Along The Trail 7-18-13

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Cool and wet, summer has felt more like March and April rather than early July. Constant rain here and upstream has the Ohio lapping over its normal Markland pool.

It’s Friday morning and my car is on auto pilot as I scoot down Antioch Road like a thousand times before heading to work. I cross the bridge and Grant’s Creek is creeping out of her banks. The water is clear as it makes its way into the bottoms and fields.

Friday afternoon, the return trip home and she’s even higher. The river is approaching 40-feet and the creek has slipped even further over her shore. I pause on the bridge and check the back waters…

There it is. A large ripple and then a splash.

The carp have found the high water along the edge of the hayfield and I have found my plan for Saturday morning.

Bright and early I’m up. I hop over the bridge railing and gingerly wade my way through a maze of thistles and stinging nettles over the bank. The walking is easy once I hit the field. I can hear the big fish splashing in the shallows, as I grip my bow tight with anticipation.

The water is cool to the touch as I step in. It was a slow, gentle rise and the water is clear and clean; in stark contrast to the spring rise, fast and harsh, murky and muddy. The fish are here, but not like the spawn. These fish are up in the weeds to feed. No rolling or swimming two by two, side by side, love is not in the air. Food is on their mind.

The water is deeper than it looks as it hits my thighs and takes my breath.

A tail fin breaks the water as I make out the shape of the orange and gray fish with the help of polarized sunglasses while I squint my eyes to bring him into focus. Cautiously, step by step I cut the distance, trying not to make a wake as I move. The old fiberglass recurve comes to full draw and the heavy arrow is on its way with a splash…the big fish tears out leaving a wake of his own.

A clear miss from eight yards.

I shake my head and remind myself of light refraction and shooting arrows into deeper water.

I wait for another chance, patience is the key. These clear water carp are wary, like fishing for trout in a stream. Keep my movement to a minimum and “put the sneak on” is my plan. I stand statue still as a few more fish swim in from the main body of the creek, revealing their shapes in the clear, fresh water of the field. Cars drive by and slow down to watch and I can only imagine what the drivers and passengers think of a middle-aged man wading around in waist deep water carrying a bow.

Some honk and wave as they pass, others shout out a greeting.

I find myself becoming part of the backwater as minnows surround me and water insects are skittering across the surface just inches from me as I wait on my prey. I’m not the only hunter here this morning as a belted kingfisher sits on a wire waiting for his breakfast.

A blue heron sweeps in for a look and then flares at the last moment when she realizes something’s amiss in her water hole. A family of wood ducks whistles down the creek at rocket speed.

My senses are alive as a fin breaks the water’s surface. The carp is nose down tail up in high grass, searching for some morsel of food. Slowly, I work towards his spot, closer and closer until he’s in range. The big fish sinks deeper in the forest of weeds, out of sight. I stand perfectly still, patience again, quiet as I can be.

Once again, the backwater comes to life as creatures swim past or fly by, revealing themselves to me, making themselves known. I can almost feel my heart rate slow and my breathing become deeper and deeper, more relaxed as I become part of nature, one of the players out here. Just be still I think to myself.

The weeds move unnaturally and a small slick of mud give away the fish’s location. My string is back as I hit my anchor point. The barbed arrow hits home and the fish is pulled in. Not the giant spawners from the Spring, but a solid 10-pounder in any bowfisherman’s book. I take my catch to the edge of the grass and then return to the water where my hunt continued to play out…

Standing there in the water, the sun warming my back, blending into the natural world, being quiet, listening rather than hearing, watching rather than seeing, I’m reminded of a verse from Psalms about being still in the Lord’s presence and a grin crosses my lips…

– David Hewitt