After getting back late from hiking in McCall the previous day, the last thing I wanted to do was get up early this morning. My alarm went off, and as soon as I stepped out of bed I felt the burn in my legs from walking. Every ounce of me wanted to fall back to sleep, but I had already promised Chris Preston that I would go bass fishing with him this morning, and I was not about to bail out.
Chris was having a bad morning. In a dash to get his boat out and ready on time before I showed up, he clipped the corner of his neighbor’s fence, ripping it to shreds. Needless to say, when I showed up ten minutes late, he noticed.
Walters Ferry on the Snake River was our destination, and despite our lull of a morning, we were soon in Chris’s boat and ready to fish.
“Let’s see how this motor is going to treat us today.” Chris said, pulling on the cord to start it. The motor roared to life, then suddenly died.
“Oh, come on!” Chris said again, tugging on the cord, but nothing was happening.
“Don’t start with me!” He yelled and tugged the cord again, and this time the motor started.
“There we go…” Chris said, and gave it some gas…which killed it immediately. The thick blue smoke of a two-stroke engine lingered around the boat, and it reminded me of when my grandfather would take me and my brothers on his boat; his motor never started great either.
“Sorry about this, Erik. I must have flooded it.” Chris said, taking a quick breather in between pull starting his engine.
“Don’t worry about it, Chris.” I said. I was happy that I had my buff covering my face to hide the smile I was wearing as Chris struggled with his engine. After a minute or two, Chris stood back up to try starting the engine again.
“Come on! Come On! COME ON!!!” He yelled, with every tug on the pull cord. His motor didn’t even pretend to start, and Chris let go of the pull cord, letting it snap back into place.
“I’m not sure why I invited you, when I should have invited someone from Spring Shores Marina!” He said, jokingly.
“I’m just going to let the trolling motor get us as far upstream as it can.” Chris said, and flicked the handle on high speed as we started moving upstream. The little trolling motor was moving us nicely, but we soon got to a section of water where the flows were keeping us from moving any further up. Chris hadn’t tried starting the motor for a good ten minutes, and when he pulled the cord the engine fired up. Chris cranked the gear into high speed, pulled up the trolling motor, and we were cooking.
“With you being late and this damn motor not starting, we probably missed all the big fish by now.” Chris said, sarcastically.
“We should just turn around.” I said back.
Chris slowed down the boat and pointed over to the bank.
“So the way we do this is we get up to the start of those trees, then I kill the big motor and we float down. I’ll have the trolling motor on to slow us down a bit, and to help keep us straight.”
“Sounds good.” I said back, and grabbed my fly rod to start casting.
With the trolling motor going, Chris was able to keep us at a good casting distance from the bank.
“There’s one.” Chris said, setting the hook. His fish sprang to life at the tug of the fly rod, but Chris was holding his own.
“Man they fight hard.” Chris said, as the bass tried its best to rip his rod out of his hands.
“I see why you left the trolling motor going. Is that to get your line caught all around the prop to tear it apart, and simultaneously lose your fish?”
Chris didn’t miss a beat. “Boy, you catch on quick. Normally it takes a guy years to get that technique down right.”
Chris brought up his fish, took the fly out of its mouth, tossed it back, and then looked at me to see I had my camera ready for a picture.
“Did you want a picture of that fish?” Chris asked.
“No, I just like to hold my camera.”
“Well be sure to get my good side.” Chris said, as he stood back up to start casting. I had just unhooked my fly from my rod when Chris hooked into another bass.
“Thanks, Erik.” Chris said, fighting his fish.
“For what?” I asked suspiciously.
“For being so kind as to let me catch the first few fish. I heard you were a nice guy, but man!”
“Well it’s because you’re such a good guy, Chris.”
“Well, thank you.” He said, and grabbed his fish to hold it up for a quick picture.
Chris pitched his fish back in the water, and this time I got my line out before he did. My fly hit a nice pocket of water, and when I retrieve it, I felt some pressure and set the hook.
“You got one?” Chris asked.
“I’m not sure.” I said, bringing in something heavy. My rod was doubled over as I heaved up something from the depths.
“Oh WOW!” I said, happily.
“Is it a carp?” Chris asked with excitement.
“No, it’s a beautiful twig!” I said in awe, bringing up a weird looking piece of root.
“That is gorgeous!” Chris said, “I would have been happy with a forked twig, but this…” Chris pointed at my twig, “..this is thanks to all your experience.”
I reached down to unhook my fly, then looked back up to see that Chris was hooked up again.
“Darn, it’s not a twig.” He said, fighting a fish.
“I have almost forgot what it is like to catch a fish.” I said, as Chris grabbed his bass.
