Right now, a construction crew is working on demolishing the bridge over the South Tyger near my house. My son and I walked past the Bridge Out signs last week, just to take a look at the progress they'd made so far. The guard rails had been torn down partially, and the crew had put up erosion barriers to hold back the little bit of dirt they'd pushed around. The water under the bridge is shallow there, as that portion is being silted in. We talked about how great it would be if they would do a little dredging there, deepening the run like is was years ago, back when the bridge was a killer catfish hole.
About twenty-five years ago, I would stand on the bridge and catch channel cats by the dozen. Chicken liver slime marked the spot on the concrete rail where I'd cut chunks of bait, because that's the only bait I knew to use then. I'd drop my line down beside the pilings and wait to set the hook. With a jerk and a bowed rod, I would play the fish out from under the bridge and haul them up to me, dropping the perfect channels cats in a five-gallon bucket.
I kept every one I caught, and we'd save them up for a fish fry on hot Saturday evenings when all of the family would show up for a (free) meal. I never liked fillets of big catfish, they taste to much like the muddy bottom of a pond. I like smaller whole catfish-- minus the head, of course-- fried with the bone in 'em. Salt and pepper, battered and fried, please.
We'd go down there at dark, and fish for hours. It was nice just sitting down there, listening to the sounds of the river bottom on a warm summer night. What was left of the old, old bridge-- one that had fell in years ago-- was a good place to sit, fishing right off the end of it. The part of the old bridge sticking out over the water was a good place to put a folding chair and fish straight down into a deep hole full of bream and catfish. Now, if you stand in that spot, the nearest water is a trickle, seventy yards away. Another good fishing spot lost to hundred of tons of silt and sand.
This place has changed a lot over the years, some changes by nature, others by man. Just goes to show you how things don't stay the same. When I was a kid, I guess I thought it would always be like that, it would always be a good place to catch a few fish for supper. Now from the bridge, all you can see is the shallow water where the carp roll on hot July evenings. If you bushwhack your way upriver or downriver a ways, you may pick up a bass, or catfish or two, but I guess the days of filling the bucket with channel cats are over. That is, unless, mother nature decides otherwise. At least I have the memories.
Hopefully this new bridge with last for years, and provide safe travel for school buses and big trucks traveling across it. For a while now, buses from the school up the road have been going the long way around to avoid crossing it, according to what I read in the paper. Progress is good, run down bridges are bad, no matter if they're a good fishing spot or not.