Saturday, August 27, 2005

Orvis vs. Walmart

An uncanny ability has been mysteriously granted to a new generation of young men in my family: finding and catching fish. Two of my nephews and both of my sons possess the gifts. It is likely that my oldest brother was the transitional carrier of the gene that held this happy talent since the love of the sport was certainly not handed down from our dear old dad. Dennis ventured out at some point in his life and made fishing a lifelong pursuit. From the first cast he made (very likely in the cold and local waters at Illick’s Mill) he was hooked. His son Richie inherited the passion, then his nephew Jamie got it and now my boys, Roy and Luke have it. Although I love the pursuit and the time spent in boats and on banks, I was clearly bypassed when these gifts were handed out. I am, however, quite adept at the ancillary activities of drinking and smoking.

When Roy began showing signs of his remarkable prowess with a rod and reel I did what I could to offer him that which he needed to fish and improve. Since his introduction to casting and landing was focused primarily on small mouth bass, walleye and northern pike we acquired the equipment necessary to attract and catch those species: decent rods of various lengths and rigidity, a variety of spinning and bait casting reels and an assortment of jigs, lures, weights and other tackle. As Roy became fluent with the bait caster I was at the motor-end of the boat untangling another bird’s nest I had created inside my Shimano reel and, of course, drinking and smoking.

Living in middle Tennessee we are blessed with many bass waters. However, we also have access to a significant number of trout streams and Roy soon became intrigued with the urge to learn this different type of angling. He received a starter fly rod and reel for Christmas and I got a few location tips from my pal Wayland in preparation for the spring season. In April we made our way up to the Caney Fork - east out of Nashville on Interstate 40. As I recall, we crossed the Caney about 6 times before we exited, following Wayland’s directions to a ‘prime’ section of the river.

Roy and I pulled into a parking area that was already half-full with expensive SUV’s: Range Rovers, Expeditions and open-air Jeeps that appeared to have little or no off-road experience. We made our way down into the beautiful valley where the Caney Fork was particularly wide. Dotted all over the landscape were 40-something white guys clad in pricey waders, complicated vests and felt hats. They were all working elegant rods and high-tech reels. The other notable bit of data was this: none of them had any fish.

Roy and I worked some spots keeping our eyes on the competition. No fins, no bites, no trout. Changed flies - nothing. Changed water depth - nothing. Changed hats - nothing.

After a couple hours we tired of the game and thought we’d drive around and find another location. We got back on the highway heading toward Nashville and Roy suddenly asked, “Hey Dad, can we turn into this Rest Area?” “Sure,” I said, assuming this was a pit stop. He asked me to go to the far side of the parking area. I parked and realized that Roy had a hunch about this part of the Caney. It curved deeply behind this Rest Area. We grabbed our gear and trudged down the steep bank to the river. When we arrived at the bottom two locals were sitting in lawn chairs at water’s edge each with 2 poles in the water, a cooler full of Busch beer, a pack of Marlboro Reds, an open can of corn and empty Hardee’ sausage and biscuit wrappers strewn about them. The other notable bit of data was this: they both had a stringer full of good-size trout.

Roy and I made a quick trip into Smithville and returned with 8 bobbers and two cans of corn. Leaving the fly rods in the car we grabbed our light spinning rigs and arrived back at Redneck Haven. We ate trout that night and the next.


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