Back in September, I exchanged some texts with LTFI asking about his dog, and he ended up inviting me to join him on his annual Thanksgiving fishing trip.
I didn’t hear anything after that, so I checked in with him the first week of November. He said the trip was still on, and six were expected to attend. I volunteered to cook dinner and asked him if he had any requests.
He responded with, “A nice piping hot pizza.”
A few days before the trip, I kneaded up some pizza dough and did a bit of preliminary cooking, and then gathered up some gear.
On Thanksgiving I loaded up the truck, and I was on the road at 3:30 the next morning.
It was a nice drive with little traffic until I left the highway and started down the road that led to the lake.
Signs began appearing that read,
“Road Not Maintained”
“Travel At Your Own Risk”
I soon discovered these weren’t suggestions.
I found the campsite without incident and went to work setting up the kitchen.
LTFI and his buddy Nick came walking through the trees around noon or so. They’d arrived well before me and had spent the morning picking up a few fish not far from camp.
I threw back a couple of beers while they set up their tents, and once that was done we jumped into Nick’s truck and drove to a spot that LTFI had found productive in the past.
We caught nothing.
The rest of the crew showed up soon after we got back to camp.
After pouring myself a cocktail I got to work and heated up a pot of meatball soup. That was followed by deep fried zucchini appetizers and six pizzas, all with the same toppings: red sauce, mozzarella, sausage, pepperoni, bell peppers, mushrooms, and black olives. I’d brought a one star Caesar salad, but no one wanted to eat it so it stayed in the cooler.
By the time dinner was finished I was exhausted and (ever so slightly) inebriated, so under the pretext of calling my wife I ambled over to my truck, crawled into the bed, and tried to sleep. Even with three sleeping bags I found it difficult to stay warm, and the next morning when LTFI rapped his knuckles on the side of the truck, I was tempted to tell him to head out without me.
Someone had restarted the fire from the night before, and we huddled around it trying to keep warm while everyone finished up their morning coffee.
It was just starting to get light when we loaded up the trucks and headed towards another spot LTFI knew about that had been productive in the past.
It turned out to be a beautiful, windless, sunny day.
Didn’t mean it was warm.
The fish here usually feed in shallow water when it’s windy and overcast, gorging on leeches and scuds. Turn over any rock and you’ll know why.
I fished for a couple of hours without any luck. During that time I could see LTFI’s buddy Nick fishing off the point to my right, and he was consistently hooking up. Since this was my first visit to this particular lake, I decided to walk over and ask him what I was doing wrong.
His theory was that because of the sun and lack of wind, the fish were holding deeper than usual.
On the previous day, LTFI had generously given me a pack of leaders, two spools of tippet, and a box full of flies. I put on a brown leech (which happened to be what Nick was fishing), made a couple of casts into the deep water, and felt a tug. It was a nice fish, but I made the rookie mistake of reeling in too much line. The fish made a strong run as I was walking back to shore, and the nail knot connecting the leader to the fly line caught on the tip top.
LTFI made his way over, and soon he hooked up as well.
We fished this spot a while longer, but the bucket seemed empty.
Nick moved down to where a couple of bait fishermen had camped out earlier and caught a couple there, but after that there was nothing, so we jumped back in the truck and drove to a new spot.
I’d spent the day fishing leeches and scuds, both of which call for a pretty slow retrieve. As a result I’d lost quite a few flies to the rocks. There were some minnow patterns in the fly box LTFI had given me, but I hadn’t seen a minnow all day. I pondered that for a moment and decided, “Fuck it. I’m not catching much as it is, but I’m tired of losing flies, and it’s a faster retrieve.”
LTFI and I walked out to one point while Nick headed down the shore to another. I made a couple of casts with the minnow, and …
LTFI was there to remind me to keep some line out and walk the fish back to shallow water.
I made a few more casts, and …
LTFI headed off to poach Nick’s bucket while I stayed put, and after another half hour or so of casting, I headed back to the warmth of the truck for a much needed nap.
I’ve no idea how many fish LTFI and Nick caught. It was a lot.
I was happy with my two.
When we got back to camp, the dirty dishes I’d left soaking were frozen in a block of ice. All of the rinse water was frozen as well, and it took a while to boil enough water to make things right.
Once the water was thawed, drying the dishes proved to be a challenge because they’d freeze before we had a chance to wipe them off.
Disposable paper and plastic might have been a better option.
Once the previous night’s dishes were dealt with, I heated up a pot of tortilla soup, doled it out, and passed it around.
I’d planned on making pico and guac for appetizers, but the tomatoes, avocados, and limes were frozen solid. They’d have been in better shape had I left them in the cooler.
Dinner was rice, beans, steak tacos, and a one star southwestern salad.
My nap in the warm truck had done wonders, and I managed to force down a drink or two after dinner while sitting around the fire.
A few complained that the unusually nice weather had adversely affected the fishing.
The next morning I said my goodbyes to the crew before they headed out to the lake, then spent a couple of hours packing up my dirty/frozen gear before hitting the road.
I’m grateful that LTFI decided to include me on this trip, and I had a fantastic time, but next year, I'm renting a cabin.