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8.17.02 Fishing Alone

I'm taking advantage of the dry summer by learning how to fish my local creek. Last year Maria and I dashed around, the madcap Babes in Boyland, looking for the next exciting place to drop our lines and haul in the big one.

It didn't happen.

And so, I've changed strategies. My fantasy goes like this: Boys learn fishing by going to the same fishin' hole day after day. They learn its secrets. They know its inhabitants. Confirmation of my theory: whenever I try to wiggle some fishing advice from my friend Troutman, he tells me it's all "local knowledge."

Until last weekend, "local knowledge" had told me that the streams off Lake Ontario were good for big game salmon and steelheads in the fall, with another chance at the big trout in spring before they headed back into the cool deep of the lake. Nothing hung out in creeks over the summer.

Then, on a warm Sunday morning I decided to play around in the creek by my house anyway and I landed a brown trout. Hmmm...

So last Sunday, when the water was low and crystal clear, I walked and waded for a mile and saw plenty of trout and carp. Then I honed in on the 100 feet or so nearest my house. I watched.

The stream is wide as creeks go -- twenty feet or so, slow moving with dappled shade. A muddy bottom here, with enough fallen trees and discarded tires and shopping carts to ward off swimmers. Its shallows, at the moment, are about 3 feet deep. A rainy stretch, however, or a big snowmelt can turn it into an angry torrent and it can flood so badly that the town finally tore down a row of townhouses in its path.

smallest bullheadMy inventory: a few brown trout, small; pale mullets, nuzzling along the bottom; a pair of carp, papa-sized and baby-sized; and a very large mystery fish. I've only seen this big one in a deeper hole created by a fallen tree branch or feeding in the shallows when the water has been clouded by a thunderstorm. One day he looked spotted -- a big brown? The next day, it looked humpbacked, like a freshwater drum.

Yesterday I stocked up with a fresh box of baby nightcrawlers and made two trips, one in the blistering heat of noon and one just before sunset. The noon trip was better for observing. I did hook a medium-sized fish but it jumped and fought and unhooked himself before I could get a good look.

In the evening the creek is beautiful. The sound of crickets and cicadas remind me of childhood. The waters feel especially mysterious and magical. My big catch: the world's smallest bullhead -- about five inches long. Ah, success.

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