by Mitch Lee
In the last week of April 1974 I was itching to get my fishing pole down to the lake, so I could catch some early season Splake.
The bad part of itching to fish was that I could not find any worms that were as ready as I was.
The nighttime temperatures were very cold, and most of the boards and rocks I had regularly flipped to harvest worms the previous summer were still frozen to the ground.
I spent over an hour pulling back great layers of leaves from an ever-growing pile we continually dumped over the bank.
The first few layers came up in huge frozen chunks, when I pulled at them with a garden hoe.
Those underneath became a bit easier to pull back, but they emitted a decaying earthy odor when disturbed.
I eventually reached leaves that were fully rotted, making the soil rich and blackened.
I found some worms that were so small they could never be strung on a hook…but no fishing worms.
As I moved over closer to the edges of the pile I ran across some fat, white grubs.
I had never fished with them before, but they looked to be fat enough to string on a hook without a problem.
I grub-picked about fifteen of them and placed them into my green crescent-shaped worm can.
I sat down on the paved driveway and emptied the dirt and leaf bits from my Pro Keds, while the noon sunshine warmed my back.
I sat there for a few moments feeling the warmth from underneath me and on my face, while listening to the chirping of the earliest of spring birds.
After grabbing my fish pole I made the journey down to the lake, following the path along the lake and over the bridge at Fosters Brook.
Here on the lake sat my favorite squatty boathouse with a large platform to fish from.
I pulled out my first grub, rolled it onto my hook, and gave my Zebco reel a snap cast, sending bobber, hook and grub thirty yards out into the water.
The maroon-stained planking of the boathouse dock was sun-soaked and warm, as I sat Indian-style at the water’s edge, starting my vigil.
My eyes stayed focused on the bobber, as it swayed up and down with the rhythm of the lake.
I cupped my free hand over my eyes, straining to see across the lake.
I saw some ducks down by the beach, but aside from those Mallards I had the lake all to myself.
I had a few tugs on my bobber before hooking a good nine-inch perch that fought my line like a tiger.
But after a while with no bites, I became pretty bored of grub fishing.
I cast my line out, leaving the pole stuck under a boat hook, so that a larger fish might not sneak away with my line.
Then I poked around the creek that ran beside the boathouse, jumping from one rounded rock to another.
I dipped my hand into the water; the icy sting bit at my fingertips. I put my hand inside my windbreaker and under my armpit to warm it up.
I saw a hundred small fish, no bigger than paperclips, darting in and around the opening of the creek bed.
I found a kid’s old plastic bucket partially buried in the sandy edge of the creek and tried my hand at scooping up the fish.
But they proved to be too quick and darted away before my bucket ever hit the water.
Mitch Lee, Adirondack native & storyteller,
lives at Inlet. firstname.lastname@example.org