"It was two shades of brown and scratched up plastic…”
Dateline: Ross Barnett, the other side of the dam
“There is certainly something in angling that tends to produce a serenity of the mind.”
There sits, peace.
Tranquility base, on Earth.
There sits, at its base level, our sport.
An angler, a fishing pole, a body of water, simplicity.
I worry, worry a bunch really, have we forgot about the simplicity of this sport, have we ramped it up too much, have we forgot about the precious moments?
Have we forgot about those on the bank?
Have we chosen speed, over solitude?
In praise of those on the bank, I suggest, ask of my bosses, ask of all those in the business, ask of them this: Let’s make time for those on the bank, for those on the dock, for all those around the pond out back.
Let’s take time to slow things down some.
Back it up some.
Dangle our toes in the water.
Drink iced soda pop out of a glass bottle.
Peanut butter and jelly wrapped in wax paper.
And Gramps big weathered hand on our shoulder.
Make time for homage to those on the bank, and those who brought us there.
“…it held extra line, lures, hooks, and matches…”
I am on the backside of the Ross Barnett Reservoir, behind those gates you’ll find a 33,000 acre (52 square miles) of water with 105 miles of shoreline and a 3 1/2 mile dam and spillway which is what I’m standing behind.
Back in 1960 the various governments around here in Mississippi and in Washington began to either dig the hole to start filling it in with water, or began some serious blocking up of the Pearl River and by 1965-ish they had a fully filled lake.
If you are a fact-based kind of person you can Google how they made Ross Barnett Reservoir and in 0.08 seconds you’ll get 130,000 answers.
I read the first two paragraphs and they lost me at “impoundment.”
Trust me it’s big on the other side there, lots of things going on, lots of tournaments, lots of boats, some very fast (Biffle) some pontoon-ish (me).
But trust me on this, these folks who send me checks don’t send me checks to be normal and look where everyone else looks, they actually pay me to stand on the wrong side of a dam.
Not sure they pay me to talk to dogs though.
But I do.
“…and his last name engraved in black…”
“If people don’t occasionally walk away from you shaking their heads, you’re doing something wrong.”
Meet Cash, he’s a boxer whose owner told me, “He just loves to fish.”
I never saw Cash fish. Don’t know if he loves to fish or not, saw him lick his butt some, know he likes that. Know this too, Cash, and probably all dogs, know the real value of time.
The average life of a Boxer is about 10 years, roughly, and I mean ROUGHLY translates to about 66 years of age for humans who don’t box.
So if Cash was you, you as Cash would have been driving an automobile around 3 years old or so. Married around 4-ish, reached middle age at 5, a beer belly around 6 1/2, 8 1/2 writing the first check to college, reading glasses around 9, 9 1/2 all day spent watching re-runs on Netflix of Bonanza & I Dream Of Jennie.
In truth, TIME is the only thing of value in the universe, money can buy you everything but a fraction of a second.
If in fact there is majesty on Earth it resides in those with four legs, those with wings, those with fins, those covered in fur, those with tails, and yes even those snakes and spiders who freak me out.
I think in truth we’re just in their way and that all hell broke loose when the first one of us, stood up.
They must not have seen that coming.
As I’m trying to figure out just what, and how, Cash fishes, he gets up and walks over to me licks my hand. I pet his head, he lays down on his back and rolls in some stinky stuff in the grass.
The people who THINK they own this, or any dog, are sitting at a picnic table talking so I bend down some, staying a couple feet above the stinky stuff in the grass, and I ask Cash this, “So buddy, what do you really like to do here.”
And with that Cash makes eye contact with me, gets up, walks a couple feet forward and sits down staring straight ahead, then after a minute looks back at me then straight ahead in the universal dog gesture that says, “Hey two legged thing I can’t make noises like you so would you please just look where I’m looking…”
I have a dog, I’ve been trained, so I do follow his gaze and suddenly, out of nowhere I see this…
…a dude fishing.
“…he'd bait my hook and keep on tellin' stories…”
“Perhaps fishing is, for me, only an excuse to be near rivers.”
– Roderick Haig-Brown
In front of me, and Cash, are just a bunch of rocks, least that’s what I thought but when I walked up past Cash and followed what he was looking at I saw the rocks ended in a small bank below the spillway…and people were fishing from it.
Some fished from chairs….
…some anglers used rocks as chairs….
…some leaned on the rocks for better reach…
…but everywhere I looked anglers lined the bank.
