By Bob Polk
Driving along by Watauga Lake recently, I was reminded again of the beauty which it adds to our area. We benefit from the hydroelectric power, the flood control, and the recreation provided by Watauga Dam. There is an old saying that there are two sides to every story. Benefits always seem to be preceded by sacrifices. Sometimes we forget that lying beneath those waters are the remains of what was once a thriving community. Now covered with water are reminders of roads with mountain homes, family farms, plots that once were cemeteries, and the abandoned town of Butler. The memories are kept alive at the Butler Museum. They have been replaced by a lake, boat docks, new homes and cabins, house boats, sail boats and fishermen. Since I like to fish, most of my early memories of Watauga are about fishing I recall the times when we were successful and some when we did not catch anything. Most fishermen have a story which some people have difficulty believing. It is usually about the big one that got away. I have one of those stories, but it didn’t happen at Watauga Lake because the dam was under construction.
When I was in high school, I had a good friend and we liked to go fishing. My math teacher suspected that sometimes we missed school to fish. One of our trips was to the river at Wilbur Dam located a short distance below Watauga which was unfinished. We had heard that there was a good fishing hole and we wanted to try it. We did not use artificial lures; we used worms and minnows. After a discouraging day, something exciting happened. The line on my pole began to move toward the deep water. After a short time, I jerked the line and set the hook.
I do not remember all that happened the next few minutes, but I do remember finally getting the fish close enough to see it. The fish was not a bass like we had hoped. It was the biggest catfish that I had ever seen! The problem was how could two teenage boys land this fish. We eventually decided to lead it into shallow water and slowly drag it in. Shortly after getting it into shallow water, it rolled over, gave a strong jerk, and slowly swam away. It had broken my line. Two boys were left standing on the edge of the water and thinking that nobody is going to believe this.
There are some other fish stories that you can believe because they are true. They happened as a result of the miraculous work of Jesus. At least two times he ask his followers to cast their fish nets on the other side of the boat and they were filled with fish. He entered Capernaum one day and was asked to pay temple tax. He sent Peter to the sea and ask him to keep the first fish he caught. When Peter opened the mouth of the fish, he found a coin to pay the tax. When Jesus chose his disciples, the first ones called were fishermen. He said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Men were sinking in sin and somebody needed to rescue them. It is fun to catch fish, but it is eternal to catch men and lead them to a relationship with Jesus.