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Growing Up Fishing A Creek

Meanwhile, back at the branch .....

I grew up on a farm with a branch running across one side. We had great fun damming it up, swimming in it and fishing in it. Exploring its length turned me into Lewis or Clark, I was never sure which, but I spent many happy hours there.

I am still not sure about the difference between a branch and a creek. Maybe a branch is a little fancier than a creek. It could be the length. Or maybe it is the size. Whatever the difference, both can provide a lot of fun. There were bream, catfish and some kind of chub swimming in the waters of Dearing Branch with me. I caught all of them at one time or another, but don't remember ever catching any big enough to eat - except when the branch dried up and we got all the fish out of a hole. Even the tiny ones were fun to catch, though.

My tackle consisted of a stick with a short section of line and a hook tied on the end. That was all I usually needed. Bait was anything I happened to find - grasshoppers, worms, caterpillars and grubs. Catching the bait was almost as much fun as catching the fish. When I got a little older, I looked for a challenge. Reading about trout fishermen tying their own flies got me fired up to try it. Since we had chickens, I had a ready supply of feathers to use, even if they were all white. Mom's sewing thread seemed the perfect wrap, and I spent many hours trying to attach a feather to a bream hook.

The fly I designed looked nothing like anything a rational fish would ever consider eating. They were way too big, but no matter how hard I tried I could not make them a small as I wanted. I was determined to catch something on them anyway. Many an hour was spent dangling one in the branch. It was a great thrill when something actually hit at my fly. Usually it was a tiny, dumb bream - too little to get even my small hook in its mouth.

The only way I could get anything at all to hit was to drop the fly on the water and, with a tight line to keep it from sinking, tremble it like a struggling bug that had fallen into the water. The top water strikes from 3/4 inch bream were a sight to see! My proudest moment came when a chub would hit. These fish looked a little like a trout with a long, round body and a relatively big mouth. They also had knots on their heads that looked like warts. Their mouths were big enough that I actually hooked some of them. Although there was not much fight to them all were released to be caught again.

I learned that fish tend to set up residence in a good spot, like the old stump on the edge of the branch that had roots running into the water. There was one chub I caught several times from the same hole between two roots. That one disappeared - I guess he got tired of being jerked out of his home - and another smaller one took his place. I caught it a couple of times, too.

At times during the summer the water was clear enough to see fish come up and look at my fly. That surprised me, I never though about fish considering what they were going to eat. I always thought they either ate the bait or ignored it, but watching them made me realize some did examine their food closely. I also learned about using smaller hooks and lighter line back in those days. Through trial and error, mostly error, I discovered I got more bites when I used lighter line. I also found hiding the hook in the bait made the fish more likely to eat it. Watching them examine the bait before biting taught me to think about the way I was rigged for them.

Branches are fun. You can learn a lot about wildlife and nature by spending time in and around a branch or creek. I suspect the young learn the most from those excursions, though. It might be tough teaching an old dog new branch tricks. It might help me recapture some of the wonderment of youth, though. Maybe I should head to the branch!

Have some good memories of a creek or branch? Tell me about them. Do you have any comments to offer? You can also post information about it for others on my message board - you must register to post but can read the board as a guest. Also, if you have thoughts you want to share about this topic, let me know about it at fishing@aboutguide.com. for a "Fishtale" . Tell others what you like.

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