My grandparent’s house in Porterdale, GA was walking distance from the Yellow River. This river was a fishing paradise for a young boy. It’s where my grandfather, Pappy, taught me how to fish. His famous line was, “Come on, Eddie. I’m gonna learn you how to fish.”
Regardless of weather, there was always a good spot to fish. There was an old stone dam at what we called ‘the top of the river’. Water pouring over the dam had cut a deep hole in the rock over the years. Actually, there were thousands of holes. One was about half the size of a football field. We called this one the carp hole. Carp weren’t good for eating, but they were fun to catch.
Pappy took me carp fishing one evening. He baited a large hook with corn kernels and we cast it to the bottom where the behemoths dwelled. It wasn’t long before one took my line. After a fierce battle, I pulled out a ten pound carp. I was beside myself with delight.
For brim fishing, we would go down to the shoals. We’d cast into the current and let the bobber float down until it reached the calmer waters. It rarely made it when the fish were biting. Then there were the eddy waters. The locals called them the first eddy water, second eddy water, and third eddy water. These were the bodies of water where the current gently swirled in a calm but deep portion of the river. These were great for bass and catfish. Way down river, at the end of my exploration territory, were the rock houses. It was an area where the river was almost like a canyon. High up were rock formations that were like mini caverns. People often camped up there, hence the name, rock houses. The rock houses is where my cousin was snake bitten.
Then there was the race. When the days were hot, the fish would quit biting everywhere but the race. There was an old mill beside the dam. Back in the old days, water would run through the mill to run machinery. I don’t know much about what was inside because it was mostly abandoned in those days. Later on it became an indoor flea market, but now it is loft apartments. On the backside of the mill, the water harvested through the dam rushed under the mill and out into the river. It was like a reverse fork in the river. After passing through the man-made ravine, it would later join the yellow river again.
What made the race so nice is that the water was always swift. Since it never sat long enough to get heated by the sun, the fish never grew sluggish in the race. There was a concrete wall coming off the mill. From there it was about a ten foot drop to the water.
On a hot August afternoon, I hit all my favorite fishing spots but nothing was biting. The race wasn’t my first choice for fishing. In fact, it was my last choice. The water was fast so it was a constant cast and reel place. I’d cast my line in, and within thirty seconds, it had drifted down stream and was being pushed against the shore. That’s where the snags were. Few things were more annoying than losing a hook to an underwater root.
With no active fish, the only option was the race. I took my spot on the wall and started casting and reeling. Thirty minutes later, not one bite. Soon after, a man emerged from the woods carrying a fishing rod, his tackle, and a coffee can. He sat on the wall beside me and opened the can. A stench emerged. I wrinkled my nose and asked, “What is that?”
“Them’s maggots,” the man said. He lifted his coffee can to show me. He then explained how he raises maggots in potato juice – err, I mean ‘po-tater juice’. “They’s some of the best bait you can git.” He smiled a half-toothed grin and lifted the can again. “Wanta try some?”
“No, but thanks.” I rolled my eyes and went back to casting. What kind of a sicko would raise maggots in rotten potato juice? And what idiot would stick his hand in that stuff to get them out?
The man did just that. He reached in and grabbed a wiggling maggot and put it on his hook. With his baited hook, he sent the line flying with a zing. It hit the water and the bobber sank. It disappeared so quickly I thought it was a busted float. But when his rod bent downward, I looked up in surprise. I’ve been here for over half an hour and nothing. The line barely hit the water and he’d caught a fish. He put the fish on a stringer, re-maggoted the hook, and cast again. He couldn’t have been catching fish faster unless they leaped out of the water to catch the hook. At times I was almost sure they were doing just that. He literally caught six fish in about six minutes. His slow reeling was his only limitation.
He unhooked the next fish and smirked at me. The man picked up his can, raised his eyebrows at me, and pushed the can toward me again. The maggots looked a little prettier this time. And what the heck. I can always wash my hands, right?
I might have become ‘one of those idiots’, but I came back with a good mess of fish that day.
Eddie Snipes 2012
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