Part of me wants to be a country boy, whatever that means.
I’m always stuck somewhere between being true to who I am and trying to become something else. It used to be a jazz musician, then it was a music technology geek, then it was an angler. I am certainly all those things, but it’s hard to say whether I became them naturally or forced the issue by doing stereotypical things.
I suppose whenever I do something new I always approach it from my own, usually strange, perspective. Case in point: When I started fly fishing I used barrel swivels and size 6 dry flies– generally a no-no. But I caught fish.
I grabbed the cane pole, some hooks and worms and headed out into the backyard. I can say with some certainty this had less to do with trying to be a country boy and more to do with catching fish. I thought the cane pole would be the perfect way to fish our brushy stream.
That said, walking out back with my camo baseball cap, my tall rubber boots and a cane pole, I was in my own mind a walking stereotype.
I respect self-reliance, independence, and general know-how, all things that the stereotypical country person has. I have very little know-how or common sense; perhaps that’s why I’m drawn to the idea of a country boy. I can’t fix a fence and I have no idea how cars work, but I can usually fix computer issues and I know how to write software. My idealized country person can fix anything, can grow their own food, can fend for themselves, and is tough.
I shouldn’t be so caught up with trying to fit some artificial idealized stereotype, but if it helps me gain common sense and know-how, I’ll take it.
The cane pole is a marvelous invention. I don’t know how long mine is, but it’s about the width of our creek. I figured I could surgically fish the spots I knew contained fish while staying well behind the waters edge. I grabbed a length of fishing line and tied it to the tip the same way I tie thread to flies. I don’t know how you’re supposed to tie line to a cane pole but this works.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out my container of worms, most of which came from dirt nearby. I grabbed a juicy one and threaded it onto the hook. I couldn’t find any split shot, so instead I grabbed a metal thing that goes around a screw or something. I think it’s called a nut. I’ll have to look that up (I’m still learning names of tools and hardware and such.)
I carefully dunked the poor little worm into the fish-infested water, which immediately grabbed the attention of minnows. Then, suddenly, the line began to zig-zag and I knew I had a bigger fish on. I pulled the pole up and removed my catch.
It never gets old. I love catching fish. Even better literally in my backyard. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve such an amazing luxury, but I sure do appreciate it.
In my limited experience on our creek, I know that any given hole will only give up fish for a limited time. The water is so shallow the fish spook easily, and even the creek chubs get hip to my game after a while. I moved upstream to fish the other nice hole on our property.
I crept into the water, moving painfully slow, trying to be like a heron. If I am quick and careless the fish will spook; Only when I am slow and quiet do I have a chance of catching fish. This may be true for larger bodies of water but it is my mantra in waters like this.
Crouching low, I flipped my worm into the hole and watched minnows swarm it. Creek chubs, but none of them big enough to grab the #6 dry fly hook I was using.
Suddenly I noticed something in the middle of the pool, barely visible even with my polarized sunglasses. It was a fish-shaped piece of wood laying right on the bottom.
No, it was two fish-shaped pieces of wood laying right on the bottom.
I stopped fishing and moved a bit closer to the fish-shaped pieces of wood.
For as clear as the water seems to be, it sure is hard to get a good look at things on the bottom– only a foot under the surface. It is like one of those 3D pictures you have to stare at for a while before the image pops out.
I stared and stared and then I realized they weren’t fish-shaped pieces of wood, they were fish!
I estimated about eight to ten inches long. There were two of them sitting absolutely motionless on the bottom.
First I was excited about finding bigger fish, then I was perplexed by what kind of fish they were. There were creek chubs all around, swimming in the upper part of the water column. It was easy to compare, and the fish on the bottom were certainly not creek chubs.
I kept staring, crouched motionless in the water, cane pole in hand. Could they be sculpins? I didn’t really know what they looked like, so I carefully pulled my phone out. After a quick google image search I concluded they were definitely not sculpins. These fish had smaller fins and eyes compared to the pictures I was looking at.
Smallmouths? I did another google image search to refresh my memory (it’s been a while since I’ve encountered a smallie on my line) and again I concluded no– these were not smallmouth bass.
So trout then?
I stared, my eyes burning a hole through the water. I noticed the eyes were in front of the mouth creases, there were fins next to their gills, their tails were small and if not square, then square-like. It was hard to tell from above the water, but it looked like they were mottled with contrasting dark and light spots. Maybe parr marks?
What else could they be? The longer I stared the more I believed they were trout. I’d seen brook trout in water like this behaving in exactly the same way: Sitting motionless on the bottom, blending into rocks and debris, smaller creek chubs all around.
Then a train came by on the tracks not twenty feet from the pool I was fishing. For some reason it stopped and now with it blocking the sun I was able to see even better into the water.
If they weren’t trout, they were some species I’ve never seen before. I was sure of it.
I crouched there in the water, flinging worms in front of them with absolutely no response. The creek chubs chased the worms, but the mystery fish just sat on the bottom.
Until I made a quick movement and in a poof of sediment they were gone.
The train eventually left and so did I, happy to had a new goal in life: Catch those mystery fish in my backyard.
Part of me wants to be a country boy, whatever that means.