Very few articles deal with the different things that make fishing fun. This fishing story, which is one of a number of stories that are included in the book “Oregon Fish Tales” has a hidden message as to one important aspect of what makes fishing fun. Let’s see if you can figure out what it is.
FISH TO ORDER
He had been planning the trip for more than two years and he wasn’t going to let a little something like an urgent message from his family doctor interrupt it. After all, he was barely 40 years old, exercised regularly and felt as fit as the “proverbial fiddle” – and everyone knew that everything a doctor said was urgent . . . . . . at least as far as they were concerned.
Well, other people were also allowed the privilege of making plans. Carlos Colder would see what this “urgent” message was all about just as soon as he returned from this fishing trip to the central Oregon Cascades. Although Colder was a bass fisherman through and through, this particular trip was going to be after lunker trout in Crane Prairie and Wickiup reservoirs. Heck, if he had enough time, he’d even try for a state record brown trout in nearby East or Paulina Lakes. It seemed like they were pulling one out of those two lakes at least every other year.
The nearly four hour drive from Florence, a rapidly-growing community located on the central Oregon coast, seemed even more boring than usual. But that might have partly been due to the eagerness Carlos had toward tangling with those lunker trout. This trip would be a welcome change from the 40 or so bassfishing trips he took each year, nearly all of them taking place within 35 miles of Florence.
He nearly missed the Crescent Cutoff from Highway 97 and it bothered Colder quite a bit that he had almost driven right by a direction sign that he had been intently watching for. Missing the highway sign, along with the slower traveling on what was now a gravel road, managed to give Carlos Colder a raging headache by the time he pulled off the road near Browns Mountain Crossing on the Deschutes River between Crane Prairie and Wickiup reservoirs.
Although it was mid-May, he decided that it wouldn’t be too cold to sleep outside in his sleeping bag. It would be a month before the mosquito population peaked and it never was too much of a problem in this area anyway. Although Colder wasn’t in a designated camping spot, he was reasonably sure that he wouldn’t be hassled and quickly fell off to a sound sleep.
It seemed like only minutes later that he awoke feeling refreshed and eager to go. Foregoing breakfast, Carlos quickly put on his waders which seemed to fit so good that they felt kind of “funny”. Looking down at a spot about eight inches above his right knee, he couldn’t find the tiny hole a barbed wire fence had caused nearly two years ago.
Picking up his rod and small tackle bag, he headed for the river. Something was bugging him, but he would figure it out when he reached the stream.
It was when he reached the stream, that Carlos Colder really began to believe that he was becoming somewhat “unhinged”. Although it had been several years since he had last fished this section of the Deschutes River, it had never remotely appeared to resemble what was “sitting” before him. Instead of a fast-flowing shallow river, what lay before him seemed to be a relatively deep stream with very little flow, but seemingly of good water quality.
A good-sized splash brought Carlos out of his troubled reverie and he reached into his tackle bag to bring out his favorite trout lure, a floating Rapala that he had hand-painted himself. With a combination of shock and anger, Colder discovered that the only lures in the tackle bag were four-inch long Berkley finesse power worms in the chameleon color pattern. Each worm was rigged on an unweighed Owner hook. What really bothered him the most, was that he could not remember ever having purchased any power worms in that particular color or ever having rigged them up on Owner hooks.
The heavy fish rose again and Carlos quickly tied on a powerworm (in the chameleon color) and got ready to cast to where the fish had twice rolled. Suddenly he stopped. The fishing rod he was holding, a five and a half foot long Talon, was one he had never seen before. But he knew the light spinning rod designed for lines testing between four and ten pounds had a retail price of around three hundred dollars. Diawa’s top-of-the-line spinning reel, something else he had never seen before, seemed to be loaded with six pound test monofilament.
Normally, he set the hook immediately upon the strike, but the fish always seemed to hang onto the power worms for a much longer period of time and since the time between the take and the hook set, that brief period of time during which he, Carlos Colder, knew the fish had “screwed up”, but the fish didn’t realize it yet, was the most exciting few seconds of his angling life. Colder consistently tried to make them last as long as he possibly could.
The fish fought well, but Carlos engaged in the battle without any nonsense and it was only a few minutes before he had the fish gasping at the water’s edge.
Once again, Carlos Colder felt light-headed. Laying at his feet was an extremely healthy-looking largemouth bass that had to weigh all of eight pounds. His expensive hand-held scale was in the missing tackle bag containing his regular lures and there wasn’t a soul to witness and appreciate his remarkable catch. Well . . . . at least he, Carlos Colder, appreciated the fish as he put it back into the Deschutes River.
Crane Prairie Reservoir, just upstream, is a famous trout lake, but it also contains largemouth bass and a few manage to get into the river from the dam and either take up residence in the river or end up downstream in Wickiup Reservoir. But there aren’t many of them in the actual river above Wickiup and he had never seen one taken in the river that even remotely resembled the monster he had just released. But then, somehow, this just didn’t seem like the Deschutes that he remembered.
Several minutes later, he tried his second cast. A few seconds later came another twitch and Carlos set the hook into what was obviously another heavy fish. A few moments later, Carlos Colder felt that he was stretching the laws of credibility as he gazed down at another largemouth bass that appeared to be a twin of the first one he had recently landed.
Carlos Colder was starting to feel very uncomfortable. The fishing was too good and he seemed to have it all to himself, which seemed almost impossible only three weeks after the season opener. After a brief rest, Colder felt himself getting ready to cast again although he didn’t really feel like it. Perhaps that is why the cast went so far astray. Landing in about a foot of water near the far bank, surely the lure would, on this particular cast, remain untouched But several seconds later, there was that unmistakable twitch in his line and after a few brief seconds, he set the hook into what was obviously another good-sized fish. Perhaps this fish would turn out to be a husky brown, or rainbow trout.
