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A NOTE FROM PENNY: I'm on vacation this week, so here's a column from July 2014 that gives you an idea what I might be up to while unchained from my desk at the JG-TC ...

Even if I actually take time to stop and think about it, I'm not really sure why I enjoy fishing so much.

It's not the worm guts on my fingers, that's for sure.

I guess, partly, it reminds me of my childhood, which was about as ideal as you can imagine, and I can say that without exaggerating. We lived in the country, so we did plenty of wading in the creek, target shooting in the hollers, tree climbing and such.

Fishing was something my dad enjoyed, and we often went as a family.

Now that I'm older and I've gone fishing with my young nieces and nephews, I understand why Dad liked to go fishing on his own and not take us kids, when we were pretty young anyway. It's tough to fish while you're also putting a worm on a hook for a youngster, or encouraging the kids to not tangle up fishing lines, or making sure they don't fall into the water.

That happened once with one of my sisters.

We went fishing at a neighbor's pond and I'm guessing I was 8 or so, which would have made my sister Val about 4. It was an easy place to fish and a good place to take kids, as it was shallow along the shore and a cinch to just walk right up to.

For whatever reason, Val fell into the shallow water and got soaked, and we had to go home early. I starkly remember that little ride home, bouncing on the blacktop in the cab of Dad's pickup.

Val smelled like pond water. Phew! But what was really bad was that I was so ticked off because we had to go home, and I, by golly, wanted to fish!

We often took fishing trips -- after we were old enough to handle our own bait, gear, etc., too -- to the ponds at Hidden Springs State Park near Clarksburg. Back then, we four girls would pile into the back of the pickup with the fishing poles and gear, and Mom and Dad would ride up front.

We'd go merrily along on the blacktop roads, wind in our hair, and usually on the way back, the four of us would sing. I recall us loudly repeating "Barbara Ann" by the Beach Boys, and I know now just why Mom and Dad chose to take the truck and get a brief respite from four energetic young people while they could.

My sister Kim and I were allowed to walk down the road to a neighbor's pond, just the two of us, once we were older. We'd stand on the dock and watch our bobbers in the water, always super excited when we got a bite, and over the moon to catch a little ol' bluegill. It was Dad and Uncle Jim who caught the big bass in that pond. It seemed those bigger fish were reserved for the bigger fishermen.

A coyote once came up to the pond while Kim and I were fishing, and he was cool to see. We always threw back what we caught, but it was still fun.

As a kid, I didn't like fresh fish to eat very much, and I don't now. Then, I just didn't like picking out the little bones. Now, I've never learned how to clean them and just don't like the taste enough to mess with it. So my fishing practice is purely catch and release.

I have the same policy when it comes to dating.

For years, after we moved to town and I went to college, I didn't fish much. I lived in Atlanta, Ga., then Houston, and never once saw a night crawler. I lived out near Lake Paradise and fished only occasionally.

I guess I got caught by fishing again last year or the year before.

Maybe it's the nieces and nephews. They're old enough now to fish without much adult help, and they like it. I don't know if it's that or what, but I'm all about fishing again now.

I like to fish anywhere it's easy to get to. I could kayak on Lake Shelbyville, for example, but I typically fish from shore. And I'm a lazy fisherman/woman/person. I just put an earthworm on a hook, throw out the line and watch the bobber. I rarely use lures and I don't know much about specifically fishing for catfish, for example.

I usually catch enough to make the little trip worthwhile.

The largest fish I've ever had on a hook was a channel catfish I nabbed a couple of weeks ago. He was a big fella! I'm trying to be realistic and not tell fish tails ... er, tales. He eventually broke the 20-pound line on my pole but I got a good look at him. He was a good 10 pounds, which to me is a darned big fish. He may have been larger.

I guess I partly like fishing for the sport of it. I'm not a hunter, and I personally don't care for hunting as sport, not that anyone asked me. I don't like to kill things. I don't like to hurt a fish with the hook in his mouth, really, but I apologize to them and, clearly, I get over my feeling of guilt.

I like to sit on the shore and listen to the water lap at the rocks. I like to hear the wind in the trees and see the sun reflect on the lake. I like to watch the sunset over it all, hear the birds, feel the breeze.

I guess I like fishing mostly to be out in nature. I also like the "game" or sport of it. You never know what you're going to catch, and you've always got to be ready.

When I go fishing, somehow all thoughts leave my mind and all that I'm concentrating on is what that bobber might do next. It's a great escape.

Speaking of escapes, I'll be out of the office next week for a bit of a getaway, so try not to miss my column too much for one week. I won't be fishing a whole lot, unfortunately, but I do have some other fun stuff on my calendar.

If you don't fish, give it a try. It's both peaceful and exciting -- depending on what and when you get something on the hook -- and other than a sore lip, it doesn't have to hurt any living creature except the worms. Then again, if you like to eat fish, you're essentially grocery shopping out at the lake.

Good luck. Just don't take a little sister with you who'll fall in the yucky water and end your trip too soon.

You know, I'm still kind of sore about that.


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