Fishing Memories

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Fishing Memories

I was cleaning out an old tackle box the other day, when I ran across an old Zebco 33. It made me think, it’s been a long time since I fished with a 33. I looked the reel over and spotted the line sticking out about ˝ inch. I was shocked to see it looked like well rope, it was 50lb test line. Now the only person I ever saw use that size line in a Zebco 33 was my Dad. Sure enough, I checked out the tackle box and it was where I stored some of my Dad’s fishing gear. I opened a little paper box that had sea sponge rigged on a treble hook. The faint smell of stink bait brought back a ton of memories. I sat down on the floor in a daze, with the Zebco in one hand and the paper box in the other. All of a sudden it was 1963!
A Sunday afternoon, early September, the fall rains had been falling on the small little town in western Oklahoma. Dad comes on the back porch in his fishing cover-alls and says, “Grab a shovel and let’s go get some bait.” Now your first reaction would be that my dad and I were going to dig for worms. We didn’t dig for worms. Dad had a homemade shocking rod that we plugged into an extension cord, and the worms would almost jump out of the ground. One lesson here, don’t grab the worm when it is half way out of the ground. That shocking rod would curl your hair! No, what we were going to dig for was a ten-quart pressure-cooking pot that was buried in the backyard next to the tool shed.
“Right their son, start digging”, he said, as my dad handed me the shovel. I would scratch at the dirt until my dad would say, “I could have already had 3 channels on the stringer, move over!” My Dad was a big man, he was a farmer, voted in as County Sheriff for some thirty years, he stood 6 foot 5 inches and weighed in at about 240 pounds, not a ounce of fat. After about 4 shovels full, “clank” went the shovel as it landed on top of the cast iron cooker. I don’t know if you have ever seen one of these cookers or not, but it has wing nuts on the top to tighten the lid down tight. My Dad would stick his head down in the hole and remove the lid, he would take a stick and stir the concoction, he would smile and say, “Do you smell that, why we are going to have bait our hooks behind a tree to keep them catfish from jumping on the bank!” I don’t know if you have ever smelled homemade stink bait that has just breathed for the first time in six months that will also curl your hair. I remember one time we were filling our quart jars with Dad’s Famous stink bait, and 2 of the Light and Water boys from the city pulled up and said one of the neighbors had called about the sewer line being broken. All they were smelling was the ritual stirring that occurred when the pot was opened. To make a point about how strong this bait was, I came home from college for the weekend, Dad was sitting in his favorite chair and noticed something different, Dad’s mustache was gone!
I asked, “Why in the world did you shave your mustache?” I couldn’t remember the last time I saw him without a mustache. He whispered with Mom in the kitchen, “I wuz a fishin’ down at the river yesterday, and when I casting out I hit a tree above me and that sponge hit me right in mustache. I came home early and tried to wash it out with everything I could think of. Didn’t work, so I had to shave it off!” Now we still laugh about that even today!
After filling everyone’s quart fruit jars about half full, that was placed in a carpenters nail sack that we all got at the local lumberyard. In this was a box of sponge treble hooks, barrel weights and toothpicks, a rag, pair rusty pliers, and a whittled down stirring stick (good for one trip).
Dad had a fishing car; it was a 1953 brown Ford that was Mom’s car until we had a quart of homemade stink bait blow up on the way to the river. Somehow from that day on I think the windows were never rolled up on that car. By the time we would all get to the river, that smell somehow had soaked into everything we had on.
Dad had several favorite spots on the Washita River and it really depended on how much rain we had as to which spot he would carefully analyze on trip out of town. As we would arrive at the river the car was unloaded by me, and my two brothers. My older brother Dee was always wishing he was bass fishing instead of sitting on the river. My little brother at this time could care less, and Dee and I had very harsh instructions on watching out for Ed, cause he was going to fool around and fall in the river and drown.