Some fished alone, some had young children with them, some had old friends, some new friends, as I watched some caught fish, some caught underwater rocks, some ate sandwiches, some drank soda or water.
All that I could see though were doing one thing in kind.
“…'bout nickel cokes, girls, and sandlot glories…”
“As the angler looks back, he thinks less of individual captures and days than of scenes in which he fished.”
– Lord Grey of Fallondon
A skinny man in blue jeans, black tee shirt and brown boots has just walked by, even though he was polite he never made eye contact, and I wasn’t offended.
The man was carrying a fishing pole.
The water was behind me.
He never took his eyes off the blue.
I get that, I do the same, I can’t pass by water without looking at it.
As I watch the man he gracefully walks over stones and boulders, not his first trip to this bank and it shows. Within moments he is in the water and casting into
the waves and current of the spillway.
Once his lure has his line tight he looks to his right and nods, to his left and nods, he is in his spot, his small tract of bank and the small community of “bankers” around him approve.
They may not know each others names, may not know about the education level of those around, may not know about family, religion or politics of each other on the bank, they only know this.
With a fishing pole in your hand you are a brother, a sister, of the bank.
“…he's been gone twenty years tomorrow and I'm still holdin' on to this one wish…”
“I go fishing not to find myself but to lose myself ”
I am not going to try and tell you that I’m an angler, I’m not and you know that, it would be a cheap shot you to say otherwise. I’m also not thrilled with being inside the outside, I’m allergic to most of it and I don’t like bugs.
I love the water though, love to look at it, love to stand by it, sit by it, float GENTLY on it.
You may or may not also know this about me, I spent the first 3 years of my life in a full body cast, encased in plaster from under my arms to the tip of my toes.
Every few months I would be loaded in a car and taken to Children’s Hospital in Buffalo, NY where some guy in a white costume would fire up a power hand saw and then saw the cast I was in out from underneath me while a lady dressed in white would begin wrapping cold wet plaster filled cloth around my chest down to my toes.
I was able to feel air on my entire body maybe 5 minutes every few months.
I was almost 4 years old before my bare toes ever stepped on grass.
I was 5 years old the first time my bare toes ever stood in water that didn’t come out of a faucet.
That water was the Niagara River, I was at Beaver Island State Park on Grand Island, N.Y., I was in shorts, walking was not new but still an adventure, I was holding the large hand of a large man, and he led me in to the blue.
He held me with one hand, in the other he held a fishing pole.
Granpa told me that at first I was “kinda scared,” and that he brushed some tears from my face, but there we stood, not giving an inch to the river, or fear.
And then, he said, I started laughing, and with that, pants and all he knelt down in the water with one knee, put one arm around my shoulder, nibbled my ear, something he always did, and then handed me the fishing pole.
As the waves pushed the yet unsteady me, he picked me up and sat me down on his leg that was partly in the water.
Granpa was my first dock, it was on his knees that I swished my toes in the water, years later my Grandma, Tess, told me that she was there when he did that and knew that he didn’t have a hook on my line so I wouldn’t get hurt.
In my soul I’m a bank angler.
Clayton Robbins made sure of that.
Granpa was a bank angler, grampa fished the docks.
“…that God above would let me borrow grandpa…”
If there is one person on this planet I owe anything to when it comes to fishing it is Granpa Robbins.
And it is this that I owe, never forget about those who stand on the rocks to fish, who sit in chairs on the bank to fish, or those who dangle their toes in the water from their spot on the dock.
They are by far the majority of the folks who partake in fishing.
They are white.
They are black.
And all the other shades of us.
They are male.
They are female.
They are young.
They are old, and all those in between.
I’m asking that all of us in the business remember, and honor, the legacy of all the grandma’s, grandpa’s, fathers and mothers who took the time to stand next to us on the bank, on the dock, or walked us around the pond out back.
Tournament fishing is big business, but it is only one aspect of bass fishing.
In marketing, think about us on the bank.
In designing the stuff, the rods, the reels the line and what’s at the end, think of us on the bank.
Let us not exclude any angler, inclusion will grow this sport.
I am not in any way shape or form against tournament fishing, I love it, love many of those who partake in it, but know this as I drive by hanging on in a fast boat when I look to the shore, or to a dock, and see someone standing there fishing…I see my grandfather.
And it is to him, and all those like him, that I have given a piece of my soul.
And to whom I will not forget.
“…for one more afternoon and one more fish.”
“Some go to church and think about fishing, others go fishing and think about God.” – Tony Blake