As a farm girl from the South trapped at a rowdy party school I have approached my past four years of college much like a roller coaster: close my eyes and hope it’s over soon. Unlike other students, the place I know I’ll look back on with nostalgia when thinking about my college town isn’t a bar or a burrito place, it’s a fishing spot.
It’s true that many students visit Strouds Run State Park at some point during their stay in Athens, Ohio but what many of them don’t know about–or maybe just don’t care about–is a more secluded section of Strouds Run that is the core of Dow Lake. The dam built in 1959 that sits in a little off-set pocket right against East State Street.
While the north and west sides of the lake are typically occupied on warm spring and summer days, this little haven remains scarcely populated. Parking, boat rentals and beaches are located on the north and west sides of the lake so to the typical collegiate friend group deciding to embark on an outdoor pursuit this is where they end up. Yes, these city slickers and Midwest rurals are bonding over the great outdoors and it’s wonderful! However, I go to the water for exclusion.
A few times I have been sitting cross-legged on the bank securing my reel to my arrows, a meditative act I enjoy doing to prepare to bow fish, when a stranger suddenly joined me. My dog lets me know if someone is approaching before they could possibly see me. He isn’t a hunting dog by any means, just an overly loving goober who is particularly adept at tracking down hands to pet him.
These visitors are usually middle aged men who grew up here. “Townies” as us students like to call them. They always apologize for interrupting me because they came here to be alone too (after getting over their complete and utter surprise because a student knows this spot), then the bow sparks some interesting conversations.
One morning I was there and had no intentions of fishing. I brought the dogs to swim and to get some fresh air while I tinkered around with my bow. A younger gentleman came walking up (with my dog prancing beside him. Traitor.) and started setting up his spot to fish. He actually was a hobbiest archer himself and we sat and worked on my bow together. He had a set of archery wrenches (tools used to adjust a bow) and when he left he told me to keep them. It was simple and meaningless, yet I wouldn’t trade that wrench set for a million Court Street Snapstories.
For the most part it’s just my dog, the fish and myself over at the dam. Isolated. Not “experiencing” Athens. Occasionally, I get to listen to fishing stories or see pictures of last bow season’s buck though. It’s times like those that make me feel like I’m not the one missing out but instead the one actually experiencing Athens.