My ears rejoiced at the sound of the water slapping the sides of my boat as it crept upstream. I open the throttle up and the sound of the engine drowns everything out. The warm air hits so hard that I have to turn my cap around to keep from losing it. The sun is setting behind the trees, casting shadows across the Pearl River. After a short trip up the river, I leave society behind. There hasn’t been another human in sight. This is exactly what I’ve been waiting for.
Last summer, I took a solo camping trip on the river for the first time. I enjoyed the experience so much that I promised myself I’d do it again. I didn’t necessarily plan this particular trip to be my solo trip, but it worked out that way, and part of me is glad that it did. One, the time alone is nice. Two, I like to prove to myself every now and then that I can still do things without the aid of others. Three, I didn’t catch any fish and that would ruin my reputation as a good guide.
I decided to try out a new area to fish on this trip. Once again, it wasn’t planned, but there was a pretty sketchy character at my normal spot, and I didn’t feel good about leaving my truck there given what happened last summer. I dumped the boat in the water and found what I thought were some good looking holes to catch fish in. I got my lines baited right at dark and picked out a nice spot on a sandbar to set up camp and hangout. I gathered enough driftwood for a fire, rigged up a pole, and began the process of waiting.
When you’re alone on the river, there’s plenty of time for deep thought. With Father’s Day approaching, my thoughts turned to how grateful I am for the fathers in my life. Grateful that my dad taught me how to fish. Grateful that he worked a tireless job for so many years to give my sister and I the opportunities that we’ve had. Grateful for the friendship that he and I have now. I thought about my father-in-law. From the early stages of me dating his daughter, he always treated me like part of the family. That has to be a rarity because I’m not sure that I’ll be able to do the same when boys start coming around our house. I’m grateful for the wisdom and advice that he shares, and appreciative of the example he sets.
I highly doubt that I’ll ever live up to the standards that the aforementioned have set. They are both far more selfless than I. Being a father hasn’t been an easy task. There are days that I am completely lost on what to do. Especially dealing with little girls. Some days I don’t know whether to whip them or hug them. When that happens, I usually just do both! Even on the days that are tough, being a father has been the greatest joy of my life. Getting those hugs when you come home after a long day, or a long trip, cannot be matched. Watching them grow, even though I wish they’d stay little, has been so much fun.
The full moon rises high in the night sky making me skeptical of my decision to be out here. I’ve never had much success fishing for catfish on a full moon, but maybe tonight will be different. I check all of my lines and just like I thought, no fish. I encounter a couple of smaller alligators that raises my skepticism of fishing this location. It wouldn’t surprise me to lose all of my bait tonight to these scavengers cruising up and down the banks. I put fresh bait on all of them and head back to my sandbar. After a quick dip in the river to cool off, that driftwood comes in handy. I climb in my tent and drift off to sleep to the sounds of the crackling fire, crickets, and the rhythm of the river.
The morning sun beams through my tent awakening me. There is still a little smoke coming from last night’s fire, so I add some small twigs to re-ignite it. I’m not much of a morning person, so it takes me a few minutes to get my bearings. I pack up camp and head out to check my lines. As I feared, each hook is empty. No bait, no catfish. Whether it was alligators, or gar, I’ll never know, but whatever it was picked the hooks clean. Regretfully, I pull in all of my gear and make my way to the boat landing. I don’t remember a catfish trip where I came back home completely skunked. First time for everything, I guess.
As I pulled away from the river, my spirits lifted a little. Trying to find the silver lining, I made it through the trip unharmed. None of my gear tore up. The boat ran well, and nobody stole my catalytic converter. If it were just about the fish, it would be cheaper to buy it in the store. Well, maybe a couple of years ago it would. On the other hand, coming home without fish is going to make it hard to justify to my wife that I need to keep going. Maybe on the next trip I’ll make up for it.