One of my favorite forms of fishing these days is to rise while it’s still dark, slide my kayak in on one of the small creeks that wind across the landscape in this neck of the woods, and spend an hour or so fly fishing for bream.
It’s a great way to get the day started, especially during summer months when the temperature is projected to approach triple digits by mid-afternoon. As the sky begins to lighten, a soft breeze typically wafts across the still water, songbirds stir in the woods that border the waterway and, in the upper reaches of tall junipers, ospreys greet the morning with their iconic “scree-scree.” Occasionally, if I’m quiet and unobtrusive enough, small alligators or beavers can be spotted cruising quietly farther downstream while deer and gray squirrels go about their business along the shore. A few times, just often enough to make me feel it could happen again, the dark shape of a bear has been detected moving through the trees just beyond the stream.
On such outings, I usually catch at least a few bluegills, redbreast sunfish, goggle eyes or, maybe, a largemouth bass or two. Often it’s more than just a few.
They’re all released, however, because to do otherwise would mean I’d have to clean fish when I got home and it would be when they day was starting to heat up.
Also, the purpose of these trips is not to put game in the cooler; it’s to immerse myself in a setting where I can watch nature unfold around me. The fishing is just a pleasant sidebar, my raison d’etre at that place and time.
I have come to understand that some of the best catches a person may make while fishing and exploring out-of-the-way waterways are not necessarily the piscatorial kind. They are things or people you happen upon unexpectedly. An example is a Canada goose I came up on one morning this spring. I paddled around a bend in a creek and found myself face-to-bill with her as she sat on a nest constructed on the end of small brushy outcropping. Reluctant to leave her clutch of eggs unattended, the feathery mama just stretched her neck to its fullest extent and then lowered her head in what I took as a “You better leave my family alone, you heah?” pose.
I did just that. Pausing a few feet away, I snapped some photos and then went on about my business and left the goose to hers. As I paddled away, the thought occurred to me that some humans could learn a thing or two about caring for their young from that bird.
Not all the memorable encounters I’ve made on the water involved wild critters.
Some were just kind of strange.
A number of years ago, I was out on Bear Island (site of Hammocks Beach State Park) when, near the Bear Inlet end, I came upon a small group of men surf fishing for red drum. They were from Jones County, farmers in their bib overalls with the legs rolled up. I recognized one of them and stopped to get a fishing report and visit a little.
While we stood there on the otherwise deserted beach, we noticed a couple of people in the distance walking up the sandy strand. We paid little attention until they got closer and, at about the same time, we all noticed it was a man and a woman - and they were as naked as the day they were born!
As the couple got nearer, I expected they would veer away a little from where we stood. I also wondered what the old farmers’ response would be.
I was surprised on both counts. First of all, the nudists stayed on course, walking within a few feet of where we stood. Secondly was the fishermen’s behavior. There was nothing out-of-hand or inappropriate. They nodded politely and said, “Good morning,” just like they were standing outside the Pollocksville Baptist Church on Sunday morning. The bare couple did likewise and, after they had passed us, changed course and disappeared into the dunes. Being the cosmopolitan sophisticate I am, I just stood there with my eyes bugged out and my mouth hanging open.
Once the unclad beachcombers had gotten out of sight and hearing range, my companions cut loose with comments that, in short order, had me laughing so hard I was crying. Anatomy, sunburn, mosquitoes – those and other topics were covered
with side-splitting hilarity.
Again, I don’t remember now whether I landed any fish on that outing or not.
But I’ll never forget the scene I witnessed on that wide, sandy beach. That’s the way it is while fishing in some out-of-the-way spots. You never know what you might catch. But it’s all part of the trip.
Ed Wall can be reached at email@example.com or 252-671-3207. His web site is www.edwalloutdoors.com