By Reed F. Curry
There's a spillway where a turn-of-the-century mill once stood, you can see it from the bridge... if you care to stop your car on the busy highway, walk over to the railing and look down forty feet. The water in the headpond is shallow and warm, suitable only for shiners and small bass. In deep summer, barely enough water comes over the twelve foot rock dam to maintain a thigh-deep flow in the fast water below, but the water directly below the dam is deceptively deep, and well oxygenated by its travel over the rough wall. This short, wide, pool lies in shade after seven o'clock in June, and then the fish, smallmouths and browns, start to emerge from the depths for their evening feed.
On summer evenings after work, I'll usually head for the spillway, it's just ten minutes from home and thus doesn't constitute a real "fishing trip", which would add to the guilt index. Once I've waded out into the fast water and felt the pressure against my legs, and have my feet well planted in the odd patch of sand between rocks... the roar of the traffic fades away, the knowledge of humanity flashing past above disappears, and I am alone on the river. I am aware of my surroundings, more aware than when I first arrived, but the perceptions are selective; a macro lens has been fitted to my mind, the details of the wet rocks, the splash of the water, the hiss of the flyline... these all jump into relief. I am truly "There" for a time, just as when, at age twelve, my fishing buddy and I would bike in the pre-dawn hours to a muddy, polluted slough bordered by a cow pasture, or a millpond in the center of town, surrounded by parking lots.
Those "fishing holes" were idyllic spots, though discarded wrappers from a nearby take-out restaurant would blow across the pasture and get caught in the cow turds; and broken beer bottles were more in evidence on the shores of the millpond than grass, we really never noticed these things, more significant matters deserved our attention -- perhaps a water strider, newt, or carp.
Perhaps it is the very essence of fishing that permits this experience -- or it's just the sight of water, and the hope of fish.