Thursday, October 16, 2014


Summer is stagnant and never-ending in the South.  And when the sun seems to melt the passage of time, and willing-to-eat, enthusiastic fish fin the waters of farm ponds with water cooler than the air, it's not uncommon to find me at my favorite local arena several days a week.

Photo by Matt Reilly

    It's this place that continues to teach and reteach me a valuable lesson:  In nature, it seems, the more you get to know a place the more mysterious it becomes.  There's something special about the unknown, which I believe is central to the sport of fishing as we all know it.

    I was in the midst of a particularly productive summer season on the banks of said pond, with a long rod in hand and a popping bug tied like a bad habit to the end of a staunch, level leader.  On many separate occasions I had taken respectable largemouth bass from the surface of the pond, along the heavy lily pad breaks and grass pads, and I was fairly dialed in to the fishery I was targeting.

   Though fish tend to be more willing to break the surface in overcast conditions, it is not a rule on that body of water; but regardless, the heavy-gray morning sky leaking an intermittent drizzle boosted my chances considerably and made for a pleasant fishing atmosphere.

    Fifteen minutes into waving my 8-weight, a gaping mouth intercepted my popping bug's chug-chugging course towards the edge of the pads and closed, spewing an air bubble the size of a softball into the atmosphere in what sounded like an earth-bound meteorite breaking the water's surface.  The fight was on.  The fish made consecutive runs, right, parallel to the weedy edge, then left.  When it's fighting energy was depleted, it sounded and buried itself in a thick subsurface wad of grass.  I edged out into the water, chest-deep, and found the fish's mouth at the end of the leader and lifted.  Another trophy was added to my season's tally.

    It wasn't long after that morning that I returned to my favorite playground.  The ground where I had fought and landed the storied fish of a few days prior was taken by another.  Not a fisherman, but an allusion to one--a sparkle-finished Champion bass boat, anchored in place and devastated.  Paint chipped from the finish, remnants of fishing tackle and days of relaxation and drinking colored the deck, where carpet was shedding from fiberglass.  The seat cushions were dilapidated, the electronics obviously shot, and the steering wheel detached from the console and riding squarely on the deck.  Grass and weeds gripped the craft naturally, as if shipwrecked long ago and left unsalvaged on the banks of a timeless ode to summertime in the south.

    It remained for months, and still does remain motionless and unmolested.  No one seemed to know where the boat had come from or why it was so weathered and beaten.  But somehow it didn't remain a mystery for long, but was accepted shortly as a wild and simple act of nature--of human nature, even.  Though one could raise a fuss about littering and degradation, the boat grew quickly to be seen as a feature of the landscape, a casting platform from which to ply the waters of the pond with greater reach, until the air turns cold and the fish abandon their fondness for surface feeding, and the craft is out of season.  Then, I will not be surprised if it should be gone.

No comments :