By Otha Barham
The Meridian Star
The sun was bearing down and the bass in my live well had relatives that were now ignoring my topwater lures. They had gone deep where only a worm or lizard fished low and slow would interest them. That melancholy feeling that comes upon me when the topwater action stops was setting in and I was feeling a little tired.
I cut the white buzz bait off the line and the Pop-R off my other rig and stashed them in the plastic tray. I swiveled in my chair and laid the boron rod and Ambassador reel on the bright blue carpet of the bass boat’s floor. I pushed the tilt button and heard the electric motor whine as the big Mercury slowly leaned forward, bowing like a queen’s subject preparing to be knighted. Swinging around forward, I switched off the depth finder and brought the troll motor to action with my right foot and headed for the shade of a hardwood overstory that surrounded a small inlet.
As the big fiberglass boat glided into the shaded nook, the boat conveniently ran aground on an underwater sand bar. I switched off the troll motor and moved to the bench seat behind the boat’s steering wheel to take my break. Whether from weariness, sleepiness, laziness, or just feeling contented, I laid down on the long seat and slid a life jacket under my head. The familiar song of a red-winged blackbird wafted from nearby willows, its stuttering melody bringing a pleasant peace to my resting.
...Hurrying home from school that warm spring day, and while changing into the old ragged khaki pants and T-shirt, I am thinking little about the troubles that the day has brought, practically all centering around arithmetic.
The fishing pole is there, leaning against the tree at the edge of the woods where I left it beside the coffee can with the holes punched in its lid. A couple of twists and the black braided line is secure enough around the pole for me to trot down to the creek without tangling it on a persimmon sprout or a huckleberry bush.
I need a float for my line today, because I will fish for the feisty bluegills in the holes that dot the rocky shallows of Gallagher Creek. From my pocket I retrieve a cork that I had salvaged from an empty bottle of that black, syrupy medicine Mama always gives us kids in the spring. I frown as I notice the dark end of the cork and am careful not to get it near my nose where I might catch the smell of that awful potion. A dead goldenrod weed should be about right to fit the hole I had made in the cork with an old leather punch. I cut the hook from the line, run the line through the hole in the cork and push a five-inch piece of goldenrod stem through, a couple inches protruding from each end. Holding the cork, I give the line a pull and it slides through the cork with appropriate resistance.
Back onto the line goes the hook and I drop the rig to the ground. Time to get some bait. I wade the shallow water where centuries of runoff has cut only a few tub sized holes in the solid rock bottom, and make my way up the far bank where grass grows thick on the flat beneath scattered pines. Grasshoppers like grass. Two steps into the grass a fat hopper buzzes away. I slow my pace and on the third try I nail one of the yellow-green insects to the ground and grasp two legs as he spits tobacco juice onto my fingers.
On the hook the juicy grasshopper kicks all six legs as I lower him into the dark water of the hole nearest the bank where I sit in the sand beneath the old leaning beech tree. The cork swirls slowly around the tub-size hole, retracing again and again its path in the eddy formed by the clear water; the liquid glass that flows over the shallows of Gallagher Creek.
Suddenly the cork stops and disappears. I lift the pole sharply, pulling hard, and out of the hole flops a bluegill, full of colors that thrill my eyes, almost too beautiful to believe. I swing him onto the sandy bank and grab him before he flounces back into the stream. I stake him out several feet upstream on my stringer made of a willow stick and a string.
In the grass, with renewed enthusiasm, I catch six more grasshoppers. My heart pounds and the tightness in my throat is all but ignored as I lower grasshopper number two into the dark hole. The cork renews its slow circling, circumnavigating the little hole, its protruding goldenrod staff listing right and left, to and fro in slow motion, like the mast on some miniature sailboat. Its steady swirling is hypnotic and, coupled with my contentment, is making me sleepy. I lean back against the big leaning beech tree and finally close my eyes.
I awake with a start and look around for the cane pole and coffee can of grasshoppers. Instead I see the shiny Ambassador reel on the jet black rod. I see the tackle bag stocked with a hundred fine lures. The sand at my feet has turned to a smooth, blue carpet.
At dusk when I reach the marina, a nearby angler asks in a friendly voice, “Did you catch anything?”
“Yeah”, I reply with a reflective smile, “you could say I caught a couple of days' worth.”