I have found that successful fishing trips are sometimes more a matter of will than luck. Looking back at a near-disaster trip with two fishing buddies, it occurred to me that things turned out OK simply because we kept working through the challenges.
Marco Vuicich and Mike Pierce, both of Fresno, wanted to go striper fishing at San Luis on Friday but wanted to take Mike’s new 21-foot pontoon fishing boat to learn how to fish off it. I usually take my boat because I know most of its idiosyncrasies, plus I also bring a whole kit of tools that might be needed in an emergency. I was uneasy because I’ve had poor luck with new boats on many levels! What if the battery went dead, switches weren’t working or lights not set up right — for starters? Until a guy is completely familiar with a rig, you could have a short trip or get stuck out on the lake!
With all these thoughts running through my head, I agreed we would take Mike’s boat. They met me at 5 a.m. for the 90-mile trip, but Highway 99 was really busy so we went through Firebaugh out to I-5. Seemed we got every slow car in the area going 40 in front of us as we tried to get to the lake right at dawn. We made a pit stop in Firebaugh, then it was off to the lake as the glow came up in the east.
Excited, we flew through the ranger station to the Basalt ramp to get the unit ready to launch. Sitting on the ramp, we loaded food and equipment, then I crawled up to the captain’s seat to lower the 60-horsepower Mercury outboard. Ready! Turning the key, nothing happened — not even a click-click! Well, there has to be a master switch somewhere, I tried to confidently assure them. That’s when the all-out fire drill took place, as we searched every cranny for that hidden switch.
After 15 minutes, there still was no switch to be found. We all looked kind of deflated and beaten, but then again, maybe it was a dead battery. Mike told us he charged it the previous night to 100%, but we drove down to the repair shop at a nearby truck stop to see if we could use a 110-volt plug-in to test the batteries. Being good guys, they can see we’re desperate but the batteries all seemed to test out OK. That’s when Mike mentions that the boat was in the shop a few weeks earlier and they had replaced the start switch. The only thing I’m more wary of than taking out a new boat is taking one that’s just out of the shop.
It’s now 9:15 a.m. so I float a trial ballon. “What if we drive back to Fresno and I’ll get my boat and we’ll be back by just after noon for the afternoon bite!” Mike is thinking, and upset about his boat, but agrees it’s worth doing. Marco was wrestling with it, too, but ultimately went along.
Off we head, back through Firebaugh (pit stop!) to Fresno where I get my boat and transfer the supplies. “OK,” I’m thinking, “This is crazy! Been here before!”
We hit Firebaugh again at 11:30 a.m. for the latest pit stop before arriving back at the dock at 12:30. But did I mention that two different buddies told me how bad the fishing had been the past few days? Oh well.
First thing, I run into an old friend, Jack Erickson, who also tells me the bite’s terrible! I immediately find out it’s true, the fish really are on a lockjaw bite. Four hours later, I’m trying every trick I know when I see the starboard pole get slammed. Marco fights a feisty, fat 8-pounder to the net. Not gigantic, but nice. We win! Beat up, we drive back to Fresno, completing our 360-mile expedition, including a fourth Firebaugh pit stop. By now, they knew our names.
We had overcome a lot but I was most proud of our effort and tenacity. We found out later that Mike’s battery system wasn’t charged enough and that the outboard’s computer had shut off everything. Lesson: Bad situation, bad fishing, but never give up!
Eastman and Hensley bass bite on fire, Mark Inman reported. Delta stripers, bass and sturgeon feeding, J.D. Richey said. Shaver trophy trout fever taking over, Dick Nichols reported. Don Pedro bass on a solid bite, Harold Hass said. New Melones bass and trout hitting, John Lietchy reported.
Jimi Morales: Pre-runoff fishing continues to go well on the Merced and Kings rivers. March Brown (#12) Mayflies still sporadic but building in numbers. Look for their emergence about 4-4:30 p.m. Golden Stoneflies (#14-#16) also sporadic but it’s worth having some matching patterns. The giant Salmonfly (#4-#6) is also beginning to emerge. Some trout ar being caught on those very large dry flies. Remember the upcoming Flyfishing The Surf seminar on April 11. It’s a chance to learn more about what’s happening in the saltwater world.
Call: Sierra Fly Fisher Guide Service (559) 683-7664 Yosemite Rivers Fly Shop (559) 641-7788