About A Dog (an early fall report)
I knew a dog once. He wasn’t of superior breeding or even more than just a mutt, but he was a good dog, and went by the name of Prince. He lived next door and spent most of the day laying about in the shade. I never once saw him be aggressive toward any of the kids in the neighborhood and was just as friendly with other dogs. He was nice to delivery drivers and mail men, and always approached a friendly stranger wagging his tail and hoping for a treat or to be petted. I would see him each afternoon waiting patiently for my neighbor to return from work as he lounged in the yard or on the front porch. His ears would perk up and he would suddenly become alert and excited long before I could hear the engine of the old blue Ford pickup as it turned onto our drive and climbed the hill toward the house. He would greet my neighbor in a frenzy and they would have a moment of reunion every afternoon as if it had been 20 years since work and life had torn them apart. Prince would follow his master and friend around the yard and in and out of the house until sun set when they would both retire to I imagined a couch and a fireplace, or perhaps a football game. No, Prince didn’t come from aristocratic stock or a documented blood line but he was a royal dog, and lived in the luxury and care that a stray or working dog could only dream of.
We were living in the town of Fair Chase, South Carolina at the time and my mother had taken to raising chickens.
The chickens my mother kept were free range, or at least as free range as neighborhood chickens could be, and they would wander our few acres and down to a tract of woods behind the house. My mother felt that chickens fed on sow bugs, earth worms, and harvestmen were both better tasting and better for you than those kept penned up and raised on feed. She kept them in a fenced coop and would let them out during the day to roam and peck at the ground and woodpiles. On occasion one would attract the attention of Prince and some clucking, flapping, and a short chase would ensue before Prince would give up and return to his spot in the shade and his food dish, or chewing on a tennis ball. He may have caught one once or twice but quickly let it go when he heard my mother’s scolding. For him it wasn’t so much about killing and eating a chicken, it was just in his nature to go after them. Anyway, his belly was always more than full of high end dog food (the kind with the extra fat and protein for a hunting or working dog that suburban people feed their lay about pet) and whatever table scraps he could beg. There was no need for a meal of raw chicken especially when it had to be chased and subdued out in the open.
One afternoon, when I was sent out to open the coop so the chickens could roam, I was met by a gruesome and comical scene of blood, feathers, legs, heads, wings, beaks and dismembered, dead, and dying chickens. There was chicken everywhere. It looked as if someone had thrown a hand grenade into the coop, and there sprawled in the middle of it all was a very tired and satisfied Prince, panting heavily and trying to catch his breath. He had managed to exploit a flaw in the construction of the coop and had been able, with little effort, to tunnel under and take advantage of the captive and helpless birds. I was shocked not so much by the blood and guts, and gore (I was old enough by then to have had killed, plucked, cleaned, cooked and eaten many a “free range” chicken) but by the fact that Prince had damn near killed himself killing chickens, and had not eaten a single one.
Why didn’t he just kill one and eat it?
Why kill all of them, and revel in the slaughter, and lay down amongst the carnage?
What was it in this dog that drove him to this? Was it something innate?
Could he help it?
Was the low hanging fruit of penned and helpless prey just too much to turn down?
Perhaps this had been pent up in him for years. Maybe he had been domesticated to a point of ruin, and while the wolf still lived inside, it’s wildness had been subdued long ago by jerky treats, left over dinner plates, and chew toys. He should have been in or just past his prime but the dog’s life had left him a languorous shadow of the roaming predator he dreamed of, while twitching and barking, during his mid-day naps in the shade.
My neighbor felt pretty bad about the chickens, and even though my mother initially turned down his offer to buy her new ones, he insisted and so was permitted to replace the murdered fowl. Prince didn’t get shot, taken to the pound, or even scolded that I can remember. In the end most of the blame fell on my Dad for the flaw in the design and construction of the chicken pen. The neighbor fenced in his backyard and Prince was now restricted to those few acres. For the most part everything went back to normal and for my parents and the neighbor the whole thing was soon forgotten. Prince would still lie about, greet his master, play with and be petted by the folks in the neighborhood and generally lived out a good life. The only thing that changed was that the dog never looked me in the eye again after that cool fall afternoon. He knew and I knew that it was his torpid existence that had likely led to his extreme, murderous and wasteful avarice. And we both knew with absolute certainty, that given the chance, he would do it again.
Delayed Harvest trout season comes back in October 1st, and the rivers will be once again stocked to capacity with fresh and naive trout. Squirmy worms, Y2K eggs, and sucker spawn rigged with a healthy amount of split shot below a strike indicator should produce great numbers of fish. Fifty or sixty fish days are possible as most of the freshly stocked fish will congregate in the deeper runs and pools and can be caught multiple times. If the idea of standing in one or two spots catching multiple fish, or the same fish multiple times, on junk flies doesn’t appeal to you then you may want to skip the first few days of the DH rush. After about a week or so the fish tend to spread out and become less gullible. This will be about the time that you will hear rumors of poaching or the fish having left the area. They are still there, minus a few hooking mortality related deaths, so switch to actual fly patterns, downsize a step or two on your tippet and fish the area more like a stream than a pond. Or go look for wild fish as most of these waters will be devoid of other anglers.
For the month of September wild trout and wild smallmouth bass are still the best game in town. In between rain storms the big rivers have cleared, the bugs are out in full force and the bass are looking up. Dead drifting a floating fly with occasional twitches has produced some great action and great fish. I love trout but there is still nothing like throwing big dry flies from a boat and watching smallmouth sip or crush them on the surface, not to mention the fight that follows.
Wild trout waters are fishing tremendous. Stonefly hatches have been in full force for the better part of this cool and rainy August and trout are keyed in on the nymphs and more than happy to take an adult. A chubby chernobyl on top or a girdle bug underneath have both been producing well.
I and other fishermen have been noticing a good bit of pre spawn activity from the brown trout on the Davidson and other area rivers. Its a bit early for it, but nature has its own calendar so its possible that the spawn this year will be early or protracted or both. Keep an eye out over the next few months and especially into November for trout on redds. Redds are clean oval shaped patches of gravel on the bottom of the river that trout create and use to spawn. If you notice these patches take care not to fish to any fish on or near them, and not to walk on them as this behavior can impact the number of fish to catch in the coming seasons.
In all it looks like September is shaping up to be a fisherman’s month this year with the cooler weather, some what dropping water, and summer crowds returning to work and school.
Good Luck, and good fishing,
p.s. Not a word and every word of this story was true.