I’ve always thought that I should write about my outdoor experiences, but never followed through. My father has always urged me to do so, and like so many others, I agree then move on without taking his advice. It’s only fitting that my first blog be born out of a father’s day weekend adventure on the river with my dad. The trip wasn’t necessarily a well planned event, but more of a spur of the moment type thing. This is unusual for me as I am the planning type. Rarely do I ever do anything on a whim. That is a characteristic that I’ve acquired with increasing age. A few days earlier I purchased a used 16′ War Eagle aluminum boat with a 40hp motor (with my wife’s blessing) and had been eager to put her in the water. On Friday night I called my dad and asked if he could make the drive down the next morning to take the boat to a local river nearby to check a log for flathead catfish. In Mississippi we have a handgrabbing, or noodling, season that lasts until mid July. My dad said he would come down which blew my mind because he is not the spur of the moment type neither. Maybe it is an inherited trait rather than an age thing. The next day, around 1:30 or so, we headed for the Bouie River located just outside of Hattiesburg, MS. Two of my three daughters, Mackenzie (8) and Collins (5), decided to tag along with us for the trip. Neither of them have ever been on a handgrabbing trip before so I figured a quick trip to the Bouie would be the best way to break them in. The night before, they laid on the couch next to me watching videos on how the fishing technique was done. Seeing people pull large catfish from pits in the water drove their excitement and they were ready to go see it for themselves. We arrived at the river around 2:00 and slipped the boat in the water. The river level is pretty low as we haven’t had any rain in over a week or so. With the water level being down it makes for treacherous travel down the river. More than once I have to get out of the boat and pull it through the shallow water. The scenery surrounding us is nothing short of wonderful. Plenty of large trees and steep banks line the small river. The skies are blue with very few clouds as the sun beams down on us as we head to our spot. My mind grows with anticipation of what we will encounter when we arrive. I’m a handgrabbing novice so I repeatedly go through a checklist of what I’m supposed to do once I get to the sunken log. I see the bottom end of the log coming out of the river and I pull the boat onto a rock bank across the river from it. The river is only about 30-40 yards wide in this spot so it should be easy to get to from the opposite side. The water temperature is near perfect on this hot June day and I make my way across the river to the lower end of the log that is submerged just beneath the surface. I’ve been fishing this particular log with my uncle for more than 15 years and it almost always proves fruitful. However, this is one of the few times that I’ve come to this spot without him so my mind tells me that there probably won’t be a fish in it. Wrong! I wedged my body into the hole to keep any potential fish from escaping and ran my arm into the log. Almost immediately I am made very much aware that there is a fish in the log as it attacks my arm. After a couple of tries I’m able to grab the fish. My dad can’t believe it when I tell him I have ahold of a large catfish. He has since joined me in the water, mostly for moral support. The kids are standing on the rock bar waiting with anticipation of watching their dad catch a fish with his hands. I look across at them and ask them if they are ready to have their world rocked. Of course, they start to twitch with excitement and probably some doubt as well. I run my arm through the fish’s giant mouth and push my hand through its gills. Once I feel like I’ve got a firm handle on the fish I pull it out of the log. It’s much bigger than I thought it was and it explodes from the log like a torpedo knocking me backward. I’m able to gain my footing and display the fish that is larger than my five year old daughter. They can’t believe it, and neither can I. I make my way back across the river and we take enough pictures to fill up a photo album. It’s a proud moment for me as a father because I got to seemingly be a hero for the moment. It’s also a proud moment for my father who got to be there to watch his son do something he loves. We begin to make our way back up the river toward the boat launch. Looking at my watch I know that I am probably going to be in trouble when I get home. We were supposed to be back by 4:00 because my wife (Amy) and I are supposed to go out to eat to celebrate our 10th anniversary. After 10 years of marriage she undoubtedly understands by now that I am never going to be on time getting back from an outdoor adventure. Maybe bringing home a large fish will distract her from how late I actually am! Thankfully she never mentioned the fact that I was an hour and a half late. As we carefully make our way back up the river I cannot help but think about all of the times I have made trips like this when I was growing up. This is what makes getting out in nature worth it all. Catching fish or killing a deer, turkey, etc. is just bonus money. The real trophy is found in spending time in the woods or on the water and sharing that time with the people you love. I’m grateful for a father’s day experience with my dad and two of my three daughters. It is an experience that I will not forget anytime soon and I hope that they won’t forget it either.
An awesome day no doubt!