LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
It had been a while since I had done something stupid, too long actually.
Driving to Clear Creek in Bell County to fly fish isn’t in itself foolishness. It just turns out that way for me sometimes.
Needing peace and quiet to contemplate life was on the menu more than fresh trout. I didn’t particularly want to see anyone, but the number of places without people is dwindling. Clear Creek is a gently flowing river stocked several times a year by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. More people go for the easy walk than the fishing. A wide and level trail that was once a train track parallels the creek. There is plenty of straight line visibility. So it’s easy to see who is coming and slip down to the creek, unless the person comes up behind you on a bicycle.
His bicycle looked like he pulled it from a dumpster. There were no straight lines or fluid curves, every inch beaten or scuffed just like the man that rode it. His graying beard and hair made him look like he would be more at home steering a ship. His bicycle included a bell and a basket. His shirt featured a print of the alluring woman whose silhouette is sometimes on truckers’ mud flaps. I expected him to scream, “You’re all going to die,” like the crazy bicycle man on Friday the 13th.
The first thing he asked was what lure I was using. I showed him the white rooster tail on the spinning reel. It had hooked my only fish, a plump bluegill that somehow became impaled between the eyes. On my fly rod was a Parachute Adams, a small top water fly that books say are effective anywhere. Well apparently anywhere, but Clear Creek.
The old man started into a long speech that jumped from one subject to another like a cat chasing the beam of a flashlight. He talked about mushrooms and frog gigging. He told me strip mine ponds that were full of frogs and ponds in Bell County that were full of fish. These were not subtle tips, but each included turn by turn directions as thorough as any GPS.
When talking to a potential homicidal stranger one thing I always do is take inventory of what is on him or in his vicinity. The bicycle basket included a walking stick and a bottle of water. There seemed to be no bumps in his loose, dingy clothing that would suggest a weapon. There was no tribe of cannibals sneaking up while he was distracting me.
The more we talked the more I realized he was just a friendly old guy that probably didn’t have a lot of conversation during his day. He told me to use a Trout Magnet jig and always use one with a copper head. He said I would catch all the fish I wanted. Although he had won my trust, I wasn’t ready to hit the bait shop based on this recommendation.
Then it all changed. He said he had four more miles to ride to get home, but he had a problem. His bicycle tires were on backwards. I look at his tires and they are a typical round and slick bicycle tire. There is no forward or backward on a circle. With that, I bid farewell. First I asked him if he need help in the way you ask people things you want them to decline.
When I got back to my car there was a guy about my age putting his rods back into a Jeep. There were no cannibals in sight and he also struck up a conversation. He said he had caught several fish in just a short time. I asked him what he used.
He told me to use a Trout Magnet jig and always use one with a copper head. As I was pulling out I got a wave from a man on a bicycle. His wheels were both pointed in the right direction.