Some 35 years later, I still remember the perfect day.
It occurred in the spring when the sky formed a rich blue dome over the white dogwood blooms below.
Spring break — or "AEA" as we called it because teachers attended the Alabama Education Association convention — always held the potential for perfection. After a winter trapped in the classroom, being outside in the fresh April air was heaven.
My only contribution to the day was waking up against my will before dawn and leaving the bed. The weight of such a great sacrifice by a sleeping teenager cannot be overestimated.
With the boat trailer hitched to the baby blue Ford pickup, Dad drove about 45 minutes into Cullman County and launched on Rock Creek. The clear and narrow tributary is part of Smith Lake, a jagged, sandstone-lined reservoir that swallows the deep canyons of the Black Warrior Mountains.
After casting lures at various spots with little luck, we motored upstream as far as we could go and dropped anchor. Here, the banks of the creek lie close together and the current runs swift.
Soon, we discovered the water was teeming with striped bass, running upstream for their annual spawn.
With white Rooster Tail lures tied to the end of our ultralight spinning rods, we could not make a cast without getting a strike.
For the unfortunate person who has never had the opportunity to fish, the thrill of the catch probably makes no sense. Something about the hard initial strike and the consequential tug of war between angler and fish sets the heart racing.
Fishing with a partner carries the added attraction of friendly competition. Dad usually won this game of catch because his lure spent less time than mine in bushes, trees and power lines. "Squirrel fishing," he calls it.
But on this day — this perfect day for father and son — we reeled in so many fat bass that we stopped keeping score.
On a normal outing, we broke for lunch when the fish quit biting. On this day, we took our break while the fish were still biting.
After our sandwiches, Golden Flake potato chips and Cokes, we went back to the work of hauling in fish. I don't remember how many we caught, but I do recall we were in danger of exceeding the state creel limit. I also remember we finally grew tired of catching fish and went home while they were still biting.
What is the perfect ending to the perfect day?
Fresh pan-fried fish, of course, with hushpuppies, french-fried potatoes and cole slaw.
Executive Editor Scott Morris can be reached at 256-740-5721 or scott.morris@TimesDaily.com.
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