Quite a fish tale…

By Staff
Fishy friendship turns 50
Haley Aaron, Hartselle Enquirer
It all started back in 1957 when James Brown found himself in need of a "fishing buddy".
"He wanted to know if I would like to go fishing with him," remembered Buddy Johnson. "I told him 'Yeah, I sure would'."
It was the beginning of a beautiful, if somewhat fishy, friendship.
Johnson, who lived in Birmingham at the time, drove up to fish with Brown and that fishing trip became the first of many.
Things have changed a lot over the past 50 years. "When we started fishing together, drinks were 6-cents apiece," Johnson said. "You could buy a RC and a Moonpie for 15 cents and you'd be set." Brown and Johnson remember a time when they had no money to buy lunch on their fishing trips. When they first began fishing, they would spend the night at Wheeler Dam and set out trot lines to catch fish, which they would ice in the morning. They would sell the fish they caught to others fishing at the lake for about a quarter each to pay for their lunch. One day, their business was especially profitable.
"One time, we had enough to go buy a T-bone steak," Brown said.
Although Brown and Johnson no longer sell fish to pay for their lunch, and Johnson has returned to Hartselle, some things don't change. They still go fishing at least once a week.
They are fishermen of all seasons. "In spring of the year we fish for crappie, bream and then the catfish start biting and that carries us through wintertime," Brown said. "If we do any fishing in the fall, it's usually crappie fishing."
Most trips begin the same way. Brown and Johnson start their fishing trips early, leaving at around 4 a.m. They stop for breakfast and then they head to the Tennessee River to fish for several hours. To escape the heat of the day, they usually leave the river at 9:30 or 10 a.m., although they sometimes stay until late in the afternoon if the fish are biting, Johnson said.
Since they keep the fish they catch, there is never a shortage of fish to eat. "Oh, we get a lot of fish," Brown said. "We have freezers full of fish all the time."
"My freezer's full just about now," Johnson said. All of that fish is put to good use when Johnson hosts a monthly fish fry for family and friends. It is only fitting that the two fisherman's 50th year celebration will be marked with a fish fry.
After cooking and eating fish for so many years, the fishermen know how they like it. What's the best way to eat fish? Fried, both Brown and Johnson agree. "Country fried," Brown said. "Deep fried."
Although one might suspect that Brown and Johnson have developed a friendly rivalry after fishing together for so long, however, there is no competition between the two.
If you ask them who is the best fisherman, there are no arguments. Neither claims to be the best fisherman. "Well, you can't tell," Johnson said. "Today, he can go down and catch 10 to my one. A day or two later, I catch 10 to his one."
Fishing has been a life-long hobby for both men. Both men learned how to fish from their grandfathers. "My dad didn't like to fish and I was the oldest grandson my granddad had," Brown said. He and his grandfather would walk to Flint Creek and fish for "anything that would bite," Brown said.
"Give them something to do," Johnson said. "If they get into fishing and hunting, most of the time you don't have to worry about them being in something they shouldn't be in."
"For young people now who've got 7, 9, 10 year old sons, the best thing in the world is they could do for them is get them out and let them hunt, take them fishing…" Brown said. "(And) keep them off the drugs and off the booze," Johnson added.
While both men have other interests than fishing, it remains their favorite pastime. "It's just a good sport, a good pastime and it's good to be out and have something to do, [and] associate with each other, " Johnson said.
"You get on the river and time just doesn't matter," Brown said. "You just forget all of your troubles while you're waiting for that fish to bite."
Although time doesn't matter on the river, they do hope they have several years of fishing still left. But right now, Brown and Johnson are content to mark the milestone and plan next's week's fishing trip.

Eva

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