I’d like to share my personal Spring Fling getaway…Now I tend to be tight with money and my vacations tend to reflect that trait but sincerely one of the most sacred places that I love to go to in the Spring is a stone’s throw away from my father’s house in Centreville, Al.
The Cahaba River is many things to many people.
It is the longest free flowing river in Alabama, spanning some 200 miles and is a tributary of the Alabama River.
It is the most biologically diverse river in the country, home to 131 different fish species, 13 of which only reside in the Cahaba.
The River was declared a national wildlife refuge in 2002 to protect its natural beauty and habitat…
One of its most famous attractions is the Spiderlily or more commonly known as the Cahaba Lily. Blooming only for a day in late May / early June, people come from around the nation to witness its splendor.
The Cahaba River Society sponsors an annual river festival in honor of the Cahaba Lily.
…but my attraction to the River extends much further than that and certainly is more intangible and intrinsic in nature.
My father, grew up by the River. He learned how to fish the River with my great uncle John back in the 1940’s and 1950’s. They used to keep an old wooden johnboat at the River from which they fished.
…and yes, my father used to ride his bike the 10 miles from his parents’ house over old graveled roads carved through the hills by the pulpwood trucks that harvested the plush forests of the region.
My father first introduced me to the River when I was 11. I still remember the day when I took my Blue Temper fiberglass fishing pole armed with a vintage Mitchell 300 spinning reel to the ‘waterfalls’. Dad took me out to the edge of the River on a large rock at the foot of the falls, told me to cast my rebel broke-back artificial bait out into the water. Low and behold, on my first cast I reeled in a feisty largemouth bass. We caught a lot of bass that day. That day was instantly and permanently imprinted in my memory.
A couple of years later on a Sunday, with the same rod and reel, I once again visited the waterfalls with my Dad and my uncle (much to the chagrin of my grandparents who were opposed to doing anything on the Sabbath, being devout Primitive Baptists). We fished for several hours with no luck. We started wading below the falls and were all spread out across the River. The water is swift in this part of the River and there are many rocks.
I made a long cast and my bait stopped hard, my rod bent double, and I yelled “I got something!!!” Not gaining much line, my Dad and my uncle both agreed I was obviously hung up on a rock in the water and the strong current was imitating the pull of a fish.
I was dumbfounded and hurt…but determined to show them wrong…so I kept battling that rock…they both smiled with the wisdom only experienced fishermen could when witnessing a novice wasting their time.
After about 10 minutes of battling that rock I finally landed it…and that rock happened to turn out to be a Walleye…not just any Walleye but a state record 7 lb. Walleye.
Now the unfortunate part of this story is that we had not realized that the fish was a state record until we had taken it back to my grandparents’ house, fileted it, and had it for Sunday dinner.
A fish story nonetheless and my fondness of the Cahaba just continued to blossom.
As I grew up and experienced life, opportunities to visit the River were slim but when I did it was always a special day.
I have three sons, all adults now. All have been indoctrinated into the magic of the Cahaba. My oldest son has camped there and learned how to fish from his papa.
I first introduced my two younger sons to the Cahaba in 2011. Since it was declared a National Wildlife Refuge, the route to the waterfalls has changed. You cannot get to our fishing area by vehicle anymore as you once could. Now you must enter through the NWR and then hike some 3 miles to get to the waterfalls.
We did just that wearing our backpacks with fishing supplies and carrying our rods and reels.
So on that day with my two youngest I was telling them of my first experience on the rock at the foot of the falls. Well I wasn’t act
ually telling them but showing them. As I made my first cast from the rock with my boys watching, low and behold I landed a scrappy largemouth bass.
We went on to fish that day and caught many a bass, a few of some size, but we also forged an unforgettable memory of love for the River. As Dad had shared the Cahaba to me many years ago, the torch was passed on that day to my boys…
As we finished fishing, we passed that rock where I caught my first Cahaba bass. I shared one more thing with my sons…this is the rock from which you will spread my ashes someday…
Next Spring, where do you think I will be?
Thomas Neil Pierce Jr. – Prospect, Kentucky
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