My Aunt Phyllis was a wonderful person. She instilled in me the love of fishing. She made me aware of not only the thrill of catching a fish, but the joy of sharing the beauty of God’s gift of nature. My first fishing pole was made of bamboo. It was not truly a bamboo fishing pole; it was a piece of bamboo that had come with a piece of carpet wrapped around it. Aunt Phyllis had cut it to a length of approximately five feet and tied twenty feet of 8 pound test line to the end. She added a size 6 hook, a lug nut off of a fifty-five Chevy, and a red and white bobber the size of a tennis ball and I was ready to go fishing.
Aunt Phyllis and I fished almost exclusively using worms as bait. We used a wide variety of worms, grub worms, night crawlers, mealworms, just about anything that was slimy and wriggled. I was convinced that this placed serious limits on both the size and variety of the fish we were able to catch. On my tenth birthday she bought me a fishing rod and reel. It was not just any rod and reel; it was a Zebco 202 spin casting rod and reel. I had coveted this particular fishing outfit for months. Every time we went into town I had insisted that we go to the hardware store so I could see it. Now that I had a quality rod and reel I would definitely need to upgrade the rest of my equipment. I had saved some money, one dollar and fifty cents, and I used it to purchase my first artificial lure. It was a Colorado spinner. I tied it to my line and began practicing casting in the backyard of Aunt Phyllis’ house. I would press the button on my reel lean back and then whip the rod towards a variety of targets -- a maple tree, a plastic bucket, and once at my grandmother’s cat. Thank goodness I missed.
It seemed as if I had waited for months to go fishing, but it was only a few days after I had bought my spinner that Aunt Phyllis agreed to take me fishing. We would be going to our favorite place, the Indian, which was located approximately ten miles from the house. There was a place along the river that for some reason I never understood there had been a statue of an Indian erected. I never saw the original Indian statue because someone had stolen it shortly after it had been dedicated. Something else that I have never heard an explanation for: why would anyone, except my brother, which is another story, want a ten foot, concrete Indian statue?
We arrived at the stream shortly after dawn. The air was heavy with humidity and the sun had begun to creep across the water, obscuring the view of the trophy fish I knew were waiting to do battle. I watched my Aunt tie on a night crawler and cast her line a few feet from the river’s edge. I felt a misguided sense of superiority as I prepared to make my first cast with the new reel. I leaned back as I had practiced and whipped my arms forward. The reel screamed in protest as my spinner lodged securely in the tree behind me. My aunt Phyllis attempted to stifle a chuckle and pretend she hadn’t noticed my pitiful attempt. I quickly unfastened the spinner and with great care cast into the water. I was not sure how to fish with the lure so I simply cranked the handle of the reel as quickly as I could. Suddenly there was a flash of silver behind the lure and a large fish grabbed my spinner. I heaved back on the rod in an attempt to land the fish in one motion. I was both confused and dismayed when my line went slack and I realized that I had lost the fish! Not only had I lost the fish, but it had kept my spinner. I was inconsolable, even though Aunt Phyllis pointed out that we had plenty of bait and tackle and I could still catch fish. I sat by the river and pouted. Finally, even Aunt Phyllis’ infinite patience wore thin and we gathered our things and went home.
I spent most of the afternoon engrossed in self-pity, but when evening came my thoughts shifted to the container of night crawlers on the porch and the spot below the house where a strip of fast water ended in a deep pool. I received permission from my aunt, grabbed my rod and the worms and hurried to the river. I cast to the end of the riffle and was rewarded immediately with a strong strike on my line. I set the hook and was thrilled at the weight at the end of my line. It was a big fish. The fish tired rather quickly and I lifted it from the water. It was a huge fallfish, at least a foot in length. I admired the fish and noticed a flash of silver below its jaw. It was a Colorado spinner!