Appalachia Fishing

The Fish

Today’s entry in The Week Of The Fish was written by Ed Myers.

Photo provided by Mary Shipman of Oldentimes Blog
Photo provided by Mary Shipman of Oldentimes Blog

THE FISH written by Ed Myers – Bryson City, NC

Now, with all due respect to our ladies (and my Mother was one who exemplified the “lady” in “mountain lady”…not so much in physical size, nor coarseness of elevated attitudes, as much as spirit bled with clay), fishing is a boys sport, even when we become men, grandmen and probably hereafter.

I’ll have to take that back, as my early life with my various grandmothers, great grandmothers, aunts, cousins, second cousins and extended genealogies, beginning with my Mother, proved that fishing is gender neutral with regard to catching, cleaning and eating.

Even so, no doubt all men, all creeds and colors, all states and countries, have this story to tell.

My first fish. My first southern mountain dammed up troublesome river fish. What a whopper it was…and is.

Think Huck. Think Finn. Bare feet calluses. Mud to roll your toes in. Earthly heaven.

Anyway, if you’ve done it you know; if not, as Louie “High Note” Armstrong said of jazz when someone asked him what it was (and I’ll paraphrase, as my memory seems to be becoming more energetic with the passing years, “If you have to ask…you’ll never know.”).

Our haunt as children was a little railroad rock pile that covered the gap from this creek or that into Loudon (or, Fort Loudon) lake, around Knoxville, TN. It sat as many interesting things do at the end of a dirt road that had long since said so long to the gravel truck.

Just a pile of rocks, a giant culvert of great granite, many-toothed stones that let a long dead railroad line send Clorox to Cincinnati, or other things, for long, long times.

Time is short; so I will be.

Catching fish is “a” of the “A” rites of passage for a southern mountain male, for, with our abundance of water in its innumerable forms and destinations, we who live in the watershed that moistens almost all the south tend to view those who live downstream, as, well, downstream types of people. Many stories told about the topic, but never too many.

My first was supposed to be a pan fish, known variously as crappie (black and white), specks and…delicious.

We went to our rock pile every spring throughout my childhood, alerted to the possibility of breaking the odds and catching something under the redbud’s bloom, a near to getting it, sure fire that crappie are spawning, that they will flow in schools near the bank so you can bob for them and be rewarded one weekend or the next with a fry you will remember for as ever as ever can be.

I won’t tell you about my Uncle Jake who robbed me of my spot just as they were biting, nor of the 40lb flathead my half-blind granny hooked in a future millionaire’s yard.

I will tell you that my first fish hit while I was wondering on the rocks, took my minnow to the bottom, excited a pure plague of action, and ended with a (guessing) four-ounce red-eyed rock bass on my line…my first fish.

I will admit that my Mom was a little embarrassed to take it home to fry, but I wanted it and she, knowing the rules in her bones, fried it up fine and crispy.

As you could guess, it was the best fish I ever ate…and it was the last time I’ve seen the family of that first time, scarlet-eyed, flap of fury ever since.


I hope you enjoyed the memory of Ed’s first fish as much as I did!



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  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 28, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Thanks for putting me back in my place. I was starting to think I knew pretty much everything. Then this comes along! I guess I am gonna have to give up and ask for help. What is the meaning of the phrase “spirit bled with clay?”
    Try not to make me look like too much of a fool. I can do that very well by myself.

  • Reply
    Joy Newer
    July 28, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Love the fishing stories, brings me back to the days i took my two son’s fishing,i got hooked have loved fishing every since, also did some gigging for frog legs when we lived in Ohio, you talk about good eating,as we always say” those were the good ole days. Grandmother Joy.

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    July 28, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Ed…I told and read part of your story to my husband…He said I should tell about the time he and his brother went fishin’. He says it sounds like your spot…Before school in the spring of the 50’s he and his brother went to the rocks by the railroad on Loudon..Crappie were running, the water was warming, the fish were getting ready for breeding…
    They caught a bunch, time was running out, they had to get home before school started…They hated to leave but went home with their mess of fish…Their Mom loved Crappie, she took one look and said, “Boys lets go back, it won’t hurt to miss one day of school.” She grabbed her rod, and off they went back…This was before the days of limits on Crappie in East Tennessee…My husband said it was one of the most memorable days of fishing with his Mother and she loved it too! When tales of fishin’ would go around she would always bring up…”Remember when we,…..”
    Thanks Tipper, and Ed

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    July 28, 2012 at 9:14 am

    my mom carried pliers in her purse so she could remove hooks!! And she took her purse fishing!!!!

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    July 28, 2012 at 8:13 am

    What a nice story. Brings to mind a good friend and classmate in High School, whose mama now lives in Bean Station, TN. She and her sisters (Aunt Pearl was one) drive over to Cherokee and stay in one of them campgrounds in her van and my how they can catch fish. Usually showing up everyone else on the bank. THanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 28, 2012 at 7:58 am

    Lordy, Ed, Your mention of schools of crappie reminded me how good them little boogers are to eat. I don’t need a fork to eat them. I can just suck them up right off the plate. Or right out of the pan.

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    July 28, 2012 at 7:35 am

    and Ed…wonderful story and I believe it is a right of passage for the male. However, growing up in a brotherhood, what is a female sibling to do but try and catch a fish as well…Since they weren’t interested in dolls, there must be something interesting in fishin’, playing football, climbing rocks and trees…and any other tom boyish thing to do…There was absolutely no girls my age within miles…so I learned to play softball, fish, and other tom boyish things…even to smokin’ rabbit tobacco..ONE TIME ONLY!
    Thanks for a wonderful memory…
    and Ed, I do believe you got our fishing spot on Loudon…LOL

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    July 28, 2012 at 7:22 am

    Great story! From the pleased faces in the photo, it’s easy to see that it is still true. That first fish is a rite of passage.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 28, 2012 at 7:11 am

    Of course your mama cooked that fish, that’s what mama’s do. Thanks Ed for a real mountain story filled with a wonderful turn of phrase. I absolutely love your description of a mountain lady with spirit bled with clay. I’ve known some of those women!
    Also thanks to Mary for providing the fish photos!

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