Don't let the rust scare you from a Lindy Easy String

Standing on the bank, the dank scent of water laden with the nostril-flaring aroma of spawning bluegills wafted me back to my childhood.

We lived in Iowa, where my father attended Iowa State University. I was three years old and we lived in the Quonset hut housing for married students at Finkbine Park. We were fishing at a campus pond that had a decorative rock wall along its edges. My father made me and my older brother, Curtis, sit on the wall, tying cotton clothesline ropes around our waists and the other ends to blooming cherry trees so we would not fall into the water.

As fast as we caught bluegills, Dad clipped the fish on a metal stringer. A rock on the end clip kept it from falling into the water.

Absentmindedly, between bites, I kicked rocks into the water. One held the stringer.

I know now it was a Lindy Easy String. With nine metal clips stacked on a loop harness, it works like a dime store Chinese puzzle. Once you figure it out, it's easy, but explaining it is complicated.

Nine clips hold fish by sliding into a gill and out the mouth. They slide around the harness loop on key-chain loops of three different sizes, larger to smaller. The first three slide over a smaller and a medium sized loop in the chain, stopping at a larger end loop. The next three stop at the second, medium sized loop and the last three stop at the first, smallest loop. This divides a catch onto three equal bouquets of three fish each. Other clips can be added and all can be moved to other positions.

While it sounds more complicated than slipping a Nylon line stringer with a wire poker through a succession of fish, separating fish keeps them alive. It also keeps two anglers' catches separated. Fish do not slide to the end. Holding up the stringer for photos does not cut into fingers. An angler can remove any fish without removing others first. Metal works better for toothy fish.

A disadvantage is that the metal rusts over time. My Dad's wound up a rusty mass in the bottom of a rusty metal tackle box.

Recently, I found an Easy String hanging in a tool shed. It had extra clips, survivors of another that had most of its chain, loops and clips rust away. Lindys were once ubiquitous. If you went fishing, that was what you used, unless you used a willow limb. The rattle of the chain brought back memories.

Heading for the creek, I telescoped a Black Widow carbon fiber pole to its 13-foot length, with a bobber, hook and split shot. I threaded on a worm and a bluegill bit, but that was it. I wanted to fill the Easy String to the brim with bream, but the water was dingy from rain.

I remembered my father's frown when he realized I had lost his Lindy, laden with fish. I was crying. He was still frowning when he put another worm on my hook. I was holding a bamboo pole with a skeleton South Bend reel taped to the butt with black cloth electrical tape. The reel held tan Dacron line. The line slid through an enormous red and white balsawood float big enough for king mackerel pier fishing. A pinch-on sinker took the worm down. The float sank. I tried to lift whatever bit from the water, but couldn’t.

My father laughed out loud with joy, as hard as he ever did. My hook had snagged the lost stringer. To this day, that pile of bluegills is the most fish I ever caught with one cast.

To contact Mike Marsh or order his books (Fishing North Carolina, autographed, inscribed, $26.60 ppd; Inshore Angler-Carolina's Small Boat Fishing Guide, $26.20; Offshore Angler-Coastal Carolina's Mackerel Boat Fishing Guide, $22.20 and Carolina Hunting Adventures- Quest for the Limit, $15) send check or MO to 1502 Ebb Dr., Wilmington, NC 28409 or visit www.mikemarshoutdoors.com for credit card orders.