Stickman Readers' Submissions March 26th, 2004

Gone Fishing (In Isaan) Part 7

Sis and I drove a ways down the well worn dirt road to the area closest to the pond she had pointed out to me. I pulled over where she indicated a spot to drive the truck off the road, where the rice threshing trucks wouldn't have a problem getting around us. We parked the truck in a cloud of dust, tires crunching on dried grasses and bushes. I set the hand brake, grabbed my ciggies and lighter, thought about taking along a large bottle of water sitting on the passenger seat floor, decided not to, and locked up the truck.

We went to the back of the truck and gathered our fishing rods and gear. I set up both our lines for live bait fishing.

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We had crabs for bait that one of the rice farmer guys and his daughter had dug for us earlier that morning from the mud in the rice fields. I'd never seen this before…..crabs in mud in an area so far from the ocean, where there is only fresh water. Yes, I know there are fresh water crabs. Just had never seen this firsthand before myself.

Within ten or fifteen minutes they had a couple of plastic baggies filled with the little buggers, and this was in the drier season. The top layer of dirt was as dry as a bone, but a few inches down in the loose dirt the moisture muddy dirt harbored many little pockets of miniature crabs. There must be gazillions of the things crawling under the muds of Isaan. It seemed no matter where he dug he came up with a handful of the little buggers!

Where I'm from the live bait we use is usually minnows, called shiners, or nightcrawlers…earthworms. Also small frogs, crayfish, crickets, and grasshoppers are sometimes used when available, but most just use shiners or worms.

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I prefer lures myself for freshwater fishing. Seems to me to require more skill involved to fool the fish into thinking they are striking at something alive and tasty. Just me.

I set up the rods with small hooks, for our crabby bait, and light split-shot lead weights. I used small dry twigs for the bobbers, not yet having found any manufactured ones to buy. It works if the wood is light and dry.

Once ready we set off along the paddy dikes, the easiest way to traverse the rice fields in any season. The pond lay a good 300 yards in, and sat near a copse of trees and bushes, one of the many that dot the rice fields of Isaan, likely left standing to provide ocassional shade for the rice farm workers on their breaks from the blazing sun.

Sis and I made our way along the mounds of dirt, me feeling a bit itchy, as I was wearing shorts, and along the dikes the uncut sun-bleached grasses grew to knee height and tickled my calves as I walked.

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It being early December, and me being from a climate which was much colder at the moment, I wanted to enjoy this chance to get some sun and color while I could, before returning to Boston's winter wonderland of ice, snow, freezing rain, and below freezing wind chill factors. So I was dressed in cotton shorts, cotton t-shirt, and my trusty kick about leather Reebok sneakers. Sans socks of course.

Nothing looks worse in my eyes than a guy wearing shorts and sneakers with socks on. Just looks goofy to me. Me? I was stylin'! And itching like hell already from the clouds of mosquitos we stirred up as we walked along. Millions of whom seemed to be feeding voraciously on my stylin' bare fucking ankles! And me without my malaria shots or meds too.

I lit a smoke and puffed away. An old wives tale that I've come to embrace, being a pack a day smoker, that says that cigarette smoke helps chase away those pesky mosquitos. These hungry Thai mossies hadn't seemed to have been clued in on this shit though. I enjoyed the kick from the nicotine anyway, while scratching away whenever the urge became overwhelming.

We finally approached the infamous rice field fishing hole that Sis had told me all about in such glowing terms. "Many fish!" she had told me when I asked. This seemed to be no bullshit, because as we came to the edge of this watery oasis amongst the now dry and dusty village rice fields I saw that the surface of the waters veritabley roiled and seethed with aquatic lifeforms just beneath the surface. It looked as though we had just come upon the ending feeding of a large school of voracious Piranha just finishing stripping the meat off the bones of a large water buffalo, who had foolishly stumbled into the water while grabbing a cool afternoon drink of water!

"Wow! Looks like you were right Sis." I said laughing, "There are a lot of fish here!" She smiled, and beamed sunnily with an "I told you so!" look on her puss. We got settled on the banks of the pond, baited our hooks with the little crabs, and tossed our lines in to begin hauling in our catch for the night's supper.

The sun blazed down like something from a Boraxo 100 Mule Team commercial I'd seen every Sunday while watching Bonanza as a kid. The sunlight was a blinding bright white heat that enveloped the landscape in its sizzling embrace. Luckily I had taken along my sunglasses, or I'd have been blinded within minutes.

The early morning and previous evening it had been pretty cool temperature-wise. These cool invigorating temps were a distant memory now. I realized I'd left my ball cap back in the truck. Oh well. I'd wanted to catch some rays and get a tan. Here was my chance to do so!

I stripped off my t-shirt, scratched my ankles, and proceeded to fish.

(to be continued)

"The pleasant'st angling is to see the fish
Cut with her golden oars the silver stream,
And greedily devour the treacherous bait."

William Shakespeare
'Much Ado About Nothing'

Stickman says:

More Magic From Cent.

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