Fish Tales

The ritual begins by prepping the area for service. Weed-whacking the over grown banks, setting up sleeping tents, and icing down multiple cases of beer. A huge bonfire is built and maintained constantly throughout the long weekend, employing the same basic primal instincts used by their ancestors who themselves had a quest for fire.

I had endured the festival more than once through the years, many other years not at all. On this one particular weekend, I had planned to visit just for the afternoon, a silly thing like employment had shortened any possibility of me going through the entire process of mental cleansing. The annual campsite is a beautiful, wooded area on the South fork of the Shenandoah. When I arrived, about six guys had already completed the initial steps of preparation and had moved on to Phase Two. Drinking beer, shooting the empty cans with the one pellet gun available and stoking the fire from time to time. I made my friendly chit-chat with the gang before beginning on my real quest, which was to go and do some fishin’. This is a great stretch of water for doing battle with descent sized smallmouth. I walked through the field along the bank leading up to where a large steel bridge spans the river. The plan was, fish for an hour or three, then wade back downstream to the camp. I quietly inched into the chilly waters, wearing just my fishing vest, a t-shirt, a pair of shorts and wading boots. I stopped for a moment to ‘read’ the river and develop my plan of assult. I had fished this section of water many times before, so I knew the in’s and out’s, it was just a matter of where to begin. Directly below the bridge were some deep pockets that had always held good fish, but it was tough, potentially dangerous wading. Big rocks and fast water. You could venture straight out from the bank to fish a very deep hole that developed downstream of the bridge. Below that hole was a wide stretch of descent water that usually produced a good number of smaller fish. So I’m standing there in belly-high water (back when my belly was higher), inspecting the live-action map of the river. Then, something catches my eye from under the clear waters to my left. I think that I knew what it was, but it didn’t make any sense, just didn’t register in the ole’ noodle-brain. I raised my casting arm up to keep my fly rod out of the water (for some stupid reason, since the rod can safely get wet) and bent over face to face with the river’s surface. There staring up at me from the river’s bottom is no other than Andrew Jackson. Not the ex-president who’s been dead now for 170 years. Don’t be ridiculous. It was a twenty dollar bill, resting quietly on the silty river’s bottom, momentarily unmoved by the water’s current. I stood back up, my face no doubt skewed into an expression of confusion, right eye brow raised as the lips clinch to the left. Sort of like Curly from The Stooges. My immediate thought was… where is Allen Funt and the Candid Camera crew? I looked around, looked down at the guys sitting at our camp site, then looked back down at the sunken treasure. No TV crew to be seen, the guys seemed oblivious, and the cash was still there. Next, I had to figure out how to reach my unjust reward without getting too wet.