January 3rd, 2005

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

What Did You Catch Today?

By Harold E. Hattaway Jr.

I was about 8 years old and Grandpa wanted to take me fishing. Now to me that was about the greatest thing in the world, us going fishing together, after all that is why I came to stay with him for the summer.

We were going to leave before daylight and we were going to a farm pond near Opp, Alabama. Grandpa was a gill fisherman. He would have 6 cane poles out of the boat. That gave me the front of the boat to fish out of, I was fishing for bass. I had my trusty Zebco 202 reel that Dad had given me. It was my first reel.

We were doing ok grandpa was catching gills. It did not matter how big they were they went on to the fish stringer. I had not caught anything but had stirred up a yellow jacket nest. It was lucky for me that they did not know where my black 7 inch worm came from. They just swarmed all over the place for a little while.

All of a sudden on my back cast I had hooked Grandpa's Stetson hat. This was not a cowboy hat but an old dress hat that he had worn to the point it was a fishing hat. Well the hat went with the cast. You got it, right into the water. I reeled it in and turned it around for Grandpa to take off the hook. I knew I was dead. I knew I was going to get a good switching. Well he turned the boat back toward the car and the real fear started, he sculled the boat back to the bank and told me to get out of the boat, and if I wanted to bass fish I should do it from the bank.

To me this was worse than getting a switch applied to my back side. Come to think of it Grandpa never did spank me. Anyway he started back across the lake. It was a long way to scull the boat.

He had just gotten all his poles out of the water and I started fishing, I think there were tears in my eyes because my hero was on the other side of the lake. I loved being near him and now this lake was between us. I was walking around the lake and I was paying attention. I was determined to catch a bass. I wanted to show my Grandpa that I could fish. I wanted back in that boat. Well I was casting that black worm and I saw a bass move the water behind a log. I cast over the log and reeled that worm back to my side; I did it really slow hoping the bass would see it. As the worm slid off the log all heck broke loose. I counted to 5 and set the hook. Well it was a big fight.

Please close your eyes for a moment and picture this. I am a little guy, the bank is red clay, the bass is big, and I slip and slide down the bank. Grandpa had always said hold 'em hooker hold 'em whenever he caught a big fish. So here I am on my back side sliding into the water holding on to the rod and fighting the fish yelling hold 'em hooker hold 'em.

Now I am about half way into the water trying to push myself up the little bank. The fish is pulling me into the lake, and I am yelling like the Yellow Jackets have got me.

Grandpa is sculling as hard as he can to get to me. He is going just as fast as he can. He never said a word just sculling and putting his poles into the boat. Now remember it had not been 20 minutes since he finished the first trip back over there. Well I get back to my feet and this Zebco reel is grinding and growling with the fight. I finally get to see this bass; it is the biggest bass I have ever seen. I finally get it to the bank and step on it till Grandpa gets there. When he does arrive he takes on look at the fish and said "what a hog."

We got the bass into the boat and I turned around to find someplace to sit and my Grandpa started laughing as hard as he could I turned around and his face was blood red. He finally got his breath back and told me I was red from my head to my toes.

He told me we were finished fishing for the day; he wanted to get back to town. I was tuckered out from the fight and did not care at that point. I had made Grandpa laugh and made my day. Little did I know but he was about to get even with me for the hat.

We went back to town and he stopped at every bait shop he knew, showed the fish and got it weighed. It was a little over 10lbs. But it was not bad enough that we stopped at every bait shop in and around Opp, Alabama but we also stopped where he worked, a big grocery store. And every place we stopped he had the fish weighed and made me turn around to show off my new color. RED by now not only was my back, red clay red but my face was beginning to have the same color. We finally made it home and he showed off the fish to Grandma, and the backside of me. She was laughing at the story he told, and he mentioned the hat at every place he told the story.

The next day he got home early and told me to get into the car. We were going shopping; we drove for quite a while before we came up on this big barn (big for an 8 year old). And we went into this barn. Inside were cane poles of every size I could imagine.

This wonderful man came over and said hello to my Grandpa and used his first name. They were old friend from the way they talked. And yes the man got the story also. They laughed and laughed. I was getting tired of getting laughed at and the gentleman seemed to notice. Well he asked me if I would like to get a new cane pole. Well this was special because I had never owned one of my own. The gentleman told me that this was the proudest he had ever seen my Grandpa. Well that changes my feelings right away. The man was Lew Childre, if you do not know who Lew was then think Fuji. Lew had a passion about fishing, he never replaced my dad and Grandpa as my heroes but he did become one of my favorite people. While Lew did not sponsor my pro bass career (he died in 1977) I fished with nothing else but his rods.

Lew gave me my first cane pole, that pole caught many gills that summer and others to follow, I never took the pole home with me it stayed with Grandpa.

You never know who you will meet while fishing or looking for fishing gear. Just remember that people like Lew, Ladyfisher, JC, Al Campbell, and others on this website give to us because they love what they do. I am always looking for someone to give a hint to or to help learn how to fish. It is my way of paying it forward because of the lessons I learned from my heroes. I do not think I can walk in their shoes, but I will follow the path they led me down.

Our young people out there need heroes, are you going to be one? Just remember they hang on your every word.

Hope you enjoyed the walk back into my past. Thank you God for putting these heroes and mentors into my life they have made it one joyous ride. ~ Harold E. Hattaway Jr.

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