1928 - Alderson High School - 1968



There Are No Serious Fishermen Any More

One of those new colossal sporting goods stores closed its doors a short time ago and I had an occasion to drop in to see what fantastic deals on fishing equipment I could get, given I normally buy such items at Wal-Mart or K-Mart. I was shocked to see that the going out of business, absolute rock bottom, we need it out the door today price, was still quite a sum of money and still much higher than comparable items found in the discount stores. After the shock wore off some and I let my salesman know this was not a sale. Some of those reels were the Jaguar of the industry. On sale they were still going for 60 and 70 dollars..string not included.... I got to thinking that you could have 6 or 7 hundred dollars tied up in no time at all and only have a couple of rods and reels and hardly enough lures and accessories in the tackle box to make it rattle.

I could only think back to the days when I was a boy. I used to go up in the woods a ways and cut me a good limb off a maple tree and clean off all the smaller limbs and leaves and have me a good 6 or 7 foot pole. I would always try for one that was about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches at the base and 1/4 to 5/8 inches at the tip. This would make sure it was sturdy enough to bring the fish up, but still able to bend and give some if the fish were extra large or the hook got snagged on an old log at the bottom of the river. Buy a spool of good 8lb line, a packet of assorted hooks a couple of floats, get yourself a used soup can and dig up some earthworms and your were in the fishing business. Total cost, maybe a $1.25.

It takes a special person to be a good fisherman. At first glance it wouldn’t appear that you needed any special qualifications to be a good fisherman, but nonetheless I feel it takes the “P”s to be a good fisherman.

First of all it takes good planning. When I was growing up in Alderson we had good fishermen and they would freely give of their knowledge of the art of fishing and from old man Lonnie Shires to “Wire” Grimmett all you had to do was ask. Of course you just didn’t head out into the middle of Greenbrier River and splash around asking questions. It was better to wait until they were standing on the bridge going after catfish or on the bank next to a deep section of the river waiting for a pike to hit. “What are you fishing for? What are you using for bait?” Were the first questions

When you plan your fishing outing you have to know certain things Where is the best place to find the fish you are looking for and what kind of bait do you use? Every fish is different and everyone of them have their own favorite lure or bait they will go for. But when it comes right down to it. That maple pole and a good hunk of worms will catch just about every know species.

The next thing is patience. I saw Lonnie Shires fishing next to the water plant one morning and ask him if he had caught any fish that morning. “ A couple of bass and a sucker fish (an absolute waste of God’s talent to make that fish). I am really going for a pike, he hit last evening about supper time, but he got off before I could get him in. He looks to go about 18 to twenty pounds and about three feet long.”

That evening I saw Mr. Shires still casting and still waiting for that pike to hit his line again. The next morning as I was going to school there he was again and again that evening he was still there. Finally on the third evening I didn’t see Mr. Shires at the water plant and went to his house. Before I knocked on the front door, I saw the big wash tub with what was the biggest fish I had ever seen. Still alive the fish was wrapped around that tub with his head almost to his tail. “Caught him about 11:30 this morning.” Mr. Shires said from inside the house. “It took me almost an hour to bring him in. At one point he took all the line out except for a couple of feet. As soon as my boy Lonnie comes by and takes a picture, we are going to clean him and filet him up. You come by tomorrow and I’ll send some home with you” That suited me just fine because I love to eat fish as much as I like to catch them.

I have seen plenty of bad fishermen who come to the river and they have no plan as to the fish they are looking for or the patience to wait for the fish to start their eating cycle. And if those guys had come across Mr. Shires just as he was bringing in that pike, they would have thought he was the luckiest fisherman alive and they would all be throwing everything from baited hooks to trout lines in there hoping to find another one.

You have to be peaceful to be a good fisherman. There is something almost hypnotic about fishing, the line drifting with the current and waiting for the float to bob. You have to be at peace with the world and most of all with yourself. Troubled minds make for jerking lines and poles and an uneasy feeling over the whole fishing area. I don’t know exactly what the word for it is, but the air can be almost charged with the aura of a person who is at war within himself. For some reason the fish seems to know it too and wouldn’t bite for you if you had gold plated hooks and filet mignon for bait.

Last but not least you must be prepared. One of the first things you need to be a good fisherman is a good boat. Around Alderson there were a couple of fellas who could build you a boat, but if you wanted the best, you went to see Jess Rookstool. Jess made an excellent boat or canoe if you preferred and would tell you up front when you could pick it up and the cost. By today’s standards Jess was not just a good carpenter, he was a cabinet maker. I think Dennie Quillen could probably tell you a lot more about Jess and his ability to build boats. Dennie could probably separate some of the truth from fiction of some of the tales that has been told about Jess, but for now we will stay on the subject at hand. You have to have some grub with you if you are going to wait on the fish and you have to have some sort of liquid refreshment. That too opens up a whole can of worms (pardon the pun) and we won’t go into it, but to say that my choice was always a good thermos of coffee.

I was watching “Wire” Grimmett trying to bring up a blue catfish from under the old bridge and I asked him what he thought was the greatest item invented for fishing. “Commodity Cheese.” he answered without hesitation. “Commodity Cheese?” I asked. “Yep, greatest thing to come along in this century, I’m using it right now on that hook down there. You can using it to trade for beer or groceries. You can sell it outright, you can use it as bait in your traps to catch mink and muskrats, and if need be you can use it for food.” I heard later that Wire had caught that blue cat and it went about nine or ten pounds.

Alderson certainly had a bunch of good fishermen and some of them passed off their knowledge to their children and grandchildren. It is a shame that all men couldn’t have this knowledge to pass to the next generation. We live in a world of instant gratification and pleasure. Fishing though a pleasure is not instant, but the rewards are long term in memories and lessons in how to deal with life’s problems. If you are taught early in life to plan. To be patient. To be at peace with yourself and the world, and to be prepared, you have most of the things necessary to be a success in this world.

Now that spring is here, I think I will go out into the woods and see if I can cut me a couple of poles and find me some good 8lb test fishing line and a few floats, some hooks and a used soup can, dig me some worms and see if my grandsons would like to go fishing.