College football is only a few weeks away and I'm having a hard time waiting for the opening kick-off! My enthusiasm for this time of year is twofold; I start thinking about river fishing and listening to the University of Alabama play football on Saturday afternoons.
For more years than I care to remember, I've spent a lot of my Saturday afternoons in autumn, on my boat anchored in the middle of the Tennessee River, just about a mile downstream from the Guntersville Dam where big catfish roam!
With my radio tuned to a station that carried broadcasts of the Crimson Tide and two rods baited with chicken liver, I would spend a leisurely afternoon fishing and cheering for the "Tide". If I were out of range from a station that carried my team, I would tune to any SEC school that I could receive on my old battery powered radio.
Saturdays on the Tennessee River in autumn are usually warm and calm but without the stifling heat of summer. Usually only one or two of the turbines at the dam are churning the water to white foam, while making the current downstream gentle and peaceful. The old song, "Up a Lazy River" really applies to this 652 mile long ribbon of water. On peaceful weekends in the fall when the days are cooling down a little, big catfish that hide up and down the river in holes and caves near the banks, come out to find their afternoon snacks.
There have been many huge catfish caught on the Tennessee River. The largest I have ever seen weighed 105 pounds. There have been pictures of even larger catches up and down the river. The largest I've caught was 34 pounds and to me it was like trying to reel in a concrete block.
It really doesn't matter how many or how large a fish I catch on the idyllic days of autumn. It's just being there on the river away from everyone that makes those moments memorable, fish or no fish!
The third Saturday in October is always my favorite weekend to spend on the river. That's the weekend that the University of Alabama and the University of Tennessee hold their annual football rivalry. When the game is being played in Knoxville, you may see boats headed there to the stadium on the banks of the Tennessee River. There are usually pennants flying, announcing the favorite team of the owners of the boats.
In October the leaves are changing colors up and down the river. Nature has arranged a palette with every color imaginable; free for viewing by anyone fortunate enough to be on the water at this time of year! I often see Bald Eagles gliding elegantly over the water looking for dinner and making the day for me just a little more tranquil.
The serenity of the river and its tree lined banks is often broken by a fish having the nerve to gobble up my bait. When that happens, I hurriedly drag him on board so I can get back to my leisurely afternoon. Other times the spell is broken by cheering coming from the radio. Someone just made a touchdown! If the team that scored is one of state universities, somewhere along the river you'll hear a cheer coming from someone like me, taking advantage of a beautiful day.
Fall fishing is a balm for the soul. It's a time to set aside everything that has to do with work and stress. Get out into the river with a boat and either drift or anchor. Then all you have to do is to listen to the leaves falling. Never mind the fish!