You know the theme song to "The Andy Griffith Show," don't you? It's that whistled tune we listen to as Andy and Opie walk out to the lake, fishing poles in hand, and Opie skips a stone across the water.
Did you know that the song has lyrics and is called "The Fishing Hole"? The lyrics basically tell the story of going to the old fishing hole and having a great time even if no fish are caught.
A lot of the TV shows back then had lyrics to them, think "The Beverly Hillbillies" or "Gilligan's Island," but they went with a whistle-only version for Andy's show. The important thing is that they wrote a theme song based on going to a fishing hole. And with that in mind I'd like to visit a few types of "holes" we have around here.
That favorite spot
Do you have a "fishin' hole"? (Do you even still fish?) Maybe it's a deep place in a creek way up in the mountains. The harder it is to get to means it will be more exclusive and, of course, the idea of having that favorite spot is that you're the only one that knows about it.
I went fishing one time on season-opening day for trout with a buddy of mine. He knew that they would stock the Chattahoochee just below the dam for Lake Lanier. It was nice, deep water that ran fast and wide with lots of rocky places around. He had scouted it out ahead of time and so had good reason to believe this would be a great "hole" for us to fish.
Evidently half of Atlanta had also scouted out this place and knew that the fisheries people were going to stock this area. It was crowded up one bank and back down the other. It was like one of those party fishing boats that sail out of Panama City into the gulf where 40 patrons are lined up along the side all casting furiously. I think he actually caught a couple of fish but I was so concerned with tangling my line with someone else or, worse yet, hooking a fellow angler that I wasn't so much fishing as "avoiding."
The fish thumb their
nose at you
With all the modern technology they have today with electronic fish finders you can have a favorite fishing hole in the middle of a lake. If you go up to say Carters Lake in your boat you can cruise around until you see a dip in the depth and know that that's probably a good place to wet your line.
I've seen ads on the fishing shows on TV where these devices are getting so specific you can spot individual fish below the boat. You can actually see the fish down there thumbing their nose at you.
With the depth finders, the modern lake fisherman can seek out these potential hotspots out in the middle of the lake where the surface is featureless. In the old days if a fellow in the middle of the lake found a "hole" he would have to look around the distant shore and find two or three landmarks he could line up to find the spot again. He might see where a big shoreline oak lined up with a distant electric tower in the distance. Next time he came, he would cruise over until the two landmarks lined up again and he knew he was back in business. Of course, there's the old joke about the guy in the lake that comes across a great spot where the fish are almost jumping in the boat. His buddy asks how they are going to find the spot again and the fisherman confidently replies he'll mark the spot by putting a chalk mark "X" on the side of the boat.
I went with my dad and his fishing buddy to Carters Lake once and his buddy had a depth finder on his boat. He had discovered a deep trench that ran some distance and was full of crappie. He would slowly work this deep run and usually come up with his limit. Off in the distance there was another boat fishing. I wondered if those guys were scoping out our spot or if they had their own "secret" hot spot over there. Or were they just adrift. The buddy would try different places, as well, but he knew his odds were always good on this "fishing hole" he had come across.
On fish vacation
There was a creek up past Ellijay where my dad and I would go trout fish, I think it was the Noontootla Creek. Dad had a hole picked out that we would always hit. It was right beside the road, and you could pull over and almost cast your line right out of the window of the car.
We never had any luck at this hole but the reason he always tried it was because you could actually see this giant trout in there just floating like he was on fish vacation. We would always try and get that fish with different baits and different lures and it would just sit there. It's against the law to snorkel and use a speargun in north Georgia or dad would have donned a wetsuit and gone after that fish one on one.
Every once in a while we would hit that spot after they had stocked the creek and we would catch one or two of the smaller ones that had just been put in the stream. But that big, old trout was too wily to go for our bait. What do you call an "old fishing hole" where you can't catch the fish?
The other big "hole" around here is the "Old Swimmin' Hole." That's a place in a creek or a lake where the swimming is easy and the splashing is fun. Like a good old fishing hole, a swimming hole might be hard to get to but is worth the journey once you get there.
You may have to hike in on a rough, root-floored trail to get to that spot where the shore makes easy entry into the swimming hole. Unless, of course, the swimming hole you're going to has a rope swing. Those swimming holes have steep banks that get wetter and slicker the more the kids climb out and up to fly through the air on the rope swing. Other swimming holes are literally deep places in a shallow stream where you can actually submerge yourself up to your eyeballs like an alligator.
When I was a kid my aunt would take me and my cousins to a little creek down on the south side of the county. There was a little dirt lane that went through the trees to get to the stream. Once there we would mainly wade but there was that one deep place where we could swim a few strokes. We were pretty little, so we didn't need a very deep place to have a hole to swim in. Let's face it, the smaller you are the more swimming holes you have available. I don't know if that hole would get up above my knees now.
A gentleman in town was telling me about a place near Resaca that was way out in the middle of a pasture. It was a spring that came up out there in some farmer's field. When he was a kid, he and his friends would head out cross country to take a cool ... well, cold ... dip in that fresh water. It probably had an official name on an old map, but he said they always called it "The Cold Hole." Imagine how refreshing a swimming hole would be back in the days before air conditioning. Imagine how refreshing it would be on a hot summer day even after air conditioning.
There's something special that nature adds
Swimming pools are so plentiful now that there's not the same need for swimming holes like there used to be. Many communities have a pool for the residents, there's the rec center and the country club, and you can even buy a swimming pool for a remarkably reasonable price at a department store.
The department store models range from little kiddie pools that are a foot deep at the most to big above ground pools with their own pumps and filtration systems. But like the difference between eating a hot dog from the microwave and eating one outside that's been cooked on a grill, there's something special that nature adds to activities and it's the same with swimming. If you go to a swimming hole in a river or creek or visit a shoreline spot along a lake, there's just something extra fun about it. It goes from just a swimming experience to an adventure. It's exciting to be out there paddling around in the great outdoors, with the fresh water and mysterious who-knows-what swimming around with you. The excitement exceeds about anything you'll get in a pool.
We've still got months of hot weather to deal with. I recommend you go out there and find a "hole" of one type or another and cool it. Whether you're wading a trout stream or swimming in the deep cool of a swimming hole, you're sure to have a refreshing time in the waters of north Georgia.
Mark Hannah, a Dalton native, works in video and film production.