As far as the tackle box is concerned, I’m a pack rat. It’s hard to throw
anything away! I hurriedly paw through the clutter, especially when the sun is
fading into dusk. That’s when I expect the bass and bluegill will go wild for
surface bugs in our small, backyard pond.
Just before sunset this evening I stared into that tackle box full of
memories. There was the bare cork, rough-whittled, with a too-big hook in it,
which my dear old Dad made. The thing will catch fish but I don’t use it if
This ugly, unpainted cork-and-hook concoction which is held together with
heavy black cotton mending thread reminds me that Dad was a plain no-nonsense
man who went after big, stupid, hungry fish. “Those crazy-looking lures
attract fisherman but they scare old country bass,” he’d say.
My tackle box also hides the first plug I ever made. Who could ever get rid of
a plug like this? It’s a pine stick which I whittled down to the size of my
thumb. After sanding and painting it white. I added decal scales and eyes and
put on two treble hooks and a nose ring. This glorified fugitive from the wood
pile caught a keeper bass on the very first cast!
My fishing time is important as a private time, a quiet time to just enjoy
being alive. What a Sunday: beautiful sunrise, fresh morning walk, good
sermon, dinner at the cafeteria. Our adult children stopped by during the
afternoon with our four grandsons; peanut butter for supper.
Scrounging through the tackle I discovered Old Grey Mouse, a deer body hair
thing I’d made during World War II. It mashed flat, stuck to the bottom of the
box, under a scaler and some heavy stuff. “Poor old mouse,” I said aloud.
“I should have tossed you out years ago.”
I brushed his hair backwards to try to fluff him up to look alive. No use! the
hook was rusty, the deer hair stained brown. I looked at the thing and
thought, “Your eyes have washed away through the years and your whiskers are
completely gone. Poor Old Mouse.” But I was remebering my first big bass, a
three and a half pounder, which I caught in Ham Holt’s little pond at about
three o’clock on a summer afternoon.
“No fish would come out on a hot day like this,” someone said, but three of
us decided to go anyway. I sent Mouse to the far side of that little pond and
he squatted doen nicely under an overhanging willow limb. WHAM! My fly rod
bent. I hadn’t taken net or stringer, because it was such an unlikely fishing
day. I backed up into the pasture to drag him out of the water. Mouse has been
in a lot of bass’s lips since then but now he’s a goner.
Just for old time’s sake, I tied him to my leader for a go. I placed him out
under an overhanging willow, just as I had done that hot afternoon at Ham
Holt’s pond. I jiggled him a bit and waited, remebering when Mouse was born.
I had gone to New York City during World War II travelling on a Greyhound bus
at 35 m.p.h. (to conserve gasoline). It was a hard trip. Chub, my U.S. Coast
Guard husband, was in Diesel engine school there and had a two hour break each
I was knitting some angora socks to pass the hours away but the angora lint
messed up his navy blue uniform. At a craft shop I bought Fly tying materials,
“complete with instruction book.” My first lures were wooly worms and black
gnats on hooks of various sizes.
Oops! something actually struck at old mouse. I saw a flash of silver scales.
Then the line went limp. Enjoying the memories. I left the old lure of the
surface, tighening my line, just in case.
In that fly tying kit there was this three inch square of deer body hair. I
learned how to wrap the waxed thread around a tuft of the hollow-tube deer
hairs and how to make the hairs stand out in all directions. Mouse-making was
fun. I kept that first one, to remember long hours in a cheap New York City
Wham! A nine-inch bluegill with a lot of dash and daring was mine. Old Mouse
was still alive! Removing that rusty hook I discovered loose stained deer body
hairs in the blue gill’s mouth. Mouse had given his all for me this time!
I loosened the leader knot with the flip of my thumbnail, cradled Old Grey
Mouse in the hollow of my hand for a moment and said, “Thanks.”
Then quickly, lest I back out, I clamped a sinker to the rusty hook and tossed
Mouse into the deepest part of our pond. Forever!