I have the wool facemask covering everything but my eyes. Harold has a motorcycle helmet on so he is in better shape. I shut my eyes as the wind whips the tears across my face and they freeze. Harold is driving. He best keep his eyes open. The drab bank with naked trees and bare rocks flies by.
I hope my hands don't freeze.
Finally. Relief. The boat slows to a drift and we rock gently in the decreasing wake. Harold Dotson ascends to the front seat. I grab one of my rods and struggle to the rear seat. Then, I climb down and light the Coleman outdoor heater. I have my doubts about how much good it will do in an open boat.
Yesterday, when we decided to go fishing this morning, the weather folks said it would be 62-degrees. It was going to have to hurry if it was going to make it. It was 27 when we launched the boat.
I have a 1/8-ounce, white Doll fly with a yellow, U-2 pork trailer tied on this rod. On the other one, I have a white Slap-Happy. I shiver and loft a cast toward the bank. I let the fly settle and start a slow, up-down retrieve. I watch as ice begins to form in the rod guides.
Early spring fishing on Center Hill use to be a regular event for me and the late, Harold Dotson. I did not seem to mind the cold as much then. When clear, sunny days began to warm the water, then got interrupted by a warm, cloudy day. You could fill the live well with smallmouth bass. It was just such a day, minus the warm part. For the last two days, it had been close to 50 and sunny. Water temperature was 51. Perfect.
We move around the point, out of Indian and into Jones. I sail one just where the bank changes from mud to rock and lift the rod tip. I feel the faint tap and set the hook.
Harold swings the front of the boat out and grabs the landing net. As a general rule, you don't swing smallmouth in the boat on four pound test. You also do not land them quickly. A minute or three later and Harold slips the net under a dandy two and one half pounder. That's one.
Funny, it does not seem quite as cold now. We move down the bank and as we near the old, wooden tree stand, I hear and feel Harold set the hook. I am just about to reel in my line and grab the net when I feel another of those light taps. We have a double working and after some instruction trading and fancy footwork, we get them both in the boat. It is starting to be a good day.
Later, a fish or three later, including a rogue stripe, it really does warm up, maybe 48-degrees, we have caught seven smallmouth. We are in one of the nameless little nooks that makes the Hill interesting to fish. There is a large tree down with the top well out in deeper water. I pick up the Slap-Happy.
By the time I have put the fourth crappie in the live well, Harold has a Slap-Happy tied on and is working the other side of the tree. The crappie are stacked in like cordwood. Just cast close to the tree, let it sink and watch your line. When the line moves, set the hook...gently.
By the time they quit hitting, we have over 20 in the box and a great supper is assured. We have already decided to spend the night at the camp, a comfortable, two-bedroom trailer Harold owns at Cove Hollow boat dock. Crappie fillets, fries, salad and maybe an adult beverage or three. A good night's sleep will surely follow.
Over the course of the morning and three hours in the afternoon, we had one of those days. At some point, Harold switched to a brown doll fly and struck gold. I soon followed suit and we finished the day with 16 great smallmouth and a box of crappie.
I suppose you could do that today...or at least some day this month. They have done a lot of water adjusting since those days. However, I do have a feeling, if you knew where and how to fish it, you could catch some fish.
There are a lot of fancy new lures that have just about replaced the Doll fly. When Mr. Doll invented it, it was quickly replicated by a dozen or more similar lures. Today, I usually use a GitZit but I still have a couple flies and am sorely tempted to give them workout. I just don't think I could handle the cold.
The thing is, you can do the same on Percy Priest when you get the right conditions. I am thinking I may have to give that a shot soon. The one difference is, I will have a suspending jerk bait on a rod and maybe a Rippin Rap on another. Maybe I can get Judge Durham to go with me and maybe even take his boat.
One thing is pretty sure. I'm going to have a Doll fly tied on something and if I get cold, I'll quit.
The National Wild Turkey Federation will hold its annual convention Feb. 13-15 at the Gaylord-Opryland Convention Center.
Show hours are: Friday 9 a.m - 7 p.m. and 8:30 a.m. - 6 p.m. on Saturday. Sunday from 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. Admission is free for current members, just bring your membership card to registration, grab a wrist band and walk in.
If not a member and wish to join or renew a membership that can be done at registration for $35 and you take home a Bass Pro Promo card worth $25.
Daily admission to the show for non-members is $20 per day for adults; ages 11-17 are $10 and they receive a complimentary one year membership. Military with I.D. and children under 10 are free.
Full information can be found on the web at ntwf.org/special.
To contact Sloan, email him at email@example.com.