“Well, Erik let me tell ya, it’s nice.” He said, holding up his fish.
“I know it’s my boat and all, but you have my permission to catch a fish.” Chris told me as he dropped his fish back into the water.
“That’s what I was waiting for, Chris. Thank you.” I said, and it was as if the bass were listening because soon after, one hit.
“Now I remember what it’s like!” I said, having been long overdue for a fish.
“Well it’s about time!” Chris chimed in as my fish came into view.
The smallmouth bass wasn’t huge, but it was putting up a nice fight; and just as I was about to lip it, the hook popped out of its mouth before I could grab it.
“We are catching and releasing, so that counts in my book.” Chris said, to make me feel better.
Between casts I would glance downstream to check out what I would be casting to, when I saw something worth mentioning.
“Clooping carp.” I said, pointing into a large back eddy just downstream. Chris looked in the direction I was pointing, but I could tell he wasn’t seeing them.
“Right there! Right there!” I said again.
“Clooping carp?” Chris asked.
“It’s when the carp are sucking crap off the surface. There was five of them here.” I said quickly, but by the time Chris got his trolling motor in position for me to drop the anchor it was too late. We had drifted right over the once rising carp, and after waiting for a while we realized they were not going to come back up.
“Let’s push on.” Chris said, and I hoisted the anchor up. We moved to the other side of the river to fish some springs that were flowing into the water.
“This is how it should be.” Chris said, happily as he hooked into a fish.
“It’s a double up.” I said, also hooking into one.
We quickly released our fish and went back to casting, and each hooked up again.
“Now this is what it should have been like this morning.” Chris said, heaving in another bass.
“You mean I could have slept in and you could have taken your time to miss the neighbor’s fence?” I asked, and received a glare from Chris.
We had agreed we would be off the water by noon, to get some stuff done at home, but fishing had just picked up and therefore we couldn’t just leave.
“Whoa, did you see that?” Chris said, setting the hook, “That fish was in water less that six inches deep” he said with surprise.
“I did see that, and I thought you had hooked a rock.” I said, but the rock was fighting back.
“This is a nice one.” Chris said, and he wasn’t kidding. This was definitely going to be the big fish of the day, if he could bring it in. Every time Chris brought the fish in close enough to grab it the fish would bolt, splashing him in the process.
“Come here, you!” Chris said to the fish. His rod was bent to the point of breaking as the fish slapped the water right next to the boat.
“Gotcha!” He yelled, hoisting up his fish.
He dipped the large, smallmouth bass back into the water, and the fish sat there suspended for a second then, in a flash, turned on a dime to dive, splashing Chris right in the face.
“OH!” I yelled, and Chris stood up quickly.
“That was worth it.” Chris said with a smile.
“Well, it’s almost two, and I said we would be off the water by noon.” Chris said.
“I have a few things to get done around the house, so I am good to go when you are.” I answered back.
“Me too, and I have a fence to fix. Gah, that was stupid!” He said, and we motored our way back to the boat ramp.
“Erik, do you know how to drive a stick shift?” Chris asked, after connecting his boat to the trailer.
“Yeah.” I said back.
“Want to pull it out?” He asked.
“Ok, but be careful. It’s easy to peel out here.”
“I got it.” I said back, and hopped in his truck.
Every time I am in a stick shift starting from a steep embankment, my confidence flies right out the window. The fear of rolling back into the water was overwhelming as I started his truck, but this time I was going to try and stay calm. My foot was on the clutch and the brake, and the only thing I could think of was that I needed a third foot to pull this off. I eased up on the clutch and applied some gas, but could feel the truck slipping back into the water fast; I panicked. I stomped on the gas and the truck screeched forward, and Chris flew backwards.
I made it, I thought as the truck leveled out on flat ground. I wonder how Chris is, I thought looking into the rearview mirror. Chris’s glasses were askew, and he was clawing to get back up. The only reason why Chris didn’t fly out of the boat, was because the outboard motor was there to smack into; and if that wasn’t bad enough, the gas tank at the bottom of the boat was his landing ground.
“You know, you could have just said you were not comfortable with taking out the boat with a stick shift.” Chris said. There was nothing I could say back, because I had tears in my eyes from laughing so hard.
“Let’s see how much you are laughing when I send you the bill to put my back in alignment.” Chris said, laughing at his experience.
“Sorry about that, I thought I had it more under control and I was afraid I was going to roll back into the water.”
“After that, I think I would have chosen the water.” Chris said, rubbing his back.
“Well next time you can take the boat out.” I said.
“Or I’ll get the hell out of the boat before you do.” He said quickly. We were both a little hungry after fishing this morning, so after we had our gear put away we stopped at KFC for some lunch… you know… for something healthy.