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The Sodapop Gang

I would tell you that I have never been in trouble with the law, but . . . .

There was that time I was pulled over for knocking off a convenience store.  Had three nephews and my son in the pickup at the time.  None of them were even old enough to drive. . . .

That story begins as a fish story.  We had spent the day cherry-picking, hopping from spot to spot, picking off active fish, trout in this case.  When the bite slowed, all us boys would hop back in the pickup and head to the next spot.  We caught fish, we ate snacks and sipped pops.  It was a great day!

At one spot, a popular community hole, the local worm-dunkers were positioned in their usual places.  Nobody was catching a thing.  I did not intend to fish there when we stopped.  I hate fishing in a crowd.  We got out to look around, see what was happening.  Soon I spotted a nice trout cruising by.  Then I saw another, and one more after that.

“To the pickup, boys!  Grab the rods.”

I knew that cruising fish were catchable fish.

So, we did.

Now, I have dunked a lot of worms and caught a lot of trout myself.  That presentation can work.  But, somewhere along the line, I figured out that most of the time they ain’t eating worms.  And, pretty much all the time they are sipping a variety of small prey items that come drifting along in the current.  Learn to drift a bait, often an artificial bait, naturally in the current and magically, trout become easy to catch.  Even better, instead of worm guts and bloody trout with hooks swallowed to their pyloric caeca you have fish hooked in places where they are a lot easier to catch & release.  And, a lot more likely to survive!

Good fly-fishers understand this and are experts at the drift–the “dead” drift, where there is no unnatural drag on a fly floating on or in the current.  They will never admit it, but it can be done with other fishing gear too, not just fly rods.  No, I never taught the sodapop gang to fly cast.  It was a lot easier to teach ’em how to clip a “strike indicator” to their line and let it drift (we called ’em “bobbers).

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Back at the community hole, with all the commotion of five boys getting their fishing gear out of a pickup and back to the water’s edge as quickly as possible, lines were cast.  I grabbed the landing net along with my rod.  I knew we would need it.  For the next twenty minutes or so, that is pretty much all I did–net fish.  In rapid succession one boy or another would hook up.  I hate fishing in a crowd, but when forced to, we put on a show.  There was whooping and hollering, casting, hook-setting, splashing, netting, grinning and posing.  Fish were hooked and lost, but several made it into the net.  We admired each one for a few seconds, nice rainbows all of them, and then made sure everyone was watching as we slipped ’em back in the water.

Then it was over.  Like I said, it lasted for about twenty minutes.  In that time, five of us boys had cherry-picked all the active fish.

“Back to the pickup, boys!  On to the next spot.”

By the time we left, the ole worm-dunkers were intently poking through their tackle boxes looking for “strike indicators”.  That was only part of our secret, the part they could see.

I wonder if they could hear us laughing as we drove away?

Or, if they have heard us laugh the many times we have since recalled that day?

Sometime late that afternoon, probably about the time all the pop had been drank, we would have been running late for supper.  We often were.  You may have heard anglers say, “never leave fish to find fish”.  Well, I also say, “Never leave a good bite just so you can be on time for supper.”  Sure, that has had the sodapop gang on the verge of being in trouble, many times.  But, they always get over it, and we have not regretted one minute of the time spent together.

So we were cruising down the highway, heading for home and supper, windows down, smiles of satisfaction on our faces.  We slowed to go through one small Nebraska town.  Met a deputy sheriff on the edge of town.

The deputy flipped a “Uey” and dropped in right behind us.  The boys and I all looked at each other.  I glanced down at the speedometer.  Nope.  I was not speeding.

He followed us for a mile or two, and then sure enough, he flipped on the cherries to pull us over.

The officer approached my window and informed us that my pickup matched the description of one that had just stolen a case of beer from the local convenience store.  My “middle” nephew was riding shotgun up front with me, and the deputy further explained that he matched the description of the perp.  At the time, that nephew may have been about twelve years old, blond-haired and baby-faced.  I guess he looked guilty.

The deputy asked if he could search my vehicle?

“Sure”, I said.  We had nothing to hide other than 500 pounds of tackle, a bunch of fishing rods, strike indicators, a landing net, and empty pop cans.

He asked if we would all step out of the vehicle and stand off the side of the road up ahead.  We complied.  We noticed we had pulled over next to a bridge, so we walked up to see if we could spot any fish in the creek.

The law man spent about ten seconds poking through my tackle box and rod tube (could a person hide a case of beer in a rod tube????).  He then waved at us and told us to get back in the pickup and on our way.  Obviously, we were not the law-breakers for which he was looking.

No kidding.

At least we had an excuse for being late for supper that night.  Although no one believed our story.

The case of Dr. Pepper should have told them otherwise.

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About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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