I decided to put off the well needed yard work and chores to take my ten year old son Luke fishing. I pulled the boat out of the garage and prepared all the fishing equipment for an afternoon on the water. While backing my truck up the driveway to hook up the boat my tailgate fell and received a beautiful tattoo from the top of my trailer coupling. The scratch was at least twelve inches long and deep enough to show bear metal.
A great day to watch a grown man cry! I had only had the truck a few months and have always prided myself on keeping my vehicles looking great. All my wife could say was she sure was glad she didn't do it. As usual I try to look at the positive side of things and remembered my fishing was always very successful if I broke some kind of equipment at the beginning of each season. It looks like this year I'll be catching a lot of whales!
Once loaded and hooked up we drove twenty minutes across the Virginia state line into Currituck County, North Carolina. Our destination was a secluded North Carolina state boat ramp. The ramp is down a long deep wooded road which twists in constant curves. On each side of the road are houses that scream of the saying you might be a redneck if you have this in your front yard. Along side the rough paved road in front of the woods and houses are deep ditches on each side filled with frogs, turtles, small fish, and the occasional snake.
We arrived at a gray gravel filled parking lot to find only two pickup trucks and empty trailers parked along the marsh grass. I backed the boat toward the ramp to find that my new truck was a little more difficult to back the boat due to it's length and blind spots. My first mate attempted on his own accord to help with a strange direction of guiding my backing toward the ramp. His signals appeared to be a cross somewhere between karate and airplane signaling. I had to laugh but was very pleased with his thoughtfulness.
With the truck parked and the boat drifting at the ramp we climbed in the boat and found the noticeable smell of tar and timber from the boat ramp’s poles. We started slowly up the waterway as the engine made a steady tinging patter which echoed on the water and seemed to bounce off the trees as it broke the silence of the sleepy creek. The creek is very narrow with dark reflective water and surrounded by trees which form a canopy of ever connecting leaves. We moved along slowly and cautiously as the creek is filled with fallen trees, floating logs, and all types of natural hazards.
We exited the creek and left the slow no wake zone. Luke said dad don't forget to turn your hat around. We both reversed our hats and prepared to head up the waterway. As I turned the throttle on the motor the front of the boat slowly began to rise out of the water. The boat's speed increased and the bow leveled out. The welcomed cool breeze ran across our faces as we moved toward our destination.
I pulled the boat to the side of the waterway along a free standing series of old lumber rising out of the dark water. The next day I was informed by a friend's father that the wood was actually remnants of a very old boat. Luke and I spent a great amount of time working out our patience on the old timber. All fisherman know sometimes you just have those fishing spots where everything gets tangled, caught, hung and just plan difficult. This was one of those spots. We pulled everything up and headed further upstream.
The waterway wines with turns each filled with it's own beauty. Both sides of the waterway are scattered with tall cypress trees and various types of marsh grass painted with the never ending colors of pale and dark greens. Past the edge of the cypress trees are large stands of deep woods and tall narrow pines. As we continued down the waterway we came across a wide turn where a family with several children were jumping into the water off their boat with their life jackets on.
The location they had anchored was not the safest place to swim especially for the children due to the speed of boat traffic entering the turn. With a cigarette dangling from one hand and her other hand on her hip a woman on the boat screamed repeatedly at her children. The language she used you hoped your child would never hear or would you want to have to explain what it meant.
The sun was working hard on us and Luke’s life jacket was squeezing the sweat right out of him. He began begging for some shade and I was happy to help. I found a spot that should surely produce fish on the edge of a turn at the intersection in a very shaded area. We found three large trees which had branches and leaves that hung in the water in a vine like fashion. The long branches and leaves gave the impression the trees were slowly waltzing on the surface of the water with each movement from the current
We tied the boat off and began to cast our bobbers toward logs, under tree branches, and beside cypress knees. Immediately we began catching a good series of sunfish and brim. Our bobbers would move slightly with slow taps and then would disappear quickly below the surface. Luke did fine with the worms but was still having difficulty grasping the crickets. On numerous occasions the hand held escape artists sprang from our hands to find safety in the boat's metal grooves. Luke caught a nice white perch. The next hit he attempted to land teased us with just a glance before he fell back to the dark marble like water before us. The fish released just as his head raised out of the water he appeared to be a smallmouth or raccoon perch.
Further out in the middle of the waterway we watched several needle nose gars work on fish at the surface. Luke said dad I want to catch a needle nose gar. I told him we needed one small fish that I could use for bait. Luke said you can use the smallest sunfish I caught. As I reeled in my line to set Luke up for a gar I received a unexpected hit while the bobber moved across the water. This fish fought hard as he turned around the edge of the boat. As I pulled him out of the water I was shocked to see that what I thought was a perch or bass was the largest brim I had ever seen. Luke yelled out he's a record! He was extremely dark in color and had a high blunt head. As we placed him in the live well Luke stated dad he's so big he has to lay on his side to get water while the other fish have no problem.
In hopes of Luke catching a needle nose gar I rigged a small sunfish back fin on a line. We watched the top of the water in the main channel for a gar to surface. I pitched the bobber and line almost on top of one. We waited a little while and without any success we turned our attention back to catching the brim under the shaded trees. I glanced over my shoulder at the bobber that we set out for the gar and noticed it was gone. Before I could alert Luke to the excitement. The pole which was resting by the motor slammed the side of the boat and almost went overboard.
I grabbed the pole and said to Luke fish on! He yelled a Gar! Almost immediately the pull on the pole stopped. The bobber never surfaced so I knew he was still on. I handed the pole to Luke and said take your time and reel him in. Luke began to reel the pole in slowly with perfect ease and without a fight. He said dad I think he got away. I told him to keep reeling. About half way into the boat the gar took off and Luke's pole bent down sharply. As I looked at Luke his smile grew from ear to ear. The gar made long straight turns about six to eight feet wide from side to side as he drew closer to the boat.
As the gar came closer to the boat the pole bent almost straight down. Luke excitedly screamed get him in the boat! I raised the gar out of the water while the fish repeatedly snapped at the line hanging above his mouth with his razor sharp teeth. The gar bit the line completely through and fell back into the water. Luke was a little disappointed not to bring him in the boat but was extremely happy with the success. I was happy not to have to deal with him in the boat. Knowing we couldn't top the gar we decided to head home.
Luke drove the boat back to the ramp with my assistance until his hand got tired. As I reached the boat ramp I faced my final challenge of the day. Luke was convinced that the brim I caught was a citation or a record and didn't want to let him go. I finalized the situation with the idea that someone else may get to catch him later. I told him that even though we didn't bring the fish home he and I would always remember the day.
Story by Hampton Brewer AKA VAOUTDOORSMAN