Well, it finally happened. Yesterday, Tuesday, June 30 I became 71-years old.
That adds up to a heap of yesterdays. What a great life I have had and with God's will and a little luck, I'll be able to tout up a few more.
But think about it. I should never have lived this long, given the life I have had.
Bundled up like an Eskimo on May 1, a drought that turned into a wet winter, then a few days of spring, return to rain then, a drought and heat wave to kill. No wonder the fish were confused.
It was a spring of crazy weather. It isn't just me, either. Several anglers commented on just how nuts this spring and the spring on into summer, fishing has been.
Two sunny side up, sausage, toast and plenty of hot coffee. It is just past five in the A of M and I meet the Judge (ret.) David Earl Durham, at the Waffle House. I wonder, just how many May mornings have I started that way?
For many years, it has been the usual meeting place for my fishing partners and me on days we headed for Center Hill. When I was not staying up there, I still fished as many as four days a week and the WH is where we met.
It was early, just past six and the bush was alive.
Many yards to my left, I could hear a moose splashing in the shallows of a small lake. Two ravens were arguing about something.
A Canada jay was busy ignoring everything. Insects hummed and the fisher, raiding my pastry pile, suddenly decided he badly needed to be somewhere else.
Just enough sun to make you happy. Blue bird weather with one drawback. The wind is gusting to 18-mph. That is just a tad too much to get the Grey Ghost out on the big pond. You would be constantly fighting the wind, trying to keep the boat in position. But sitting around the house is not an option. To do so would court with the possibility of doing something stupid and quite likely, breaking something. You might even go off the deep end and mow the yard.
What to do-what to do?
We were catching Oscars, me and Russ Jackson. We were on some canal down in Florida and they were nailing the half a night crawler we were fishing under a cork.
They fought like demons and ran a pound or more. Fantastic eating, too.
So this guy from Mt. Juliet says to me, "Have you heard about all the Tilapia they are catching at the steam plant? A friend of mine at work caught 75 in a half-day, last week."
Turkey season is winding down.
Maybe you are tagged out on turkeys. Maybe you are tired of not seeing turkeys. Maybe the bass have shut you out. Maybe the crappie have lockjaw. Maybe you are just bored.
You need a change.
Years ago, Tom T. Hall owned it, before the Scott's bought it and turned it into the Watertown Animal Sanctuary. The cabin where he wrote a lot of his songs still stands.
Now, deer, turkeys and horses roam the fields. It is a sanctuary for old and abused horses, sort of a retirement community just outside Watertown. I was there to try and shoot a turkey.
The turtles, maybe the most I have seen in one place, seemed to have about the same plan for the day that I did.
The water lapped lightly against their log and it lapped lightly against my boat. Both the turtles and I seemed calm and oblivious to everything except the warm sun.
Years ago, when I first started fishing Old Hickory, several times I heard it called the Dr. Pepper Lake.
The soft drink company had a slogan that implied it was good at 10-2 & 4, three times a day. That was when the "Old Timers" said Old Hickory was best for bass and crappie, 10-2 & 4.
If it were daylight, he would have been near the horizon.
That is how far away the coyote wailed. I shivered slightly in the pre-dawn cold and hunkered against the water oak in the fence row at my back.
Clear skies, bright sun and a light breeze. Finally, a day for fishing without being semi-miserable. So we went, Judge (ret.) Dave Durham and your "humble" outdoor writer. Yes we did. We launched my Grey Goose at the Hermitage Yacht Club ramp and away we went.
March can be one hot month for catching fish, especially smallmouth.
It can be a great month on Center Hill, Percy Priest and Old Hickory. IF...
Carroll Whitener would be out looking for gobblers these cold, quiet mornings. Carroll's season on earth ended a few months ago. He will hunt better places this year.
I started bowhunting with a Fred Bear recurve bow and six aluminum arrows. I practiced all summer, shooting at hay bales in the backyard. Just 45-minutes into the opening morning of archery season, I shot and killed an 80-pound doe. She was the first deer at which I ever flung an arrow.
I hunted throughout the rest of archery season, missed several deer and wounded one which I did not recover. I was not what you may call completely happy with my equipment though there was nothing wrong with it.
Late February and March can be spotty when it comes to catching crappie in Middle Tennessee. So many factors are involved in the fish moving up and congregating in a pre-spawn pattern. But they can be caught.
The weather is a huge factor. We need a few warm, sunny day to bring the water temperature up and melt the ice off the boat ramps
Remember when the boat ramp at Misty Cove was a going concern? It's at the end of Ramsey Road . . . or whatever that road is now called.
You know, just past where Chuck Keel's mother had the old trailer house. Not only was the ramp in good shape, Hank Bentley had a dock and even a sorta restaurant there. He bought it from J.R. Ramsey long time ago. Great place for breakfast.
It is a great day for a werisesteria. I never knew it was called that. Heck, maybe there really isn't such a word. Fellow that told it to me could have just made it up but I've not known him to lie. Well, not bad anyway.
I leaned against the side of the big maple. It is naked now, my ladder stand does just that. It stands out with no leaves to hide it. In the fall, that stand is surrounded by the reds and golds of turning leaves. Now, the whole patch of woods is sepia or just drab. Not much color. Great for a werisesteria.
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
You can catch fish in cold weather. You can catch varied species in cold weather. I put emphasis on the YOU. Cause see, I aint fishin in cold weather ever again. I have done that and I ain agonna do it anymore!
I have caught walleye, sauger, trout, bass, striper, catfish, bream, and crappie and most likely, some I have forgotten; some like ling. At the time, before I was on blood thinner and stayed cold all the time, I reckon I enjoyed it. I must have cause I did a lot of it.
This pre-spring time of year always baffles me. I am never sure just what I should be doing. If we have a tolerable day, there is a chance D. Earl Durham and I might go try and catch some sauger or something. Other than that, there is not a lot I need to do.
Just got to thinking about this. Thought I'd share it with you as we calm down from deer season. Man, have I ever had a fortunate life.
Just think, for over 20-years, I made a living in professional rodeo, a life I loved. Riding bucking horses and bulls put me through college on a great scholarship and gave me a doctorate in U.S. Geography.
It won't be long. The leaves will start greening, the honeysuckle blooming and them yeller flowers called forsythe or something will be sweetening the air. That is when an old man's fancy turns to thoughts of fish.
I concluded my deer season a few days ago, at White Oak Plantation down in Alabammy. Stick a fork in me I'm done and I'll relate all that in a future column.
Well, bada-bing-bada-boom. It is a new year. Seems like they come faster as each one passes. Wasn't too long ago, I believed you had to cut a deer's throat as soon as possible or the meat would not be tender. Heck, not all that long ago, there was no limit on bluegill or crappie and we could keep 10-bass of any length.
"There's a jolly fat man in a silly red suit, stuck in the smoke hole of my teepee."
That line from a Lakota Sioux parody on our Christmas songs has always made me laugh. Over a month ago, the hustle and bustle of Christmas for the G-kids started at our house. For a while, I thought Jeanne was going to finally fill the empty rooms with boxes of toys.
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