Published in The Lebanon Democrat, Tuesday, April 15, 2014.
SAN DIEGO – As spring stretches into the reality of real spring, both back home and in the Southwest corner, Maureen and I prepare for our trip east.
We are excited about celebrating our grandson Sam’s eighth birthday during a short stop in Austin. Then we come to Tennessee to visit friends and family and celebrate the LHS class of 1962 turning 70 this year.
April and May are two of the best months of the year in most of the places I’ve lived. When the two months roll around, I think of fishing in Tennessee. The Southwest corner is a Mecca for fishing. For years, tuna fishing was the livelihood for many families in San Diego, especially in the downtown neighborhood known locally as “Little Italy.”
The tuna business has declined as evidenced by the aroma fading and the disappearance of canneries along the waterfront, but sports fishing for tuna and other game fish flourishes. The sport fishing fleet is crammed in marinas in the northeast corner of the bay. To my surprise, bass fishing is also a significant pastime out here.
I am not inclined to fish here. There are many excuses, but the truth is fishing here is not like fishing back home.
I have cousins in Florida who are real fisherman. My uncles, Bill Prichard (father of my Florida fishing cousins), Jesse Jewell, and George Martin; my cousin Maxwell Martin, and my father all were serious fishermen. They loved the sport and bought lots of rods and reels, fishing boats, and an amazing number of lures.
I was not so inclined. I played hard at baseball, football, and basketball. Fishing was getting away from everything. I may have had a tackle box, but it was short lived. I used my father’s equipment. Henry Harding and I each had a fly rod and reel along with a few lures. As mentioned here previously, Henry and I frequently waded Spring Creek off of Franklin Road, fly fishing for brim and sunfish, and the evasive black bass in a pool about a half-mile to the south of the bridge where we parked.
The first fishing I remember was with a pole and float in the pond on the Wilson Farm, which bordered our Spring Creek fishing grounds.
My father showed me how to fish. For a long time, he had a 14-foot aluminum fishing boat with a 25-horse power outboard. It was simple and perfect for fishing. He would take me with one of our kin, cousin Maxwell and later Uncle Snooks Hall to fish for crappie near the steam plant on Old Hickory or the mouths of creeks further east.
Eventually, he got serious and would have me join him for night time fishing adventures. We would leave late in the evenings with Maxwell, Freeman Coles, or Lum Edwards. Occasionally, Henry would join us. The most frequent stop was the Sligo boat dock at Center Hill. Infrequently, we would meet cousin Maxwell at Watts Bar, a long ride for a night of fishing.
We brought a few minnows, a metal seine box, a Coleman lantern, and a bunch of rods and reels. Sticking the lantern over the side brought shad minnows to the surface. We fished under the shad for striped bass would feed off the shad. It was peaceful except for flurries of fish catching.
My father always caught more fish. Even when we went the last time six years ago when he was 93, he caught more. It irritated me slightly, but I’m glad I never beat him.
A few times visiting home in the spring, I took the boat to Old Hickory by myself and fly fished for bass. I might have caught one or two. I did spend a great deal of time unraveling my line from the overhanging branches.
I loved fishing in Tennessee. It was a gift from my father. This coming visit will not likely include fishing. We have many things to do. But when I do go fishing back home, I don’t think I will really care how many fish I catch. It will be reconnecting with the river, lakes, and creek.
If I am lucky and happen to catch a few, I will throw them back. My father did not like eating fish, just catching them. When he had a big catch, he would clean all the fish and then give them away to friends and neighbors.
I’ve cleaned enough fish.