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OUTDOORS COLUMN: Those blasted fish spoiled my reverie

Bob Kornegay

Bob Kornegay

A couple of weeks ago I got an impulsive urge and went fishing on a little state park lake of which I’m rather fond. Figured it was warm enough. Unlike right now.

All I managed to coax from the depths were three small shellcrackers and one 3-pound channel catfish. The cat was feisty and a real battler on my ultralight tackle, but neither it nor the diminutive redear trio was what I was after.

What I did get that particular day, though, was a quite pleasant, too-brief reminder of what I like most about cool-but-not-cold weather in the South.

There was a tell-tale “bite” in the air that morning, a certain not-too-hotness that felt mighty good all the way through mid afternoon. It was one of those rare days when Mother Nature’s children and I seemed to operate on the same wavelength.

That sort of feeling is special and unique, something that occurs between summer’s heat and winter’s cold. When it is too hot, you see, the critters are apt to get wild and skittish. When it is too cold, they are (with a few exceptions) lethargic and often not to be seen at all. On mornings such as this one, however, most, like me, were simply lazy and sluggish. Creatures after my own heart.

Take that one little 4-foot alligator I spied resting atop a blown-down tree trunk extending out into the water. The white oak’s bole was small enough in diameter to allow the diminutive reptile’s four legs and feet to dangle downward toward the lake’s surface. His (her?) head rested in weary fashion on the bark and demonstrated no sign of life other than the reluctant opening of one eye as I floated, equally lazily, past in my Coleman Crawdad. Except for being a trifle better looking than I, the critter looked like I probably look on those mornings when I cast a baleful one-eyed stare toward my inconsiderate, beeping, cuss-worthy alarm clock.

A great blue heron, one of my favorite representatives of native avian fauna, did not even bother to fly away when I rudely disturbed his chosen fishing spot with an errant cast. The old stickbird even cut off his raucous vocal protest in mid-squawk, not deeming it, I suppose, worth the trouble it took to scold me. I guess he must have missed his morning coffee like I did. After one perfunctory glance at me, he stoically resumed his patient bankside stalking.

The lake’s sizable terrapin population; normally composed of a large gaggle of high-strung, nervous cooters, yellow-bellies, and sliders; stuck fast atop their logs, tree roots, and lily pads, soaking up the warm early morning sunshine. The only one I witnessed plopping into the water that pleasant morning did so only because it fell asleep in an unbalanced position. It occurred to me I had never seen turtles yawn before. Heck, I could swear I even saw some of them stretch and scratch their behinds. Really. I swear.

This lazy seasonal phenomenon even affected my fishbait. The crickets, for instance, were just plain too sorry to kick when I shoved a hook into them and the red wigglers just sort of hung there, too limp to be very appetizing. Not that, as it turned out, the fish would have wanted them under even ideal circumstances.

In the end, though, it was such “faunatical” attitudes that made my day.

I followed the wildlife’s example and (not unlike the little gator) reclined on the boat’s floor with my feet dangling over the side. My eyelids began getting heavy and started to droop. I was getting sleepy, sleepy ...

Then, Zap! That dadblasted channel cat sucked up my bait offering, motivating an awakening burst of adrenaline followed by two more hours of frenzied, unproductive angling.

Sometimes I just despise fish. They don’t know when to let well enough alone.