Henry took off last week and went fishing. Now, I don't blame him for that. But he just up and left, and so I filled in for him in some of his many activities. I have always thought that everyone should be able to just drop everything and go fishing whenever they felt like it. I know that things don't always allow that to happen, but I still think it is a good idea.
Fishing is my favorite sport and I have been doing it ever since I was a little sprout. Grandpa had a small pond just below the barn and it was full of little bluegill. All I needed was a fish hook, a pole, a piece of string and some worms. Each summer, in my bib overall pockets, I carried a pocket knife, a red bandanna handkerchief, half a corn cob with a fish hook stuck in one end and a length of twine wrapped around the outside. That was pretty much standard equipment for small boys in those days.
Lazy, warm summer afternoons would find a group of us wading up the small stream that was flowing nearby. When we came to the holes that were still and deep we would cut a willow branch and attach the length of twine, put on the hook, and then tie the corn cob into the line for a bobber. We could usually find some earth worms, crawdads or willow buds for bait. It was easy to catch a mess of bluegill or bullhead catfish. We would string them on a willow branch to take home and have fried fish for supper. Of course I had to clean them before Grandma would cook them.
Once a person becomes addicted to fishing it becomes a life-long habit. There is no cure or vaccine for it. You just have to learn to live with it. Nowadays, it requires considerably more fishing gear to really enjoy the sport. I have been collecting fishing gear for at least sixty years. I have several casting rods, fly rods, reels, nets, wading boots, dozens of fish hooks, weights, bobbers, lures, plugs, flies, etc. In fact, my tackle box resembles an overnight suitcase and weighs at least ten pounds. I make a practice of cleaning it out every ten years, whether it needs it or not.
Over the years I have heard a good many fish stories --- some true and some almost true. I can even spin a few myself. One of my favorite stories is about my friend Frank. He was a city boy and grew up in Ohio. His dad was a stern German man, who believed his sons should learn to work first and fish later, if they could find the time. Frank and I were working on a research project and we were pretty well tied down for several months. Finally, we could see the end, so I suggested we go fishing. I belonged to a sports club and had access to several deep ponds in the Oklahoma hills. Frank needed a little coaching at first, but soon was catching small fish with ease. Suddenly he hooked a nice big bass. The pond bank was steep and high. Frank reeled in the big bass, laid down his pole and ran down to pick up the fish. Mr. Bass was no fool, so he flopped back into the water.&! ! #160; Frank retrieved his pole and reeled in the fish again. Again, Mr. Bass escaped into the water. The third time Frank reeled him up on the bank, he carefully laid down his pole, picked up a piece of tree limb, ran down to the water's edge and proceeded to pummel Mr. Bass to death. Our buddy Perry caught the whole scene on his camera. Frank couldn't deny this tale, so he bragged about "the fish that didn't get away."
I heard another fish story about Frank from a third party. It seems they had gone fishing in the Minnesota north woods for northern pike. Due to the pike's vicious nature, the fishermen used a small wire cover for the minnows, called a "harness". Frank didn't have one, so a friend loaned him one and instructed him on how to place the minnow inside, and close it. Frank struggled for awhile and finally held it up for inspection. His friend approved of his handiwork and told him to toss it out and try trawling with it. Frank tossed it overboard and watched it disappear. He had forgotten to tie it on his fishing line.
I spent about a year in Minnesota. They have short, but intense, fishing seasons up there. The days grow long about the first of June and fishing is at its best. I had another friend named Grant. He agreed to take me fishing on Lake Minnetonka. He picked me up at 4 a.m. and it was already getting daylight. When we arrived at the boat dock, the fog was so thick you could cut it with a knife. I carried Grant's two tackle boxes to the boat and I swear they weighed twenty pounds apiece. Grant seated himself at the tiller, pulled out his compass, took a reading and away we went. He ran the motor full throttle for exactly eleven minutes and shut it down. We drifted slowly for a few minutes and suddenly out of the fog appeared an old abandoned boat dock. Grant's favorite fishing spot. As the sun broke through, the fish began to bite. The wall-eye season was open, but the bass season was not. So what did we catch? You guessed it --- bass! Dozens of bass: big, little and in-between. We fished until noon and I think we caught and released at least thirty bass, many of legal size. We ate lunch and afterwards we caught a few wall-eye, mostly small.
Fishing is still fun. I have been invited to meet a group of fishing buddies in May down on Grand Lake. I think I'd better clean out my tackle box again.
Which reminds me --- I forgot to ask Henry how he did.