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Possumhaw: It was a big fish


Shannon Bardwell



From the dock the lake below was crystal clear, reminding me of those glass-bottomed boat rides of my childhood. I'm still taken with the creatures that dwell below the surface. I wish I could say, dwell harmoniously, but often it's not.  


Bream gathered, ranging from the size of your thumb to palm-sized. Among them swam a largemouth bass, smoothly weaving in and out like a predator shark. The bass swam close to the bream, then "bam," the bass struck, bream scattered, and mud clouded the water. Below the calm, clear surfaces it's a "fish eat fish world." 


It's the lake where Sam and I bass fish. Sometimes I think Sam is a better fisherman than the bass are. The mud cloud cleared, and there was the bass. Bass look like they're smiling, but I don't think this bass was. Sam says the mid-size bass are quicker and better at catching their prey than the old guys; such is life.  


Watching the fish reminded me of how much Sam loves fishing. I went to Sam's bookshelf and scanned his fishing books. 


His favorite is John Steinbeck's non-fiction "Travels with Charley in Search of America." The book is not about fishing but describes "Steinbeck's attention to the specific details of the natural world and his sense of how the lives of people are intimately connected to the rhythms of nature ­-- to weather, geography, the cycles of the season." 


Sam added a computer icon taking him directly to NOAA'S Tombigbee River and creek level report. Sam plans his fishing days to "the rhythms of nature -- to weather, geography, the cycles of the season." 


Next, there was John Gierach's "Trout Bum: Fly fishing as a Way of Life." There's one chapter on bass fishing.  


"A few nights ago A.K. referred to it as 'electric.' It's that thing a bass pond does in the later afternoon/early evening of a quiet, hot summer day when the fishing is about to get absolutely fabulous ... There's also a sound, scientific reason why a fisherman knows when he's about to have a screaming evening of bass fishing ... A.K. says ... 'this is eeeelectric' and digs out his big black-and-yellow deer-hair popper."  


Then "At the Grave of the Unknown Fisherman," also by John Gierach. 


"The biggest one -- about a five-pounder -- took the bug in thick cover ... It looked like a hopeless tangle ... but it was a big fish and I wanted it, so I threw down the rod and went hand over hand down the line to land him. It seemed like a fair catch at the time -- it always does with a five-pound bass in your hands ... It was a beautiful bass, though: big, fat, solid, and brilliantly green and bronze. Still, it would have been a more traditional job of fish playing if I'd had hold of my rod the whole time." 


I had a big one once, and I ran up the dam pulling it behind me. Sam hollered, "Don't you do it, don't you do it. You stand there and fight him!" 


I turned and fought that sucker. 



Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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