A crescent moon, pale as a sliver of bleached bone, dangled high overhead amid a spray of glistening diamonds.
In the nearby bushes, katydids argued:
Bullfrogs sang bass in the grassy shallows, and back in the woods an owl hooted. A whip-poor-will whistled, and off in the distance a lonesome train whistled back.
It was a typical mid-summer night on Percy Priest Lake. Like most urban reservoirs, the lake had been churned to a froth a few hours earlier by water skiers, jet skiers, speed boaters and other recreational water craft.
Compounding the misery, the mid-day heat had been stifling and oppressive, to the point of being downright dangerous. (Lebanon guide Jim Duckworth is so wary of the heat that he doesn't book trips during the worst of the Dog Days.)
But after sunset things calmed down and cooled off, and tranquility settled over the water.
That's when fishing buddy Bob Sherborne and I launched our boat and headed out.
On this particular night we were after white bass, or stripe, as they're commonly known. Some of our other summer-night favorites are rainbow trout on Dale Hollow, walleyes on Center Hill, crappies on Priest and Old Hickory, and catfish just about anywhere.
Fishing for the different species requires difference tactics. When we fish for Dale Hollow's chunky rainbows, for example, we position the boat in about 75 feet of water off rocky points, and lower tail-hooked night-crawlers down 35-40 feet.
For Center Hill walleyes we look for depths of around 25 feet off rocky points and in creek mouths, and dunk night-crawlers and minnows. We also use worm- and minnow-tipped jigs and spoons.
For crappie, we have several favorite coves around 15-20 feet deep. Minnows and small jigs are the best bets.
Prowling catfish prefer to feed in shallower water and can be caught on a wide variety of baits -- from commercial stink baits to night-crawlers, turkey livers, shrimp and an endless array of homemade concoctions.
As for stripe, we've caught them in shallow coves in a few feet of water and beneath bridges where depths plunge to 80 feet and more.
On this night we were fishing the latter, underneath the Hobson Pike Bridge alongside one of the huge concrete pilings.
We've caught summertime stripe there for many years. Like Dale Hollow rainbows or Center Hill walleyes, the fish can generally be found in the same locations at the same time of season, year after year. Nailing down the locations is half the challenge.
The water below us was 75 feet deep, and the schools of stripe that periodically flashed across the depth finder were about halfway down. We dropped a floating light beside the boat, lowered minnows down below where the fish were cruising, then slowly jigged them upward. We got a hit almost every drop. We kept our limit of 15 each and released the rest.
Sherborne and I use a floating, battery-powered light on the surface and also keep a Coleman lantern lit in the boat. It provides illumination for baiting hooks and unhooking fish, and the soft amber glow, the steady hiss, and the aroma of burning lantern fuel is part of the nighttime ambience.
Summer nights are cool and relaxing, and the fishing's not bad either. To beat the heat and the crowds, night-time is the right time to be on the water.