I took a walk tonight. It started as a sudden urge to get out of the house, away from the computer and homework and out into the fresh air. I got in the truck and just started driving. Somehow I ended up at the library pond in the end, and parked my truck, reaching for my fly rod and chest pack, which sat in the back of the cab behind the driver seat. It was an old favorite combo for me that stays in the truck at all times no matter where I’m going, a five weight TFO with a butter smooth click modded Lamson reel. Clutching the rod I slung my chest pack over my shoulder like I usually wear it and walked toward the pond that I’ve fished extensively since I was really young. It’s never had particularly large fish in it, but it’s always consistent and I’ve always been able to nick a few bass or something out of it’s murky waters.
I walked down to the water’s edge and peered down into the silty depths. The weathered stone surrounding the pond had seen it’s better days, and there were more stones missing from the wall every time I visited the pond. The grass was crackly and dry from the summer heat that left it continually parched for days on end. The sad little fountain continued to spew lackadaisically into the air, halfheartedly spinning water around. I saw some small bluegill and some of this year’s brood of bass darting around the green slop algae that lay around the edges of the pond.
I’ve grown up with a lot of these waters near me. Gone are the good old days when I prowled these ponds full time with both a fly rod and a bass rod. Images flood my memories every time I pound the banks of times when I’d done particularly well; those times in the winter when I couldn’t feel my fingers, toes, or ears, donning a floppy beanie and full winter garb rivaling a snowboarder out in the winter, consistently casting and retrieving, dredging the bottom with a clouser minnow and nicking a lethargic largemouth on almost every cast; Walking around in the early springtime with Jonathan when the water is clear, sight casting to bass and big bluegill holding tight to the banks with small streamers; standing on the concrete culvert that I always used to pretend was the front deck of a bass boat, working an imaginary trolling motor with my foot and twitching a plastic worm across the bottom and pulling out bass every couple casts, setting the hook like I’d seen the pro’s do from a young age; sitting on the culvert in the dog days of summer with Marty, feeling the cool breeze coming through the storm drains on our legs, each sitting with a ridiculously sweet Arizona iced tea casting wacky rigged worms out short distances and twitching them every so often, discussing all of those ridiculous situations that middle school age boys imagine in the summer. Those were the days, I said to myself.
I’ve grown up on these ponds. Hell, I’ve been called Pondbass for years, even though now I rarely go out in pursuit of these green marauders anymore. I started fishing these places back in elementary school, way back when a couple boys from my school and I decided that we all ought to go fishing in a couple of the ponds in the area that were sure to contain fish. Many a day was spent standing on the concrete path by the pond we knew as Mason’s lake, named of course after one of the buddies I fished with. We would cast and reel, laughing and catching fish. We sat there in awe of the massive koi we called Ghost that I have still yet to catch- about 10 years now I’ve been trying as well. We would always catch some bass, bluegill, bullheads, and other fish, but we didn’t care, as long as we were getting out and fishing. I grew up on The Drain, below the spillway at the Drain, The Library, Mason’s Lake, The Back Pond, Andy Brown, The Creek, The across the street part of the Library Pond, The Secret Spot, Valley Ranch, all of these have a special place in my heart. Some of these it’s been years since I’ve actually fished.
My reminiscence was put on hold when something bit the chartreuse popper I’d been twitching alongside the edges of the pond. I set the hook, obviously caught off guard, and a small bluegill flew out of the water and landed a couple feet in front of me. I laughed, unhooked the fish, admiring its striking colors, and tossed it back. Cicadas buzzed in the cypress trees surrounding the pond as the sun began to set. Some people walked on the path behind me and I heard a woman gawk “It was the hottest day this month today- A hundred and THREE! Can you believe that!” Yeah, welcome to Texas, I thought to myself, and continued down the bank.
I could tell the bass weren’t really in the feeding mood, for some reason the pond hasn’t been near as good as it had once been, back in the good old days. The water has changed colors to a murky brown muck instead of the stained reddish brown that the water usually looked. It smelled odd, almost like the lake was turning over. I decided to take a walk down through a familiar path where I had fished for years.
