Posted by: 1000fish | October 14, 2022

All Dogs do NOT go to Heaven


I know there is a special place in hell for people who make fun of small, yappy, kick-dogs. But I’m going to risk it. “Little Bit” was an awful animal and the world should know.

The dog. It hated me. It hated everyone. And not just a Little Bit.

A toy chubacabra by AKC standards, Little Bit belonged to my buddy Steve Ramsey’s Mother, Rosie. This was long before small dogs were a fashion accessory, so you could say that Rosie was a pioneer of the decorative chihuahua movement – years ahead of Paris Hilton. 

The dog put on a good show in front of Mrs. R., but it snapped and growled at everyone else. Those who were roped into dogsitting got bitten. Houseguests and veterinary assistants also took high casualties. With this history, you can imagine my distress when I discovered that Steve’s guest room features a large photo of the now-departed* canine, and I swear its eyes follow me around the room. 

The tiny face of terror.

And how did I end up in Indianapolis? As always, it involves fishing and it’s a long story. If you want the summary, there were seven species, three new friends, six meals at Skyline Chili, four sports events, a funeral, (two if you count the Indians game) and another meal at Skyline.

It began, as many bad stories do, in Cleveland. One of Marta’s dearest friends had lost his Mother, and Marta wanted to attend the funeral. I fully agreed until I was told, well after the fact, that this involved going to Lima, Ohio. It’s easier to get to Lima, Peru. 

We decided to fly to Cleveland and drive it from there. Marta can make a cultural excursion out of anything, (see below,) and I can make a fishing trip out of anything, (see Ethiopia), so we made it work. 

We arrived, despite the best efforts of United Airlines.

As much as I like to pick on Cleveland, it’s actually a pretty cool place. We stayed in the theater district, and a buddy I’ve known since junior high, Sean Biggs, joined us for the Rock and Roll Museum and then an Indians game. 

This was an awesome place – I could have spent days here. Much better than the art museum.

Yes, I like ABBA. Deal with it.

Until you see this movie, your life is not complete.

Marta, Sean, and Steve at the baseball game.

Yes, I got some dirty looks for this. 

Marta makes friends at the stadium.

The next day, Marta dragged me out of bed at some ungodly hour and we were off to Ada, Ohio, which is near Lima. The area is infested with OSU fans.

We caught up with Scott, one of Marta’s best friends, and headed to the cemetery to say goodbye to his Mother. It was a very touching ceremony – an Ohio girl, who had spent most of her life in California, was buried minutes from where she was born. I thought of my own Mom, who we laid to rest about four hours north of here. I can’t believe that was 10 years ago.

After an extended lunch with Scott’s family, we headed back to Ada. We had a few hours before dinner, so it didn’t take me long to duck out and find a creek. It wasn’t much of a creek – but as I examined the water, I could see a bunch of carp and some shallow rocks that likely held darters.

Laugh if you will, but places like this hold a lot of fish.

I saw one variegate darter, which would not bite, and got a few rainbow darters, which are one of the most common animals in nature.

They do make nice photos.

I then turned my attention to the carp. They were big fish – 10-15 pounds, and since the area was so small, I had to be uncharacteristically stealthy. It was all sight-casting a small jighead and red worm, and after about half an hour, I hooked a big one. 

One of our dinner companions scoffed at the idea that there were fish in that small creek. I live for moments like this.

As if the day couldn’t get any better, Ohio State lost to Oregon. There was open weeping in the streets, which made me smile.

Just two months later, there was finally justice in the Michigan game.

The next evening, Marta and I drove back to Cleveland. We had a nice dinner, found ice cream, and put her on a flight home in the morning.

Then the serious fishing started, and other people’s internet connections came into play. One of my buddies knew a guy named Cody, who is based near Cleveland. He and I got trading messages, and he had a few ideas for species on the Cleveland/Columbus corridor. Cody is finishing up nursing school at Akron, so it was very generous of him to come out for a day with me. We spent most of the morning creek-hopping our way south, and I could tell the kid really knew his stuff.

We didn’t get anything new in the morning, but remember, I’m a hard guy to buy a gift for.

Everything turned out to be creek chubs. Everything.

The afternoon, however, was one for the ages. Cody and I pulled up at the Kokosing River, a gorgeous, clear gem of a place I had never been to, despite living in the area for a few years. It looked incredibly fishy, full of rocks, riffles, pools, pilings, and trees. There were supposed to be variegate and bluebreast darters here, and as I set up my gear, Cody caught a variegate darter. Right in front of me. After I had just explained that I had never caught a variegate darter. 

The variegate darter was caught in the lower left of the photo. I will forgive Cody the moment I catch one.

Before I tried for darters, I saw some small fish in a deeper riffle and flipped a bait out to them. After a couple of undifferentiated silver shiners, I got a streamline chub – the first new species of the trip. 

