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Old 07-30-2018, 05:03 AM
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joseph engraver joseph engraver is offline
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Sarzana,Italy
Posts: 661
Default The pursuit of a fish

Not having known a father as a young boy I got attached to my grandfather. He was not a tall person., but he was broad shouldered, with a barrel chest, muscular arms and walked with brisk determination .I have always thought of him as a man hewed with an axe from the trunk of a chestnut tree. He lived during the pre war depression and he fed his family by fishing, trapping, and hunting. Through him I learned the way to fish the brooks and ponds of rural New Hampshire.
There is something about fishing that has fascinated humans for centuries. The smallest minnow, to the giant ones that inhabit the waters of the entire planet have caused hearts to beat faster, put food on tables and made humans dance with excitement, even taken many lives.
This is a passion that I developed as a child when I first accompanied my grandfather with the oil lantern light through the woods down to the pond to fish for eels and catfish. I soon learned to ignore the sting of mosquito´s and unhook a catfish without having my hand impaled by its venomous spikes. He taught me that these slimy fish would live for hours when they were placed in a wet burlap sack. At the end of the night when the lantern was almost out of fuel we would take them home. Then he would put them in a large wooden barrel that caught the rain water from the roofs so Grandmother could have fresh fish to cook for many meals. Since that time I have had the fishing addiction, and the passion never left me.
I still can remember the excitement I felt as a child over the first fish I caught with a worm impaled on bent pin, tied to a string and willow branch. It was a small brook trout with orange and red spots its fins trimmed in white. That memory has stayed with me for over seventy years. That first little fish has over the decades motivated me to spend significant sums of money, and time learning how to catch many other species. My grandfather who was part Indian taught me a lot about catching fish. He showed me how, and where to cast into the currents of the brooks and rivers where the flow of water swept around rocks and boulders. He said that was where the fish waited for their food to be swept by. He told me that fish can feel the vibration of my footfall, that I needed to approach the water with stealth by walking on the front part of my foot as the Indians had done not heel first as most people do. He explained the shadow I cast upon the water would scare it away. He would take me with him when he placed a wire screen in the river to catch stonefly, salamanders, hellgrammite and May fly larvae that we dislodged while turning over the river rocks up stream. It was my duty to go out at night with a flashlight in search of worms and night crawlers for his fish bait that he kept in a box filled with coffee grounds and old newspaper in the dugout cellar under the house he had built for my grandmother, my mother, her sister and brother. In the spring I went with him to the brook that ran beside the coffin makers shop .There I held the lantern while he gigged the suckerfish and l put them into a burlap sack to be carried home and placed in the garden to fertilize the corn and tomato plants. I still carry the scar from his gig when it sliced my hand open as I removed a fish to put into the sack .My grandfather never stopped to look at the wound .His only comment was “It will heal and a little blood lost won’t kill you”. Although he taught me how to fish he would never tell me where he fished. He always went trout fishing alone. When he would return home his wicker creel full of big fat brook trout lying in a bed of moss. I would ask him where he caught them. His answer was always the same. "If I tell you, you will tell your friends and they will ruin my secret place. But, I will tell you where I go. Then it is up to you to find this place. I go to Rainbow pond and then walk to Horseshoe Mountain till I come to Lucky brook. When I get there, I follow the water until I come to Strawberry meadow. That is where all the biggest fish are.
Then one day on my ninth birthday he said. Today I have a present for you. He went into his workshop then returned with all of his old Field And Stream magazine wrapped in a bundle and tied with twine along with a bamboo fly rod, handed them to me saying as he did so. “These are for you to read, there are many stories that will help you to learn how to use this rod. Now, when you find your Strawberry meadow you must not tell a soul how to get there.” In the many years that I have been pursuing fish I have found my own secret places , and shed blood several times, whenever I did his words would always come to mind.
It was the summer of my twelfth year that I caught the fish that brought me local fame. It was a Pickerel that measured twenty eight inches long. I caught it on my grandfather’s fly rod with a red and white daredevil spoon. By good fortune there was a man who witnessed the event. I had no idea that my fish would cause such excitement .He came rushing over to me and wanted to measure and weight my fish. It was when he told me that it might be of record size that I suddenly felt important , when he took my photo holding it, I knew that I wanted to preserve my trophy. When I returned home my mom was not very impressed. She said, ”that fish has too many bones and is not very good to eat” That was fine with me as I wanted to have it mounted by the local taxidermist .I took my bike and the fish to him to mount for ,my bedroom wall. When he told me that it would cost two dollars for each inch in length, I gave up the idea and put it in the chest freezer where it stayed for the next two years, to be brought out and, proudly shown every time we had guests. Eventually it shriveled and dried out. Then one day when I was not home my mom got rid of it.
Many of my friendships have been made while talking about, planning or going fishing- One friend I had, was the son of a wealthy real estate broker. He had all the newest fishing equipment and he would discuss the merits of fishing with spinning reels, fiber glass rods, and monofilament lines as opposed to my braided line and bamboo rod to the point of punches being thrown. I read every copy of Outdoor Life magazine he had, then I practiced in the yard learning how to cast with my grandfathers present. I still use a fly rod, and the memories of my grandfather are still with me. L.ike my grandfather I have always been most comfortable fishing in solitude.
This changed when I took the most enthusiastic, and passionate person I know, and who is my wife, fishing with me on the Wallowa River near the town of Enterprise Oregon. It was a beautiful fall afternoon when I convinced her to try. We drove down to the clear ice cold river and I found a spot where she could cast one of the worms she carried in a small white cosmetic purse. I impaled one on a hook, very concerned that she would get wet or dirty the spotless white jumpsuit she had put on for this occasion. It took her several tries before she managed to put her bait into the water, but it was not long before she hooked a small rainbow trout. I never had seen her so excited as she was when the fish that was not more than seven inches long was flopping in the grass; It was when I unhooked it and started to put it back in the water that she protested. “Can I keep it; it is my first ever fish and I want to take a picture when we go home to send to my sister.”
We were recently married and still on our honeymoon, so I decided that there was no argument that I could think of to save that fish, I put it on a small forked stick. Unfortunately, no other fish was to be caught in that spot...I asked, “Do you want to go home now?” Her answer surprised me. ”Oh no, this is too much fun and it is exciting, I want to catch enough for supper.”
I knew that further up stream there would be better fishing, so I cleared a pathway through to brush and briars took her hand and said.”Follow me my love, and be careful you don’t get dirty or scratched by the thorns.”I started to take the fish. Again she surprised me when she said, “I caught it and I want to carry it.”It was not long before we entered a beautiful meadow and the walking was easy.
I went ahead looking for a place where the water could hold trout behind rocks and the undercut in the stream bank. Then I came to a streamlet about a foot wide. The water was crystal clear and appeared to be at the most four inches deep. Normally I would have stepped into it, but there was a large fallen branch lying across it .I decided to walk across testing my balance on the branch. Once on the other side I continued studying river for fish holding water. Suddenly I heard my new bride screaming in Italian “Aiuto, Aiuto”, help, and help.
I turned around rushed back to where I had left her and found her sunk up to her waste in black stinking muck. I reached down to pull her free. Instead she said “First take my fish” That is when I knew she was to be my lifelong fishing partner.
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"What a large volume of adventures may be grasped within this little span of life by him who interests his heart in everything"-Lawrence Sterne
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