Fishing has always been in mankind’s blood, starting as part of our primal history for subsistence and developing into one of our favorite pastimes.
Like anything that has been around as long as fishing, it has accumulated its fair share of sayings and anecdotes.
Three that come to mind: “A day spent fishing is not deducted from a man’s (or woman’s) life”; “You should have been here last week”; and “The worst day fishing is better than the best day at work.”
I decided to put the last saying to the test. I sampled three fishing areas within a 2½-hour drive. Without giving a spoiler alert, I did find that indeed, the worst day fishing wins every time.
Joining me on the first leg of this odyssey was Terrance Parks, a 2013 Center Grove High School graduate and avid fisherman. We received permission to fish on Sugar Creek west of Darlington. As we drove up to the farmhouse to check in, a bobcat ran across the road in front of us. We saw it as a good omen.
Within minutes we were throwing lures into the deeper pools but with limited success. We then approached a gentle, wide ripple and cast below and into it, as well as around any boulders bordering it. Within 15 minutes we had caught 15 smallmouth bass. Most were small, from four to nine inches, but we learned how to use the creek’s flow to target fish.
After two hours we had gone 500 yards and decided to turn back, catching 70 smallies.
Back at the bridge I asked Terrance, “In 48 hours you will enter Ball State as a freshman, and your life will never be as free or unencumbered as it is at this very moment. Are you sure you want to go home, or do you want to fish a while longer?”
“How about 15 more minutes?” he shot back.
We totaled 85 hookups of catch-and-release fish. We could have caught 100, but this old salt and the college freshman needed to have something to look forward to. Besides we had just been “here last week.”
Four days later another old salt, John Carr, and I hit Sugar Creek in a different area. Carr got his waders on and his fly rod ready before me and headed to the water. I came down to find him holding a tape measure, one he claimed he used to measure a huge smallie he caught on his first cast, 19.5 inches! Of course he had released the fish before I witnessed the event, which reminds of yet a fourth fishing quote, “All fishermen are liars except you and me, and sometimes I wonder about you.”
The north fork of the Wildcat Creek has a public access point at Knop Lake, near Rossville. The early-evening sun blanketed everything with a warm, golden hue, and the bottom of the creek was covered in slippery rocks of all sizes. Fearing an ankle or knee injury, I questioned whether I should venture upstream, but that’s usually where the fish are.
Deep red damselflies, various butterflies and dragonflies were so numerous as to make me stop, both to avoid the paths of their flight and to admire the wonder of their beauty.
Fishing is secondary for a moment, but I am brought back to earth as I catch and release a beautiful pumpkinseed sunfish, then a warmouth bass and several smallies, using the same ripple technique Terrance and I employed on Sugar Creek. It is a solitary, almost primeval setting, one that I am sorry I had driven by for years without stopping.
Less than two hours spent fishing, with 20 catch-and-release fish to show for it.
The third stop on my trilogy of fishing was three days later on the historic Tippecanoe River, pride of Indiana’s natural waterways. Instead of wading the river, I used an inflatable pontoon boat that I would row eight miles to my takeout spot with little help from the river’s mostly sluggish current.
With the sun disappearing behind the trees, I was compelled to make one more cast.
It felt like a small Volkswagen when it hit, first tugging down, then shaking its head. I responded by leaning back on the rod, thinking this must be a really nice smallie. Then it shook again and headed under the boat, and again I pulled back, the rod now bent at 90 degrees, the fish not budging. Two more head shakes, and my lure was sent flying out of the water. Was it a musky? More casts yield nothing, so I toil the final four miles to my car.
I am going back tomorrow, but as they told Captain Quint in Jaws, “You’re going to need a bigger boat.”
Doug Skinner is a semi-retired veterinarian. Send comments to email@example.com.