"Since tomorrow's your birthday, why don't you go fishing in the morning?"
Sweeter words were never spoken. Have I mentioned lately how much I appreciate the lady of this house?
In truth, as you reach a certain point in your life, birthdays sort of get lost in the wash. There's no need for big events, piles of presents, or life changing resolutions. A call from the kids, a spouse initiated fishing trip, and a day well spent will do quite nicely. It doesn't hurt when the weather serves up a peach of a day (as my early September birth date quite often does) and you are lucky enough to be living in a small slice of paradise, tucked away in these North Carolinian woods.
So, since Mary insisted, I started birthday number fifty-five with a daybreak walk down to my favorite fishin' hole, my small stretch of the Haw. The porch thermometer said 58 degrees and the cool, but clear, promise of an approaching fall hung in the air. I love September with it's sunny vestiges of summer and comfortable autumn winds, teetering on the fence between vacation and the excitement of the next semester of our lives. Spring may be the emergence of life, but I think early fall is it's fullfillment.
I found the river cool and rising as the northern watershed rains of a couple days ago were finally reaching the lower Haw; perfect, I hoped, for kickstarting the local largemouths into awakening from their summer doldrums. And they do appear to be waking up as I managed to bring about a dozen to hand over the course of the morning, including the nice 17-incher in the picture above.
More encouraging than the numbers is that it seems that the big bass are returning to shallower waters after summering in the deep, cool pools. While casting to an undercut bank, I was thinking how some of the better fish I have caught were from the spot and, as if on cue, something shot from beneath a rock and waylayed my gully fish. Once it felt the hook, it rolled, flashing me a side that sent my heart to my throat, only to flush it back into my chest with a single tug, and escape.
The second clue came as I hooked, and was bringing home, a scrappy 12-inch largemouth. Most fishermen are familiar with what I call followers, fish that occasionally shadow hooked fish, as if saying "Hey George, whatcha doing all that crazy stuff fer?"
. As I saw this fish's follower, my first thought was "What's a carp doing following this guy?"
My second was "Holy @#$%, that ain't no carp!!!"
Easily twice the size of the foot-long fish I had on, so big I wondered briefly if he was going to hit the hooked fish, this was the biggest bass I have seen in my two years fishing this river. Don't ask me where he was. He's mine.
So I whiled away the morning in the river and, upon returning home, was treated to a delightful brunch on the porch, french toast(with homemade french bread), a little moo juice, and the food of the gods, bacon
. It don't get any better.
An afternoon at the North Carolina Botanical Garden (a handful of pictures in an upcoming blog post), a quick stop at our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture, picture below) to pick up our box of fresh local fare, an evening on the high school soccer pitch (a riveting 2-2 double overtime tie), and a late dinner on the town (prime rib and a chocolate martini for desert) sealed a very, very fine birthday.
And do you want to know the best part of it all? The best part is that, aside from the dinner out, today was not unlike most of our days 'round here. Laid back busy. It seems I'm a pretty lucky old fart.