I ended up my 2015 fishing year with some weird anomalies – topped by a spectacular fall out of the boat at the dock by myself in freezing water! So you can understand my concern about getting off on the right foot on my initial trip of the new year with friend and well-known trophy brown trout angler Byron Stickler of Fresno. I think many of us start the year looking for some badly needed fishing mojo, but I didn’t know he needed it, too!
Byron and I had never fished together, so this was a first trip. Leaving Fresno, we talked striper and brown trout fishing similarities all the way to San Luis till we launched at 8 a.m. I learned a lot. After the recent weather fronts and the quickly rising waters of the big lake, we knew we had our work cut out to find any fish. Setting our rigs up, I innocently asked him about the monster 42-inch, 34-pound striper his wife, Kim, had caught two years ago on her first trip to the lake.
“Yeah, she’s the family striper record holder,” he sheepishly admitted. “So what’s your record, I asked, thinking about 20 pounds. “Would you believe only 8 pounds? Kim always seems to get the big ones,” Byron said, “the couple times we fish here each year.” I was shocked! Sort of like me telling him my record trout was a planter!
That’s when I suddenly realized this was just like Garrett Phillips’ situation over a month ago when he had told me that he wanted to break his striper PR of 16 pounds! I had impulsively told him he was going to break it that day, and he did – with a 26-pounder!
Déjà vu all over again, I thought?
I turned to Byron and said, “You know what, I think you’re going to bust your record today; it just feels right!” I almost never say this. It’s funny when ridiculous stuff sounds completely logical, but I felt right. (You can’t make this stuff up, I tell you!! )
We picked up a few fish , but it was a tough bite. Funny, Byron and I both agreed the conditions were good for a big fish, if we could just find a hungry dumb one! About 1 p.m., we put our lures out to troll a point, but after about a hundred yards, Byron yelled out that he’s hooked up and it’s taking drag! Could this be like Garrett’s big fish? He was right, it was a good fish. Holding on, Byron’s pole was bent over with the line headed straight down, the fish shaking its head as it bulldogged its way to the bottom.
The fight is 10 minutes of give and take and just as the line comes up, Byron blocks my view. That’s when I hear him mutter … “Holy c----!” Yep, it’s a big one! “Byron, I think you just blew your record away,” I exclaimed, netting the spent 42-inch striper! Weighing in at 27.5 pounds on my digital scale, Byron’s new record almost quadrupled his old PR!
After pictures, we released it using the Seaqualizer tool. Mission accomplished! I’m not sure if I can bottle it, but that made it two times in about a month that I had told a good angler they would break their record that day. Can’t seem to do it for myself, though!
So we’re leaving and I see a pickup wave me over. It’s the same guy I’d seen at the dock only twice in the past two months, although I’ve had many other trips. Each time we had caught a big striper, he was always docking next to us as we left! As he pulled up, I laughingly told him I had wondered where he was. Perplexed, I explained that we had gotten another big one and all that was missing was seeing him at the dock for this third time. Twilight zone stuff?
That’s Byron’s story. A new PR on the first trip of 2016, while almost quadrupling his record and I got to be a part of making it happen! Congrats, Byron! I’ve decided it’s gonna be a weird – but great – year. Never give up!