It is, despite any charitable stretch of the imagination, a shithole. Plastic bags undulate like jellyfish in the tepid brown water. A thick layer of trash rings the shoreline. Thick wads of yellowed monofilament, snelled hook packages, beer cans, Styrofoam worm tubs, broken and discarded ten-dollar spincasting rods, cigarette butts, crooked sticks stuck in stinking mud, an abandoned flip-flop; the detritus of the don’t-give-a-shit demographic is everywhere. In a land where public water and open space for dog training and fishing is scarce and precious, I marvel, repulsively, at the fact that I can hardly bring my dogs here for the shiny matte of broken glass they must run over.
Last year someone dumped an old mattress and recliner in the pond. For a few months the waterlogged mattress floated aimlessly across the water. I used to aim for it when throwing marks for the dog, the bumper making a gelatinous thunk when it hit. She would climb up on the mattress, grab the bumper, briefly survey the world from her quivering ship and swim back to me. I once caught a bass from under it before it finally sunk into the filthy, inscrutable depths.
But it is the only water I have, so I fish it, throw bumpers into its water for my retriever, let my setter chase the tough, cat-wise urban quail that live on its edge. There are trade-offs to living on the plains – the fishing, music and friends of the past for birds, solitude and unfettered horizon of present. This lack of decent water is just one of them. Someday – if the birds continue their slide and what few remain are found behind fences to which I will never be afforded a gate key – those trade-offs will become too much to bear and I will leave this place, but until then I keep coming here to fish and train. Better thin gruel than no gruel at all.
The bass I catch are pale and colorless, like most bass from muddy, turbid water, but they take a spinnerbait readily enough, and they’ve indulged my recent obsession for flyfishing by obliging me with the occasional thrill in that endeavor, despite my incompetence. As a reminder of what I’ve lost for what I’ve gained, they do their job, and as a touchstone for what keeps me sane, well, they do that, too.
So I come back here to find what comfort I can in what the water, the dogs and the bass offer, because water is water wherever it may be and as one who has always been obsessed with water, I have no choice but to seek it out when I hear its call.
While fishing here I once found a used syringe and a little black fake leather bag with traces of what the cops in the affidavits I used to read as a beat reporter always referred to as “a white powdery substance.”
I walk up to the water, look down and there it is, just lying there at my feet. I pick it up, carefully, and put it in the fake leather bag, wrap it in a McDonalds bag (there’s always a fucking McDonalds bag handy) and stuff the whole thing into the overflowing trash can at the parking area. As I walk back to the water, I think about how miserable that person’s existence must be to seek out this shitty, polluted spot and take – in such a hopeless manner – what fleeting solace they can find in this world.
I make a cast and do the same.