This weekend I took one of my last trips to Pickwick Lake for the year. I might get one more trip in, but it’s fall and hunting season is starting so my fishing time is about to drop off. I’m hoping this will be a good trip so we can end fishing season on a high note and then start chasing deer.
Our two day trip started off a bit worse than we had anticipated. We had a rough afternoon on the water but with perseverance and a dose of tenacity we were able to pull six fish from the lake under some very difficult circumstances. Our plan was to spend the night at the state park lodge and fish the next morning so we were looking forward to getting one more shot at the fish before we had to turn the truck toward town and drive back to reality.
A word about the lodge is in order here. JP Coleman State Park is in Iuka, MS and it sits on what I believe is some of the best real estate on the entire lake. The park is located on a bluff right where the mouth of Indian Creek meets the main lake. On the main point they built a two story lodge with perhaps 24 rooms. Each room has a deck that looks out to the lake. Because it is fall there aren’t many people here. The campers and skiers have all gone home and it’s a very quiet time here now. In fact we were the only people in the lodge at present…we had virtually the entire park and the entire lake to ourselves…for the low, low price of only $70 a night.
From my perch on the deck I could see parts of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama. I could see all the way back to the mouth of Bear Creek which the wind had made so difficult for us to reach earlier in the day. The silence was so pure that it made me wish I had younger ears with which to hear it. Over the years the sounds of guns and equipment and life in general have taken their toll…I now have a faint but constant ringing in my ears most nights as I drift off to sleep. It’s not enough to destroy the moment but I do wish at times like these I could really hear the true sound of silence.
When you look up at the night sky here there is nothing to keep you from seeing every star that God ever put there. With no humidity or smog in the air there is nothing to distort the startlight. Stars appear as sharp and crisp diamonds, lighting up against the inky blackness of the universe behind them. It is almost breathtaking how gorgeous this scene is. As your gaze returns earthward the brilliance of the stars descends to earths horizons and is then blocked out by high,dark, forested hills; which fall and roll and cascade down to the shores of Pickwick lake.
The harmony created by darkness and silence is solitude. And solitude is something sorely lacking in many lives today. What started out as a quick and curious step onto the back porch has turned into a long, purposeful, relaxing sit.
As I looked out across that lake in this silvery moonlight a flood of memories began to come back to me. Events that might otherwise have been long forgotten are coming back in crisp and vivid detail. Half a mile away on the right side of the channel, right where that dark hill descends and juts out into the lake, sits a point where I was learning how to use tube baits to catch smallmouth bass and I had a 10 pound drum take me for a wild ride on my third cast. Just a few hundred yards in front of me, where the creek meets the main lake is the area where I took the family fishing one day and we just hammered catfish on a jug-line all afternoon on a sunny summer day. This is amazing…I’m looking at a black patch of calm water in 48 degree weather in the middle of November…but what I’m seeing is a sunny August afternoon and a boat full of family, laughter, and flopping catfish.
Further still down the right side of the river it begins to make a long, gentle, arching turn to the left. Just about in the middle of this sweeping turn is a gravel bar where I caught my largest ever smallmouth bass one morning. Again I can see it as if it was that very day and I’m watching from this deck as I catch that fish…I recall the cool foggy conditions as I left the marina, I can see the explosion as the fish tried to destroy a topwater popper, I remember the first glimpse I caught of those long dark vertical bands on his side and realizing it was a big smallmouth, and I can remember smiling as the family met me down at the dock to take some pictures and see what dad had caught. This is like a redneck version of an out-of-body experience.
When you step out onto the deck it might seem like you can see seven miles down the river from here…but if you slow down and really listen to what this place telling you…you can actually see back in time.