# 2031.

We then set out after bluebreast darter – a notably exasperating species. They love relatively deep water, which makes them hard to see, and they love fast water, which makes them difficult to present to. But they were there in numbers. The balancing act here is to use a split shot big enough to have some control over the bait, but that is somehow small enough to not spook the fish. It took about half an hour of missed bites, but with Cody there as a current break, I landed one.

Note the blue breast.

The triumphant anglers.

These are a special fish – usually the kind of thing only Pat Kerwin can catch. I was thrilled, until I spent the next hour hunting for that variegate darter and realizing Cody had caught the only one. When I was already late for dinner, I headed off for Columbus and had steaks with some dear friends. I also stopped by two of my old apartments.

The Summit house. It likely has the same carpet it did in 1985.

My second apartment in Columbus – King’s Court. It was royally moldy.

On the way to Indianapolis the next day, I stopped at Little Darby Creek – a favorite Midwestern destination that always seems to have a stray species available. I immediately saw a variegate darter, but these are fond of such turbid water that I struck out. I thought again of Cody catching the one RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME yesterday. Kids.

I got a mixed bag of several dozen fish, and one of the shiners looked a bit different. I took good photos and got into Peterson’s Guide, and to my great delight, it was a scarlet shiner. I had my third species of the trip. 

Oh I love this creek. Thank you again to Josh Liesen, who introduced me to the place, and who caught a scarlet shiner right in front of me that day.

Cody sent me his scarlet photo. It was much prettier than mine. So is his variegate darter.

Little Darby, near where I caught my smallmouth redhorse.

Then I got to Indianapolis, which means watching sports and eating irresponsibly with Steve Ramsey.

The pinnacle of Unsupervised Man Food – the Skyliner Chili Dog. When I write my book “Food with Consequences,” Skyline will have its own chapter.

Steve’s guest room, as we have covered, features a picture of that awful little dog, and I swear I hear the “Psycho” music every time I see it.

It growled so hard it would vibrate across the floor. It snuggled up on Steve’s leg once when we were watching TV, but when Steve moved, the dog bit him. The glowing eyes are not a photo error, they were like that all the time, and frankly, I’m surprised the thing showed up on film.

After the first few meals at Skyline, but before the sporting events started, I went fishing again. This is when we introduce Ron and Jarrett, another connection through, I believe, Gerry Hansell. Ron and Jarrett are based in Southern Indiana and have made it their life goal to catch every single species of fish that lives in their state. It sounds hard, but it’s actually a lot harder than that. There are plenty of species that might live in one small creek or just be here part of the year or live deep somewhere or are just plain hard to catch. 

Jarrett is a grad student and Ron is an executive chef, so their schedules are busy. They were occupied on the first day I had free to fish, but they helpfully suggested that I try a covered bridge in western Indiana – a place I had fished before with Gerry.  There were supposed to be a couple of slam dunks there, notably a dusky darter.

In hindsight, there are no slam dunks in fishing, only overconfidence that turns to disaster. 

I set out that morning with a cooler full of red worms and Red Bull.

Here’s one way to keep people out of your cooler.

Steve Ramsey joined me for the scenic drive, and I set up for one of my favorite activities – wet wading a creek on a warm day. And yes, I was completely overconfident about at least the darter. We all know what happened – I saw exactly one dusky. I hooked it, and it flew off in mid-air, inches from my hand. The bad words I yelled are still echoing through the river valley.

I couldn’t have picked a more beautiful place to fail.

I texted the guys and told them it had gone badly. Ron, in particular, was stunned. He volunteered to come out with me and hunt down at least the darter. I never refuse help – but I do try to pass it on whenever someone visits me. Except the Mucus. Or Jamie. 

Two days later, Ron and I connected back at the covered bridge. There’s no missing him – he’s a tall guy, who insists on wearing waders even in summer, to avoid poison ivy. Smart. I hate poison ivy. It hates me. I have a gift for getting it on my hands, and then going to the bathroom before I realize I have it.

We headed up the creek, to the spot where I lost the darter. Ron conceded that the water was much lower than when he had been there and that there weren’t nearly as many fish in evidence, but he also educated me that they are very wood-oriented, which narrowed our search.

We eventually spotted a large dusky. Every time I presented to it, swarms of shiners moved in and tore up the bait. The darter was game, but he just wasn’t as fast as the minnows. Eventually, he tired of the process and tried to swim into a brushy shoreline. Ron played goaltender and steered him back into the open area. Two grown men carried on like this for at least an hour and managed a few desultory bites from the increasingly exhausted little fish. Somewhere in there, I happened to look down at my right foot. Another dusky darter had settled in the shade of my instep. I had to somehow stay calm, which is never easy, shorten my line up, and gently drop a bait straight down. The fish bit instantly, and I swung it up to a surprised Ron, who caught it mid-air. We had the darter.

