The Fishing Circle

Ron SteffeGrowing up, I always welcomed the days becoming longer and warmer – it was fishing time. And, along with the kid who lived next door, who relished the angling experience as completely as I did, it was on our bikes and off to the water.

Some places were as near as a small stream that sliced through woods and fields a mere mile away. At the farthest point of 10 miles or so sat a diminutive lake, a quick ride for kids with strong youthful legs, and boundless energy.

In another direction was the Manatawny, “the big stream” where trout were stocked, much as they still are to this day. When we headed there we were serious in our approach, knowing we’d be doing battle with the hoards of adult fishermen for the hatchery plants.

Another stocked stream was also nearby. And although it was smaller and received fewer fish than the Manatawny, it was a spot where the crowds quickly thinned, leaving plenty of fish for my friend and I.

Yet the favorite spots always remained the small creeks that were never stocked. Those waters did produce occasional wild brown trout, but their real attraction was the smallmouth bass, fallfish, suckers and rock bass that always attacked our bait. There was unmatched bounty in those waters, and unequaled solitude.

With nothing more than shorts and sneakers, old rods and reels our fathers no longer wanted, and a can full of nightcrawlers, we’d skirt the thick vegetation that hung over much of these creeks. We’d wade at the good spots and skip the others.

We would return home soaked and scratched, but never late for supper. We had fish, and we were happy.

Strangely now, I remember those varied places not for particular fish that were caught, but for the scenery and assorted fragrance of balmy days.

I can easily envision the roots of huge sycamores clinging to both shore and streambed, always hiding the big fish. I can remember the perfumed vines of honeysuckle clogging the water at turns, and if we were careful, we could float a worm beneath that undergrowth and pull out a prize.

Some spots I can still visit, and sometimes do, but most are now beyond my aged legs, and my restful heart.

I would like to take my young grandsons to at least a few of those places — where uncountable hours absorbed an important period of my life — and teach them the joy and wonder I knew back then. But I know their parents will argue it would be difficult to hold the boys' attention.

That could well be true, or it just may be that enough of my heritable makeup flows through their own veins, permitting them to take pleasure from an encounter with the natural world, and know the adoration I know for wild places.

Categories: Pennsylvania – Ron Steffe

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