One day last week I parked my truck beside a mountain stream, pulled on my waders, and grabbed my ultralight spinning gear. I stepped into the creek and started eagerly upstream.
I headed for a fishing hole about 1/4 mile from my starting point. It could be reached by no other means except the upstream course I was following. Access to the spot was so limited and the journey there so strenuous, it was bound to be a seldom-fished location. Well worth the trouble.
‘Twas a trout fisherman’s dream: A deep, dark pool to be be fished by none but the most intrepid and adventurous angler. That angler, of course, being the intrepid and adventurous Bob Kornegay.
With determined doggedness, I slogged against the current, slipping on rocks, tripping over logs and, generally, wearing myself to a frazzle. I sustained two turned ankles and one almost-broken neck, and one hornets’ nest almost brushed by the bib of my old Troy University cap.
One more bend in the creek, a few more labored breaths and there it was. The spot. My hands shook with excitement as I fumbled for the jar of pseudo-salmon eggs in my vest pocket.
I baited my hook and cast my line. There was an immediate tug. I set the hook and snatched a 3-finger bluegill from the icy mountain water.
Say what? A bluegill? Here? Incredulous, I baited up and cast again. Six casts and six little bream later, I determined there were no trout in the pool. Worse, it dawned on me I had driven 400 miles and nearly killed myself to catch a half dozen throw-back bluegills. I could have done that back in south Georgia with a lot less trouble and pain.
Ah, outdoor life’s little surprises. This ultimate “trout pool” was just one more in a long list. There have been numerous others.
Like the time Cletus Monroe and I once shook some vines leading up to a squirrel’s nest. Three vigorous pulls, one quick burst of profanity, and a large raccoon tumbled from the tree. The animal landed unhurt, mainly because Clete cushioned its fall. Clete later mentioned how difficult it is to keep one’s mind on squirrel hunting when there’s a ticked-off, terrified ‘coon clawing at one’s eyes and ears.
Years ago, I got another surprise when a “20-pound bass” on the end of my line turned out to be a 5-pound bowfin. Stupidly, I hoisted the mudfish into my canoe, where he proceeded to spill my tackle box, bite my finger, thus causing the unstable boat to overturn. The slimy critter got away before I could bludgeon him to death with my paddle, but he swam off toting a really good cussing.
Once, on the bank of the Chattahoochee River, I set out to retrieve a stringer of catfish, only to find a gargantuan alligator snapping turtle clinging to the last fish in line. Startled, I slipped backward and sat down on a dead carp that was steadily ripening on the river bank. Sickened and disgusted, I did not challenge the old “dinosaur.” Not that I would really have wanted to even under the best of circumstances.
Of course, none of the above holds a candle to the most shocking surprise I’ve ever received. That was the day my friend’s Brittany spaniel pointed a big diamondback rattler that didn’t have the courtesy to buzz before I waded into the knee-high grass to flush our found “covey.” I was told later he rattled after I kicked him, but, truthfully, I was running too fast and screaming way too loudly to confirm that.
Arguably, however, even that may not compare to the wrathful reaction my wife had to my “surprising” her with the live ‘possum I captured late one night in the backyard. She always said she hated ‘possums. Turned out she hates the bearer of ‘possums even more.
Thinking on that, bream in a trout hole and a raccoon on one’s face seem like uneventful surprises indeed.
Email outdoors columnist Bob Kornegay at firstname.lastname@example.org.