One of the last times I remember my husband Van and I fishing was my birthday in June 1983. Instead of going to Cascade Lake in Idaho, which was just by our home at that time, Van found a tiny, secluded and private lake about 10 miles away.
Using a trolling motor instead of the noisy large motor, we seemed to be gliding across that water like two dancers on a stage to music. It was a magical day, and one I remember fondly. This old girl got lucky. While Van caught one nice trout, I got three. But the thing I remember more than the count was when we got close to a tiny island that jutted out from the shore.
It seemed to be covered with nesting birds, hundreds of them. Van motioned for me to sit quietly as we moved closer to that tiny piece of land, giving us a chance to look and see those tiny babies being fed by their mothers. It was to be one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever witnessed. My first fishing expedition with Van was years earlier just after I’d met him in Southern California.
Van took me up to the shoreline of Wishon Lake near Fresno, handing me a rod and reel. Putting a worm on the hook, he showed me how to cast that line into the water. Then we moved our boat around to another section of land jutting out into the water. Little old me, I stood on the shore and had begun my first lesson on how to catch fish.
In no time, I felt a tug on the line and yelling at the top of my lungs, probably scaring away any fish worth catching, and infuriating other fisherman. Lucky enough to be near me Van came to my side, giving me one of those “be quiet” looks as he helped pull in my catch. Enough to say that little fella went back into the water to grow into a proper weight for catching.
We had a lot of fun at Wishon Lake, taking our dog Trinket with us. She loved going in our little boat, finding tiny coves and once watching as a tiny deer came to the waters edge to get a drink, oblivious to Van, as Trinket and I watched. Yet another magical day on that trip Van and I decided to take the boat way up the lake to where the water first entered.
We’d been surprised at how quiet that section seemed to be, the water didn’t seem to be moving. Suddenly, something happened that had us gasping and wide-eyed. A trout — the biggest fish either of us had ever seen — jumped out of the water right in front of us as if to say “Hey, look at me, ain’t I grand!” Van had fished all over the country. He said he’d never seen a trout that big.
Van prayed he could catch it, wanting to show it to our friend Barney. Van knew Barney wouldn’t believe the size of that trout unless he saw it for himself. Of course, nothing would do but make arrangements to take Barney, his wife Claire and their girls up with us the next time we went up into those beautiful Sierra Mountains.
Having my doubts since this was a month or so later, we took Barney back up to that same spot. We all climbed out of the boat to fish from shore and were about to head back to the girls for dinner when here came “Mr. Special.” That fish danced up out of that lake, performing beautifully. Eying that monster, Barney almost lost his rod and reel.
The next day the other three in the group — the girls and Claire who usually stayed in the campground — joined us, finding a great spot to bring in their limits. Van was on one side of me, Barney on the other. You could see directly into that clear water as a whole pool of fish came by. Immediately Van and Barney began to pull in nice big, fat fish on either side of me.
Not one cotton-picking fish would bite at my line. It had been a great weekend anyway. Claire and I cooked those beauties, fried some potatoes, made a salad and helped the men eat fish and finish off a six-pack. It didn’t really matter I hadn’t caught anything. Oh, really? Better luck next trip, I thought.
Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer and columnist. She may be reached at email@example.com