Friday, October 8, 2010

Southern Wives’ Secrets

Southern Wives’ Secrets

Allen was coming to my house to leave his truck here while we went over near Augusta for a day of fishing. Yes, Augusta, in addition to a golf course, the Augusta area offers some opportunities for catching various species of fish. Georgia’s second oldest city was built on the bank of the river carrying the largest volume of water of any river east of the Mississippi, the mighty Savannah River. The south has lots to offer and Augusta is a leader in variety of activities for sportsmen. We could travel in one truck because we were meeting Sean who was driving over from Milledgeville to join us for the day. Sean’s truck would be used for the trip back upriver when we finished our float. It was drizzling rain at my home near Walnut Grove, but raining hard around Augusta according to the radar on the internet. I never considered not going because the forecast was only for eighty per cent rain and at that, only a few thunderstorms. I put four biscuits in the oven and eight slices of bacon in the microwave and went outside to load my boat and gear onto my truck. Fifteen minutes later Allen arrived a few minutes early. Allen is somewhat rare in that he is a reliable man in an unreliable world. He arrives on or ahead of time and won’t back out of a commitment short of some dire emergency. He is the kind of man that I like to say, “Sits steady in the boat, no matter what.”

I backed my truck up to Allen’s so he could transfer his stuff and we went inside for a cup of coffee and a couple of river biscuits. Sometimes I put scrambled cheesy eggs on them but today it was just seedless blackberry jelly on the buttered biscuits hot from the oven with two slices of turkey bacon on each. It took us about three minutes to swallow those in a couple bites for each and then we were on the road taking our coffee to go. I called Sean to check with him to see if it was okay if I dropped Allen and our stuff upriver at the put in before I met him downriver in North Augusta where there is a beautiful park with a great boat ramp and parking lot that is a safe place to leave vehicles.

The trip and shuttling vehicles was uneventful. We found ourselves in between the Augusta Canal and the Savannah River on a narrow peninsula where we would launch some 5 miles or so upstream from where we had left Sean’s truck. Allen scored first with a nice largemouth. Allen and I were both fly fishing while Sean was using bait casting tackle with various lures made of hard plastic, steel, wood or soft plastic. I messed around a while before finally feeling something down deep on a fly that was an imitation of a crawfish that needed a shave. When I set the hook I knew it was a pretty good fish. That fish burrowed towards the bottom and I tightened my grip on that nine foot long piece of graphite called a fly rod. It was a mid weight rod and bent double as I hollered at Allen, “Big’un, Big’un!!” I held on for dear life as the fish moved my kayak upstream and ripped line off the reel making a sound like errrrrrrrrr, errrrrrrrrr. Occasionally the fish slowed and I would strip line back in to keep the pole bent and the line tight. After Allen had time to wrap up his gear, and paddle to me maybe a three or four hundred yards, the fish decided that towing me and the boat upstream was a losing proposition. Turning around, the fish swam at me still burrowing to the bottom and varying speed. I was stripping in line as fast as I could and hoping that the fish would not turn and run away again because I had one big pile of line in my lap that would surely tangle. When the fish would slow down, I would grip the line against my fly pole and reel up the slack from my lap as fast as I could. Finally the fish was close. I have a nine foot tip on my fly line but I still could not see the tip line, but I could breathe again because I got all that slack back on the reel in case the fish ran away again. Allen was there, encouraging me and making a video of the action I thought. At one point I asked him to net the fish when it went towards his boat. As it turned out the fish came back past my boat and headed away then suddenly swirled and came to the top. I netted that fish right then and laid it in the water in the center of my kayak. I already knew it was a rockfish as we called them growing up in South Carolina, striped bass or striper for short is a common name the kids call them these days. Allen and I shared a moment of joy as we relished the victory.

I am a newbie on the fly pole. This was my first large fish and I was overjoyed. The rain stopped. The sun came out. Sean paddled down to join the celebration. All was right with the world as I released that fish to eat more crawfish and grow in the mighty Savannah. My wife knows a secret that many southern wives don’t know, but some do. When a southern sportsman catches a trophy fish, bags a big buck, scores a hole in one or some similar rare, lifetime type event, you can’t make him mad for about a week, no matter what you do, or how much money you spend. I knew I would have to tame my excitement and be nonchalant when I told her about our day and the joy we shared. Well, I couldn’t stand it. In about fifteen minutes I called her and gave a report and there was no doubt that she knew that her week of not worrying about offending me was underway. She’s southern to the bone and knows how a southern man reacts to catching and releasing a trophy fish on a fly rod. When we were dating over forty years ago, she used to fish with me on the Savannah River so she has tasted the victory the river offers for herself. Our oldest daughter caught her first fish up from Silver Bluff which is not too far downstream from Augusta. They say Desoto crossed the Savannah River at Silver Bluff. Bartram, the famous naturalist, was supposed to have crossed the river right near where we fished today; maybe we even crossed his trail.

Late that evening as Allen and I rolled back into my yard, I reflected that while we had had some moments of excitement, we had enjoyed hours of pleasure. Allen caught five species of fish, one of them a trophy in its own right, one of the Savannah’s fine Jackfish, and Allen’s first of the species. Sean had caught more than Allen and I put together, though smaller. It was a grand day on the mighty Savannah.

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Bill Prince

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