As time passed, I had to get a real job and with my own truck and a little jingle in my pocket I started fishing further from home. I would still come back and hit the mill pond with Richard or my dad from time to time and had some very memorable days on that stretch of water. There were heavy stringers of bream and some of my biggest ever largemouth and shoal bass. My father on back to back casts landed two spotted bass that were just a tad shy of the state record. We would also hook catfish that you could not even lift off the bottom; they would just slowly swim back and forth till your line gave up the fight.
A few years ago, Columbus and Phenix City decided to return the river to its original condition and remove the spillover dams that made the mill pond. I had hoped that it would never happen and thought I had avoided it for a while. The big talk was they were changing it to the largest urban whitewater course in the nation. All of the whitewater yakkers were going nuts over the prospect. I don’t play in the water; my idea of playing in the water consists of screaming drags and a predatory explosion on an unsuspecting topwater fly. Thankfully with the advancements in fishing kayaks, boats like my Jackson Coosa are able to hold their own in some white water. As the dams in Columbus began to fall, I could see my favorite places begin to return to the way the Indians saw the river when their cities lined the banks.
It was a tough thing to watch as the levels dropped and places I had paddled across now stood dry. Last Sunday on my way to church I took a side road that led me past Richards’s old house and down to the mill pond. I had planned to fish on Monday and the now boulder strewn mill pond seemed to call me out. I called my fishing partner and told him we had a change of plans and Monday we were standing beside the water. The place we were launching had been under 6 feet of water just a month before. As we paddled up river, rocks that I had just seen the tips of in years past towered over me. The catfish rock and school bus rock, places named in years past were now dry. I had bounced jigs, run spinnerbaits and twitched whacky worms over most of these rocks that now reminded me of Stonehenge. As we made our way up river, I realized how good this place will be as soon as the river settles in to its old course. I pitched a worm in a few good looking spots with no results so i kept pushing my way up river. After a short while a tap on the line shocked me into action and my doubled over rod told a familiar tale. When the 3.5 lb spot broke the surface I looked around at the mill pond and realized that I am still blessed. I didn’t lose my old fishing hole, I get to have the fun of learning it all over again.