Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gone Fishin'

I'll be moving in less than a month, and before that happens I'm going to try to go fishing with my friend Neil. We're talking about a deep sea charter out of Port Aransas, but may just settle on catching a few speckled trout in Galveston.

I haven't fished in years. I'm the type of person that goes a little nuts when I find something I like to do. The last time I fished on a regular basis was when I was living in the desert town of El Centro, California. El Centro is a farming community in the Imperial Valley, and although it is in fact in the middle of the desert, the valley is green because the farmers there are able to irrigate their crops by diverting water from the Colorado river. The irrigation canals were full of large mouth bass, and I fished the canals six days a week with my buddy Curtis. The one day each week that wasn't devoted to bass fishing found us about a hundred miles away on Mount Julian, fishing for rainbow trout on Lake Cuyamaca.

We went every Wednesday for about a year. We'd leave El Centro at five in the morning, and arrive at the marina on Lake Cuyamaca a few minutes before the ranger station opened at seven. On spring mornings there was usually a thick fog over the cool water; in the winter the park surrounding the lake was covered by a blanket of snow. Personal watercraft weren't allowed on the lake, so for twenty dollars we'd rent a small john boat with an ancient 5hp Evinrude from the rangers and head out.

They stocked the lake with rainbow trout on Tuesdays, by the time Curtis and I arrived the next day the trout were acclimated to their new surroundings and ready to eat. We'd catch our limit of five each by noon, turn the boat in, clean the fish (rainbow trout are ridiculously easy to clean), and settle in for a nice lunch at the marina restaurant. By one o'clock we were back on the road, headed to El Centro.

We were good fishing partners, both of us quiet anglers with little or no need for conversation once we were out on the water. Curtis was Chippewa, and had the reverent sensibility most Native Americans share when it comes to the outdoors. With peaceful surroundings and a silent nature, it's easy to get lost in your own thoughts; almost like being in a trance. One morning when we were out on the lake Curtis whispered my name (later he told me that he'd said my name five times before it registered); because of the whisper I had the presence of mind to move slowly. I looked at Curtis, and with the slightest nod of his head, he motioned toward the shore. I turned my head until I could follow his line of sight, and saw a mountain lion at the waters' edge, taking a cool drink. We stared at it for perhaps ten or twelve seconds, until the second sense possessed by most living things kicked in. It felt us looking at it, and briefly returned our gaze before turning on its haunches and bounding up to the top of the hill, disappearing over the rise, covering a distance of about thirty yards in just a few leaps and bounds.

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