Friday, October 31, 2008

The North Anna catch: Fish, friends and our Maker (Joshua

Embarking on the great Smallmouth adventures on the North Anna River in Central Virginia is no easy task, and few river floats have been easy. As much as fishing for hours while floating down small, historically-marked rivers may in itself contain the adventures of leisure time, placing the canoes by the river’s ramps and making sure all the necessities are accounted for is another thing. But few things have given me more pleasure in life than to be able to sink my line with a friend in a small river full of one of God’s toughest river fish, the Smallmouth Bass. And it was in such a place I found one of the strongest fish I had caught thus far.

The difference between the Smallmouth bass and the Largemouth, its relative, is simply in the name. The Largemouth has a larger mouth while the Smallmouth is a smaller fish by weight and has a smaller mouth and jaw.

As much as a Largemouth may outweigh the Smallmouth by several pounds at times, the fight, catch and feel of the Smallmouth on the end of the rod is a completely different feeling than that of its cousin. Largemouths mainly live and exist in still water such as ponds and lakes, while the Smallmouth is most of the time a river fish which sits against the rivers currents waiting for food to come over the rapids and tops of rocks. Usually searching for bugs and even small amphibians to fall into the water or waiting for water creatures to choose a path toward the appetite of the fish, it usually waits under rocks and ledges mostly in the shade, especially on the hotter days of summer.

Our float along the North Anna lasted two days. The first day of the trip was unsuccessful for myself, whereas my best friend, his dad and my dad had been successful in catching at least a few fish, among which were; chain pickerel and Smallmouth. The following day, leaving the small bank we camped on for the night, we floated along a series of ledges not even fifty feet past the campsite. This is where I had decided to stop trying to be a genius with deciding which lure would make a catch. I started using a Wacky Worm by Gary Yamamoto, which is a simple rig used by jiggling a large colorful worm along the water from the bottom to the top. The hook is inserted through the middle of the lure to make it drag against the water.

With one cast I let the worm sink a few feet. As I reeled up the line from the bottom of a ledge I watched as a nearly four pound Smallmouth jumped from the shade of a large ledge, sucked the worm down to retreat back into the shade. I had now set the hook, and he had now started to fight pulling the canoe any way he wanted. His incredible strength was due to his lean muscles produced from spending all his life working against the river’s strong and steady current. After fighting for several minutes for one of the most memorable catches of my life, I had him in the boat long enough to take the hook out of his mouth, kiss him and show everyone the wonderful catch I made only because “God wanted me to make that catch,” as I said. I let him back into the water, back to his ledge, back to his shade, so that hopefully he would get bigger, and I would come back one day and meet an old friend again in hopes to repeat one of the greatest catches of my life: a large emotion and presence of God’s wonderful creation.

I had the wonderful free will to put him back on that hanging ledge that lay just under the water’s surface, hopefully to see him another day and feel the power of God’s handiwork once again. I have not been back to the North Anna since that trip, but the last time I went trekking through the low water level and pulling canoes through “Rock Garden,” I found a greater view of God and one of the most memorable experiences of life in the outdoors.

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~Josh Hughes

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