Dad would place us up the riverbank, with him at the end down river. Now we always knew why this was done even though Dad never said anything. It was in case one of us fell in the roaring river he could jump in and save us. Mom wouldn’t be too happy with us coming home one short. We all had Zebco 33’s, Dad always fished with two. He would go find a tree and cut a perfect Y limb, he would stick it in the ground in front of us where he wanted us to fish. Now the rigging would begin. He would tie the sea sponge treble hook on the end of the line after placing a ˝ ounce barrel weight on the line. He would then take a toothpick from his nail sack and hoop hitch it about a foot above the hook. Breaking the toothpick to just the right length. He would say, “OK, wet that sponge and squeeze it out, don’t want that stink bait to get watered down, work it good with the stick in the jar, give em’ enough bait, that they will want come back for more.” Now see that log sticking in the water on the bank, put the bait, right in front of that log, keep a tight line. But wait until I get out of the way, so you don’t sling that bait on me!” No matter how many times we had been fishing I always received the same instructions. Dee would already be fishing and Dad would head over to get Ed settled in and set up. After he checked where everyone was fishing and in the right spot, he would go to his station where he would have 2 poles set out. He always set on 5 gallon empty Conoco oil bucket that he would turn upside down where he would place an old worn out throw rug, neat folded on top. His nail bag was tied around his waist, with his quart jar of stink bait in the middle pocket with a stick placed in the jar. When you would look over at him, he was setting so patient with his burlap wrapped ˝ gallon glass water jug setting beside the bucket, and ole small tin green tackle box, that didn’t have much paint left on it and more dents than a demolition derby car. He always had the goodie bag that mom would pack, or if he got up early, he would make fried egg sandwiches. By noon the eggs were almost rubber, but they sure were good on that riverbank.
We would always receive more instructions about moving around or making any noise, Dad would say, “Those cats and their whiskers can feel every movement you make, so sit very still.” Now the fun would really begin, as Dad would tell us stories about other fishing trips on the river. Again, you could look over at him and you could tell by the little smile on his face that he was right where he wanted to be, fishing with his boys on the river.
We almost always caught fish and everyone would celebrate when someone would yell out, “I am getting’ a bite!” Except when Ed would get a bite, everyone would run over to help. Dad would always say, “Hold on that boy! There are cats in there big enough to pull him in the river!” When we would catch a fish and get him on the bank, Dad was always be the judge and jury. If it was a smaller cat, he would say, “Now that is almost child abuse, turn him back and let him grow up. You did a good job of educating him, he’ll be harder to catch next year.”
If it was a keeper, he’d say, “Yep, that one will stink up the skillet, put him on the stringer.” The stringer was always tied to the handle of Dad’s oil bucket, as we added to the stringer he would wrap the rope around a stick he would drive in the ground. I never could figure out why Dad would keep checking those fish on the stringer, it was so rusted we could barely undo the clips ourselves. Until one day, he lifted up the stringer with only half of the largest fish left on the stringer. The turtles had a feast!
We would spend all day sitting on that riverbank, building memories one at a time. Just before dark, Dad would say, “We better get home, we have fish to clean and we need to leave some for seed anyway.” All the way home we would talk about all the fish we caught and the big one that got away. I have come realize after fishing for 40 years, fisherman never lose a little fish, it was always a monster. I remember something Dad would say, "If you wish to be happy for an hour, get drunk. If you wish to be happy for three days, get married. If you wish to be happy for eight days, kill your pig and eat it. If you wish to be happy forever, learn to fish." Dad did real good job of this, because us three boys would rather fish than eat!
As I sat on the floor, I could see my dad sitting on that bucket, the Johnson grass waving the wind, his pole bent and that little smile as he turns and nods his head in pure enjoyment. Dad passed away about 6 years ago, and I know he is fishing on a beautiful river, just waiting for his 3 sons to join him someday.

Gene Hines 2002

This is Dad's Secret Homemade Stink Bait!!

3/4 gallon ground shad

2lbs limburger cheese  or any cheese

1 cup of flour

2 teaspoons of cider vinegar

2lbs calf brains

one banana

bury 3 foot down in sealed container for 3 weeks Just For Fishin'
Copyright (c) 2001 5954 E Hubbard Rd Ponca City, OK 74604

Created by xsorbit