I’m not sure what year it was, just that it was back in the Nineties and that it was a weekend in early November when Junior Helton and I decided the thing to do was go fishing on Saturday morning.
Junior and his wife, Molly, were at our house on a Friday night for supper and I told him about the hundred or so nightcrawlers I still had left from the normal season and stashed in a five-gallon bucket full of moss in the old Philco refrigerator I used for bait and beer only and kept in my garage.
Junior allowed that it would be a shame to let those nightcrawlers go to waste and that it was too late in the year to get them back in the ground unless we used posthole diggers and messed up our yards. So, he said, we might as well go fishing.
Molly and Loretta looked at each other and grinned and shook their heads knowingly as though we had come up with yet another ill-conceived scheme to avoid any number of chores on their “honey do” lists. Still, Junior showed up at daybreak the next morning and I threw my fishing rods, my tackle box and the bucket of crawlers in the bed of his truck. Junior then asked, “Where we gonna go?”
We hadn’t talked about that the night before, because we had been so enthused about wetting lines in November that an actual to do that had not crossed our minds. So we sat there in the old Ford truck with the heater growling and studied on the matter. We finally settled on Owsley Fork Lake, where Madison, Jackson and Rockcastle counties sort of come together.
We chose that spot because we could drive right up to the dam and not have to walk more than ten steps to the water. However, it was drizzling rain and by the time we got to the lake it had turned to snow that was coming down in huge drops like pop corn and sizzling when flakes hit water. Junior insisted we prevail because his old truck was four-wheel drive. So we did.
We were not expecting to catch a fish as much as we were intent on drowning worms and making sure that they had served their purpose on this earth. So we scrambled down the rip rock, baited our hooks and cast our lines from the back of the dam into the green water that Berea citizens drink. Before Junior could even find a rock to sit on that suited him, his line took off and his rod went to jiggling. He set the hook and went to reeling and then my pole behaved the same way. Junior said, “I think I’ve got a good bass.” And I said, “Me too.” And with drags slipping and rods bent, we reeled in our lines to discover we had caught half-pound, identical twin, red-eared sunfish that were none too happy about having had nightcrawlers for breakfast.
While Junior was asking whether we should keep the two fish, I told him to take them off the hook while I scrambled back up the bank that was slick and white with snow to get a fish basket out of the truck.
“We catch two more like that and we’ve got a mess,” I yelled back to him. “If we don’t we’ll turn them loose.”
And so we baited up again and the action was almost instant. Our worms would hit the water as the snow fell and be taken by a bream of relatively humongous proportions. This went on for two hours or so until they stopped biting and Junior said, “I think we finally caught ‘em all.”
“Yep,” I said to him, “and we’re also out of bait.”