The triumphant anglers. Yes, Marta, all of these guys are tall and good-looking. What’s your point?

A closeup of the creature. 

I could have ended the day and been very happy, but Ron suggested that there were some excellent madtom opportunities nearby. He and Jarrett tend to do a lot of their micro-fishing at night, and while the idea of going back to Indianapolis for Skyline Chili was appealing, the idea of more fish was even more appealing. Ron led me to one of his favorite western Indiana creeks. We spent a pleasant hour wet-wading for assorted micros – there were a few new darters there, but visibility was limited and they laughed at us and wandered out of sight. I did get one small catfish, which I didn’t think much of at the time, but it turned out to be a freckled madtom.

I am terrible at photographing these things.

We had one more stop that evening, a spot where Ron thought we could pick up a brindled madtom. The process was straightforward but maddening – we poked through a shallow rockbed, very carefully as the substrate was mud and it was easy to cloud up the water. We spotted a few madtoms, which are generally quite cooperative at night, but they decided to explore their inner sand darter and completely ignore us. This just made me more determined, so dusk turned into something like 10pm by the time one finally bit for me.

I remember thinking “Sure I’m happy, but my butt is asleep and I want to go now.”

I was cramped and cold and uncaffeinated, and it was 90 minutes to Indianapolis. Luckily, my host Steve is a bit of a night owl, so we could eat together late, but I made things worse by turning west instead of east on the interstate. It was about half an hour before I realized I shouldn’t be in Illinois.

After Steve and I finished some large number of White Castle hamburgers, we sat down back at his place to watch ESPN, and yes, I swear the photo of Little Bit was LOOKING AT ME.

Just a Little Bit scary.

Steve’s neighborhood has a geographical anomaly – the intersection of Friendship Drive and Friendship Drive.

The weekend was completely devoted to sports events. Saturday morning, we headed for Bloomington, where the Hoosiers would face the highly-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats.

Although I do not always understand his headgear choices, I am always grateful for Steve’s excellent tickets. Bizarre random fact – Steve can palm a basketball. I cannot.

IU made a game out of it, but the Bearcats, with a level of graciousness and sportsmanship reminiscent of Jimmy Johnson’s Miami teams, prevailed. 

A very crowded Memorial Stadium.

Interesting side note at the IU game – I had not met Jarrett in person, but he attended the game so we got to catch up and say hello.

This guy is an intense fisherman, and interestingly, he is also Cincinnati football fan. And he seemed like such a nice person. But no matter how misguided his football loyalties are, he has caught more darters than anyone I know.

On the way back from the game, I got texting with Pam, another long-time local friend. She mentioned that she had excellent tickets to the Indianapolis Indians (AAA baseball) game that night. And by excellent, I mean the mayor’s suite. (Pam worked for the mayor of Indianapolis at the time.) She graciously invited us, mostly because she likes Steve.

That’s Pam on the right, from a 1990 visit to The Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa.

I decided to surprise Steve and take him to the baseball game – it wasn’t the first time he and I had done two sporting events in a day. Not only did we see a good contest from the mayor’s suite, but Pam also introduced us to Bruce Schumacher, the owner of the franchise. 

Quite a night.

The following morning, we made a long-overdue pilgrimage. While I am not a Bears fan, I respect their tradition and history – their two wins a year usually come against the Lions. Soldier Field is one of the great edifices left in an age of antiseptic, cookie-cutter stadiums, and we made the three-hour drive to catch a game in person. It’s an amazing place – a modern stadium built inside the shell of the original structure. We got to see the Bears defeat the Bengals, but the Bengals would recover and go on to the Super Bowl, whereas the Bears, as with most teams led by OSU “graduates,” would flail in mediocrity for the rest of the year. 

Steve has gear for about any team you can think of. For the uninitiated, that’s a Walter Payton jersey he’s wearing. Can anyone name the jersey I am wearing? (Hint – it isn’t football.)

I gave it one more fishing round before I went home, an adventure west to Terre Haute pursuing the elusive goldeye. I didn’t manage one, but I did cross over to the Illinois side and add an interesting (and apparently wayward) micro – the bigmouth shiner.

They aren’t supposed to be there. And yet they are.

I flew home the next morning, ahead seven more species and some new friends that I would be fishing with again soon. Ron and Jarrett had both mentioned that there was a solid blue sucker run near them every April, and I would give my Aunt (and draft picks) to catch a blue sucker. I was already making reservations for another flight to Indianapolis, where I knew I would always have a guest room waiting for me, even if the decor was a Little Bit frightening.


* At least I think it’s departed. Come to think of it, I never heard anything official, and I believe it was around 42 the last time it bit me. For all we know, it’s still wandering the back alleys of Griffin Road, snatching the occasional postman and frightening children.  





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