By Steve Oden
YouTube is something I enjoy checking every now and then to see if interesting fishing,gardening, historical or recipe videos have been posted. These topics are the limit of my foray into this popular venue of social media.
I am especially fascinated by anglers from other countries and states who post their adventures and explain the whys and where-fore’s of their quarry and fishing styles. Among foreign favorite channels are “Totally Awesome Fishing” from Britain and “Robbie Fishing” from Australia. Robbie Alexander mainly targets freshwater fish, including Maury cod, different species of native perch, rainbow and brown trout, carp and crayfish (called yabbies in the local dialect). Many of his videos are filmed in waters close to where he grew up. Those streams are much like the dark, slow-flowing creeks and swamps found in the parts of southern Appalachia, where as a kid I pursued bluegill, crappie, bass, catfish, pickerel, suckers, buffalo, carp and other species.
The similarities are amazing. He does a lot of live-bait fishing, especially with worms. This is what I grew up doing: scratching wigglers out of the leaves, digging worms in the hay-yard and catching nightcrawlers to drown in Cotaco and Flint creeks, Crow Pond and the shallow backwaters of the Tennessee River.
My brothers, cousins and I whetted our skills bottom fishing. You never knew what species of fish might inhale your bait, from pumpkin-seed sunfish to huge flathead catfish. Our fishing equipment was feeble and often homemade. Back in the day, our rods and reels were hand-me-
downs from our fathers, and our terminal tackle featured oily bolts and nuts for sinkers and
carefully hoarded rusty hooks.
Battered spin-casters manufactured by Zebco, Bronson and Johnson were spooled with sections of different diameter monofilament swiped from the trash after an adult replaced his line. The numerous knots where lengths of odd line were spliced limited casting range and resulted in frequent break-offs.
Many times, the reel handles had lost original nuts and caps, so we tinkered with soldering on washers and wire. Retrieving line was a wobbly, uncertain process. For a particularly heavy fish, we ran backwards up the stream bank and hoped for the best.
Often, the reels were seated with electrician’s tape, the same magical fix-it material that wrapped the rod guides. When the tape was exposed to too much moisture, everything came apart. These technical difficulties didn’t keep us from becoming young nimrods, however. If your rod and reel was torn up, you always had cane poles. Ours were cut from river bottom cane that grew thick along the creeks. Stout and straight, the green cane wood was resilient to water and the worst- tempered buffalo or garfish.
The creeks we loved to fish flooded in winter and filled with fallen trees and branches. We practiced the drop-shot method of angling in submerged structure. It required a hook, a sinker and sometimes a small bobber. The bait was carefully lowered into the thick tangles of underwater limbs and jigged carefully. Minnows and worms dropped in those watery labyrinths often would yield full stringers. The challenge was getting the fish out.