Since neither of us could drive, my buddy Vernon Hedgecock and I would walk to Oak Hollow Lake, jump the gate, and fish from a dock’s dark end where the security lights didn’t reach. Many a night I lay there half asleep with one eye cracked open for a patrol car and the fishing line between my toes so I would wake up with the bite. I cut my fishing teeth in the darkest hours of the night, and I still love to pound a lake or creek when it’s just me, the bats, and a few bellowing bullfrogs. I love wading in the dark. I love the scary feel of the canoe bumping some unseen log. DEET in my nostrils brings back delicious memories. Some from years gone by. Some from just last week.
August is the time to roll out when the sun goes down. It’s the time to find a whitefly hatch on a bronzeback river and work popping bugs in the black dark. It’s the time to lob big, nasty streamers into big, nasty logjams where big, nasty brown trout prowl. It’s the time to work a Jitterbug over every square inch of a 2-acre farm pond—its gluk-gluk-glukking the soundtrack of a summer childhood. Few things can beat sunrise on the water. One of them is moonlight.
Mr. BoBo turned me on to night fishing, which is a little odd since I never fished with him. Most of the neighborhood kids knew of Mr. BoBo because he was once bitten by a copperhead but refused to see a doctor. He sat on his front porch for weeks while his foot swelled up and split open like a watermelon you dropped from your bike. This was back before zombies and video games and even Tammy Faye Bakker, and the sight of human flesh in gruesome condition could keep young boys up at night.
But I was intrigued by Mr. BoBo’s overnight disappearances. He’d head out early on Friday evenings, and I’d watch the tips of his cane poles and fiberglass rods wave as he drove away, sticking out of the rolled-down rear window of his Ford Galaxie 500. Some nights I’d sprawl out in bed and imagine that mysterious world of lantern light and men’s hushed voices, cigarette smoke and fish pulling hard in the dark.
On Saturday afternoons, Mr. BoBo would pull back into his driveway, and I’d bolt out the screen door and run over to peer into a 5-gallon bucket slam full of catfish, bass, bluegills, and the occasional eel. What I remember most was Mr. BoBo nailing those cats to a pine tree with eightpenny nails, slicing around their heads with a Case jackknife, and pulling off their hides with steel pliers. Mr. BoBo recognized a kindred spirit, and long before I ever globbed a worm on a hook I learned to skin catfish at the old man’s side.
For more information and tips on fishing after dark, click here.
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