by Kenneth Fore
I don't remember my exact age back then, but I was probably near fifteen when I got into fly fishing. I paid about eight dollars for a fiberglass rod that I bought from the only hardware store in town. The money I used was saved from cutting grass and selling the "Grit Paper" on a good paper route.
The fly rod I bought wasn't the best money could buy but I couldn't afford a fifteen dollar rod and have enough money left over for a reel, ten pound monofilament line, six or seven popping bugs that cost a quarter or thirty cents each, and then go to the Saturday afternoon movie.
Even now, I can still remember the excitement of buying several yellow and white number 6 popping bugs with three rubber fins on each side, and large black eyes with red dots, black and brown horsehair sprouting off the back, and the hook neatly camouflaged forward in the horse's hair. I knew these popping bugs worked because I'd seen them in action the week before.
The week before I was fishing in my favorite spot on the creek bank. It was one of those summer days when you're too old to play little league baseball, and the Babe Ruth baseball teams are too far away.
It was an afternoon when resting on the porch out of the sun never made any difference. You'd still sweat and I never liked sweating doing nothing. I preferred the creek, swimming or playing on a rope swing at the creek, or fishing in a secret place known only to me.
That day I'd been in my secret fishing spot with a cane pole and worms for several hours. It was cool in the dark shades of the oaks and hard wood trees that rose up out of the bottoms like a green mountain range. I never sweated on the creek bank.
At the time and on that day, I had caught several nice red bellies they pull hard in the current. If the reader has ever caught a big red belly in a fast moving current, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
I saw another kid who lived a mile or so from me wading upstream through the clear, cool, sluggish water of the winding creek. He had a cane pole with monofilament line coil around it.
My friend made cane poles to fish with and they were sturdy. He'd pick out a long straight cane pole that was tapered just right at the end. Then he'd cut the cane down strip it of its shoots. Then he would tie the tapered end of the pole to a tree limp with a cord, and let the pole hang down. He tied a brickbat to the large base of the vertical pole. This technique allowed the green pole to dry and cure just right.
It took several months before a Cane pole was deemed adequate to withstand the pull of a huge bream. He always inspected each pole to make sure it didn't have any annoying imperfections like small crooks, or bows. His quality control standards were high and they were as rigid and methodical as an engineer's inspection of the ejection seat in a fighter jet.
As I watched him wading towards me he waved with a crook grin. He stop in the shallow water not thirty feet from me.
I watched him unroll the monofilament line off his cane pole then saw him tie a white popping bug to the end of the line. I saw a serious look on his angled face, he always seem to bite his bottom lip when he worked seriously.
I observed him pushed the line through the eye of the hook in front of the rubber legs, and he made a sweat knot to the popping bug. I saw him take his fish stringer out of his pocket and remove a rubber band off the folded gray cord. Then he tied the fish stringer through two loops on his cut off jeans.
I looked intently not making it obvious that I was the least bit interested. I saw him whip the line back and forth and saw the popping bug seemingly floating in the air. I saw a mosquito hawk charging after the popping bug, attacking, darting, performing deep roll dives then pull up just in time as my friend whip the bug back and forth.
In the usual sportsman's greeting,
"Yelp." I said. "A couple of nice red bellies."
Then I watched him wade out to a whirlpool that made a big circle into the bank before the sluggish water rolled out. He was about waist deep when I saw him use the tip of his Cain pole to push the monofilament line, and the weight of the popping bug propelled the line forward in a soft curved flight beneath a limb that hung six or seven inches above the water in the eddy.
When the bug softly lit on the surface he let the bug twist then rest until the rings dwindled away on the flat surface of the water.
Then he lightly twitched the end of his cain pole softly bobbing the bug, then he let the white bug rest, so the small waves would roll away from the bug again. I sat anxiously, watching, waiting on a box to suddenly pop open beneath a Christmas tree.
Then with a "tuck" sound, the popping bug was sucked beneath the surface, and the water boiled up in a circle the size of a cup saucer. I saw the line tear to the left then slant away, then back to the right, slicing through the water, zigzagging.
I heard the Cane pole moan when it bent forward from the power of the fish. The yellowish rainbow arc in the cane pole was surely going to shatter. I watched him play the fish like a pro letting the pole do the work. He glanced over at me with a short grin.
Seeing that popping bug mauled and boil below the surface of the water was one of the most thrilling sights I'd ever seen. As sure and as clean as that bream was, I too was hooked for life.