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Fishing from youth can inspire lifelong adventure

Something surreal exists in the minds of young anglers who imagine oversized adventures in tiny waters close to home.

That’s the way it was for me. And judging by recently received information, that’s the way it was for a couple of my fishing friends.

Friday afternoon, Tyler Woak recounted that day’s great fishing in a little creek that drains into the Mahoning River near his home in Niles.

On a whim, Tyler trekked out to the stream where he’d cut his teeth in the fishing game. He grabbed a spinning rod and a pocketful of Ned rigs to drag through the current for the smallmouth bass he hoped still swam the waters where he learned to fish.

Like Tyler, I learned to fish in a small stream. Yellow Creek ran near the neighborhood where I grew up. My buddies and I spent many an afternoon fishing the pools and riffles with bits of worms dangling under small bobbers.

We learned to set the bobbers to ride the ripples just high enough to keep our hooks from snagging the creek bottom. Our daily fishing trips almost always brought fun catches — chubs and suckers, mostly, but we didn’t care. We were fishing and that was all that really mattered.

Fast forward 60 years and I check my phone. The text message was from Tyler. Like I do with most of his texts, I could almost hear his breathless excitement.

“I just hooked a creek smallmouth. Fighting it in the current, I look up and TEN SMALLMOUTH are with it … and they start violently crushing that fish trying to get the bait. They were jumping out of the water going crazy! It was the craziest frenzy I’ve ever seen in my entire life, right in good ol’ Niles, Ohio!”

A short time later, I spied Tyler’s Facebook post about his amazing encounter.

“For whatever reason, I got the urge to go fish my childhood spots … Can’t believe how healthy the ecosystem was. Caught about 15 smallies and a dozen rock bass, total nostalgia catching the same bloodline smallmouth that got me addicted to them.”

Tyler’s tale took me back six decades to the shady pools of Yellow Creek near Walker Mill Road in Boardman. It’s where I learned to read water and experiment with ways to tease the fish. Lessons learned then still guide my decisions today.

But the real thrill of those long-ago fishing trips was the larger-than-life expectations we had. It was surreal. We were convinced that the little creek would someday reward us with a big bass, a walleye or perhaps a snaggle-tooth pike – all big game compared to the 6-inch chubs we usually caught.

Fishing friend Austin Dunlap of Columbiana County chimed in with a comment under Tyler’s Facebook post of his epic adventure. His comment took me back once again. “It’s how I grew up also on Beaver Creek. There’s nothing like it.”

Indeed, there is nothing like it. For kids, every day fishing is a really big deal. Those early adventures just never fade away even when as adults we branch out to big waters, well-equipped boats and an assortment of rods, reels and lures. I mentioned this to Tyler.

“You can take the kid from the creek, but you can’t take the creek from the kid.”

Jack Wollitz’s book, “The Common Angler,” explores the fun stuff that makes fishing a passion for so many people. He appreciates emails from readers. Send a note to jackbbaass@gmail.com.

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