April 12th, 2004
The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .
By Michael Saunders
I was taught to fish by my Mother. She helped
me hold the cane pole and bring in my first
bluegill when I was around four years old. Mom
was always there for things like that. In the
years before soccer, she was a baseball Mom,
carting me to every practice and game. The band
booster Mom who baked cakes and was at every home
game to watch her two sons march at halftime. The
one time I skipped school in the eleventh grade,
she somehow knew that I had done it and drove up
to the Dairy Queen where I was wasting away the
day. I got the "look." You know, the one that
tells you more than a thousand words possibly could.
I never cut classes again. I knew I would get caught.
Mom was born Ruth Boyd Carneal on Christmas day,
1915. On that day a true fisher was born. No one
ever pursued her quarry with more fervor than Mom.
In 1946 she married my dad who was fresh from the
navy and WWII. Dad was a boat lover, but only tried
fishing one time and decided that riding was better
than fishing. It was simple from that point on. Dad
built and ran the boats, and Mom fished from them.
Her pursuit of the bull bluegill and the channel cat
took her on myriad trips down the Alabama River,
float trips down the Cahaba River, and every private
pond in driving distance where she could get
permission to fish. The trunk of her Oldsmobile
smelled of fish on a regular basis. Stringers of
"brim" as she called them were laid on sheets of
newspaper for the trip back home where not a single
fish was wasted, but served up piping hot along with
beer batter hushpuppies and homemade coleslaw. Many
a Saturday night in my youth was spent in the company
of her friends eating freshly caught fish.
Sometime, I can't exactly remember when, Dad had
gotten some concrete blocks from somewhere and built
a small rectangular pool for my brother and I to cool
off in. As I remember it was three layers high and
had a concrete bottom with a drainpipe installed.
There was a period when we got a little older and
didn't use the pool quite often enough. Mom took
advantage of the situation and started heaping in
leaves and other organic matter and soon had a
thriving worm bed going. No more trips to the bait
store. The cricket box could easily be filled with
black crickets from the grass around the house.
There was a woodpile behind the tractor shed that
Dad had threatened to burn many times but Mom was
having none of that. There were roaches under those
boards and they were going in the cricket box and
catch a "bigun". Any thing that moved that a bluegill
might bite was fair game for her.
It was from her that I learned the importance of
an eddy in the river, and how to drift a cricket
on a bobber and let the current take it back around
to the waiting denizen of the deep that always waited
at the backside. It was from her that I learned to
take the bobber off and use a # 12 hook and single
BB shot with a cricket and throw it up against the
soapstone bank of the river, letting it drop just
as if it had fallen in the water from above. "Watch
that line real close. When you see it twitch, he's
on there." It was from her that I learned the smell
of a "brim" bed. It was from her that I learned to
leave something for someone else to catch.
I think about all of these things now as I have
passed them on to my son and now have a grandson
to pass them on to. Mom is not able to go with me
anymore in body, but she is still there with me
in my heart every time I go. And when I return
and swing by her house to drop off a few fish
for her and her best friend Pearl, she always
wants a report of how they were biting and what
I caught them on. The cane pole and spinning reel
has been replaced with a 5 wt flyrod and flies.
The bait bucket sits empty now. The cricket box
has more cobwebs than screen. But all the lessons
she taught me are still with me and I remind her
of the things that she taught me.
I still have this vision of Mom halfway up a
Catalpa tree picking off worms and throwing
them down to her friend Francis so they can go
"bump the bottom" for river cats. I still see
her coming in with her hair a mess and smelling
of fish, but with a smile on her face that would
charm anyone. I choose to remember her this way.
And every time I feel the pull of a bluegill on
my rod I think of her. ~ Michael Saunders
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