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Fishing Trip Is New To List Of Pastimes

When one moves to this new place, many things have to be learned: how to kill fire ants, the best route through Oxford and where on earth do you keep the dry cleaners. These are simple one-step bits of information. Once you know, you know, and resume your independence. 

However, what to do with one’s time is an ongoing consideration. Old habits can’t be satisfied in a small southern town. Other options must to be explored. 

So far I eat pancakes with the Lions Club crowd on the first Saturday of the month and lunched with the Methodists during Lent. Sundays I slide into a pew at the Everdale Baptist Church to hear uplifting gospel music and have signed up to usher Episcopalians to their seats on Saturday evenings when the little Nativity Church reopens. Come Monday it’s stretch-and-bend with the yoga ladies at Bozart’s Art Gallery.

And recently I hiked myself into the cab of a truck carrying rods and bait and a .22 loaded with rat shot to give fishing a try. I often meet Linda Shuffield on days I walk early and she has told me more than one story about her fishing exploits, including capturing an extra-long worm in a Skittles box near the First Baptist Church. The story goes that she sliced it up and caught so many fish that she believes the worm was “sanctified.” 

When the bream started biting, Linda invited me to come along. I dug out my old gardening pants, pulled on my muck boots and hopped into her Toyota pickup. We dialed the music to Patsy Cline and set off for Fords Well.

The sky was blue overhead, wind rippled the water, a dogwood bloomed pure white against a stand of dark pines. I gamely threaded a wiggling worm on a sharp hook, and after some instruction, tried my hand at casting. I sent the line into the weeds, into a nearby boat, even into the back of my own fleece vest. Eventually the secret of the underhand launch revealed itself and sent the red cork out into the lake.

Now Linda made it clear right from the start. She caught and released. I briefly imagined fresh fish for supper but I know as little about cleaning a fish as I did about catching one and quickly joined the toss-back in the lake.

And toss we did. We caught 21 bream and bass that lovely afternoon in the quiet sunshine.

After a few hours, Linda claimed my catch looked like the one she had just tossed back and we had started to repeat ourselves. Could be, we’ll never know. But it felt time to fold our chairs and seal up the worms; the air was turning cool and we were hungry.

The expedition turned out to be a reward of setting up in an unknown place. You hear a different wind blow in through the woods. You see birds skim westward over the slice of sky belonging only to this old railroad town. Here a newcomer admires for the first time the iridescent yellow and milky blue of a fresh-caught bream. 

And while no rat needed shooting, before we left Fords Well I did aim at a dandelion and pull the trigger just to make it the full experience of a Mississippi fishing trip.

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