When the Fish Don't Hit, the Memories Will
Nothing Quite Like Treble Hooks in the Head
by Robb Hoff
November 4, 2012
Hurricane Sandy quickly put a stop to the Fall fishing on the Ohio River in about a New York minute.
Below Markland Dam, the water had risen from under 20 feet to over 33 feet in a just a few days, and with the rising waters went the patterns in place before the storm waters spewed into the river valley.
It looked like the sauger and saugeye would be highly active with the pool low, but the bank access to those saugeye was nearly 15 feet higher with surf hitting the shore like it was ocean driven.
The muddied water makes the fishing even more problematic as it churned through every gate of the dam, generating tailwater that looked more like a Class 5 whitewater rapid than the Ohio River.
The upheaval of water wasn't quite as dramatic along the hydroelectric side of the dam, but the water was nonetheless high and discolored.
And the fish weren't hitting there either.
But that didn't stop fellow Hubber, Dr. Dirt, and me from trying our luck there for a couple hours. Only when cast after cast with too infrequent hits finally convinced us to pronounce that enough was enough did we climb the rip-rap back to the top of the bank and the parking lot.
As we talked the way up and the conversation meandered to the topic of treble hooks on lures and their dangers for those unaccustomed to using them, that Lake of Memory Rising (courtesy of William Fix) overtook the banks of time and had me transported back to the mid-1970's in Cincinnati at a pay lake called Clovernook.
Clovernook actually had three lakes, if I remember correctly. I had only fished there maybe three times with my dad during the mid-1970's, but one of those trips marked my first real encounter with treble hooks or "trouble hooks" as I would refer to them thereafter.
Dad had entrusted me with a Rapala floating lure that had three treble hooks dangling from the gold lure body. While he fished at one of the lakes, I ventured out to try my luck at another of the lakes.
Cast after cast without even the hint of a hit had finally drawn my wandering attention to the mass that seemed to be drifting slowly closer to the bank where I stood. Finally, once I recognized what the object was, I waited for its arrival within my casting range.
As soon as I could reach it, I connected with the Rapala. The rod bent down as I struggled to wind the Zebco with the weight at the end of the line. But gradually I brought the prize closer to shore.
Then, as I pulled harder, the unexpected happened and the lure somehow came free, hurtling the Rapala and its three treble hooks toward me.
Panicked, I whipped the rod forward as the lure flew past and the next unexpected event happened, teaching a 10-year-old his first and most lasting lesson about treble hooks.
I believe every point of all three treble hooks lodged into the back of my head as I whipped the rod forward and snapped the lure back toward me with it.
It sounds worse than it was because the hooks didn't bury past the barbs, but it still took an insufferably long while to pick the hooks out of the back of my head.
Embarrassed but undeterred, I set about to complete my task and claim my prize with a plan hatched to perfection. And I cast the Rapala back to the mass in the water. This time I finished what I set out to do. I had what I needed and I ventured back to where Dad was still fishing.
It was with mixed feelings, though, and growing doubt that I approached Dad, and as I saw the look on his face as I drew near, that doubt grew.
"Robbie, that fish is dead," my dad said.
And it was. One of its eyes was popped out and the rigor mortis had set in long before I cast my Rapala to snag it. I surveyed the catfish for some hope that an unexpected surge of life would course back through it, which for anyone who has ever cleaned a catfish to eat can appreciate because they do not die quickly.
But no such luck, so I did the next best thing and offered the alternate version of events that I had concocted as I walked back to show my dad what I had "caught".
"The fish died while I was winding it in," I said, somewhat defensively, to which my Dad burst out into laughter.
Dr. Dirt thought it was funny too, and I hadn't thought about that event for quite some time.
I would've called my dad and related the event again for him to relive if I could have, but no such luck. Dad died earlier this year and has left it up to me to carry on the angling tradition that we shared and hopefully helped carry forward over decades of fishing that often times produced more stories to tell than fish to show.
And those memories can sure seem like treasures because sometimes you have to have something to fall back to when the fishing just ain't no good.