an advocate of the live-off-the-land philosophy and proud of his family’s traditions in hunting and fishing.  Despite the media attention paid to animal rights organizations, he insists hunters and anglers have the right idea.   In fact, they may have more in common with organizations like PETA than people think.

“We both want sustainability and not a gross industrial food system controlled by a few corporations.  We don’t want our waterways redefined to expedite the construction of pipelines.  We don’t want further cutbacks in the Fisheries Branch that jeopardize field work and hatchery programs.  After all, we share a belief in environmental conservation and enhancement.  You may take issue that I feed my family with food that I caught myself, but that should not overshadow our common interests and that call to action.”

Toone recognizes that not everyone is privileged enough to have someone take them out and show them how to fish.  He is a 20+ year volunteer with Fish Futures, active with their Fish Winnipeg van program, school programs in northern Manitoba, and the Youth Angling Card Artwork Contest.  His children’s books about fishing, Catch That Catfish! and Hope and the Walleye, have also helped spread his message and earn him a nomination for a Manitoba Book Award.

With Fishin' for Dumbasses, Toone attempts to go mainstream and change public opinions about fishing.  You might not agree with his line of reasoning, but it’s hard not to be persuaded when you are having a laugh at his expense.  From outhouse to outpost, Toone found his way in and out of trouble.

“There’s 150,000 licensed anglers in Manitoba.  Considering our population base, I think that makes us a fishing community. There are people who come from all over the world to fish in Manitoba, and for good reason.  We owe it to ourselves to present fishing in the best light and recruit new anglers to continue our conservation work.”

This all may sound a bit heady for a book with “dumbass” in the title, and Toone doesn’t want you to get the wrong impression.  With tips like How to Drown, How to Grab a Brain, and How to be Eaten, Fishin' for Dumbasses is as entertaining as it is educational.  One thing is for certain, you’ll never think of fishing the same way.