Saturday, August 18, 2007

8.17.07 Fishing Lake Thom-a-Lex

The plan was to be on the lake before sunrise. I was to stop by and pick up Joel then drive over to Mark's place where the Skimmer would be hooked up and ready to go. A quick stop at McDonalds to pick up our breakfast put me a little behind but there's ample forgiveness if you show up with biscuits for everyone. Mark is always ready ahead of schedule so when we pulled onto his street it was no surprise to see the Surburban's running, parking lamps, radio and AC on. Gear stowed away, we pulled out of the neighborhood, the green digits on Mark's radio read 6:13, we'd be there with time to spare.
Driving over the bridge toward the marina we were expecting to see several boats at the ramp but all was clear. There was a truck trailering a boat across the street in the parking lot which was odd. As we neared the lot the mystery was solved. Aircraft cable spanned the driveway to the ramps, keeping wouldbe anglers from unloading their crafts. A sign in the lot stated the lake did not open until 7am. Odd, I'd never heard of that before.
So we stood around the boats, cutting up, mapping out our fishing stategy and listening the lake come alive (funny how many waterfowl you see when you're not waterfowl hunting). A few minutes before 7am the Cedar Lodge store, adjacent to the ramps, opened so I walked in to get a bottle of water and to ascertain some advice about the lake. The proprietor was very helpful, giving ample tips regarding location and tackle to use. Now, when the ramp opened we would have a great plan of attack.
With the rising of the sun, the already warm temperatures became more intense. The humidity was high and the lack of breeze made it sticky and uncomfortable. Mark fired up the 90hp Suzuki and pushed us out of the launch area. The slight breeze our forward momentum created was refreshing. Mark picked a likely cove and we began casting along the shoreline. Joel was throwing a weightless worm, Mark a buzz bait and I was heaving a large topwater lure. We had a great morning, talking, laughing and even doing a little fishing. We caught a nice,"slab" crappie, a little catfish and small bass. The surprise of the day happened as we were about to leave. I'd stowed my gear and was watching Joel fish, hoping to record him hooking a bass. But a beautiful grass-line point prompted me to break out my casting rod outfitted with a top water plug. As Mark was piloting the skiff, Joel was casting off the bow so I cast off to the side, trying to place my balsa offering close to the grass. Nothing hit the bait but it sure looked good zigging and zagging through such "fishy" looking territory. As we rounded the point I made one more cast to the stern of the boat, the lure splashed a couple feet past a stick protruding from the grass. A couple of twitches illicited an explosive response and "uh oh" was all I could say. As I fought to bring this lunker to the boat, Mark and Joel began an Abbott and Costelloisque routine of looking under, around, in the midst of all the gear, trying to find a net, and bringing back memories of our Ocean Isle expedition (mental note - buy Mark a landing net). Before they could come up with anything I had the trophy lipped and in the boat. Wow! What a fish! After snapping a couple photos we released him, exchanging high fives and having a hard time believing what had just happened. What a blessing to spend time on the water with friends and to top it off with a great fish. We left the lake, grateful and looking forward to our next trip to Thom-a-lex.

Monday, August 13, 2007

7.25.07 High Rock Revisited

After our last fishing trip was rained out (see 6.19.07 post "High Rock'd: NC Bass Fishing") Greg and I agreed to give High Rock another go shot. Our schedules finally aligned a month later and we headed down to "the Rock" early one Thursday morning. The fishing turned out much better with Greg catching a small largemouth within minutes of first wetting our lines. A short while later I connected with an even smaller white bass. However, the highlight of the morning turned out to have nothing to do with angling. About mid-morning Greg trolled towards a likely looking spot and as we cast plastic worms into blow downs and other structure, a large crash and a brown whirl flashed out of the pines in front of us. What I thought was a owl, then a heron, then a hawk turned about to be a BALD EAGLE. This was a first. I'd seen eagles in Alaska but never in my home state. What a special blessing.

In regards to fishing, Greg and I caught several including a nice football-sized largemouth at one point in the day. He was suspended under a downed oak, waiting to ambush any unsuspecting baitfish that swam by. Luckily my unspecting topwater bait came along first. It was a textbook strike one that every bass fisherman dreams of. I'm sure I'll be setting the hook again tonight in my sleep.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Outdoor Devotion - Amongst 'Em

I love to wade when fishing. Whether it's the frothy surf of Cape Point, the meandering current of the New River or the murky waters of a local farm pond. There's something uniquely special about what I call "being amongst 'em." For example, several years ago a couple buddies from and I headed down to the Uwharrie River near Denton to fish for bass and bream. We had our ultra lights and small tackle boxes full of rapalas, beetle spins, rebels, rooster tails and other micro sized lures. There was no need for neoprene or breathable waders as it was a hot July afternoon and the cool coffee-colored waters felt great. We had a successful trip as we caught numerous largemouth, panfish and even a couple smallies. But what really made the afternoon was being smack dab in the middle of the fish's environment.

As much as I enjoy wading I also love to bowhunt. What began as a way to prolong the deer season (in the central region of NC bow season opens approximately 2 months before gun season), quickly evolved into a passion. I bought my first bow off a clearance rack at the Dixie Deer Classic in Raleigh. I paid $75 for a brand new, bare bones, PSE F2 Maxis cam and spent twice that accessorizing it and purchasing a couple dozen Eastons. The first time I shot it at my friend Rusty's house the arrow struck soundly into his 3D buck target and I was hooked.

I practiced for several months and readied myself for the upcoming season. Rus helped me hang a couple stands on some property I'd acquired access to and a couple weeks after opening day I finally had a chance to hunt. I shimmied up into a huge split oak and
began my vigil. A hour or so later I heard the crunch, crunch, crunch of a critter walking through the woods behind. Thinking it was yet another squirrel looking for its mast supper, I disregarded the sound and resume my watch. The snap of a twig or limb caught my attention again and with it additional footsteps, this time closer. My heart beat increased as I realized this animal, whatever it was, was no squirrel. I craned my neck and strained my eyes, looking down the trail that headed from the hardwoods to the cornfield my location overlooked. It was a deer, actually three deer, a doe with two small fawns and my heart began pumping wildly, sweat poured off my forehead and my knees began to quiver. They walked under the oak in which I was perched. eased into the field and began eating grain. I could see the rise and fall of their lungs as they breathed, their eyes blink as they constantly surveyed their surrounds, the twitch of their tails as they repelled the flies that were beleaguering them. I could even hear the crunch of corn as they chewed their supper. I never thought about pulling back my bow, being so close to these beautiful, wild creatures was quite enough for that hunt.

The common theme between wading and hunting is the idea of being "amongst 'em". Being in close proximity to your prey intensifies the experience. This also brings to mind a spiritual truth that is very applicable to our walk with Christ. The closer our proximity to God, the more time we spend in His Word, the more often we reflect or mediate on His Truths, the more time we spend in prayer, conversing with our Creator, the more enjoyable, the more vibrant our life will be. A life lived within close proximity with God. Nothing can be more rewarding.

"Just a closer walk with Thee, Grant it, Jesus, is my plea, Daily walking close to Thee, Let it be, dear Lord, let it be." (Old Spiritual, Author Unknown)

"Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." James 4:8