Along The Trail 4-20-17

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Editor’s Note: ‘Along the Trail’ is a weekly column written by David Hewitt of Switzerland County; and covers all things dealing with the outdoors, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.

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As far back as I can remember, I’ve always felt that urge to be outdoors. In the days before cable and satellite television, I would watch Saturday afternoon fishing shows and aways watched ‘Wild Kingdom’ on Sunday evenings – anything about hunting, fishing or wildlife, I was interested.

My Dad always made time to take me fishing as a youngster and I’m sure that helped build my passion for the outdoors. Back then, it seemed there wasn’t a local farm pond around Rising Sun or the east side of Switzerland County that was immune to my fishing habit!

As I became a little older and my folks gave me a longer rope, the creeks within bicycle range became my new targets. A whole new world of adventure opened up wading and casting ultralight fishing rigs in the upper reaches of Grant’s Creek and Arnold’s. Once I had my driver’s license, my world grew even larger and I could be routinely found sneaking through the riffles of Laughery, Bear Creek, and South Fork. I’d make early morning trips up Hogan Creek in Dearborn County and as far south as the Indian-Kentuck in Brooksburg.

I can remember plainly as a teenager wading the shallows and tossing small spinners into the deeper pools, looking for a shaded bank or a small eddy behind a rock sure to hold a hungry smallmouth bass..

Those were good days. No social media, no cell phones, no 24 hour news cycles. Just me and a buddy or two, our fishing rods, some old tennis shoes and being lost to the world for a time.

To this day, I still find myself drawn to swift, shallow water in hopes of catching smallies. There is nothing like the sight of a nice sized, creek bronzeback on the end of your line. Last Friday morning found me slinking along the edge of the Muscatatuck River. A more perfect day couldn’t have been imagined. Blue skies, wispy clouds and just enough of a breeze to keep the gnats at bay.

The Muscatatuck is a hard bottom, clear water stream with plenty of rocks. Perfect cover for smallmouth bass. The steep limestone cliffs jut skyward while the edges of the river were dotted in purple from the redbuds. A few of the dogwoods had started to bloom and the air was filled with the scent of their white flowers. The the deeper pools were dark, but the water was crystal clear from the shallow rapids that dumped into them.

A large boulder formed a pocket of slack water behind it -a perfect ambush spot for a hungry bass. I tossed my lightweight lure towards the shadow of the rock and worked the bait slowly. Nothing doing…

Another cast, this time exactly where I wanted it. I bounced the little crawdad imitation along the slate bottom and a strike! The bass hit like a freight train and ran towards the current. The little champ put up quite a battle and line screeched off the reel. A few seconds later and a fat, healthy smallmouth was in the water at the edge of my feet. All of ten inches, the little fellow thought he was a monster. I popped the lure from his mouth and admired the iridescence of his scales. A mixture of greens, bronze, brown, yellow and white, he shimmered in the springtime sun.

Once I placed him back into the stream, he melted away, his colors perfectly camouflaged among the rocks.

I spent the better part of the morning wading a half mile of river, taking in the colors, soaking up the sun. Cast after cast, I was again that teenage boy lost to the world for a bit. No worries, no work, just me, my fishing pole and a handful of fish.

– David Hewitt