Tales of Oregon

Black Water

Thursday, October 12th, 2017 - 4:19 PM

It was going to be one of those days.  I knew it as soon as I woke up with a painful cramp in my neck (I really should replace those pillows). The kind of day it was about to be was driven home when I staggered into the kitchen and remembered I was out of coffee.

Undaunted, I set out for a day of lake fishing, in search of the mythical cutthroat trout that had eluded me all year.

The day got interesting when I saw my fishing partner pass me on the highway, going in the opposite direction, well beyond the turn-off to the lake. In fairness, he was coming from the North and there’s only one sign, “Lake This Way” with an arrow, and it faces South.  I’m sure he intended to overshoot the turn-off so he would approach from the South and could read the useful information on that sign.

Fish were leaping high into the air as we unloaded and rigged-up. The surface was a mirror. A high fog promised we’d find the fish shallow. We set off and I, as is my custom, began to carefully pull the fat fly line through the guides, getting ready to fish.

So imagine my surprise when a trout grabbed my fly while I was still gently pulling the line through the guides. It was touch-and-go for a while as I grabbed at the cork handle while the fish tugged at the line – which, being treated so ungracefully, had snagged in the guides. I was thankful not only to have won the tug-of-war and save my rod – and land the fish – but also because my fishing partner was way off and didn’t see it.

Fishing was good, although it would have been great if not for the power boat trolling around aimlessly and cluelessly. I’d had to shout out that he was about to run over my line and after that he was a bit more careful. Just a bit. But having him around wasn’t all bad because swiveling my head to see where he was had loosened up my stiff neck.

About seven fish later, my companion and I were fishing fairly close to each other when I got a good strike. In lakes, I use a 4wt setup, and this trout was giving a good show for itself.  Someone shouted out that I should “quit making a drama of it and land the darned fish”. Trying to regain some creed, when I brought it to the kayak, I just reached down to release it, but the fish apparently decided I looked suspicious and took off again. Bringing it back the second time, I pulled it into the kayak by the leader – and it was a cutthroat!

It’s important to understand that I landed a cutthroat in that very same lake earlier this year only to have it leap off the Hawg Trough before I could snap its picture. So when this fish started to flop around on my lap, I grabbed the net and put the fish in it. Fool me once…

Ladies and gentlemen, the hoots of laughter that followed should have been embarrassing to the hooter.

But wait, there’s more. After removing the hook to take its picture, the fish flopped out of the net and had every intention of flopping out of the kayak, and I made a desperate grab for it, and in the process, let go of my fly rod, which promptly went over the starboard side.

Forgetting the fish for a moment, I dropped the net that was still in my left hand and grabbed the rod at about the same time I remembered “Oh crap, that net doesn’t float!”. Quickly swiveling, I grabbed the net again, just as it started under.

I thought I’d put on a marvelous display of dexterity in a kayak, and was shocked to learn that the laughter I thought couldn’t get any louder, could in fact get a lot louder.

I don’t kill fish I don’t intend to eat, but enough was enough. Fish quieted-down and pictures taken, I was ready to lean back, happy that I’d finally caught and photographed a nice little cutthroat, and bask in my success.

“Hey! Aren’t you supposed to put fish in the net before you put them in the boat?” and “I’ve never seen anyone throw their net in the lake before now! ‘Ooo! It sinks!'” Har, har, hardee-har-har.

Friends can be a mixed blessing.

There are moments that make up the glorious days that you’ll never forget, no matter how hard you try.