Rain, snow, side bets, some trout and lots of perch
The six anglers were Norm Budden, Mark Day, Don Hettrick, Bob “Slick” McCulloch, Jim Quilici and yours truly, all of Carson City.
When we left early Thursday morning for that long 364 mile drive to Wildhorse, the weather was partly cloudy and unusually warm.
However, by the time we reached Winnemucca, we were into dark clouds and a light rain that would follow us the rest of the day.
When we arrived at the Wildhorse Resort, late in the afternoon, it was lightly raining, the reservoir was covered with a layer of ice and the countryside was mostly white with about a foot of wet, slushy snow.
It was unusually warm for Wildhorse for this time of the year.
We checked in with Mike Morsey at the Resort for our reserved rooms, got our keys, ate peanuts and had a round of drinks at the bar, insulted one another, he gave us a map showing where to fish, and then we drove the short distance to our three rooms to unload our fishing equipment, clothing, snacks and drinks.
Then, while enjoying a casual cocktail hour with Margaritas, Manhattans and “munchies,” the six of us agreed on “The Longest Perch,” “The Longest Trout” and “The Longest Anything Else” as the fairest categories for fishing bets.
That was the easy part because, supposedly, you can’t cheat based on the measured length of a fish (as it turned out, that was perhaps an incorrect assumption).
Then came the hard part.
There was lots of arm-waving, loud arguing, finger pointing, name calling, bad language and nasty accusations as to who would hold the money for the bets as no one trusted anyone else, especially me.
I was the one who really took the brunt of some terrible swear words and scalding innuendoes from Budden and McCulloch, who basically accused me of being a low-life cheater who would do anything to win money from his longtime, fishing partners.
Heck, just look at my photo with this column and see for yourself what an honest face looks like!
Finally, it was agreed that Mark Day would hold all of the money for two reasons: He was the rookie on this trip (that’s a fact, Jack) and he looked basically honest (as it turned out, that was not a fact!).
We insulted one another, each gave our money to Mark, insulted one another, went back to the resort’s restaurant for dinner, insulted one another during the meal and then turned in early, so we could be out fishing, early the next morning.
On Friday, we woke up to freshly falling snow. It looked just like a Christmas scene.
Following a quick breakfast of hot coffee, oatmeal and toast at the restaurant, we drove to the State Park parking area, loaded our fishing equipment, clothing, snacks and drinks on two sleds and trudged out onto the ice, directly in front of the State Park boat ramp.
On that trek, Budden was pulling one of the heavily-loaded sleds with Day walking behind it.
As Budden was walking, Day sneakily put more and more of his personal gear on the sled without Budden being aware of what was happening, behind him.
That scam would have worked but Day got greedy and sat on the sled, hoping for a free ride and was quickly discovered to be a low-life cheater, just like the rest of us.
We reached a spot that we wanted to fish and in moments, Budden and Jim had dug a number of holes in the 12-14 inch, hard ice.
We were all hoping that we would be able to catch a “ton” of fish.
All six of us used very small, ice-fishing poles with tiny reels and a white-colored, plastic, lead-head jig, whose hook was covered with a tiny piece of mealworm.
We would drop that combination to the bottom, reel up about 1-2 turns on the reel handle and then slowly jig the bait up and down.
That was a dynamite combination in 2002, we expect the same results this year and we got them!
In just moments, “Slick” had caught the first perch.
Thank God, no one trusted anyone else to bet on “The First Fish.”
Whew! He would have won.
As it turned out, Jim, in particular, had a red-hot hole.
He was about four feet away from me and caught 14 perch before I hooked into my first one.
That’s correct, he had 14, I was being skunked and we were using the identical rigs and bait!
Finally I also began to catch perch.
Shortly after we began fishing, Budden reeled in a very nice, 14-15 inch trout and I told Jim, “Oh Oh, it looks like Normie has the largest trout category wrapped up.”
Jim said, “Don’t worry, we have two days and that’s more than enough time to catch a bigger one.”
About an hour later, BAM!
I got a big hit while jigging and the fight was on.
I had also tied into a large trout and he was bound and determined not to get caught.
Everyone gathered around to watch the struggle and finally the trout was up to the edge of the hole.
Jim reached in, scooped him out, and I had a beautiful, 17 inch trout, flopping around on the ice.
And, it was bigger than Norm’s!
Good always prevails over evil!
By the end of the first day, we had collectively caught more than 100 perch and about a half dozen trout.
Most impressively, I was in first place in two categories with a 10-inch perch and my 17-inch trout.
The second day was basically a repeat of the preceding day, with lots of perch and an occasional trout.
For the two-day trip, we caught more than 200 perch and about a dozen very nice trout.
My trout turned out to be the longest of the two days.
There were no entries in “The Anything Else” category.
Budden “claimed” that Day had caught a 10 1/4 inch perch (that none of the rest of us saw) and declared him the winner of that category.
I can’t really accuse Day of cheating but it seems odd that his “unseen” fish was slightly longer than mine.
And, he is also a longtime friend of Budden’s. Need I say more.
Oh well, at least, I walked away with some of the prize money.
And if we had had a category for the smallest fish, Hettrick would have been a hands-down winner with a wimpy 3.5 inch perch. It was puny but what the heck, it was a perch.
— Bet Your Favorite Pigeon
Bet your favorite pigeon that he can’t tell you about the unusual thing that happened while we were returning from Wildhorse on Sunday.
If he gets a big grin, laughs and says, “All of Hettrick’s dirty clothes blew out of the back of “Slick’s” truck while driving on I-80,” he could be the guy who is going to sell Hettrick some new underwear.