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Zen and the art of fishing simply

by Bryan Hendricks | July 25, 2013 at 3:49 a.m.

Fishing has many faces, but they all express joy.

I saw it recently in the face of a boy named Alan, who I met fishing in a small creek from a bridge near my home in Hot Spring County. He’s about 10 or 11 years old. He was fishing with his mother. She did not offer her name. In fact, she ignored me altogether, though not in rudeness. Alan was really enjoying his fishing, but his mother was absorbed in it.

For the past few years, this part of the creek has gone dry by mid-July. Arizona desert dry. When it refills, the fish return. I have often wondered where they go, and how they know when to go before it’s too late for them to escape. How far do they travel to return?

Downstream, the creek forms a bottleneck before making a sharp turn to the west. I think every kid in the community has spent time placing rocks, bricks and sticks in the bottleneck because kids are basically beavers at heart. That spot begs for a dam, and kids are genetically hardwired to build it.

The upstream side of the bridge faces better water. It’s a wide, deep pool that curls around a sharp bend to the northwest. There is plenty of structure on the bottom in the form of concrete detritus from a previous bridge. A big weed bed is to the right, and a sparse mud bank is to the left.

I’ve never seen anyone fish there until Wednesday, when I met Alan and his “momma.” They were using ancient Zebco spincasting outfits and live worms. At Alan’s feet was an old paint can that held two big longear sunfish and a small catfish. They intended to eat them.

“Did you catch these?” I asked.

“No, my momma caught ‘em,” Alan replied. “Why don’t you stay here awhile and watch my momma whup my butt at fishin’?”

Momma was having a tough time casting. Her rod was broken midway between the first and second guide, so she tried to present her bait with a method similar to flipping a jig. It didn’t work well.

“Not easy with a broken pole, is it?” I asked.

She didn’t respond.

“I’m the one who broke it,” Alan said, “so she let me use hers.”

“How’d you break it?” I asked.

“I kinda got mad.”

No further explanation followed.

“Hey, Alan, think you can put that worm right there next to those weeds, right there where they kind of poke out at that point?” I asked.

“That spot right there?” he replied.

“Yep. I bet you’ll catch one right there,” I said.

Momma immediately aimed for that spot, but her equipment betrayed her.

Alan reared back his rod slowly, whipped the tip right past my face and landed it precisely at the base of the weeds.

“Perfect,” I said.

“Hey, there’s one nibbling at it!” he said excitedly to his mom.

“Hold tight for a sec and let him take it,” I encouraged.

Alan couldn’t help himself. He yanked the rod back before the fish could get the hook. Alan continued to cast to the right spot and continued to set the hook too soon, but he was ecstatic. The possibility now existed for him to catch up to Momma.

“Sometimes we see a beaver here,” I said.

“A beaver? Really?”

“He comes in the springtime,” said my wife, Laura. “We always see him in April or May. He only stays for a couple of weeks.”

“We have to come when the beaver’s here, Momma,” Alan said. “I want to catch it!”

It was like looking into the distant past, fishing with my buds in the creeks that flowed around Sherwood. I had the fanciest gear, a broken Fiberglass rod with a big wad of line wrapped around the tip. I wrapped or unwrapped line depending on the water depth. I usually just used a small piece of bacon. You can catch bream and catfish all day on just one piece. Finding a grasshopper or a worm was always a bonus because then you might catch a bass, if the bream didn’t get it first.

And to think, those carefree days were the genesis of a lifestyle, of a career even.

Alan had exuberance. His momma had zen-like devotion. It was a fun mix.

I thought it spoke well of her to give him her rod.

Sports, Pages 22 on 07/25/2013

Print Headline: Zen and the art of fishing simply

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