Larry Case: Muddy memories of Dad at the creek are clear in my mind

Assorted Sports Equipment on Black

Sometimes I think there are two kinds of people in the world: those who fish with live bait, and those who don't.

Pretty heavy stuff, I know, but stay with me. There are some in the angling world who will judge me for advocating the use of live bait. That's OK. You go to your church; I'll go to mine.

I like to fish with live bait. Even more, I like to catch live bait. Those of you out there in newspaperland who have never fished or caught live bait may not understand, but here is the deal: The planning of, traveling to and execution of a bait-catching foray is a totally separate expedition from the fishing trip itself.

Believe me, this is grand stuff. If you are an outdoorsman and enjoy the natural world, a good bait-catching day can be right up there with going on a caribou hunt or landing your first muskie.

As in many outdoor adventures, the planning of the venture is part of the fun. Where will we go? What creek will we hit? Are we going to catch bait one day and fish the next? This will require bait storage considerations. Keeping live bait, well, alive is a major component of the live bait equation.

Another major element in all this is the gear required to catch live bait. You know how we hunters and fishermen love our gear! One can never have enough buckets, seines, nets and other paraphernalia to help you in this endeavor.

My dad was a major league bait-catcher and taught me all of the tricks of the trade. What could be so hard about catching live bait, you may ask. Well, go down to a pool in a small creek to seine minnows and dive right in and chase them around. How many did you net? That's what I thought. Not many.

Dad taught me to wade around in the pool for a few minutes and muddy up the water. Then when he started running his minnow seine around the pool, the minnows and chubs could not see the seine and were more easily caught.

Sometimes we would flip rocks over in a small brook to find salamanders for bait (we called them spring lizards). He showed me how to rub sand on my hands to get a better grip on the ultra-slippery critters.

These and a hundred other little tricks I learned from the man who introduced me to the outdoors. Going back through the mists of time, I can hover above a mud-banked creek and watch a man and a boy sloshing around in the discolored water. The boy, oblivious to everything but small fish in a creek, is unaware the man is enjoying this as much as he is.

They are not just catching bait to go fishing, they are enjoying life on Earth as they know it.

I can't stay here long. Watching this scene dredges up too much said and left unsaid. Better to let it go for now, but I know I will return, will be pulled back to relive it.

Here is a news flash for you: Kids love to wade around in creeks. Boys or girls, it does not matter, they love to flip over rocks and see what is under them. Catching minnows (we said minners), spring lizards, crayfish, (my dad said crawdabs, not crawdads) and other bait can be a big deal to a kid.

Don't be surprised if they enjoy catching bait more than the fishing. Kids are like that.

Have I gotten through to you, pilgrim? Do I have to spell it out?

Got a kid at your house? Maybe you know one who is not at your house. Load up said kid or kids, take them to a creek to see what you can find, then take them fishing. If you find someone younger than 21 who does not enjoy this, I want to hear about it.

It's time for you to be the man who introduces a young person to the out-of-doors.

Happy Father's Day.

"The Trail Less Traveled" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va., has been a devoted outdoorsman all of his life and is a contributing columnist for The Times Free Press. You can write to him at