The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Fish Tales

By Jack Lowe © 1996

Issue: Spring, 1996

My father was an avid fisherman. He would go fishing, every Saturday, weather permitting. He would always buy the latest and most expensive equipment that money could buy. His tackle box was full of the latest plugs, flies and the latest gadgets that was supposed to catch fish.

My uncle Will was married to my aunt Bet (Betty was my mother's sister). They owned a grocery store and lived about two or three blocks from us. Almost every night, I would go with my father to Uncle Will's store. They would sit around in their cane bottom chairs and swap the latest gossip and tell big tales. Uncle Will hadn't been fishing since he was a teenager. Finally, Dad persuaded him to go fishing with us. Dad told Will what all he needed to fish for Bass. I went with Uncle Will the next day to buy his fishing equipment. He went to Woolworth's Five and Ten cent store. He bought the cheapest equipment they had. The reel cost 75 cents, the rod, $1.00 and 50 yards of ten pound test line cost fifty cents. The reel had the loudest click of any reel I ever heard.

The next Saturday we took off, bright and early, for the middle fork of Holston River, about five miles above Abingdon, Virginia. When we got to the river and parked the car, we had to walk up the river about half a mile, to a good fishing hole. Dad and Uncle Will were using live minnows for bait. I was using a reed pole and night crawlers. They were fishing for Bass and I was fishing for Red Eye or Blue Gills. Dad showed Uncle Will how to attach the minnow to the hook. and cast the minnow about twenty-five feet out into the water. Dad told Uncle Will that when Mr. Bass came swimming up the river and saw the minnow, that he would dash up and grab the minnow, crosswise in his mouth and take off. After running about fifteen feet, the bass would stop, turn the minnow around and swallow him head first. Then it was time to hook him and reel him in.

We had been sitting there about an hour, waiting on the fish to bite, when all of a sudden Uncle Will's reel started to hum, like a thrashing machine. When Uncle Will reeled him in, it was a small mouth bass about thirteen inches long.

We didn't get any more strikes until after lunch. About 2:00 p.m. Uncle Will caught two more small mouth bass, one right after the other. One measured about fifteen inches and the other sixteen and one half inches. All that I caught all day was one small red-eye and one blue gill. Dad didn't get a strike all day.

It just goes to show you that you don't have to have the most expensive equipment to bring home the bacon. Ahh, I mean fish.

Every spring we would go trout fishing the first day that the season opened. The state would stock all of the trout streams about two weeks before the season opened. The season opened that year on April 20th, at 5:00 a.m.

The Sunday before the season opened, we drove to our favorite fishing hole, on Straight Branch, about four or five miles above Damascus, Virginia. We wanted to pick out our spot before hand, as we knew it would be dark when the season opened. We picked out a place where the water spilled over some rocks, into a deep pool. Dad set the odometer on the car so that we would return to the same spot when we returned on opening day.

On D-day we were at our spot by 3:30 a.m. We wanted to be there early before someone else picked the same spot. There were several hundred people scattered up and down the creek, just waiting for the time to start. The game Warden was walking up and down the creek bank, warning the fishermen not to start until he blew his whistle. I had a big fat night crawler on my hook, just waiting for the magic hour. At 5:00 a.m. the Game Warden blew his whistle and everyone cast their lines.

It was dark as pitch and some of the people had flash lights to see what they were doing. I didn't have a light. Everyone around me was pulling out trout as fast as they could bait their hook. I sat on the big rock, until it got daylight. I hadn't had a nibble. After it got light enough to see what I was doing, I looked down at the line and it was about six inches above the water. No wonder I couldn't get any bites. Well, I corrected that problem and still sat there about an hour. I never got a bite. My uncle Will was sitting on my left on the creek bank. He had already caught four or five small trout. He moved down the bank about five feet and I moved to the same spot that he had just vacated. About two minutes after I had cast my line, I hooked the biggest brown trout that I had ever seen. It was over twelve inches long. The biggest that the other fishermen caught was anywhere from 4" to 6" in length. I fished that spot the rest of the day, but didn't catch any more. I think that my Dad and Uncle Will caught their limit, which was ten per day.

Although I didn't catch but one trout, it was the biggest one caught that day.

Editors Note: Last spring in Virginia, they did away with opening day for trout fishing season. It has become a year round sport now. You can get a copy of the 1996 Virginia Freshwater Fishing Guide at Game & Inland Fisheries Departments and at many license agents.