California Day 13: Back To Crowley Lake by Bill Pike

California Day 13: Back To Crowley Lake by Bill Pike 8/18/18

I’ll admit it, my heart wasn’t really up for going back to fish Crowley Lake this morning. I was worried about embarrassing Art again with my imperfect fly rod skills. 

But, like they say when you lose your balance and fall as you attempt to learn to ride a bike, you have to get off the ground and get back on the bike for another try.

So, I’m tagging along for another try at Crowley.

We make the drive, park the car, make the short walk down to the dock, and start prepping the boat. I’m reminded of the humor from the dock attendant on Thursday. I’m sure I could be a good target for some comedy with my angling skills. That thought makes me chuckle.

img_1716It doesn’t take long as the boat engine fires, and Art has us creeping out of the harbor.

We’re heading back to the same general spot that we fished on Thursday.

Other fisherman are in the area as Art positions the boat and drops the anchors.

With the rods rigged, we start to work. It is another pretty morning, and I’m just hoping I don’t repeat Thursday’s performance.

For a long period of time, we work the water, but no bumps for either of us.

Hearts of fishermen are constructed differently. They hold on longer with hope. Hope that a fish will be drawn to the bait, lure, or fly at the end of the fishing line.

I think at this point, my hope is beginning to fade. It is quiet on the water—not much action around us.

But that suddenly changes.

Art has a tug on his line. This is not just a teaser, a real tug. The rod is bent.

He can feel the weight of the fish. Excitement is rushing through his veins. The fish is making his presence known. 

And then a funny thing happens. The fish starts to work his way around the boat.  

And then a real act of heartfelt courage occurs, Art hands the rod to me.

Now the pressure is on, I can feel this fish, I have seen him break the surface, if I lose this fish, I’ll be banned from fishing in California and maybe the rest of the world.

Thankfully, Art is coaching me as I work the fish around the boat. My ears are working taking in the recommendations from Art. 

The fish is fighting. Hoping that I will make a bad move. 

Art keeps up the coaching, he is ready to land the fish with his net in hand. Gradually, the fish tires,  and I work him toward the side of the boat where Art is waiting.

Gently, he positions the net under the fish, and we have him. 

img_1724It is a beautiful brown trout.

I’m thankful that I didn’t lose this fish. Photos are snapped, and then Art gently releases the brownie back into the lake.

Art quickly reworks the line, and he puts me in his position at the back of the boat.

I cast out the line, no disaster occurs. The indicator is properly positioned on the line and from what I can tell in the water.

Within a matter of minutes, my line is bumped. The indicator sinks, and I react by hopefully setting the hook.

Sure enough, the fishing gods at Crowley are with me. I have another good sized trout on the line.

Art’s coaching begins. The fish is tugging, attempting to rid itself of this fake bait, hook, and plastic line.

Whatever move the fish makes, Art, from his experiences tells me how to counter the fish.

img_1725Again, the skills of the coach prevail. Art is positioned with the net, and he lands a rainbow trout. The trout is probably equal in size to the previous brown trout.  

I feel extremely lucky to have caught back to back really nice trout. But, what really humbled me during this excitement was the willingness of Art to give up the rod on that first fish. His big heart afforded me that experience, and I will hold on to his kind sacrifice and hospitality for a long time.

We fished a bit longer, but the trout were taking a break. Pretty soon, we pulled up the anchors and headed back to the marina.

The trout success was a hot topic when we arrived back at the condo. But that was short lived as we made arrangements to drive out to McCleod Lake for a short hike.

Once again, we are blessed with another spectacular day. Lots of people are out enjoying this nice weather and all that Mammoth has to offer in the Eastern Sierras.

img_1734As we start the hike, we can see the impact of the carbon monoxide seepage as lots of once healthy trees are now bare, weather worn, skeletons. But what really catches my eyes on this hike is how clear the lake water appears.

img_1726Also, as we work the perimeter of the lake, people are scattered along in places enjoying what nature has carved out for them in this spot. No matter the activity, people seem happy and content in this beautiful setting.

The trail taps out at little over 1.5 miles. Even at a leisurely pace and with one extended stop, it doesn’t take long for us to finish the loop.

We head back into town with the hope of having lunch at Mammoth Brewing, but it is packed and there are deep lines of hungry and thirsty people.

So we take a short walk up the street for lunch at Toomey’s.  Around since 2012, Toomey’s is a favorite of locals, and its chef/owner is known for developing and showcasing his culinary skills at of all places a Mobil gas station near the entranceway into Yosemite National Park. We grab a table outside, and place  our orders.

After lunch, it is time to explore a new nano brewery in town named Black Doubt. Tucked into a tiny storefront in a shopping center, this compact brewery offers quite a punch with a variety of styles for the beer lover.  

The remainder of the afternoon was quiet. Eventually, we ended up at the pool and another stay in the jacuzzi. 

We ordered some local pizza for dinner, and tried not to think about the packing up and the drive back to Agua Dulce on Sunday morning.

I thought about the start of this last day. I was reluctant to make the fishing trip to Crowley, but look what happened. 

Thanks to Art’s kind and unselfish heart, I now have two memorable trout stories to hang on to for as long as my old heart beats.

 But what I’m really thankful for is the love, friendship, and hospitality that Abby and Art always grace us with when we make this California trip.

Someday, I’ll be too old to make this trip, and that will be sad. But hopefully, my mind will still afford me the opportunity to daydream, and replay every step, every cast, every panoramic view, and every shared laugh.

 

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