Four of us learned not to count your chickens before they hatch |

Four of us learned not to count your chickens before they hatch

Don Quilici

Norm Budden, Don Hettrick, Bob “Slick” McCulloch and I were four of 100 contestants in the annual John Riordan Invitational Fishing Derby, which was held last Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. As usual, that big fun-filled event was headquartered at the Topaz Lodge and the Topaz Marina at Topaz Lake.

Through the years, the Riordan derby has featured prizes for those fishermen who catch the three largest fish in four different categories: Brown trout, cutthroat trout, rainbow trout and catfish.

Through those same years, the “Four Amigos” have done very, very well in winning many prizes in those same categories.

Our motto has always been” If someone is going to take first, second or third place, they are going to have to beat us to win, ” and it has worked quite well.

This year was no exception: We were determined to try to sweep all three places in all four categories.

With that thought in mind, last Thursday, Hettrick, McCulloch and I went to Walker Lake to “Practice” for the cutthroat category.

Our plan was to fish on Thursday, so as to know where and how to fish on Sunday, the first day of the three-day derby.

By fishing on Thursday, we planned to know exactly where the fish were located: In shallow water or in deep water. In the middle of the lake or at the north end or the south end. In front of Sportsmen’s Beach, in front of “The Cliffs,” at Sand Point or at Barlow Point.

Equally as important, we planned to know exactly what the cutthroat trout were hitting: Apex, Flatfish, Kastmaster, Kwikfish, Rapala, Rebel or TOR-P-DO lures.

Or perhaps, we would be successful with silver or gold flasher blades worked in combination with either lures or bait.

On Thursday morning, as we drove to the lake, the three of us talked about the possibility of sweeping the top three places in the cutthroat category.

Here was our plan for the derby:

On Sunday, the three of us would troll at Walker Lake.

According to our pre-derby “war plan,” Budden would fish the East Walker River on Sunday for brown and rainbow trout. He would be unable to fish on other than a very limited basis on Monday and Tuesday due to working at the Nevada State Legislature.

Also according to our plan, on Monday, Hettrick and I would troll at Bridgeport Reservoir for brown and rainbow trout, while McCulloch would fish for catfish at the Fort Churchill Cooling Ponds.

On Tuesday, the three of us would then fish for whatever fish we needed to either place or move up in the various categories.

Pretty simple and straightforward, except for one minor detail: The four of us learned not to count your chickens before they hatch.

Here is what happened:

On Thursday: Hettrick, McCulloch and I trolled at Walker Lake from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

In those six hours, we trolled in front of Sportsmen’s Beach, at The Cliffs, at Barlow Point, south of Barlow Point, north south and right at Sand Point, and between Sand Point and Sportsmen’s Beach.

We trolled on the surface, 5-10-15-20-25-30-35-40-45 feet deep.

We used all different kinds of lures and combinations with and without flasher blades.

The result for all our work was: Nada, nil, zip, nothing! We never got one hit in six hours of non-stop fishing by three fishermen. Yipes!

So, with our collective tails between our legs, we hastily regrouped with this revised plan:

Sunday: Budden and McCulloch would fish the East Walker River.

Sunday: Hettrick and I would troll at Topaz Lake.

Monday: Hettrick and I would fish from shore at Walker Lake.

Monday: Budden and McCulloch would fish at the Ft. Churchill Cooling Ponds.

Tuesday: Hettrick and I would return to Walker Lake.

Tuesday: Budden and McCulloch would return to the Ft. Churchill Cooling Ponds.

An outstanding and well-thought out scheme to win.

How did we do?

Well, sad to say, our combined results were a paltry third for Budden in the Brown trout category with a wimpy 13 1/4 ounce fish.

We are still trying to assess what happened.

However by a 3-1 vote, Budden, McCulloch and I outvoted Hettrick and decided that our miserable showing was all his fault.

Right on, better him than me!

I think that next year, the four of us are going to have to put much more study into where and how to win at this darn derby.

The good news is that we have a whole year to get ready.

The bad news is: How do you teach four old dogs, new tricks?

• Bet Your Favorite Pigeon

Bet your favorite pigeon that he can’t tell you about the biggest fish in this year’s derby.

If he sighs and says, “Wayne Schlachta of Dayton caught a 4-pound, 1/2-ounce rainbow at Topaz Lake on the last day of the derby” he could have been one of the other 99 derby contestants.

• Don Quilici is the Outdoors editor for the Nevada Appeal.