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OUTDOORS COLUMN: Sometimes it's all about the catching

Herald Outdoors Columnist

Herald Outdoors Columnist

I’ve preached the sermon for years. The outdoor experience is not about catching and killing. It’s far more important just to “be there,” experiencing nature, honing one’s outdoor skills, observing, becoming one with your surroundings. Full stringers and fat game bags are secondary things.

Usually.

Not today, though. Today I want that fish, the one I know for certain lurks just below the surface beneath the shade of the lily pads.

She’s there, no doubt about it. A big old largemouth. I’ve seen her roll a half dozen times since daybreak. Ten pounds? Maybe twelve? Doesn’t really matter. I want her.

I want to toss a weird-looking something into her lair. I want to anger her. I want her to suck my lure into her gaping mouth and make the water explode with geyser-like ferocity. I want to set the hook at just the right instant. I want, for a fraction of a second, to feel a solid, immovable weight at the end of my line. Then, as my rod bends and the drag system on my reel goes into action, I want to feel her move, want to sense her power, want to say aloud, “Fooled you, old gal. Gotcha!

Today I want ignore the eerie, beautiful mist that shrouds the blackwater slough. I don’t want to artfully or aesthetically consider the stately cypresses, the lovely bejeweled dragonflies, the purple blooms of the pickerelweed, or the deliberate patient waiting game played by the great blue heron on the opposite bank. Today I am in pure-angler mode. This morning I am a bass fisherman, not a naturalist.

I want that fish.

I don’t know why. I just do. Catching her is of utmost importance today.

Let’s see, now. The Devil’s Horse? No. It’ll snag in the pads. Bang-O-Lure? Uh uh. Same problem. Buzzbait? I think not; I believe a slower presentation is in order. Something weedless, and quieter. No rattles. A bit more finesse is called for, I think.

Ah, yes. The Moss Mouse. But what color? Gray? Green? Gray, I think. Yeah, that’s the one.

I tie on the lure. Looks real. Now to make it act that way. I cast. Wonder of wonders, it lands precisely where I want it, right there in that small open pocket in the middle of the pad patch. Not too fast, now. Be patient. Let the ripples disperse. Okay, now. Twitch it once, ever so slightly.

Nothing.

Again.

Nothing.

Dadgummit! I just knew she’d be right there, ready to…

Whoa! There she is! Almost jerked my arm off. Barely time to set the hook.

Big fish that she is, she doesn’t bother with silly, frenetic leaping and dancing. She turns nose down and bores straight into the lily pad stems. I get a brief glimpse of her. She’s as big as I thought she was. Got to get her out of the cover. If I don’t, she’ll foul me for sure. Why on earth didn’t I spool up with braided line?

I take a second to feel proud of myself as I horse the venerable old matriarch bass from the tangled vegetation. There, old gal. Gotcha out in open water now. Come to Papa. Can’t wait to kiss you on your big old head before I release you. Won’t be long now. Thirty feet. Twenty. Now…

Now, nothing.

The line goes slack. The Moss Mouse, still looking for all the world like a real baby rat, rises to the surface. There’s naught but a swirl to mark the spot where she ejected the lure.

The rapid beating of my heart subsides, in marked contrast with my rapidly increasing disappointment. I raise my bowed head and look around me. The mist still shrouds the slough. The cypresses remain stately. The dragonflies flit back and forth from one pickerelweed frond to another. The blue heron continues his patient vigil. The scene is beautiful, pristine.

But today I don’t care.

I wanted that fish.

I really did.

Questions? Comments? E-mail Bob Kornegay at cletus@windstream.com