September 3rd, 2007

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Pop Hutchin's Boathouse
By Richard A. Taylor

First actual fishing experiences consisted of hand lining for lake perch, with minnows as bait, from a rented wooden rowboat. Happened in the late 40's.

My Grandma had a boarder that earlier in life pretty much fished for a living at one time and he caught and sold fresh fish as a means of supporting himself. He was a whiz at this type of "angling" and imparted some of his knowledge to an impressionable eight year old thru a few summers of fishing.

Actually, in New England, my season was better described locally as, "ice in ice out." In other words, we fished as soon as you could put a boat in the water without scraping small floating chunks of ice and stopped only when it was too thick to row thru and ice formed on the oarlocks while rowing.

My "instructor" didn't have a car; so, we would go down to the corner of Grandma's street; one of two main routes in town, and thumb a ride to the lake every Saturday and/or Sunday. Loaded with our gear and lunches in two or three metal pails, plus our homemade "minner" seine we usually caught a ride fairly soon and regularly with one of several other fishermen that knew Grandma's boarder.

For those of you new to or never having caught your own bait, the essentials of a "minner" seine consists of a wooden broom handle, to which is attached a reclaimed piece of window screen and some hefty twine tied from the stick to the four corners of the screen. The "minner" bait was always a few pieces of Grandma's stale bread wrapped in some foil. Grandma's stash of stale bread was used for making her delicious stewed 'maters, which I crave to this day.

After reaching the lake, some dozen or so miles from town, we would go down to the narrow channel, just above the shale rock dam and proceed to fill one of our buckets with approximately inch long "minners." This momentous event took but a few minutes of dunking the wire screen, baited with some stale bread, into the shallow water and quickly pulling up the "minner" laden treasure and dumping them into one of our buckets. Thus, baited and ready to go, next up was securing one of Pop Hutchin's ancient wooden rowboats for the day, at the then princely rental sum of $1.00 for the entire day's outing! "Pop" was a character to say the least and I long suspected that he held the best of his ancient fleet in reserve till our timely weekend arrivals.

His "boathouse" was actually a series of old dilapidated wooden structures; that I doubt had ever seen the inside contents of a paint can. They were the consistency of what your image of old barn board siding would look like today. He had about three door way entrances to separate rooms of the structure that housed his private boat; the one with some actual paint on it, and short docks that were adjacent to his "minner" bait traps. "Pop" seemed to take great delight when inviting us in to show off his secret to an impressionable eight year old. Reaching into one of his bait traps, he'd remove a large belly-up minnow, and then walk to the end of the inside dock and dangle it just into the water and slightly splash it around for a few seconds. Suddenly, out of the greenish sunlit depths appeared a largemouth bass of biblical proportions, even to adult sized eyeballs and not just the eight year old ones now popping out of my lids. He could actually hand feed this monster and several others that would appear when the watery dinner bell rang. It was a never ending delight to be led into "Pop's" sanctuary and watch this miracle happen time and again.

My job, after the boat launch, was to row us the entire length of the channel out into the main lake. Meanwhile Gram's boarder set out two bait rods, one in hand and one held by foot to the bottom side of the boat, and proceed to troll the length of the channel on the off chance that we'd pick up a decent eatable fish. Not a trash fish, as he called them, like a pickerel or pike which he considered way too bony to eat. Occasionally we'd get a nice largemouth or even a few perch; but, in the summer the channel was too shallow and hot to produce many perch and had few weed beds to hide them from the predatory trash fish.

Once arriving at the mouth of the main lake we'd row out till the tops of the weed bed were visible just a few feet under the water. We'd bait two hand lines and hang them over the side and let the boat drift till the first perch would hit. I was told that perch are a school fish and as soon as we encountered some there would be many more in the area. Overboard went the small anchors into twenty to forty feet of water and three hand lines went over each side baited with about inch long minnows. It was a fever pitched occasion when we hit a big school as we would pull aboard perch as fast as we could haul them up and re bait.

Unfortunately, to this day, I never learned to swim; but, I sink real good. However, the water never held any fear for me till the day of our greatest catch. The boat was filling fast and when I noticed the fish about ankle deep and the water within a short distance of the boat top it was suggested that maybe we ought to row ashore and empty it out. We beached it, removed all our gear, then simply turned the boat over. Gram's boarder could clean and skin a perch faster then anyone I ever saw and he proceed to do just that while suggesting that I row back out and catch some more. Memory is a mite hazy after all this time; but, the catch came to something like 263 perch that day. We stopped at a couple of restaurants near "Pop's" place and sold all of the perch there. They knew us well and welcomed being able to put on the evening menu - "Fresh caught perch."

"Pop Hutchen's Boathouse" is long gone now; but, the memories of his kindness and the sharing of his secret pet bass feeding long remain. ~ Richard A. Taylor Grn Mt Man

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