The Caney Fork and The Square Room: Part 2

Part II.

The trout had started to feed on some sort of bugs floating atop the water. Now, a fly fisherman would have immediately consulted a mental file of information and computed multiple possibilities of dry flies and nymphs with varying colors and hook sizes. However, as a bait fisherman, I knew exactly what to do. I grabbed the only bug that I had in my arsenal: a live cricket.

Upon casting into the nearest pool with what was left of my hopes for the day, I felt that old familiar tug that my father once warned me would haunt my dreams. After a flick of the wrist to set the hook, we embarked on the great struggle. I had perched myself on a section of the bank that sat steeply about 2 and a half feet above the water. Knowing that I had engaged a sizable fish, I started to consider how I would land him if I were lucky enough to get him to the bank. I had a small net, but knew that I could only utilize it if I was down at the water’s level. Otherwise, I would have to “hoss” him in one fell swoop from the water to the high bank on which I stood. For a moment, I considered traversing the steep bank and jockeying for position closer to the water’s edge, but thought better of the idea once I extrapolated the contour of the bank into the water and realized that one false step could send me ass over elbows into waters higher than my hip-waders. So, I steeled myself for the hossing.

Now, to hoss a fish is a delicate procedure. Once a fish is pulled from the water with the pole and line, he has the unique opportunity to wiggle unimpeded by the resistance of the water. Thus, he has a better chance to throw the hook and bounce safely into the waters from which he came. There is a moment of truth involved with hossing a fish. You must wait until the fish is positioned just the right way and has momentarily calmed himself. You have to negotiate the fishing line’s tension as well as any obstacles, such as tree limbs or rocks, as you guide the fish along the shortest path from the water to a location on the bank at which you can trap and control the fish. You must be bold and swift. It’s kinda like when Julia Child flips an omelet with the “courage of her convictions.”

Well, my moment of truth came and Julia would have been proud. I landed him in the sand of the bank and positioned myself between him and the water. He bounced twice on the sand, throwing the hook somewhere in the process. My heart raced as I dropped to my knees to get a hand on him. I had a rare moment of hesitation just before I touched him. This was my first brown trout and I didn’t know quite what to think. Perhaps fear and awe had gripped me for a moment as I realized that this was the largest trout that I had ever caught.

After tending to the fish with my creel, I couldn’t get another cricket on my hook fast enough. I took three or four more shots at the same hole, hoping that I had not disturbed the other fish that might be lurking below. However, a dark reality set over my heart consciousness as a cool breeze shot up from the river’s surface. I checked my watch to confirm this unfortunate epiphany. Sadly, the screen of my cell phone stared coldly back with the numbers and letters 1:05 P.M. C.S.T. After living in Nashville for 8 years, I had made a rookie mistake. I did not account for the time change from the Central to the Eastern time-zone. I had to be in Knoxville by 4 o’clock and still had a good two hours to drive. I would have at least a 10 minute walk back to my van and….well, you get the point.

I took the proverbial last cast, and begrudgingly packed it in. However, I sallied forth to Knoxville with a deep satisfaction of my ability to hunt and gather and an excitement about playing music with two dear friends. In the end, Drew and Ellie had a nice showing at the Square Room and the fish made it to my freezer. I slept that night with a contentment for miles traveled and waters waded and an anticipation for the road and waters to come.

Have a good weekend y’all.

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