As the days of the school year draw down and we begin to see the official start of summer on the horizon, a little switch goes off in the minds of many that tells them it’s time to go fishing.
Others, of course, never quit fishing, but the majority of us see this time of year as their official fishing season.
It all makes my mind spin back to those long-ago days of my youth, when there just wasn’t much else for me to do but head out the door with fishing rod in hand.
We had all of three channels on the television back then, and sometimes, if you held your mouth just right and stood on one leg, you could adjust the antenna well enough to pick up one more.
Video games hadn’t yet stolen the focus of every kid, simply because they didn’t exist, and we were always left to our own devices when it came to manufacturing our fun.
Sure makes me feel old to think about it.
What I did have in those days was a big old pond right outside our back door that provided many days of summertime entertainment.
For as far as technology has now taken the day-to-day lives within our homes, I’m very thankful for having grown up in the manner that I did and believe that all of these technological marvels of today are mostly good for just giving kids an excuse to never venture out and explore all the outdoors has to offer.
Back then, before I really understood how to fish, I thought that it was as simple as tying on an old beetle spin and playing “cast and retrieve” all day. Occasionally I’d get lucky and something would bite, but I had no true understanding of the technical side of it all.
I never gave much thought to things like the patterning transitions that fish go through depending upon time of year, water temperature and the many other factors that come into play when fishing.
As we find to be the case with everything in life, had I known then all that I know now, a lot more fish would surely have been caught.
Each summer seemed always to start with lots of success, but it never failed to taper off as I got deeper into the season.
My buddies and I always blamed that on the heat and believed that the higher temperatures had everything to do with why the fish weren’t eating.
These days I know better.
Early summer can be one of the most consistent times of year when it comes to fishing. Those high winds of spring are starting to die, water temperatures are pretty moderate and the bass can be found just about anywhere that you look. You’ll find them in the shallows, down deep and all through the middle, meaning that no matter where you toss your lure there will be a pretty good chance of putting it in front of a fish that’s willing to strike. This is because they’ve yet to jump into their summer schooling pattern.
To prove this, tie on a topwater plug of some sort and fish it all day. You’re very likely going to find that you’ll catch fish at all hours.
On your next trip out, go deep instead and you’ll find that your rate of success will be pretty much even for both days.
Later in the season you’ll see things change a bit. That topwater lure might draw a strike early in the morning but the action will be quick to shut down as the sun rises higher.
Switch it out then and you’ll discover that something from your deepwater arsenal will still be effective.
It’s because of this high level of predictability that anyone who enjoys fishing should be taking advantage of every opportunity they get right now. I’m willing to bet that you won’t be disappointed.
I returned home from California last week and received a bit of news that I definitely wasn’t expecting.
One of my earliest fishing partners, in fact the first person outside of my father and grandfather that I ever fished with, had passed away.
Dan Thomas enjoyed the outdoors as much, if not more, than anyone I’ve ever known.
Whether it was fishing, hunting or simply the camaraderie that comes with both, he lived to be out there, and I can’t remember a single time that I ever witnessed him not smiling, joking and simply living it up while enjoying those passions.
Earlier in this column I spoke of those days when I was a youngster thrashing the water day after day, and Dan was a big part of those memories for me.
It all started back in ’72, when we moved into the house that I ultimately grew up in. One day, when I couldn’t have been more than 7 years old, I peered out the back window to see someone sitting on a bucket by the pond’s edge as he minded several rods he had set with bait.
As soon as my father came into the room, I was quick to point out to him that there was somebody back there fishing “my water.”
In those days we were the only house on what was then a dirt road, and it wasn’t often that we saw anyone around.
It was for that reason that my dad walked out to see who it was, and I watched from the window as the two of them talked and joked for what seemed like forever.
Upon his return from the conversation, my father said, “That’s just ‘Ol’ Dan’ Thomas. Get on out there if you want.”
He didn’t have to tell me twice, and in a flash I was out the door and fetching my rod and reel from our utility room behind the house.
I’ll never forget the sight of the man I encountered as I got down to the water’s edge. There sat a man on a bucket wearing a dang near worn out pair of Army pants, an old flannel shirt and a hat cocked on his head as if it had just fallen there from out of the sky and he hadn’t bothered to straighten it.
That man my Dad referred to as “Ol’ Dan” peered up at me with a serious look as a cigarette hung from his lips. He then said, “I hear tell I’m in your ‘honey hole.’ ”
I replied, “Mister, I’ve fished this pond clear around it and I haven’t found a spot that good yet.”
With that, Dan started laughing and told me to just plop down with him and we’d fish together.
Little did I know that this would be the start of many days we’d spend out there side by side, and I couldn’t begin to count just how many times I ran to the back window with hopes of seeing that “Ol’ Dan” was back.
Just a few weeks ago I ran into Dan, and we talked and joked for at least a half-hour.
Although we hadn’t seen each other as often as we did back in those days so long ago, he still remembered a lot of the funny things that happened out there by the pond.
And as was always the case when we happened upon each other, we recounted the stories to which he laughed just as hard as he had when they happened.
I can’t begin to express how thankful I am for that last conversation and I know I’ll never walk the banks of that pond again without thinking of him.
Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at www.bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow on Twitter @BHarveyOutdoors.