Just Something About Fishing (part one)
I am not sure how old I was when I first started fishing: however, I remember precisely when I became addicted to the endless pursuit of a perfect strike and hook set.
It was early summer in 1991; I was ten and ¾, so basically, I was 11. My father, a friend of his, Charlie Freeman, and I were out at a hunting property near Hico, Texas. Nothing was in season, but we were shooting the .22 caliber rifle and fishing the little stock tank. They were drinking Budweiser, and I had some "real" Dr. Pepper. After we ran through the ammo and cleaned the rifle, I grabbed my rod and reel and tore off to the stock tank.
Okay, I'll stop here for a second to catch up some of my readers on the terminology above. A "stock tank" is just a large water, storage area made out of dirt and rock, built by ranchers to hold water, so their cattle can drink. They are often "stocked" with an assortment of fish to keep the ponds relatively aerated and living. "Real" Dr. Pepper was, as my father had told me, Dr. Pepper made with real sugar, bottled not canned, and was purchased at the first Dr. Pepper bottling plant located in Dublin, Texas.
Alright, let us continue.
By the time I started fishing, it was late morning, and the temperature dial was steadily climbing toward that 100-degree mark. But, never underestimate the determination of a pretty much 11-year-old boy with a fishing pole. I was using a large spinnerbait lure and making long casts out to the center of the tank, then reeling back in at different speeds, hoping to piss off a Largemouth Bass enough to cause a strike. After an hour or so with zero success, other than clearing the pond of moss and weeds, Charlie calls out, "Toss it under that tree to the left." Without delay, I did as instructed, and sure as hell, I caught the tree! With a few expletives whispered under my breath, I stood there bewildered at my current predicament. It wasn't my first tree problem, but this time the lure was dangling precariously over the water on an extremely small limb of a mesquite tree. I had learned from a previous tree climbing experience, mesquite trees have thorns; so I figured, "the heck with it" and gave the line a quick tug, and much to my surprise, it did a couple of flips, unwrapping from the limb, and dropped right into the water. Again, I stood there, bewildered at what I just witnessed. "I can't believe that worked," I thought. No time for self-reflection, though; the line on my reel was humming away, causing the drag to sing. I jerked back on the rod and set the hook, and the fight was on. My rod tip bent significantly enough to cause Charlie and my dad to come over in order to watch the event. Almost as if cued by a director, the creature made its unveiling to the audience. It broke through the surface of the water with a fury. It was at this moment I uttered my first words of profanity in front of an adult, "Holy shit!" My father responded instantly, "What was that?" I responded equally as quickly with, "No time to talk important CHit going on here!" He and Charlie laughed, so I figured I was in the clear. Time to focus! It only counts as a catch if you land it, and this whale was far from caught. The fight continued long enough for Charlie to go over and replace their now empty beers; as he returned, I was wading out to free the beast from the water. I stride out of the tank, fish in my right hand, pole in my left, and my chest extending three feet before me. Charlie took my rod, and I removed the lure from the fish's mouth. I stood there in front of Charlie, and my Dad, holding my trophy. No photos were taken, but a photo could not have captured the moment well enough anyway. That night around the fire, I wasn't just a spectator to the stories; I now had my own. Charlie and Dad sat there, listened, laughed and engaged me in conversation. I was now not just my father’s son, but one of the guys.
It was at that moment though my real addiction began. I would seek that feeling feverishly, and although I would go on to catch many more fish, none would compare to that moment, until my mid-thirties, and then that feeling would come rushing back, and I would be that almost 11-year-old boy again.
Around the age of twelve, I saw a movie that would change my fishing quests forever. "A River runs Through It" introduced me to a new fishing style, fly fishing. The beauty of a fly fishing cast is what captured my imagination. It showed that there could be more to fishing than just throwing a lure in the water in reeling it in. There was an art to fly fishing. Perfecting the cast in order to present the fly in just the right manner, so it sits on top of the water coaxing a fish to rise then strike. This made casting as enjoyable as catching a fish.
However, I wouldn't begin fly fishing till around early spring of 2002; there just wasn't much of a demand for fly fishing gear in Fort Worth, Texas, so getting my hands on some never presented itself. Now twenty-two years old, I was working as a plumber, and every payday, I would go to either a local home improvement store and buy a new tool or go to a sporting goods store and cruise the fishing aisles looking for something I couldn't live without. Sometimes, if I didn't have bills or other expenses to pay, I would do both. On a Friday night, prior to hitting the bar for the weekly gathering of friends to play some pool and shed our shoulders of complaints built up from the workweek, I stopped by an "Academy Sporting Goods" store. While roaming the fishing section, killing time, I turned a corner, and hanging there before me was a box with the words, "The Scientific Angler, Fly fishing combo pack." I rubbed my eyes in disbelief, my hairs stood up on the back of my neck, a huge smile started to creep across my face, I looked down the aisle to make sure someone else wasn't about to steal my prize, and with hands trembling in excitement I picked up the box. Equally as shocking was the price tag; it was only fifty dollars. I nearly ran to the checkout line and had the money out before I arrived in front of the teller. I pulled out my cell phone and told one of my friends, "something's come up man, I'm not going to make it out." I got in my truck, and on the drive home, I called my boss and told him something had come up, and I couldn't work this weekend after all.
I got to my apartment, poured myself a drink, and unwrapped my present as though it was Christmas morning. I would spend almost the entire night tying knots, getting my fly reel set up with the backing, floating line, and a leader. Keep in mind this was before the YouTube era, so there weren't any videos I could watch to assist me with setting up my new toy; luckily, the box came with some decent information; it also came with an assortment of flies to use as artificial bait. About two o'clock in the morning, I was ready but had to wait for the sun. I went ahead and got dressed, thought about where I would go fishing, and imagined what I might catch. I looked down at my watch, and it was now half-past two o'clock. I remember thinking, "damn, sun, can't it hurry things up a bit." I tried to sleep, but my mind wouldn't let me. Finally, it was six; I got my gear loaded in the truck, stopped, got some coffee, and headed to the Trinity River. I sat on the bank, drinking my coffee, waiting for the fish to start hitting bugs on the surface. I stepped out into the shallows of the river, and just like that, I found out casting wasn't something I could just do. I spent the entire day learning to cast, through trial and error, I finally figured out a cast that looked okay and got the line out. I didn't catch anything though, except my ear and the middle of my back.
This would be the beginning of a new journey in my fishing side of life. Through this time, I would learn, we do not fish just to catch fish, but for a deeper reason. I would also realize there is just something about fishing.
To be continued