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History lessons from fishing in Mother Lode

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POSTED February 19, 2012 10:58 p.m.

Over the years I discovered that there are other benefits to fishing besides just catching fish. Some of those extras are rusty artifacts left behind by miners, loggers hunters, and anglers. The history lessons they contain are considerable.

 When I stop and think about the assorted stuff I have found over the years while out fishing, the list really amazes me. I have found enough fishing gear to stock a tackle store, including literally hundreds of spinners and plugs, and sinkers and swivels. Other useful stuff I’ve found while fishing includes knives, nets, boxes of trout flies, and skinny dipping hippies.

 I’ve done a lot of trout fishing in the Mother Lode country and the amount of old relics I’ve amassed would fill a garage. My tool shed is stocked with axes, shovels, picks, and pry bars I’ve found astream.  Other finds have included gold pans, critter traps, a cast iron stove, and even a 700 pound capstan from a lumber mill. It’s been a long time since I‘ve found an old dynamite box that was still intact. I was always impressed with the workmanship of the dovetailed box corners and the boxes always had such expressive names like Hercules and Atlas. Time is beginning to take its toll, though, and I guess the only place you’d find such boxes anymore would be in a sheltered place like a mine tunnel or an old mine shack..

The amount of historical knowledge one can gain while fishing areas such as the Mother Lode is astounding. I learned about old bottle making processes from antique bottles found along the rivers.

I still have an old soda bottle from the San Francisco Soda Works that had a rubber and wire stopper instead of today’s modern bottle caps. I learned some basic hydraulics when my father and I found a hydraulic ram used to lift water for mining and irrigation purposes. I‘ve picked up a lot of knowledge about Indians by finding arrowheads, beads, and mortars and pestles.

The larger relics one finds can really amount to work and even pain just to get them home. Once I found an old safe with the door blown off. It took five people to try to load it into the truck. I was in the truck bed pulling up and a couple more guys were below the safe pushing. The safe began to slip and was threatening to crush the people underneath. As I grabbed it and yelled for the guys below to get clear, I ripped the skin off both hands in the process. The ride home with bloody hands was a painful lesson. No doubt about it, keeping one‘s eyes open while fishing can provide more meaningful history lessons than a classroom lecture.

Angling has always been a learning experience to me, but through fishing I’ve learned enough to make my old history teachers proud. The next time you are out fishing, especially if it’s with kids, keep your eyes open and you’ll learn about a lot more than just fish. Besides, next time you and the kids are heading out the door to go fishing (without having cut the lawn first); you can always tell your spouse “But Dear, I’m just doing this for the kids!”

Until Next Week,

Tight Lines

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