The day did not start well for me. Over half way to the fishing destination I remembered that I had left my new 7wt. fly rod at home on the table. For months my dad had been secretly sending me cash that I was saving for this particular fly rod, and I left the damn thing at home. It was a gross sight to behold, but on the desolate back road to Nampa, luckily for me, no one took notice to the fit I was pitching in the car. The passenger seat was getting the pounding of its life, as I hit it over and over screaming “No! No! No!” with every pound.
“How could I have left it?!” I screamed as I gripped the steering wheel as hard as I could. I fell back to the same-ol’ standard of blaming my wife, for me leaving my rod at home, but she was gone for work this week so that was no good. It was not here, and I just had to accept it… I ended my fit by pushing my feet under the gas peddle to push my back against the seat, and held that position until I had exhausted myself.
I was soon with Travis Swarts, who got an ear full about my missing 7wt. We were waiting to hear from local guide, and friend, Chris Gerono, because the three of us were going to fish together.
“CHRIS GERONO!” I yelled with excitement, and immediately called to see if he could pick up my 7wt. To my great astonishment and luck, he hadn’t passed my house yet and swung by to pick up my new rod. Life was good again, and we piled in Chris’s raft to start fishing.
“Wait! Wait!” Travis yelled, while flailing his arms in the air as we rowed out into the lake, “We can’t fish yet!” Both Chris and I looked at him curiously.
“I don’t have my 7 weight fly rod! We have to cancel our trip!” Travis yelled while glaring at me. “You wouldn’t believe how on and on he went about not having his 7 weight fly rod. Good Lord!” Travis said, turning to Chris. Chris however had something similar happen to him on an Alaskan trip, so he didn’t chime in at making fun of me. Instead he just said, “Well, everything is good now!” And he was right.
Both Travis and I had poppers tied on, and at the first available opportunity we started fishing. My 7wt. was performing just as suspected: flawlessly and with no hesitation.
“So what am I suppose to be doing here?” Travis asked, “You know I have only been bass fishing twice, and both times were not great.” I remained focused on my popper, and didn’t reply, but Chris did.
“Get your fly close to those bushes, and give it a few pops.” Chris instructed.
“So it will actually pop? Is that why it’s called a popper?” Travis asked. I made a cast and stayed focused on my popper, while Chris answered his question.
“Yes.” Chris said.
“Well thank you, CHRIS!” Travis said sharply. “It’s nice to have a friend who will listen to you, unlike Erik, who only cares about himself!”
I could feel Travis’s stare, so I waited just a moment before I turned to him.
“Did you say something?” I asked, but Travis didn’t miss a beat.
“Oh, no! I was just talking to my friend.” Travis replied, gesturing towards Chris. I smiled then turned back to look at my fly, only it wasn’t there. A large ring where my popper should have been was getting bigger… I had just missed a take! My fly rod bolted up fast as I stripped my line in hard. The quick strip of line burnt my fingers as I tried to regain control.
“There’s one!” I yelled after feeling the fish, “but I didn’t get a good hook set, because I was dis-trac-ted!” I said emphasizing each syllable in the word, and the fight didn’t last long.
“Damn!” I yelled, after the line went slack, and I dropped my rod tip sadly.
“How disappointing!” Travis announced to everyone in ear shot. “You ignore your friends…” Travis gestured towards himself and Chris, “so you can focus on your fly…” Travis gestured towards me and my fly in the water, “and when you get a fish, you STILL manage to screw everything up! I tell ya.” Travis finished with a large sigh, “It’s a wonder how he has any friends.”
Travis made a cast into a nice pocket, and from the depths of the clear water, a bass shot up and nailed his popper.
“Whoa! Did you see that?” Chris yelled, as Travis set the hook.
“There’s one!” Travis said, and his bass started leaping out of the water to free itself. Travis held the rod high and the line tight as he brought in his fish.
“Hey, Erik, watch this!” Travis yelled to me, “Watch how I bring in this fish.” Chris looked at me shaking his head, as Travis continued to announce the details of his fight.
“See, here. You want to bring em’ all the way to the boat!” Travis continued, trying to grab the fish like a trout.
“Lip it, or you will get poked by the fin.” Chris said, as Travis continued to struggle with the fish.
He finally lipped the fish after a long struggle, and held it up for the camera.
“See that, Erik…” Travis said in hushed, know it all tones. “That’s what we’re looking for.”
Travis slipped his bass back into the water, and went back to fishing.
“Hey, check your reel. Your line is all messed up.” Chris said before Travis could get himself in too big of a mess. Travis held up my rod and reel he was using, and said “It’s not my line, so no worries there.”
At the front of the boat, Travis was untangling his line which was leaving all the pockets for me to fish. I punched out my line, and started retrieving my popper; a large bloop sound came with every tug of the fly.
The clarity of the lake was a surprising four feet, so after an aggressive tug to bring my popper to life I was able to see the bass charging at my fly from its lair. SLAM!!! The commotion alone was enough to get everyone’s attention, but despite its large size, it was no match for my 7wt.
“That’s the big one of the day.” Chris said, as I brought in the fish. Even Travis was impressed with the size after I lipped it and held it up for everyone to see.
“Okay, my turn!” Travis said, after the line in his reel was under control. Travis did his best to get his fly where it needed to be, but was failing miserably. Two and three feet away from the bushes is just too far away to piss off a bass, which left pockets of water open for me to take advantage of.
“Get your fly closer to the bushes.” Chris told Travis, after I let my fish go. Travis casted out again, and his fly was still about three feet away from its intended target.
“Perfect!” I yelled out sarcastically.
“You know, not all of us can spend days and days fishing… some of us have other responsibilities.” Travis said back. I looked at Chris and asked, “Do you know what he’s talking about?”
