Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Fishing Spot

Most people don't even notice it. When I speak it's name, I am invariably confronted with one of three mutterings: 1) Lake what? 2) Where's that? 3) There's no fish in there! You may be wondering why I would be willing to share my fishing spot with anyone, but therein lies the beauty of the place and the reasons I fell in love with it.

As a young boy, my brother and our friends would hike down to "My Fishing Spot" and explore the ponds, rockpiles, and cliffs only 1/2 mile from the house. We would see huge fish and turtles sunning themselves in the ponds, with herons, egrets and hawks nearby. The lake always seemed so big when we were kids, although it's only 4 miles long and maybe half a mile wide at most. We knew there were big fish in there, but we had NO IDEA until we became teenagers!

The east side of the lake has flat cliffs, perfect for summer rope swings and jumping off. My friends and I would hang out during the summer days, sometimes fishing. When we needed tackle or bait we would go to Wild Sport. It was there that I got my first lesson of how tight-lipped a great fishing spot can be protected. Posted on the wall were pictures of fish from all over the region, but mostly from Folsom Lake or the American River. And there were pictures of rainbows, MONSTROUS RAINBOWS! Ten pounders, twelve pounders, sixteen pounders! Surely these fish were caught by surly old-timers, yet the pictures told a different story. These fish were being caught by kids and adults alike, and in my lake! I told myself that one day I would catch one of those monsters, and I believe I can beat 16 pounds!

I started fishing my lake on a regular basis in 1992. My wife and I would take our daughter out for the evening and sink nightcrawlers with a marshmallow to keep them off the rocky bottom. Fishing can be very slow and difficult from shore, so landing anything in three trips was okay. I remember one special day with my wife and daughter, where we caught two beautiful rainbows in the span of an hour, the first a two pounder and the second a four pounder. I remember thinking I could do well from shore, but that changes during the summer months with all the people. Several years later a boy was fishing from shore with a nightcrawler and caught a 23 pound rainbow, which was then the lake record. Eventually, I ended  up with a boat and now am determined to get my big one!

Although I will give up the name of "My Fishing Spot" on occasion, my methodology is staying right between my ears. Over the years I have gleaned information from multiple sources, the most important from my friend Steve Chitwood. Steve was a customer of mine and fishing buddy, and we shared a love for the big rainbows on our lake. After much coercion, Steve gave me one tip that has been key to my success. His fishing enthusiasm also helped spark my unquenchable fire to land that double digit rainbow.

Now armed with a boat and new-found wisdom, I began to take my son Nick with me. The kid is blessed with the fishing luck like his uncle - he could throw a hookless, paintless, dented lure on tangled line and catch the biggest fish of the day! To give you a better picture, other than a 12 pound steelhead, my largest rainbow to date is about 8 pounds (my lake). My son owns the family record (3 generations) with an 8 pounder, a 9 pounder, and one over 10! But these pale in comparison to THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY!

Any fisherman worth his weight in sinkers has one of these stories. I am blessed that it happened with my son, and cursed because, well...it got away. We had been fishing our favorite spot all evening, and had caught and released a couple of nice fish. It began to get dark, so I idled the motor and we began to reel in our lines. Almost immediately, Nick says, "Dad, I think I'm snagged." I found that hard to believe because we were in 25 feet of water and fishing in the top five feet. We switched rods and Nick reeled in mine while I checked his. I reeled in what I could and tested the snag. It felt stuck, kind of mushy. I cranked down all the way on the reel, and just as I went to pop it loose I felt a thunderous head-shake! This was definitely no snag, and I could tell instantly that Nick had hooked another big one. Since Nick was only 6 years old,I had to steer the boat AND fight this fish at the same time! My heart was already thumping pretty hard knowing we had a large fish on, but after ten minutes of fighting my heart almost stopped! The fish was about 15 yards behind the boat, at least 30" long and at least 20 pounds! It looked like a salmon, and here we were with 4-lb P-line test! As I got the monster near the boat, Nick handed me the net and I reached with one hand while holding the rod in the other. I got the net just to it's gill plate, and our dream popped off, rolled over and looked at us, and swam to the depths! Expletives followed, and all the thoughts I had of "lake record" rapidly escaped my short-term hopes. But I will not be deterred, for only four days later, Frank Palmer caught the present California State Record only 100 yards from where we lost our fish!

Many of the folks who ask me one of those three questions generally don't believe a word of it. I have told many people the name of my lake, and although I haven't experienced a rise in fishing pressure, I think I will begin to keep the name to myself. There are certainly enough clues here to decipher for yourselves, but for now I'll simply call it "My Fishing Spot".

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