by John C. Evanoff
It is winter, when the high Sierra storms dump their white stuff
on the beach at Pyramid Lake. The Tonopah Low mixes with the Arctic
cold mass and freezes my fingers to the cork on the fishing rod.
My reel sounds like an old washing machine as
it winds in thousands of tiny icicles dripping from the line.
Over two pair of long underwear, one pair of thermal
underwear, two pair of jeans, three pair of work socks, and one
pair of wool socks, I’m wearing chest waders with slow leaks
at the knees, the crotch and both toes.
The water is a frigid 40 degrees and I’m
standing waist-deep in it, nose frost bitten, eyes blurred by the
wind, teeth chattering. Some wise guy in a boat passing by in front
of me shouts, “Hey! How’s the water?” And I yell
back, just as he’s out of ear shot, “Jump in and find
The two guys on the beach huddled around a roaring
sagebrush fire laugh hysterically as I undo a two foot knot in my
Not a bump all day long. There must be fish out there somewhere.
I cast for the 300th time into the wind, only
to see the lure blown back within ten feet of me. The waves are
seriously rising and lap at the top of my waders, dropping more
lake water into my clothing. The tip of the rod falls off with the
next cast, splashing water in my face.
lipping it back on, I begin to feel frustrated.
Not one strike.
Suddenly it happens!
A fish strikes and almost tears the rod from my
grip. I lunge back instantaneously, setting the hook. Triumphantly,
I feel the weight of the trout as he fights back. The fish makes
a 50 foot run and then races the other way 80 feet.
It’s a big fish…probably between 15
and 20 pounds. Oh, let it be 20 pounds! While in a state of shock,
I finally see the cutthroat rolling on the surface of the lake.
Its great square tail moves in slow motion like a giant spotted
fan. It’s worth it, the cold the frustration, all of it was
worth this amazingly thrilling moment.
I pray to the fish god that the hook holds, though
I’m not sure if there is such a thing as a fish god.
After an hour of carefully working the fish, I
chance a beaching since I have no net and anyway, this one is so
big it wouldn’t fit in any net I could carry.
Then the fish sees me while I’m just a foot
from the beach and goes for another fifty foot run, the reel screaming…and
suddenly the line breaks.
Silence reigns as the truth sinks in. I’m holding my head
with both hands. The guys on the beach near the fire shake their
heads and watch me stomp off up the hill to my truck.
As I drive away and the remnants of the days chill
leave my bones via the blasting heater, I mellow a little and sigh,
“Maybe next time.”
Now, you’ve got to admit, that’s a true fisherman.