When fishing, sometimes going simple is best approach
This was bargain-basement fishing.
We were in the poultry aisle of the grocery store and our bait — name-brand chicken gizzards and hearts — ran just $1.76 for 1 1⁄4 pounds, less than half what you might pay for a couple dozen nightcrawlers.
There were six packages on the shelf. We picked up one, noticing the label said “mostly gizzards.” Are there five other people out there who will buy this stuff, I wondered? And are they really that discriminating?
But no matter. We were off to the lake to chuck our gizzards and hearts into dark waters under a moonlit sky where, we hoped, hungry catfish were on the prowl.
The night didn't disappoint. We landed a couple of channel cats in the 2-foot range along with a smaller one or two and even a couple of fat bullheads.
It wasn't fancy fishing, but it was fun, an evening spent around the lantern with my son and a nephew, without another soul on the lake after 9 p.m., so far as we could tell. Simple but good.
That's what it's about sometimes, right?
Like most of you, I have more fishing lures than I'll need any time soon. Yet if I have cash in hand and see something that looks new or different in a store and think it might catch more fish, I pick it up (which always brings to mind the great line I heard from one fisherman about how if he died first, he hoped his wife sold his gear for what it was worth and not what he told her he paid for it).
It's the same with hunting gear, camping gadgets and everything else outdoors.
But every once in a while, it pays to go simple. That's why, a few times each summer, I take out an old rod I inherited from my grandfather.
It's a 6 1⁄2-foot spinning rod, made out of fiberglass, I suspect, with a cork handle. It's whippy, an ultralight probably before anyone coined the term, that makes hooking a 10-inch trout or a fat bluegill feel like you've lassoed an angry bear.
I have no idea who made it. Any labeling that identified the manufacturer has long since worn away. I'm sure it wasn't expensive. A survivor of the Great Depression, Pap loved to fish, but he was pretty utilitarian about his gear.
His old rod is looking its age. I've had to glue the plastic end caps on the cork handle back in place. The threads that secure the metal guides come loose periodically — I've got some work to do that way again after its last outing — and have to be repaired. The chrome reel seat is scuffed and dull.
It will never go on one of our gizzard chunkin' and dunkin' trips. A run-in with a muscled catfish might snap it in half.
But a couple of times a year, just often enough to reconnect with Pap, it's awfully fun to take it out on the water, cast out a little jig and catch a scrappy bass on the old timer.
Simple but good.