“No clue.” Chris said, who easily spends more time than I do on the water. We both looked up at Travis with our eyebrows raised…
“Fine, you want it closer?” Travis said heatedly, stripping out fly line fast. He made a back cast, more aggressive than necessary, probably trying to make a point, and bolted his line out hard. His popper soared overhead and hit the water two inches from the bushes.
“That’s where it should be!” Chris said happily.
“Seriously?” Travis asked, and popped his fly back, which got the attention of a bass.
Travis let his fish go, then wanted to row Chris’s raft. Chris took the front of the boat as Travis fumbled behind the sticks. At first we were in every direction besides parallel with the bushes, but then Travis got the hang of rowing and we went back to fishing.
Chris, at the front of the boat, was relentless, and his casting was dead on. Every nook and cranny of every bush got fished then fished again, leaving little to no pocket water for me to hit. If there was a branch out of the water to create better habitat for a lurking bass, Chris would fish the hell out of it. And even after we had passed it he would cast right over my fishing territory so that I couldn’t make a cast.
“Don’t worry about me, Chris.” I said, as he took his time popping his fly back.
“Sorry, man.” He said with a smile.
With Chris covering the water like a plague, I was left with the unfavorable water which ended up being right where the bass were. One hit my fly hard, and I set the hook fast to bring it in.
“Did you see that? Did you see how I put him on that fish?” Travis said, looking at me like I owed him something.
“Thank you, Travis!” I said.
“Well, just recognize how I put you in the position to catch that fish, is all…” Travis said, trailing off as he spoke.
If I thought Chris was covering the water before, he somehow was able to step up his game. If I didn’t know any better, I would say it was raining poppers. Chris was almost fishing the pocket water three times before he passed it. Again he was not targeting the outside edges of the shrubs, where I hooked into another bass.
“Just picking up your trash, Chris!” I yelled out with a smile, bringing in another fish.
Travis was happy to take credit for my fish once again, and was even willing to lecture us on the importance of the guy behind the oars. Chris did not look at my fish or congratulate me when I brought it in; his eyes were on the prize and his popper was working hard.
“There!” Chris yelled, setting the hook hard, “This one feels like the big one of the day!”
“Well if it is the big one of the day, don’t forget who is behind the oars that put you in perfect casting position.” Travis said, adding his two cense Chris brought in his fish quickly and I brought out my camera to snap a picture.
“Now don’t forget to get me in the shot, nobody ever remembers the guy behind the oars.” Travis complained.
Chris flicked his fish back into the water, and it was already time for Travis to get going. Travis oared us back to the take-out point where he hopped out to go to a meeting.
“Man, I’m thirsty.” Travis said, tipping his water bottle back and consuming every drop. I turned away to grab my fly rod, when I saw a drop of water almost hit me. It’s not raining today, I thought, then turned around to see that Travis was spitting water.
“What are you doing?” I shrieked.
“Ahhhhhh, that was nice.” Travis said, sounding relieved after all his water was gone.
“You almost hit me with spit-water.” I said.
“I know.” Travis said without a care in the world, and started packing up to take off. It wasn’t long after Travis was gone before Chris and I went back to fishing.
For a long while neither of us said a word to each other. I was behind the sticks while Chris accurately hit every pocket that looked like the home of a bass. Without Travis there to comment on every cast, stuck fly, or reminding us how good of a job he was doing at rowing, the only sound we heard came from the birds and the pops of Chris’s popper.
“It’s nice to have some quiet.” Chris said, breaking the silence.
“I didn’t even know there were birds chirping out here.” I replied with a chuckle.
“He tried to spit water on me before he left.” I told Chris.
“Seriously?” Chris said, sounding shocked.
“Yep, after he was done drinking his water.” I said.
“He’s a funny guy.” Chris said, and he was right; Travis is like having Thing 1 and Thing 2 rolled up into one big Thing.
Fishing had slowed down significantly, but Chris was able to find a bass tucked in a narrow cove. His precision casting had finally payed off after firing a cast in a narrow opening where a bass lived. We both saw it before it happened: the fast approach of the bass and the explosion as it ate Chris’s popper.
We switched spots, and it was my turn to try my luck. Chris maneuvered the boat in between shrubs and under low hanging limbs for me to get a shot at some bass, but they were not home. Finally after what was too long in-between fish, one took. It was not the biggest bass in the world, but I’ll take it.
Everything on the lake became very still, and we had noticed the birds stopped chirping. I looked behind us and saw that there was a storm headed our way, and no sooner did I look when the wind started to pick up.
The water went from glass to turbulent in a matter of minutes, and that’s when Chris decided to head back. Luckily for us the wind was blowing us back to our take-out, so we were there in no time at all.
As soon as the raft was packed up and the gear put away, the rain started. Large rain drops plummeted down, but we were safely driving back in the shelter of Chris’s S.U.V. We had stopped at a stoplight for just a second, and when the light turned green Chris hadn’t started going. I looked over at him to see that his eyes were closed… is he asleep?
“Chris?” I said.
“Yep!” He said, coming to as if he had been awake the whole time, and stepping on the gas.
“Were you sleeping just now?” I asked curiously.
“I didn’t get to sleep until 5am this morning, so I’ve got to get my naps in when I can.” Chris said, making a joke out of the situation. I laughed at it, but was happy when he dropped me off at my car for the rest of the drive home. It was still a long drive back to Boise, and Chris seemed tired enough to nap on one of the long, straight stretches back home. Instead he napped in the parking lot where I had left him, and I drove home in the rain. I looked over to the passenger seat where I had my new 7wt. fly rod buckled in.
“Safety first!” I said to it, and knew it wouldn’t be long before I had it back out fishing again.