Copyright 2005 – Stephen Redgwell
When I was twelve, my best friend’s name was John. We lived for weekends and our all day fishing trips.
John and I had a special kid’s way of appreciating Saturdays. You got away from the house, chores and your little sister for a whole day…and wouldn’t get yelled at once! A guy could wander around the bush like Hawkeye and Chingachgook, last of the Mohicans. It was great.
One dad would drive us to our fishing spot. The other would bring us home. It was just me and John from early in the morning until about five o’clock. Come to think of it, this had to be good for our parents too because they got the entire day to themselves.
Our favourite place to go was the dam at the Stumpville River narrows. You could fish off of it, or walk down the bank on either side where the current wasn’t so strong. The faster water that flowed through the spillway in the middle of the dam had all the pickerel. Beside that, where the water wasn’t moving quite as quickly, was where the bass hung out. If you fished the still water on either side, you could catch catfish.
Finding bait was never a problem. We used to pick dew worms off the lawn the night before our trips. Sometimes, if we were bored, we’d walk down the side of the river below the dam and catch crayfish. The little lobsters lived under the rocks that were scattered along the bank there.
Of course, all bass and pickerel loved crayfish! With the water moving the way it did, presenting the little critters as bait was easy. All we did was hook them through the bottom of the tail and let the current do the work. They’d flap up and down in the water and it usually didn’t take long before a smallmouth or a pickerel grabbed it.
These were river fish that didn’t really get too big. The biggest bass I’ve ever seen from the dam was about fifteen inches long and maybe three pounds. Pickerel were generally two to three pounds as well, but made a fantastic shore lunch. This was back in the days when building a campfire on the river’s edge was commonplace…even for twelve year old kids.
I don’t like to interrupt a great story, but have to tell you about this special trip to the store the Friday before our big adeventure. It has to do with our trip to the dam, trophy fish and everything like that.
When John and I got to Sweeps General Store, we noticed a new shipment of lures had came in! These were the fancy ones that all the professional anglers used. I remember hearing all about them the previous winter, while watching Red Fisher on TV. There was a special two pack of spinners at the front counter. Okay, they weren’t the name brand kind, but you got two for twenty nine cents! But oh-oh, it was the last box left! John and I pooled our money and bought it on the spot. We couldn’t take the chance that someone else would grab it!
The box was almost too beautiful to open. There was this really neat looking, clear plastic top that sealed the cardboard container. This was printed on the bottom in bright red ink:
Bretta spinners catch the biggest fish and are used ONLY by the best fishermen!
Well now, didn’t that just scream success? Looking at them, you could tell that they had to be dynamite! Both spinners were the same except that one had hair tied to the treble hook. Since John put in fifteen cents and I only put in fourteen, he had first choice. I was a little jealous at first, but got over it.
I figured that the silver spoon with a mother of pearl sticker on it would mean that we’d never have to pick another worm again. How could the fish resist it? We each took a spinner and John said that he would put the box in with his tackle. Cool.
That night, just before I went to bed, I kept trying my lure in the bathtub. Man oh man! That little baby sparkled and glistened like the chrome bumper on my uncle’s Buick! It was going to be hard to sleep.
Back to the story!
Saturday morning I was up extra early. I was careful to pack all my gear – a lunch, drinks and that new lure – in my knapsack. My father had volunteered to drive us to the dam and I was ready to leave at six. Unfortunately, dad made me wait until nine before we picked up John.
All the way there, John and I talked non-stop. How many fish would we catch? Who would get the first one? How many minutes would it take? The trials of the young angler!
We barely had time to thank my dad for the ride. We dashed out of the back seat and headed toward the water! We quickly tied the new lures onto our lines, all the while discussing where each of us would stand to make our casts. John said that he wanted to try the fast water at the spillway. I chose the slightly slower water near the eddies just off the main current. Half running, we moved onto the dam.
At that point, I forgot all about John. I was in my special place and dreaming about the big ones! I watched excitedly as the spinner flew through the air, entering the water maybe fifteen yards downstream. I cranked a few turns, stopped, and gave the rod a couple of tugs. So smooth. Just like on TV. If Red was here right now, he would have been proud! Gordie Howe would have cheered me on too because he used to visit the Scuttlebutt Lodge quite often.
When I reeled the lure in, I pulled some water plants that had snagged on the hook. I tossed the spinner out again, just to the left of where it was the first time. About halfway back, I felt a tug! I pulled up hard on my pole but the lure flew out of the water and rocketed through the air like a missile. Okay, I missed it that time, but there were fish down there! And it only took two casts to get their attention!
John turned around when he heard the splashing. He asked if I caught anything and I said no, but I got a nibble! So he came over and threw his spinner in close to mine. Oh man, this was going to be great!
We each took a few more casts but decided that two people at the same spot was spooking the fish. John moved back to the spillway. I dug around in my knapsack for a bottle of Chocolate Soldier. I needed a drink! The sun was getting higher and it was warming up.
A few minutes later, John started making a fuss. “I got one! I got one!” he screamed, hopping around by the water’s edge. You could hear the drag going out and I stood there amazed as he pulled back on the rod. Never had I ever seen a rod bend over that far! It must be a whopper! We both watched the line as it moved farther away, moving with the current. I thought I saw something shiny come to the surface near his fish, but it was just a tree branch and some tin foil snagged on it, I think. After a few more seconds, John gave it one last pull and the line broke away with a snap. His prize fish was gone!
I kept trying, until I tied into the biggest fish ever! Near the same spot where I got that first nibble, a lunker grabbed my spinner and wouldn’t let go. It felt like a whale. All it did was to move to the bottom and not fight too much. I tried to horse it off the bottom, but I pulled too hard and the fish broke my line!
Since then, John and I said the same thing. We were just too inexperienced to handle the biggest fish in Stumpville River! It probably died of old age with half of the town’s lures in its stomach.
Neither of us will ever forget that day. Oh sure, we lost our lures alright, but I ask you, where could a kid go and have that much fun for twenty nine cents?