I was looking for the chance to go fishing. I didn’t know how much fishing there’d be, but behind Zack Ruble’s house it always works out for me.
My remarks to get out fishing are faultless. ”Ashley,” I say. ” I thought I’d take little Zach fishing.”
“Oh you did” she says.
“Yes, as soon as we get Addair down for his nap. I called out to Shonna and little Zach can’t wait. Big Zach went hunting and he didn’t get to go.”
Ashley isn’t go to say no. When we come to Tazewell, Virginia for the weekend, it is implied that I will go fishing. She asked that I clean Grandmother’s kitchen before I left, and she took Addair into the back bedroom. After that, you’ve never such hustle even in the backs of restaurants. In a minute I had the kitchen done.
“I’ll be back soon,” I told Grandmother. ”Little Zach wants me to take him fishing.”
She and Aunt Gail wished me luck.
The drive out’Gratton towards Ruble’s place is ten miles of what is beautiful about Southwestern Virginia. All of it a two lane highway, farmland rising sharply from the valley, and ridge lines off in each window. And you are going fishing.
I pulled in behind the wild looking old church, where, for the first twenty visits you will have to spend time taking pictures. Ruble’s place is a big blue house just behind in a large field. It backs up to the stream where the hill begins to rise after that. Little Zach ran off the porch with his fishing pole, his black lab, Trooper at his feet. The Beagles howled from the edge of the trees, the numbers of them echoing, and no other cars followed me down the highway. You could hear the stream under the bridge by the church.
Little Zach’s sister Maddy was right after him and the three of us walked to the fencerow. A minute later we turned to lock the gate behind us, approaching a little wooden bridge. We discovered that the water was very low and crystal clear. In a stream this size it meant you would have to be very good to catch a fish.
“Lets be a little more quiet,” I said.
Zach told me about how big Zach had gone deer hunting all weekend. And there would be another youth hunt for him, coming up. All three of us and Trooper looked down into the first hole.
On a good day there would be twenty yards or so of a nice seam to yield a hiding trout. But today we looked in detail at the bottom. And please forgive me for using powerbait, because this was during the naptime of a toddler. We could see our little dots of yellow pass the deepest part of the hole. It was as if we had thrown them into the toilet.
There wasn’t any sense fishing like this. I suggested we spread out, because absolute stealth was our only chance. As if it isn’t always. I snuck up behind a cast iron sink and waited at the top of the hole. Zach and Maddy and Trooper went further up. None of us had any luck, and Zach came back to tell me the deepest hole he knew of was perfectly clear and shallow.
Zach’s grandfather Mr. Ruble lives on the other side of the field with the fork of two streams between their houses. Our only chance was at the spot there, improved because Mr. Ruble throws dog food in the water to fatten them up and see where they are.
Big Zach breeds field trial beagles, who begged our approach, and a horseshoe of doghouses lined the trees by the water. Puppies climbed over each other and pleaded to be in a couple pictures. Mr. Ruble came out to chat across the smaller stream while Zach and I saw that once again, we should think about finding something other to do than fishing. That’s when big Zach came home with JW from their hunting trip.
Zach had an enormous 9 point buck in the truck that he’d shot with a recurve bow. That’s not a modern weapon like you think of nowadays when you see bowhunters. Think of it more like a piece of wood and a string. A very well made recurve bow, but imagine getting yourself close enough to a mature buck to have a shot with something like that. Ruble said 12 yards. Forgive me, but anywhere other than Virginia they would call that Ninja.
With the kids and I in the truck bed, we drove around to Mr. Ruble’s house and under a three sided shed next to the barn. Other dogs barked from kennels there, too, and a sign read “Grouse hunter parking only.” Zach backed further into the shed and under an overhanging scale. A wooden beam held the scale with old antler racks mounted the whole length from either side. You got the feeling that the shed was made for this purpose.
Other men had come, relatives and neighbors in flannel shirts and baseball caps that said the names of coal mines. The buck was left hanging on the scale as the truck pulled away. I finally stood my fishing pole against the side door. The buck weighed 165 lbs.
We all stood there staring, inspecting. Everyone pointing where the shot had been made, but then, too at how the deer responded. The neck was swollen largely, and the eye that had been closest to Zach was puffed over. Everybody took a turn to grasp the magnificent array of antlers just above the ground. They begged it out of you.
Mr. Ruble kept saying, “What a deer, son. To make that shot on such a deer. It’s something.”
“Yeah, I’m pretty happy,” was Zach’s response. Still, I wanted the full tale of it.
“We’d seem some big rubs,” Zach began. No one gave him the chance.
“Look here,” an old man said, I supposed to be Mr. Ruble’s dad. ”His foot got hurt somehow, look right there.”
The deer was inspected like we were thinking about buying one like it. We finally swung it’s head onto the tailgate and Zach backed the truck under the scale again. In the barn nearby, we hung it a second time and Zach began skinning the deer. The inspection continued, gaining interest as Zach worked smoothly with the knife.
The barn was ancient and I followed the lines of it, noting the recent red paint job. A little overspray here and there, not bad, and it was some kind of solid stain instead of paint. Mr. Ruble came over and said, “Now Russ, take your pole down there to the dirt pile and sneak around it. There’s a big hole behind it and you might have your chance.”
I knew the place he meant. It was the big hole below where the streams met above. My approach to the spot was purely a Zach Ruble approach if there ever was one. In a hole like that, on a day like today, it was the only chance you’d get.
I thought about my cast a couple times before I made it. Not a cast, a flip really. It was a left hand favoring spot, good for me, but I wished it could be backhanded. The bottom of the hole was clear like everywhere else but the glare of the sky was gone now and I was certain no fish could have seen such an approach.
My bait hit the faster water and made it’s way to the edge of the seam. A fish darted out and struck but didn’t take it. I reeled with the current for one full entire second as the fish seemed to push me along, telling me to get lost, then he disappeared.
Ashley called and needed me to pick up Grandmother’s biscuits and some apples from the grocery. And also, she said, I was supposed to have washed the dishes. Not just placed them in the sink.
“Grandmother told me not to bother with that,” I said.
“She will always say that.”
“Then leave them for me. She likes Grand’s biscuits, right? I’ll be sure and get the flaky ones.”
On another subject:
It’s probably time you got the Christmas lights out, right? Well what if you let me do it? Go big this year. We’ll do the whole house and take them down in January. Doing reasonable estimates all the time. Email in Knoxville, TN at email@example.com