As Wildcat Creek slows and widens, just before it flows into what we call Tyger River Swamp, there is a stretch of water that is deep and full of stumps and fallen trees, as well as cattails and willows, making it nearly impenetrable, that is, unless you happen to be the kind of nut that will do anything or go anywhere to catch a fish. And if it so happens that you are warped enough to weave your way through the thick tangle, and get wet from head to toe, not to mention the possibility of coming face to face with snakes, snapping turtles, or the occasional rabid animal, you'd better be prepared to hang on, because there's no telling what you might catch, and there's no telling how big it will be. Sure it's a challenge to fight a five pound bass in heavy cover from the casting deck of a boat, but try it laying on your belly, half-submerged in mud, with a rod better suited to catch bream or crappies with, knowing all the time that it is an exercise in futility. It's not so much if you will break off the fish of a lifetime, it's when.
I've taken a lot of grief over the years for my lack of good judgement when it comes to waters deemed unsuitable to fish in by normal people. One man remarked that I'd rather wade through a swamp full of leaches to catch a warmouth, than to stand on the front of a brand new boat to catch a record-breaking striper or largemouth bass, but that's just how I am. I've even passed this trait on to my son, who is also a junk fisherman, as some have called it. Truth is, I get a lot of satisfaction sitting on a bucket in the middle of a swamp somewhere, swatting 'skeeters and catching bluegills that fit perfectly in the palm of my hand.
There is just something about fishing in those hard to get to places that intrigues me. I have often found that the rougher it is to bushwhack your way through, the greater the chances there will be a good payoff for your efforts, unless, that is, you get tangled up and can't get back out, or you drown.
My brother and I sliced our way out into the swamp one Saturday and once we reached the water, we had to wade two hundred yards out to get to where we could cast to where fish would be. The weeds were so thick that even a floating worm would snag, and we would pull fifty feet of weeds back on the retrieve. We figured that if we spent a couple of days pulling weeds and hanging them on clusters of bushes all around where we were standing, we'd have a pretty good spot to fish. One good thing, though-- after half an hour or so, the bass began to go nuts, and we couldn't make a cast without them nailing it, if we wanted to. We had a lot of broken lines and lost rigs that day, but we caught more bass that day than either one of us could've imagined.
My son is truly a swamp-rat. He will lay across a dead tree and fish a hole the size of a tractor tire, and catch all kinds of fish. He's an old live bait fisherman to the core, and he won't hesitate to rip off tree bark or dig around under the banks to find just the right bait to use. I wouldn't put it past him to pick maggots off roadkill, if he thought it would produce a fish (you'd never see that on one of those TV fishing shows).He knows that the key to fishing is the ability to adapt to whatever situation you're presented with. Getting wet and nasty, and maybe a little bloody, is just part of the adventure for him.
Soon--maybe this weekend-- I'll find myself knee-deep in mud and weeds, trying to coax a bream to bite. No, I won't catch a wall hanger or fill the freezer with fish, but I will have a good time. And as the sun dips behind the trees, and the frogs begin to sing, I'll look out through the flooded timber and be content.
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