I was talking to a friend the other day and we were comparing some of the epic stupid trips we took years ago. We agreed that those experiences molded us into who we are today.
It was years ago and we were fired up about fishing at San Luis for some big stripers. We had heard about anglers walking down from Highway 152 and fishing with anchovies along the shoreline for some monsters at night, but my buddy and I were in our late 20s, and in good shape so we thought it would be no big deal. It was late June, so we figured the low-water conditions just had to concentrate the big ones so they could be reached with bait.
It was obvious to us we had a foolproof plan, and we could already see ourselves walking out with a big striper hanging over our shoulder. Yes, it’s funny how wildly speculative assumptions can sound so logical sitting in your living room!
We arrived around 5 p.m. in 105-degree heat and parked off the highway near the northwest corner of the lake. We were both in walking shorts and tank tops since it was so hot, and after gathering our poles and equipment we bailed over the side of the cliff and started down to the distant water.
From the road the lake looked pretty close, but we soon realized the water level was way, way far away. Since neither of us had done this trek before, it didn’t occur to us that the steep and sandy slope we were easily walking downhill on would be a formidable task to climb back out of later. Like crazy men chasing a mirage, all we could see was the water, a good mile away, beckoning to us.
After arriving at water, we looked back up and for some reason it only vaguely concerned us that it was going to be a long uphill march in sand to get out. Happy but oblivious, we broke out the gear and got ready to fish as the sun started to set.
The first unexpected situation was that the lake had been falling and we were in an area that was all mud. You couldn’t get within 20 feet of the shore without sinking in it! The sun was setting as we ended up trekking nearly another mile east trying to find a rocky shoreline to fish from. We were getting farther and farther from our car, it was getting dark and the scoring temperatures were starting to drop quickly.
A slight breeze came up at around 8 p.m. and as we waited for a strike I began to wish I had a long-sleeved shirt and pants. Soon it was 10 p.m. – and not a bite. That’s when the wind began to blow, then howl! I felt like a Popsicle in my light clothes as the cold wind tore through me.
Freezing, we tried to figure out the best route to get back to the car. We had a headlight but couldn’t see very far in the pitch black and blowing sand. The cold wind was reaching a good 30 mph in our faces as we headed uphill in the sliding sand. It felt like climbing Everest!
Yes, we found the car two hours later, both of us frozen stiff. Looking back, our enthusiasm had short-circuited our brains! We hadn’t realized how far it really was to get down there, how cold and windy it could get – even in summer – and just how hard it is to walk uphill in deep sand as you freeze looking for the right path. No fish either.
I guess that’s why I’m always a little skeptical when something sounds too easy, or possibly cold, and why I always come prepared now. Nope, I haven’t been to that hill again and I don’t plan to either! As far as I’m concerned, they can have all the fish they catch there. Never give up!