Dick Pinney's Guide Lines: Friends come in handy when learning to fish
By DICK PINNEY | July 23. 2016 10:00PM
My first mentors lived across the street from my home, which was like an apartment hitched on the back of my mom and dad's corner grocery store.
Jim and Minnie Radcliff were avid outdoors people and it didn't just include fishing, although that was the most obvious impact. Their first act of kindness was to ask permission from my parents to take me down to Hampton one evening to fish for pickerel in the Taylor River, which had been dammed-up by the Route 95 highway construction, changing it from a native trout spot to a great place for perch and the exciting pickerel.
While spinning gear had not really come into popular use, the old-fashioned casting equipment was usable but not really learner friendly. My rod, reel and line was a steel casting rod that you could pole vault with, a cranky casting reel that didn't have a level wind (you had to do this with your fingers of one hand while cranking with the other) and woven black silk or rayon line.
That night at Taylor River, I learned that if I just pulled off a few yards of line I could cast my Daredevil lure (a cheap copy) out to the fish. And if I was lucky, I could undo the snares before the lure had reached bottom or one of the weeds that crowded this water.
And lo and behold, a pickerel eventually attacked my lure. Soon, the fish was up on the dirt road, flopping all around. Jim and Minnie hadn't caught a fish of their own yet so this was a time for great joy and celebration!
Although these evening trips were seldom, because Jim's work at the Navy Yard took a lot out of him and also his care of his huge vegetable gardens took a lot of his late afternoons and early evenings, Minnie's love of fishing and her access to a vehicle made daytime trips more plentiful.
We became friends with our local game warden, who offered secrets about where he'd recently stocked trout. Because of that, we became Minnie's guide to a lot of good places to fish, even though my directions to these places were sketchy and often resulted in some map searching and a few mystery rides.
Two places in particular come to mind when we think back. One was a large tidal pool in a tiny brook that was called the Salt Hole. My warden friend had stocked a small fly fishing-only pond that fed the brook with both fingerling trout and adult brookies and these fish often migrated down to the Salt Hole, where they grew fast and fat and were eager to take a worm!
Another kind of secret place was a small stream that ran out of a pond near a factory that canned produce.
What was revealed to me and then to Minnie was the fact that the tiny tidal brook that ran out of the pond and into Great Bay held a lot of fish that escaped over the dam. My warden friend told me that he often dumped a bucket or two of yearling brookies over the dam and nobody fished it.
Riding my bike the two or three miles from my home to this place (without my parent's approval) we discovered that this place indeed was a great place to fish. But we also discovered that you want to be aware of your surroundings when out fishing.
One day, I was sitting on the concrete culvert dangling a hooked worm and dropping it in front of visible fish. Reaching back to stretch, my hand landed squarely on the midsection of a big brown snake that instinctively bit my thumb and we had to stand on its tail and pull to dislodge its teeth from my thumb!
But getting back to Minnie, we quickly rode our bike back to her house and told her all about our new secret spot. Later that next day, with me in tow, we caught a limit (10 fish back then) and came back and showed them to my dad.
As we grew up, we not only were mentored by other neighbors we eventually became a mentor for several neighborhood kids. This will be fodder for a future column.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Reach him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.