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Morning Sun
  • TRUE STORIES: Feeling an ache

  • I've been feeling an ache lately.



    It started not long after I was thumbing through my old scrapbook from the 1950s and '60s and came across a couple of pictures of me holding fish.

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  • I've been feeling an ache lately.
    It started not long after I was thumbing through my old scrapbook from the 1950s and '60s and came across a couple of pictures of me holding fish.
    In the first, I am eight years old, standing at rigid attention while clutching a borrowed Zebco with my left hand and a carp (a carp as long as my leg) with my right.
    I have a roll up on the arms of my short-sleeve shirt and one on the cuffs of my jeans. My hair is freshly combed with a crisp part. The red brick facade of Frontenac High School looms in the background. The expression on my face is serious, one of proud accomplishment.
    The second picture was taken three years later. In it, I'm standing in the back yard of my grandparents' house, proudly holding, high in front me, a stringer of good-sized bass and channel cat.
    In this one I'm wearing my first pair of glasses — black, horned-rimmed standard issue that are again in fashion — and my hair is cut in a flat top. I have a double cuff on the sleeves of my long-sleeve shirt and a fat one on my jeans.
    In the background, across a grassy vacant lot, runs the path to Lillie Mouser's white bungalow. The expression on my face is proud, but this time, shows the hint of a smile.
    I caught the carp on an early morning fishing trip to the Spring River with my dad and Leo Matson. We were casting dough balls up against the base of a dam, standing out in the water. When I hooked the carp, we all thought at first that I'd gotten snagged on the rocks again … but then my "rock" started to move laterally.
    What followed was a dramatic tussle that Harold Ensley couldn't have topped on "The Sportsman's Friend."
    In water up to my chest, I fought the seven-pound carp for the next 15 minutes — on a couple of occasions slipping on the rocky bottom and going completely under only to rise and reel as I coughed, blew the water from my nose and struggled to work the fish toward the bank.
    When a fisherman with a dip net stepped in and helped me land it and then held the carp aloft for all to see, a cheer went up.
    My grandpa Matt and I caught the stringer of bass and channel cat over at Lightning Creek west of town one Saturday in the early spring. For bait, we used what my grandpa called "shiners" (large minnows) purchased at Terlip's store a mile north of town at Grasshopper Corner.
    Although I had my own rod and reel by that time, that day I fished the way grandpa did — with a cane pole, nylon line, a good-sized hook, a sinker and a large plastic cork.
    Page 2 of 2 - "Hot dog! They're bitin' today J.T.," I remember grandpa smiling over at me after he'd just taken a three-pound bass off my hook and replaced it with a new shiner.
    There’s a visceral sense of harmony to fishing.  In fact, I sometimes think of a rod and reel or cane pole as a rhythm stick with which to take part in the elegant music of a river or creek.
    Skillful angling with a rod and reel requires a certain mastery of cadence. A feel for the weight of the lure, the geometry of the cast, the flex of the rod, the point in the forward motion of the wrist at which to let loose the monofilament line to fly toward the intended landing spot.
    So too with a cane pole. I'd just gotten strong enough to manage a 14-footer at the time of my Lightning Creek outing with grandpa, and was beginning to get the hang of the rhythm of fishing with one — the feel for the lilt of the line as it hung off the end of the tapered pole and the necessary cadence to swing line, cork, sinker and hooked shiner precisely to the edge of a nearby brush pile …  or far outward into the middle of the creek.
    Added to the rhythm of fishing itself was but the benevolent cadence of spending the day with dad and grandpa sharing stories and getting guidance.
    I also remember how those fishing trips gave us a way of connecting with another beat — the healing spiritual pulse of nature that permeated the air when we were outdorrs together near the water.
    Something akin to the opening sentence in Norman Maclean's novella, “A River Runs Though It,” in which the narrator, the son of a Presbyterian minister says, "In our family there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing."
    I suppose it just might all be looking better to me in hindsight. Or it could be it's the busyness and disjointed rhythm of life lately is getting to me.
    Regardless, I've been feeling an ache lately. An ache to go fishing.
    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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