Thomasville Times Enterprise

Opinion

April 15, 2014

Spring break fishing memories

THOMASVILLE — Ahh, the sweet freedom of spring break. The precursor to the summer, hinting of much bigger and warmer things to come not too far down the proverbial road.

Last week was ours. Even though I spent half of it in bed fighting some kind of stomach bug clearly borne from Krakatoa, it still was nice.

I don’t know about you, but there are few things in life that bring me as much joy these days as not having to wake up to an alarm clock.

But I digress. In thinking back to all the spring breaks of my life, one in particular has always stood out.

I was probably around 10 or so, living in Jacksonville, Fla., and on a camping trip with my grandfather, D.C. Duren, to O’Leno State Park down near Lake City. This was one of granddaddy’s favorite camping spots, because the campground was canopied with beautiful, huge pines — and there was good fishing off of the banks of the Sante Fe River.

See, for my grandfather, fishing didn’t mean hundreds of dollars’ worth of fancy rods and reels and tackle boxes full of the latest-greatest stuff. Nope, for him fishing meant a can of worms, a hook, a piece of lead and a bobber, some line, and a long cane pole.

You tied the line to the very end of the cane pole, you tied the hook on to the line, squoze the lead on with some pliers above the hook, connected the bobber to the desired depth, hooked a worm, wet your hook and you were fishing.

On this particular trip, my very citified friend, Scott Leach, asked if he could come along on the trip.

Now, to understand the nature of my grandfather, you had to understand one thing clearly: if he saw an opening to be able to pick on you, then you were going to get picked on. And, if he didn’t pick on you, it probably meant he didn’t care for you.

For instance, I remember clearly when I was a little thing him explaining cane pole fishing to me and showing me how to do it. When after a while he was catching fish and I wasn’t, he suggested “maybe you ain’t holding your mouth right.” I started watching him to see how he was holding his mouth, and he, knowing I eventually would do just that, started jutting his lower set of false teeth clear out of his mouth.

Trying to ‘hold my mouth right,’ I started jutting my lower jaw out as far as I could while still not catching any more fish. When I noticed his belly bouncing with laughter, I knew I had been had.

So after setting us on the bank with our poles, it became pretty clear to D.C. that Scott had no idea what he was doing. After trying to fling his line out on the water three times, Scott had hooked his shirt twice and his pants once.

The key to cane pole fishing is slow patience. You drop your worm in the water and watch your bobber. If your bobber doesn’t bob you adjust the bobber and try again in a different spot. And pretty much, if you are patient enough, you’ll catch fish.

But patience and a young boy aren’t synonymous. After figuring out how to slowly flip the line out onto the water, nary a minute would go by before Scott would pull his out, frustrated.

Needless to say, D.C. sensed an opening.

“Ya know,” he said to my friend through a grin and his half-chewed Rigoletto cigar sitting on a five-gallon bucket, “ya might have better luck if you try biting the worms in half.”

Scott didn’t say a word. He grabbed his cup of worms and headed down the river a bit.

After about 10 minutes or so, we heard him let out a little yip of joy. He had caught a fish. Soon after, he caught another, and then another.

Of course, D.C. was just steadily pulling in bluegill as big as his thick hands. “Those are good eating size right there,” he’d say with each one.

After some time had elapsed it was time to go back to the campsite and clean our catch. We hollered for Scott to come on, which he did, proudly carrying his stringer with five little bream on it.

However, I noticed a trail of dirt running down the side of his mouth. I cocked my head and squinched my face and said, “what’s that dirt on your mouth?”

“Why, I was biting the worms in half just like he told me, and I started catching fish!,” he answered. “Why do you ask?”

Rarely have I seen my grandfather get so tickled that he simply dropped everything in his hands those hands could go on his knees to support him from falling down laughing, but this was one of those times. His deep-guffaw could be heard up and down the river, just over the sounds of Scott trying to spit every germ in his mouth out.

I talked to Scott a few years back, and he now tells the story of how his friend’s grandfather tricked him into biting worms in half to catch fish to his own sons — who now have tried the same trick on their friends.

That’s a spring break that will truly live forever.

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