I followed the path along the canals down through the houses, where the tree cover gets thick and even during the day it’s cool, shaded, and dark. The canals get narrower and deeper, full of all species of panfish, catfish, and bass. This, however, isn’t what I found when I got there. I hadn’t been down here in ages; it had to have been at least a year. As soon as I walked up to the section I had planned on fishing I saw something was amiss. Was the canal drained? I could see a lot of exposed, hard dried caked silt sitting where there was supposed to be not inches but several feet of water. I walked around looking into the little puddle that remained where seven feet of water had been. I looked for any signs of life in the water but failed to see anything aside from a couple turtles and some small fish. Where fish had once been plentiful there was nothing but muck and a small covering of water. I found the source of the draining was the renovation work, moving up the canal replacing the stone surrounding the edges. While I know it’s vital to keep erosion from taking over, I was pretty disappointed at the sights that I was facing. I kept walking downstream with a sick feeling in my stomach. It’s just tough seeing places where I’d been fishing so long in shape like this.
I kept moving. I got to the bridge that had once been decorated by “Town Center Environmental Dream Team 2005”, obviously a bunch of elementary school age kids back then that were now a lot older, hell they may be my age now. Graffito covers the inside of the tunnel underneath Parkway, most of it painted by the hands of children with bits added from different people over time. I saw where I had stood and caught numerous ten inch bluegill a few years ago, massive crappie, bass, and a single warmouth that I had been extremely surprised about. I clenched my fist on the grip of my five weight and kept walking, letting out an audible sigh into the twilight.
I walked downstream even more, down toward Andy Brown. I walked along the next section of the canal, which was now lined in concrete. I know this section had been completely drained though there weren’t many fish in it to begin with. I finally arrived at the spillway where the canal goes into Andy Brown. I always loved this spot because it had some sort of post apocalyptic feel to it, all run down and eroding like it had been forgotten in time, it had been that way ever since I could remember, back to when Mom would take Conner and I as toddlers to have picnics in the park and we were always wanting to take walks down there, hopping from concrete block to concrete block, being watchful for snakes that often hung out over here. Where the rocks I used to stand on and fish once sat was leveled now, and a stone wall with a fence surrounded this part of the pond. I sighed. The tree I once sat under and fished during the summer, the early days of euro carp fishing for myself, was gone now and burnt grass now replaced it. The whole pond had been renovated with stone surrounding ¾ of it. It did look pretty nice, but after growing up here and knowing the place like the back of my hand it’s pretty odd to see it like this. The pond was a couple feet low and looked pitiful. I walked around for a couple minutes but soon realized twilight was coming and I needed to get back to my truck- more than a mile away from me now. I broke down the fly rod and began walking back where I had come from, disappointed in the changes that I had witnessed.
I’ve grown up on the water. I know these parks like the back of my hand, it’s just odd to see them changing like this. It’s just hard to explain, different, unsettling. The times are a changing I guess. In many ways I feel like everything’s happening at warp speed. I mean look. I’m a senior now. In a couple short months I’ll be leaving my hometown of Coppell for bigger and better things- college, jobs, life. I think about where the time has gone, realizing that all of those times I fished with the elementary gang, Hunter, Mason, and the guys? That was almost ten years ago. Just that in itself is daunting. I can’t believe time is passing so quickly. Just a couple weeks ago it seems like that special time once a week I could convince my Mom to take me out to Valley Ranch and fish the canals, multispecies action in a real hidden gem, until I got kicked out by the police for a reason still unclear to me. I was doing all I knew, fishing. Mom was my chauffer, bussing me between fishing spots, reluctantly of course, but taking me from spot to spot allowing me to run and gun from spot to spot at a young age. I look back at that and realize now I’ve been driving for over a year now and now taking long journeys east, out to the land of the giants. It’s amazing to me looking back. Now where did all the time go?
I looked down at my shadow rotating as I passed each streetlight, with the same orange glow that they’ve had for so many years, since I used to go outside and play with the neighborhood kids, catching little toads that we don’t seem to have too many of anymore, playing roller hockey, kickball, tag, hide and seek, and other kid games on the block with many of the kids that are now graduated and off at college. All the rest of us are in high school now. Amazing.
I arrived at the car finally after walking for a long time, silently thinking about all of this. I took my last few steps as I rounded the corner on another streetlight, walking slowly out to my truck, unlocking it, stowing my fly rod and chest pack in the back of the driver seat where it had been. I walked over, opened the door, and started the car, and began driving off into the darkness homeward bound after grabbing dinner. Where has all the time gone?