Friday, July 5, 2013

Independence Day



Every Day is Independence Day here in Tammy World.  It can be for you too!

Yesterday was July 4th, Independence Day here in the USA.  It's a big holiday with lots of food, fireworks and a celebration of American freedom and patriotism.  In North Carolina, July 4th is also the Free Fishing Day, which is the only day all year that anyone can fish without a license.  Since I am currently between fishing licenses I decided to exercise that freedom by taking Buddy fishing.  We haven't been in over a year and missed out on the spring fishing because I don't want to renew my fishing license until I get my new driver's license with my new name on it, which will be soon I hope. 

I have always loved fishing and it's one of the few things I decided to carry over from my old life to my new one, its just something I had not experienced as myself yet.  I have owned a couple of boats in the past and I sold my last one last year but I enjoy fishing from the shore or piers better anyway.  To me, fishing is relaxation and boats are not all that relaxing.  They usually create headaches or, at the very least, add more work and a lot more cost to the experience.  I still own a canoe that I plan to fix up and use again but it does not require a motor, doesn't make noise and is small and light enough that I can handle it myself.  Still, you just can't beat standing on that bank or pier and throwing a line into the water to see what might bite it.  

When it comes to methods, fishing with artificial lures is what I enjoy most.  There is something about fooling a fish into biting a piece of metal, plastic or feathers that is much more satisfying than putting a worm or minnow on a hook to get a bite.  Lures add an element of skill not found in bait fishing and they are a lot less messy.  Also, I think its more ladylike to fish with artificial bait than it is to get dirt under your fingernails from using worms or handle smelly bait.



Buddy

So I loaded my long time fishing partner, Buddy Matthews, into the van and drove out to the country.  We have experienced a lot of heavy rain lately and all the places I wanted to fish on the Tar River in and around Rocky Mount were kind of flooded out with very high, muddy water.  My thinking was that we could go north, closer to the headwaters of one of the creeks, and find some clearer water with better conditions.  We were quite a ways outside of town when we crossed one of the bridges over Swift Creek and it looked like a cup of coffee with lots of cream.  Our plan was to head even further north and fish that creek but it didn't look like it would be fishable anywhere on this day.  After a week or so of rain we finally a pretty day with blue skies and we were enjoying the country ride so I decided to keep going north into Franklin County, Buddy's original home turf.

We made a big loop on quiet country blacktops, hardly seeing any other cars, then crossed Swift Creek again where the water was almost as muddy as it was downstream and too high to get down to the bank and fish.  We came very close to the tiny community of Wood, North Carolina and then hit NC 58 South going back towards Nash County.  The idea crossed my mind to go to Bodie's Mill Pond, which was just off the highway on the way home, and toss a spinning lure into the water.  I didn't think we would catch anything there but at least there was a small area with free bank fishing access that shouldn't be flooded out.  


Nash County is growing green with agriculture



Nash County tobacco field
Driving south on 58 into Nash County, we hit the small town of Castalia and there were people everywhere in this usually deserted little town.  I had forgotten that Castalia bills itself as "The Place to Be on the 4th of July" and so there I was, on July 4th.  Traffic was not bad, after all this is a tiny town, but it was nice to see all the flags, vendors and people setting up chairs along the roadway in anticipation of the coming 4th of July parade.  The smell of food lured me in, so I pulled over and bought a $2 hot dog, forsaking the healthy lunch that I had packed.  There is nothing more American than eating a hot dog on the 4th of July so I am glad I got a chance to eat one, and in the perfect setting too.  Buddy didn't seem hungry and I hated to feed him anything with the word dog in it, so I only bought one.


All American lunch

Castalia is The Place to be on July 4th.




After eating my hot dog and riding through  the carnival like atmosphere of Castalia on their big celebration day, we took a little detour on a dirt country road then headed to the pond.  There were a few cars in the small parking lot at  Bodie's Mill Pond when we got there, with a couple of little boats in the water and several people fishing on the grassy bank.  This is the site of an old grist mill dating at least as far back as the 1800's and there is a small dam on the creek that creates a lake of maybe a couple hundred acres.  I have been on this pond in a canoe before and it does go back a mile or more to the swampy headwaters.  The area around the little boat ramp where you can actually fish on the bank is quite small but Buddy and I walked over to the edge of the wooded area and found a spot to cast for a little while. The water was muddy with a lot of current and I didn't get a bite but it was good to finally wet a line and have a chance to fish as myself for the first time.  



Nash  County country road

Buddy walking along the pond's bank.


Dam and old grist mill at Bodie's Mill Pond
We didn't stay too long at the old mill pond and, having broken the ice by making my first casts as myself, I had one more place I wanted to try before heading home.  We stopped by the Historic Tree Park when we got back into town, as there is a little pond there I have never tried out.  The other spot we could have gone is the much larger City Lake, but it is usually crowded with a lot of people and a walking trail going around the entire lake so there is no way I could let Buddy off the leash there.  We have walked the dogs at almost all the parks in town and I had seen people fishing at this small park but never seen them catch anything, so I didn't have high expectations.  Still, this one more spot we could cast for awhile on this Free Fishing Day.

It was the heat of the day and extremely humid when we got out to fish at the little pond.  I was glad no one else was there so I wouldn't have any problem with Buddy following me around without a leash.  When I first starting taking him shore fishing, maybe 10 years ago, he would ramble around and sometimes wander off.  In the last few years he has settled down as he's gotten older and become the perfect fishing dog that doesn't stray far from my side.  We walked almost all the way around the pond making casts and though we had a couple of strikes we hadn't caught anything.  When we were almost back to the van I had one more little tap on my line and managed to reel in a small Bluegill.


Bluegill and the small spinner I caught it on.

The species Lepomis macrochirus, or Bluegill, is commonly referred to as Bream in these parts.  My mom has a picture of me on a childhood beach trip with my first fish ever.  I was a little kid about 4 years old standing on the beach holding up a small Spot (Leiostomus xanthurus), which is kind of the salt water equivalent of the Bream.  So, my first fish of the year and of my new life as myself was a tiny Bream.  It is fitting to start small and work my way up but I was just happy to catch a fish, any fish, on this day, partly so I could have a picture for this blog.

The best thing about fishing is just being out by the water, enjoying the scenery, relaxing and having fun.  Buddy and I had done all of that on this day and we look forward to going again soon.  After coming home and cleaning up all three of us (Buddy, Nightingale and myself) went over to enjoy the rest of the holiday with my parents.  Having their love and acceptance makes every day seem like a holiday now, but we enjoyed watermelon, ribs and hamburgers to celebrate this Independence Day.

 


 



Independence Day is all about freedom.  Aside from all the celebrations, festivals and time with family its also a time to reflect on what freedom, or independence, means to us individually.  This year I celebrated my independence from a life lived trying to meet other people's perceived expectations of what I was supposed to be.  This year I celebrated the freedom I have earned to be myself and finally live my life for me.  I had no idea that in doing so I would actually better serve the people I had hid myself from and tried for so long to please by being something I am not, but that is how it has worked out.  I can do anything I want to do now, even go fishing, and because I do it all as myself it feels so right.  



If you feel like you are trapped in the prison of living a lie just to please other people, whatever that case may be, just know that it doesn't have to be that way.  You can live your life for you and those that truly love you will accept you, even if it takes time.  Your job will be accepting of you as you really are or its likely not the right job for you or you are not right person for it.  Only when you are happy and comfortable within yourself can you be the best person you can be.  Life can and will be better for you, your loved ones and everyone in your life if you are true to yourself.  You can be free.  Then every day will be Independence Day.