Monday, March 7, 2011

Alien Encounters

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The origination of my fishing heritage lies in a place called Fly Tennessee. It is a tiny town 30 minutes outside of Columbia, right off of the Natchez Trace Parkway. It is an 8 acre, spring fed lake which resides on the homestead of my maternal grandfather’s family. This is where I learned to fish. It was the source of joy in my childhood. Now that I am an adult, it has become a place of relaxation where I bring my kids and camp and teach them to fish. However, it is also a terrific place for me and my friends to relax as well. Every once in awhile, we have a man’s weekend of fishing and camping.

Like all things in life, when men are separated from their responsible significant others, common sense can go right out the window. I have two separate stories which exhibit this behavior:
It was another one of those man trips. It was early summer of 2009 and the “somp”, as Aubree calls it, was just starting to grow. Any of the handful of water grass, weeds, milfoil, or what have you is an affectionately named “somp”. Growing up, I always avoided throwing lures into the somp. Why? Well, I always thought that it would silly for the fish to be in it, since it was nasty. What can you do under all that somp? Turns out, somp is where the big mommas hang out. The grass holds heat during the night, and provides shade during the day. It gives them a perfect ambush spot for feeding. But it presents some trouble in fishing. How do you do it? The grass is heavy. Even if you DO get a hit, how do you get the fish and the 30 pounds of grass in? Enter the frog and frog rod.
The two green rods are frog rods that I have built.

This fish isn't very big, but you wouldn't know it when you haul in 20 pounds fo grass with it
Another fish caught in the somp
One of our FAVORITE fishing methods is frog fishing. That is, casting a plastic frog out onto the lily pads or the matted milfoil, and bouncing it around. The bass hit the frog viciously. It takes a special kind of rod and set up to accomplish this. The rod and line must be able to provide a massive hook set through the grass, and a quick retrieve to keep the fish from coming loose in the grass. That’s hard to do with 30 pounds of grass and (hopefully) 5 or more pounds of fish. You use a frog rod. A Rod that is long enough to make incredibly long casts, has enough backbone to provide the hook set, and a line (braid, in this case) that is castable and able to withstand all the effort. It is one of the most infuriating, yet rewarding methods of bass fishing, both in part to the low hook up rate and the incredible acrobatics that you will see. See, the fish can’t see you, and you can’t see them. You can be reeling in the frog and they could blow through the somp 50 yards away just as easily as they can 5 feet…and it often happens…so imagine the adrenaline rush! It’s loud. It’s viscous. It takes a really big rod.  It’s a man’s way of bass fishing.  So, when the somp grows…Zach and Josh will show.
So, with the weather getting hot, the water level low…concentrating the fish under the somp….we hit the road towards Humphrey Lake. The day was incredible. Every little piece of somp held a fish. Even the little bits along the shore which were only 6 inches long housed a bass…albeit small…which took serious offense to the frog.

After an afternoon of exploding grass and fish, flying frogs knocked to the moon by missed strikes, curses from misses, and exclamations from hooked fish….we settled down to our typical rare steaks and beers.  After a few beers, we relaxed around the campfire, staring across the water. As we talked, we noticed a blinking light in the distance. I immediately dismissed it. It was probably a distance neighbor’s porch light. The wind must be blowing limbs in front of it, making it look like a blinking light.
However, I noticed that the wind wasn’t blowing, and unless my eyes deceived me (which they get thoroughly checked EVERY year as part of a NASA certification for Non-destructive evaluation) the light was green and APPEARED to be moving. I stopped the conversation and told Josh to look at it. He immediately blamed it on the beer and told me to quit being a “weenie” for lack of a better word.
But the light WAS moving. And it WAS becoming more clear. And the clearer it got, the GREENER it got. To me, it looked like it was just yards into the woods on the other side of the lake. That’s when things got real.
We started hearing it. The crash of footsteps in the woods. Then the splashes of feet through the water on the far bank. It was just a big hole in the air with a flashing NEON green light. I started to say something and it stopped. While I couldn’t see it, I just knew it had heard me. I wasn’t hard to see since we had a huge camp fire right in front of us. It stood eerily still. The light just flashing away.
“It’s a freakin’ alien.”  Was all Josh could say. What else could it be? It was neon green, flashing, and just suspended in the air. Hovering. I rummaged through my stuff until I found my trusty 1911 .45.
“If it makes it over here, it’s getting a round put through its head, but unless it swims, it’s got a long way to go.” In order to get to us, it would have to cross a small creek or take a large detour. As if it could hear me, we heard a splash. I racked a round. Josh picked up the closest blunt object he could find, which happened to be an oar. The splashes continued as the neon green light made a bee line to the our side of the lake. Still, even though it was now only 30 yards or so, it was just a hole in the air. A floating neon green flashing light. But while it had taken its time thus far, it was on a dead run towards us. I didn’t even realize what was happening until it was too late. It ran up  the bank, right at us, a big black hole. But suddenly it veered. Where was it going? All we could hear were heavy foot falls and all we could see was the flashing light.
It stopped, now rustling on the other side of the pavilion.
“What’s it doing?” I asked. It heard me. I had done it. If, by some miracle, it had missed us, it now knew we were here. It made up the ground in a hurry. It was over. I lowered the gun as it pounced on Josh. I couldn’t shoot! Josh was bowled over, dropping the oar. Every man for himself! I started to turn and run when the screams started. Except they weren’t screams of horror, but of laughter.
It was a HUGE black dog with a GPS transponder. A coon dog. And even as fast as he had been there, he nosed us over and was gone. I guess we weren’t what he was looking for. At this point, I was nerve racked and tired. We crawled into the tent to sleep. Nothing could have been any more weird and nothing else could possibly happen. Right?
I don’t know how long it was, but a “knock” on the tent woke us both up. I snatched up the gun, which I was now sleeping with and was about ready to let them fly.
“Anybody in there?” Except it wasn’t anything like that. It was more country and had less teeth. It was the hunter, looking for his dog. I don’t have anything else to say about it, other than I thought I heard banjos. I pointed up the hill and covered my head with my pillow.