When I was young, about ten or so, Earvin "Tuck" Hull was one of my next door neighbors, as the crow flies. But in Fourche Valley, next door could mean a mile away, which was the case here. Earvin was a big time hunter and fisherman; it seemed to be the main focus in his life. The Game Warden, Bob Campbell, seemed to try to shadow Earvin a lot, apparently pretty sure he would eventually catch Tuck in an illegal situation. I have read in a book that he once did, when they were both young, and he hauled him to the jail at Danville. Tuck's brother, PC, went to Danville, and bailed him out, as that story went. But both were old men now, during my youth. It was common knowledge during my youth that Bob still chased Earvin, though I don't know how successful he was. I never heard of Bob catching Tuck in an illegal situation again.
Tuck was fun to be around. He was a very good friend of mine, and told me lots of tales of his exploits. He often brought us a big batch of Buffalo, a rough fish with nice white meat but very bony, taken on one of his night time gigging trips. We ate them like candy. Since I was so young, my sisters just picked out those fine, forked bones for me. When they got tired of that, they just handed me small bites of wadded up cornbread, and I didn't know the difference. One day when we were talking, He told me, "If you will catch up a big jar of grasshoppers, and bring them over tomorrow morning, we'll go catfishing." Well, catfishing with Tuck was just about the most fun thing I could think of, so I got right on it.We arrived at the river just after lunch.
There is a two or three mile stretch of the river that is very shallow. Even when the river runs normally, The water there appears to be only two feet deep or so. So, it was not a place where people normally fished, to my knowledge. That area was totally deserted, except during Deer season. And deer hunting was not very productive in that valley in those days.They had all been pretty well chased down and eaten up. A few would be ran out of the mountains by deer dogs and killed each season, But when someone legally killed one, it was big news. During my entire youth, I saw only one deer in those bottoms, though I spent most all of my spare time of my youth hunting, wandering and fishing there. Harold did kill one, just before he left Wing. He hid his gun under a log and carried it out. Harold went back to get his gun, and he couldn't find it. Dad went back with him later, and they looked again. Dad noticed a pile of leaves nearby, dug in it, and there it was. Harold must have been pretty excited when he killed that deer. Charley Bill Stout claimed his dogs were chasing it, and ran it over Harold, so it was half his deer, he said. So, Harold carried him a big batch of the meat.
But Tuck showed me that day that there was more to that stretch of river, fishing wise, than met the eye to one not familiar with it. At intervals, several deep holes occurred. They were generally far apart, and the only practical way to find them was to wade the river for miles. But Tuck knew them all. And, he also knew that fishing there early or late in the day was not the thing to do, as I had always thought, where catfish were concerned. Early and late, the catfish ranged out in that shallow water, even in dry times, feeding. In the heat of the summer day, they came back to those few deep holes. And, since the river was low, food more scarce, they were still very hungry. Drop a big juicy grasshopper into the middle of one of those holes, and more often than not, a big cat was waiting.
Earvin was using a fly rod. I used a long cane pole. We caught all the catfish we could easily carry out that day, some longer than my arm, something that I was just not used to in my fishing experience. I normally caught sunfish, perch, goggleyes, and mud cats. I memorized the hole locations, and after that I fished them regularly, though I had to walk many miles to do it.
During years when grasshoppers were not readily available, my buddy and I discovered that if we rode to Danville with Dad when he went to buy cattle feed, or whatever, we could quietly sneak in the back door of the chicken processing plant, and we could usually pick up a gallon or two of the unusable chicken livers off the end of the conveyer belt before someone discovered us and ran us out. That worked even better. Those bad livers were destined for the garbage, anyway, so we never felt guilty about that.
Fifty Years Later -
The river bottom in that shallow stretch is just covered with big, slick rocks. So, I never get to fish many of those holes now. Getting there and back is too shallow for a boat, when the fishing there is good, in dry times. One has to get out and pull it most of the time. My knees just won't hold up to it. But one good hole is easy to get to, and I fish it regularly when the river runs low. Other people laugh at me when I head out catfishing around lunch time. But they just don't know, and where that hole is concerned, I just let them wallow in their ignorance. Lord knows, I spend more than my share of the time wallowing in that.
Thanks for your time, and your attention.
Thanks for your time, and your attention.