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Morning Sun
  • TRUE STORIES: You get a line. I’ll get a pole.

  • After reminiscing with John Bozich at the Pittsburg Farmer’s Market last week about the leisurely nature of cane pole fishing when we were kids I got a yearning to do it again.

    Maybe catch a mess of crappie, perch, bluegill, bullhead and bass like I did with grandpa Matt.

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  • After reminiscing with John Bozich at the Pittsburg Farmer’s Market last week about the leisurely nature of cane pole fishing when we were kids I got a yearning to do it again.
    Maybe catch a mess of crappie, perch, bluegill, bullhead and bass like I did with grandpa Matt.
    All we needed back then was a cane pole, line and hook. Most times with a sinker and cork — but sometimes we fished without them. I remember grandpa talking to me about how to choose the right pole — with a good flex to cushion the pull of the fish. Landing a fish is different with a cane pole, to be sure. Grandpa was a master at letting the pole do the work; even dipping the pole tip down toward the water if he was fighting a big bass to keep from breaking the line — or the pole.
    And he could do things with a cane pole you can’t do with a rod and reel. For instance, getting around brush and overhanging limbs. Many times I saw grandpa deftly lift his pole and swing his line into spots inaccessible by casting.
    No fancy lures were required either. Worms were our usual bait but we also used frogs, minnows, shiners, grasshoppers, crawdads and cut up perch we’d caught. Sometimes chicken liver and blood bait when going after catfish.
    Sometimes we caught fish. Sometimes we didn’t.
    Of course the shared solitude of traveling the dusty back roads with grandpa in his ’52 Chevy pickup, to sit quietly on the bank of a strip pit or farm pond, added a lot to the charm of cane pole fishing.
    Not to mention the stops at out-of-the-way places like Terlip’s at Grasshopper Corner or Pinachio’s near Ringo to get a cold bottle of pop and listen to him shoot the bull with the colorful patrons.
    These days, finding the fish is easier than finding a cane pole. I’m not talking here about the telescoping or jointed kind you can get at Walmart but the one-piece 12 to 16 footers. Once a common thing at every bait shop, sporting goods store and rural gas station, they’re not to be found anywhere today.
    I got to wondering why.
    Maybe because rod and reel sets are so cheap? Or could it be a lost art? A simple, rhythmic pleasure that’s on the verge of being lost? I sure hope not.
    Turned out the biggest reason for the absence of cane poles is the cost of shipping them. This I discovered by doing a little Internet research followed by a phone call last Saturday morning to the C.M. Boutwell Fishing Pole Co. in Andalusia, Ala. Their slogan: "You can't beat it with a stick."
    Page 2 of 2 - A woman answered when I called. “Is this the fishing pole company,” I asked. “Yes,” she replied in a mellow southern accent. “Wait a minute.” Then I heard, in the background, a sound that went straight to boyhood summer: the unmistakable creak, stretch of spring, and slam of a backdoor screen opening and closing.
    What followed was a pleasant visit with Craig Boutwell in which he apologetically told me the shipping costs had gotten so high he sold poles only in a radius in which he could deliver them himself, whereas when he was a boy, his family shipped all over the country.
    Still, I’m thinking there’s gotta’ be a ready made, bona fide cane pole with my name on it out there somewhere. So I’m gonna keep looking.
    In the meantime I’ll have to be content with my memories of cane pole fishing:
    • The gentle arc of the lifted pole and the baited line swinging out over the water.
    • The plop of the line, sinker and cork — followed by concentric circles slowly expanding slowly across the still water of a strip pit.
    • The cork’s nibbling dance and downward plunge, followed by the jerk to set the hook, the pole’s pulsating connection to the line, and the thrill of seeing the squirming catch break the surface.
    • The wet gunnysack full of pan fish next to the cane poles rattling in the bed of Grandpa’s pickup as we sing our way home, followed by a funnel of light brown Kansas dust.
    J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and prevention and wellness coordinator at Pittsburg State University. He also operates Knoll Training, Consulting & Counseling Services in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 231-0499 or jtknoll@swbell.net
     

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