…and a river runs through it

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 25, 2001

An old buddy and I were talking the other day about fishing. It seems that he has found some deep secret fishing hole where the bream are so big you need two people to hold them while you remove the hook, and are so eager to bite the proffered insect offering that it almost seems like they’re practicing hara-kiri. True to form, when I asked where this fishing hole from heaven was, all I got was a grin and a &uot;maybe-if-you’re-lucky-I’ll-take-you-there-one-day&uot; look.

I love to fish. Period. No if, ands, or buts. If it’s got scales or slime, I’m willing to go just about anywhere in pursuit of those wily finned creatures. In fact, I’ve fished, at various times, in puddles, ponds, creeks, drainage ditches, watering holes, sloughs, rivers, oceans, gulfs, bays, seas, stock tanks, and on one really weird day, in a great big aquarium.

I love to fish. Let me clarify that statement. I didn’t say, &uot;I love to catch fish&uot; I said, &uot;I love to fish.&uot; There is a quantum difference between the two. In fact, nothing gets in the way of a fishing trip like catching fish.

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I’ve always found that examples help when trying to explain concepts. Here’s one of my prime examples about the difference between fishing and catching fish.

Some years ago, the terrible trio of Newton, Marvin, and myself decided that it was a great day to go fishing. In fact, it was the of day that cried out for a fishing trip of monumental proportion, not just your average everyday jaunt up the road to Uncle Bunt’s pond. No, this needed a journey, a destination, a goal…it was definitely time for a road trip to the powerhouse on the Alabama River at Camden.

River fishing always intrigued us. Maybe it was the fact that there were really big fish lurking in the shadows of the turbines at the powerhouse. Maybe it was the fact there was the chance we might actually catch one of these behemoths. Maybe it was the possibility that we could be turned into a large chum slick if we slipped off the wall. What really made it special, though, is the amount of preparation and equipment it allowed us to pack into one 1966 Dodge Dart.

Some people feel that fishing tackle is the most important part of going fishing. Others consider the type of bait to be

the most crucial factor. We always felt that the amount of food and drink that you could pack into an ice chest was definitely the most important of all possible aspects. So, for the three of us, we loaded ever how many sandwiches you can make with two long loaves of light bread, making sure that we had equal quantities of bologna, peanut butter and jelly, and banana sandwiches in the mix; iced down two cases of those six for a dollar drinks you buy at the store (I never was too crazy about the orange, but we always tried to pick out extra root beer); threw in a couple of the really big bags of potato chips (the pound size); and made sure that we had enough money in case we had to stop for snacks along the way. By the way, we occasionally remembered to buy some worms or crickets for bait.

Now that the really important stuff was loaded, we checked to see if there was any room for fishing rods, tackle boxes, hooks, sinkers, and other things that weren’t quite as important as the food. The great thing about going to the river was that you got to use really big rods and reels; forty and fifty pound test line; sinkers as big as hen’s eggs (remember the sinkers…you’ll hear about them again); hooks large enough to impale a grown armadillo as bait (never used armadillo…wonder how it would have worked?). As you can see, the arsenal was vast, especially in comparison with the amount of fish we brought home. I once worked it out that our fish cost us about $2.93 per ounce to catch…but who goes to catch fish? We were going fishing!

So up we load and out we head for the river. The trip itself was a delight, passing through Stocklaw Gap and Pine Flat and Awin and Pine Apple and Oak Hill and Darlington, past miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles of nothing, broken up by cows and pigs and pulpwood trucks and scrawny hound dogs and gaggles of youngun’s playing in the dirt and farmers waving from tractors and…I guess there was more there than I originally thought.

We would finally arrive at the powerhouse and begin the long trek from car to riverbank, carrying coolers and lawn chairs and rods and tackle boxes and food and bug spray and Coleman lanterns and food and five gallon buckets and food (this is where it was really great if you had little cousins over visiting. They might be a pest for part of the day, but they sure made getting this stuff to the bank and back a snap. A cold drink and the threat of telling their mother what they said when they slammed their hand in the door made them the best pack mules ever).

So now began the task of dipping up shad, rigging poles with hooks and sinkers, and casting out in search of the giant catfish that legend had lived near the dam. Unfortunately, every time that I tried to make a cast the line would hang up in the reel. Gravity would then take over, especially when you whip a twelve-foot rod with all the vigor a teenager could muster. One of two things would then happen: either the sinker and hook would whip back from the end of the rod, ending in your impaling yourself or causing a concussion; or the velocity would break the line, sending an eight-ounce oblong sinker screaming on a ballistic trajectory across the river towards the people fishing over there. It really tended to liven up the afternoon when you screamed &uot;incoming&uot; and watched everyone over there scramble for cover before the streaking projectile bounced about the rocks and people. This was usually followed by a mad scramble for all of our equipment before those we just bombarded could figure out how to get across the river.

The length of our trips were governed by either how soon we hit somebody with an errant cast or when we ran out of food and drink. Either way, the fact the fish were biting or not never entered into the recap of the trip.

Now that’s a fishing trip. With all that activity, who had time to catch fish?