This was the time of year that quickened the blood. Back when I was a stripling lad, that is. No, ma’am, I have no idea what “stripling” means, especially when applied to lad. But it sounds good and it sounds genuine, so there it is.
Anyway, back when I was whatever it is that I was, mornings like this were magical. The water was flowing in the ditches, which meant it was also flowing in the brooks, which meant you could now drop a line into the pools. It was spring, man, and you could smell it and taste it as well as feel it.
All this struck me forcibly when we had a party here a couple of weeks ago. Naturally, two or three bottles of wine were opened and the usual disparaging remarks made about my own brews. We were driven to the commercial stuff because that’s supposed to be better. More bouquet and all that stuff.
If Brewery Lane (providers of wine brewing supplies) had to listen to the kind of critical remarks I do, they’d immediately close up shop out of sheer discouragement.
What's that got to do with spring and brooks and trouting? Plenty.
Before one can sample the contents of any bottle, the cork must be removed. Several bottles mean several corks, lying on the table and a couple rolling around on the floor. Seeing those used corks, I can tell you, filled my soul with longing.
Oldtimers will know what I mean. Corks were the raw materials from which bobbers were made, my son, and where I grew up they were scarcer than hen’s teeth, to borrow a phrase.
They didn’t put corks in Purity syrup bottles or Bricks Tasteless or even Beef Iron Wine. Not many bottles of wine found their way into the clergyman’s house because that was sin and presumably so were the corks.
Not that we cared. There was a school of thought that suggested trout might even be attracted by the residual smell in corks. That was never proven. Sufficient to say, corks were at a premium.
We searched the ditches and the sides of the roads and if we found one, we latched onto it like a starving leech.
Then came the process of turning a cork into a decent bobber. The edges had to be rounded off and the basic shape of the bobber carefully carved out. Then you took a three-inch nail and pushed it down through the centre of the cork.
Through this hole you inserted a straight piece of stick so that it protruded from either end. It was here that creativity took over, because the thing had to be painted.
Half had to be red or green and the other half white. My problem was that I could never decide whether it was the white side that should be the bottom, or the coloured part. It was a dilemma that I never did resolve, and remains so to this day.
Finally, it was ready and there it sat on the windowsill, waiting for a Saturday when the skies were blue and the breezes warm.
The next step in the “getting ready” process was selecting your fishing rod which, of course, was a bamboo pole. Two or three stores around the community would carry a selection.
The pole itself had to be just the right length and straight as a schooner’s foremast. It couldn’t be so heavy that you got tired lugging it around all day, or so light it would break off on a seven-inch trout. The top had to be slender with a good whip for flicking trout out of the pond and into the woods behind you.
By the time you had made your purchase, two days had gone by and you were out fifty cents, not counting the cost of wear and tear on your bike.
We used to speculate on where those bamboos came from in the beginning. Some said China and some said Japan. One or two suggested it could be Australia, but they were too stunned to catch anything, anyway.
Another fellow tried to improve on nature and painted his new bamboo pole a bright red. He was ridiculed so mercilessly that he finally threw the pole over the stage head and didn’t go trouting for the whole summer.
Step No. 3 was finding a usable bait can. Talk about your challenges. Science has sent robots to the surface of Mars, delved deep into the mystery of the gene structure and made it possible for us to see and hear the likes of Sarah Palin in person.
But one thing science has not done and will never do, and that is improve the basic design of a Target tobacco can. As a means of carrying two or three dozen worms safely to and from the ponds, it had no equal.
Flat and narrow, it fit perfectly into the arse pocket of your pants. Yet it didn’t get in the way when you sat down on a rock to commence the serious business of catching trout or to have a mug-up.
But again, the problem was finding such a treasure. Serious trouters would follow an old guy who smoked pipes around for days just to be on hand when he took the last aromatic shreds from the tin.
The more enterprising amongst us would approach a likely candidate and ask for the privilege of getting the can when he was finished. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.
But man, when you came home after that first day on the pond with your bobber somewhere up in the woods with the last trout you caught (neither ever to be seen again), your bamboo rod in splinters and your baccy can left on a rock somewhere, one thing was sure.
You couldn’t wait to get at it again.
Ed Smith is an author who lives in
Springdale. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.