But it was another eight pound bass . . . . a virtual clone to the two earlier fish.
As a nagging curiosity began clouding his subconscious, Carlos deliberately made a short cast into nearby water only about six inches deep. He watched the worm slowly sink. Suddenly, Colder found himself playing another hefty bass. He hadn’t seen the take and didn’t even remember setting the hook on what turned out to be another healthy bass of about eight pounds.
Feeling extremely uncomfortable, Colder began walking along the shoreline. After several minutes, he spotted a very nice swirl, but a very long cast away. Intending to keep walking, he found himself making a perfect cast into the exct spot where the swirl took place. A few seconds later, another unmistakable line twitch signaled another take.
Carlos was determined not to set the hook on this fish, but moments later he found himself playing another large bass, although he didn’t remember setting the hook. Feeling ever more “creepy”, he began walking briskly along the shoreline, noting that his health seemed especially good. But he soon found himself making another cast and catching another eight pound bass. He made two more casts into the same spot and landed two more eight pound lunkers and suddenly decided that now . . . . more than ever . . . . he needed to keep walking.
It was with tremendous relief that Carlos spied the lone angler up ahead of him. He practically ran toward the figure who seemed to be playing a very nice fish. As Colder approached the obviously skillful fly angler, he noted that he was landing a beautiful brown trout that would measure all of 28-inches in length. Obviuously not very talkative, the angler stated, “The third one like this in three casts from this same spot”.
Colder watched the man straighten up and make another perfect presentation of the dry fly and moments later set the hook into another hefty trout. As the fly angler landed another 28-inch brown trout, Carlos cast his power worm into the same spot and a couple of minutes landed an eight pound fish – a largemouth bass.
Carlos Colder practically ran from the spot. After traveling a couple of hundred yards, far enough to be out of sight of the fly flinger, he found himself making another cast, almost against his will. A bass weighing eight pounds, his tenth in ten casts was laying at his feet a few minutes later. Where were these fish during the bass tournaments he so often fished? Where were the potential witnesses that had made it virtually impossible to fish in solitude so often in the past? Where was somebody that would lavish praise upon his catch and possibly be bragged to?
Carlos Colder felt the need to keep moving. But it seemed he couldn’t go more than about fifty yards without making a cast and catching another eight pound bass. A different-sized bass would have been cause for a celebration as would have the landing of a fish of another species. He was up to 17 eight pound bass in 17 casts when he spied another solitary angler ahead of him.
Carlos hurried toward the other angler, but felt compelled to make two more casts along the way.
When Colder reached the other angler, he discovered him to be a man of at least sixty years of age who was disdainfully throwing a black crappie back into the water that would have weighed more than two pounds.
“That sure was a beautiful crappie.”, Colder stated, feeling certain that crappie were not supposed to be in this water.
“There’s a lot of them that size in here.”, the old man replied, as he lobbed the bobber and plastic jig out ito the water with a cane pole that was all of twelve feet long.
“How many of them have you caught?”
“I’ve lost track, but it must be thousands. I’m surprised that this water can support so many.”
“What other kinds of fish have you caught?”, asked Colder.
“That’s just it. I’ve only caught crappie and they are all the same size – big. And I catch one on every cast. What I wouldn’t give to catch a bluegill, a perch or even a small crappie.”, the man stated sorrowfully.
“All I’ve caught are big bass . . . . . eight pounders and I’ve caught 19 of them in 19 casts. I would love to catch one of your jumbo crappies.”
“Be my guest, but you may find that they are tougher to catch than you might think.
Carlos lobbed a cast to within a couple of feet of the floating bobber and several seconds later set the hook into what he hoped might be a 16-inch crappie. But it was a bass . . . . another eight pounder . . . . his 20th in the same number of casts.
“I never thought I would see the day when I would get sick of catching eight pound bass.”, Colder lamented.
As he released yet another 16-inch crappie, the other angler turned around to speak to Colder and Carlos was somewhat startled to notice that the angler’s eyes seemed to be lifeless and totally devoid of any hope or spirit.
“For my entire life, I have put crappie fishing before anything else. I would rather have caught a nice-sized crappie than I would have the biggest salmon. Yet in more than 50 years of intense crappie fishing my largest crappie only measured about 14-inches in length. Now it seems that I cannot catch a crappie smaller than, or longer than about 16-inches.”
“That’s the way I have been with largemouth bass. I would have given my right arm for an eight pound bass and now I hope I might hook one that weighs something besides eight pounds, even a small one, or another species of fish entirely.”
“Did you see the guy flyfishing back there aways?”
“Well . . . . He spent his entire life pursuing the wily brown trout and yet he never landed one measuring more than 24-inches long. Yet, now he cannot catch one that small.”
“I just cannot believe that this smallish water can produce lunkers like it has. It seems almost like heaven.”, stated Carlos Colder.
“Well . . . . I can tell you this – it sure as Hell isn’t Heaven.”, drawled the crappie angler.
And then Carlos Colder realized that the urgent message from his doctor . . . . had been quite important after all.
The hidden moral of this story is that one of the main things that makes fishing interesting is the often unpredictible sizes and species taken. Sameness, no matter how high the level, eventually becomes a drag. Hopefully, you, unlike Carlos Colder, will not find that out too late. Good Fishin’ – Pete Heley