THREE RIVERS AREA It was a cold morning - just as a January morning should be in Arkansas - and 7 a.m. seemed to come way too early for me.
It was a short walk down a hill from my cabin to the boat dock at Lindsey’s Resort in Heber Springs. Billy Lindsey and Buddy Pate stood outside the resort’s office, waiting on me. I was the last media fisherman to go out on the fishing excursion that morning.
Pate, who was my fishing guide for the day, and I shook hands and walked down to the dock.
My footing felt a little unsteady as I stepped into Pate’s brown metal boat. Some of the paint had been rubbed off, leaving patches of sliver-colored metal shining through. To me, this indicated the boat had been on many fishing trips and held many stories, just like my guide.
In his 35 years of guiding fishing trips along the Little Red River, Pate has leaned the ins and outs of the river, including when and where the fish bite the most. But besides that, he believes one more important thing one must learn is to enjoy that snippet of time when holding on to a fishing rod seems to be one of the most important tasks of the day.
“Enjoy the fishing, not just the catching,” he told me as he cranked the boat motor.
Backing out of the slip, the engine stalled, and without hesitation, he cranked it once more. Then we were on our way down the river.
A fog skimmed the top of the water and reached upward to the sky. As the boat carried us up the river, cold mist stung my face. The plan was to do a little drift fishing and to later take our catch to a small island in the river where Dean Astin was ready to fry the fish up for lunch.
“The good thing about this river is that anytime you put a bait in it, there’s a good chance you’ll catch a world-record trout,” Pate said.
He added that a world-record trout was caught there and it weighed more than 40 pounds.
We finally reached our spot upriver, and Pate turned off the motor. Although the fog began to lift, visibility was low. Pate grabbed two fishing rods from the floor of the boat, opened his tackle box and pulled out a package of inline spinner baits that he attached to my fishing line, crimped on a couple of lead weights and pulled a red worm from a Styrofoam container.
As he began tying the hook on the line with an improved cinch knot, I asked him to slow down and teach me how to do that.
“It’s the strongest knot for monofilament line,” he said as he leaned in closer to me to explain what had been improved about the cinch knot.
When the knot is perfectly tied, Pate said, it retains 90 percent of the line strength.
He wrapped the line around six times before inserting the end through the small loop near the eye of the hook. He brought the end back through the larger loop and pulled the hook and end of the line in opposite directions, drawing the line tight.
Handing me my rod, I heard the plop of my bait break through the river water, which at that point was about 14 feet deep.
Keeping the boat perpendicular to the current, Pate dropped his line in, too.
“Trout are bottom feeders,” he said encouraging me to let my line out so my bait would graze the bottom of the river, which was where our potential lunch might be feeding on bottom-dwelling insects.
By this time, the fog had dissipated. Several mallards soared over our heads as Pate and I talked and laughed while waiting on the fish to bite.
“Oh! I think I got one!” I said as I yanked the rod up to hook him.
There’s nothing like the feeling of that first catch of the day. My assumption was that after so many years on the river, Pate wouldn’t share my enthusiasm as I reeled in a little rainbow trout. I was wrong.
“I love the river, and I love meeting new people,” he said as he dipped his net in the cold water to retrieve my fish. “I like to introduce people to fishing.”
To me, fishing is about allowing the river to absorb my stress, giving me a glimpse into what my approach to life should be and not what it has become - clarity, perhaps, or maybe it’s just a distraction.
Not even two hours into our morning fishing trip, we had drifted down the river, motored back up and drifted back down again.
With nearly our daily limit of fish in the live well, we began catching them and releasing them. The biggest one was a 17-inch rainbow, but we said goodbye to him as Pate removed the hook from the fish’s mouth and eased him back into the river.
My feet propped up on the edge of the boat and my fishing rod in my hands, I watched a bald eagle gracefully glide upriver directly over us.
With several more trips up and down the river, Pate was not only my guide who taught me a lot about fishing; he also became my new friend as we talked and laughed.
On one of our trips backup the river, we stopped at the resort to pick up Pate’s son, Hank, who boated up to the island with us, where Astin already had fish in the fryer and all the fixins for a satisfying lunch.
I may not be an expert fisherwoman, but I do enjoy it, and as Pate taught me, that’s the whole point.
Don’t let my high heels that I wear during the week throw you. I’m not the girly girl that I’ve been mislabeled. In fact, I was first bitten by the fishing bug when my older brother would take me to the creek, and I’d slide a worm on my hook and enjoy the fishing.
It’s a simple pleasure in life that everyone should try at least once. Who knows? You may get hooked.
And like my new friend said, enjoy the fishing, not just the catching.
Staff writer Jeanni Brosius can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Three Rivers, Pages 120 on 02/19/2012
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