A Fish Story For Real Though

A Fish Story For Real Though

We’ve all heard at least one fish story with the classic phrases: “You should have seen it!”, “It was the biggest fish you’d ever seen”, “I swear it was every cast!”, “My line was flying off the reel and my pole was about to break!”... In fact most of us have grown up hearing these kinds of stories over and over again from our dads, uncles, and grandpas only to then spend way too much time daydreaming about them, and retailing them to our friends in order to gain some kind of street cred with our peers. It is interesting how every time those stories are told the inches and pounds increase, and the intensity of the experience becomes more animated making the story feel as if it was being told for the first time.

Some circles of people would categorize these stories as tall tales. The craziest thing about these “tall tale” fish stories is when you experience one in real life. It can cause you to bring into question just how quick you were to dismiss and doubt your grandpa’s once in a lifetime catch. Did it really happen? Maybe it was closer to reality and further from fantasy than we had originally assumed? Well, for five of us at Canvas Cutter this is the very predicament we found ourselves in earlier this year after we experienced our very own fish story, but for real.

What you are about to read is a fish story, for real though.

We had decided the Canvas Cutter crew needed to go on a fishing trip together, and Schafer said he had just the place for us to go. A place in which some of his buddies a few years back had caught a monster. So with excitement, some level of expectation, and high hopes we loaded up the trucks with bedrolls, duffel bags, our fish tackle, and some grub then we headed out of dodge.

Getting to the appointed spot required a lengthy amount of travel, so our first stop was more of a fun warm up on the way to our final destination. Some sight fishing for tiger, cut-throat, and brook trout on a couple early season melt-off streams, and a little evening fishing on a pond was the perfect way to build our stoke for what might lay ahead.

As we crawled out of our bedrolls rested and ready to go the next morning, it quickly became apparent that it was going to be a great day regardless of our success fishing. We had perfect weather, breathtaking views, an amazing group of guys, and a day of fishing. Couldn’t get better. So we loaded our gear for the day into the trucks and headed out to the first location.

On our way to the planned location for the day's fishing activities we happened to pass a lake that was too much (for some of us) to resist stopping and making at least a cast or two, and it only took one cast to immediately distract all of us.

John made a great cast and dragged his lure just over some large downed trees that were in the lake, and about fifteen feet from the shore he had a fish on, and a slammer at that! Once landed, this fish turned all our dreams of catching a giant fish into a real possibility. In fact, we assumed this would be the biggest fish of the trip, and it happened on the first cast of the day. Schafer told us he thought we would catch bigger fish, but needed to keep going to the intended destination. But with John’s immediate success, we all had to cast a few times before leaving. Jason suggested that we stay for a while and fish this lake, and I think most of us were on the same wavelength of thinking, but Schafer promised more fish and potentially bigger fish at the other lake.

Before leaving I made one more cast near the same downed trees John had caught his fish and my lure got pounded about 20 feet off shore. Retrieving and navigating the fish through the down trees was challenging and a bit nerve racking, but once landed it was another great fish. A super thick tiger trout. I released the fish, and we begrudgingly gathered our gear and followed Schafer to the other lake.

After a short journey we had arrived at the intended lake, and immediately got into fish. Jason and John brought float tubs which allowed them to fish the harder to reach areas of the lake, and in no time they were catching some unbelievable fish. On the shore Schafer, Taylor and I were having occasional success, but with much smaller fish. Father Wisdom found a grassy spot on the shoreline to “fish” from, although he did look to be asleep more than fishing for several hours.

Later in the afternoon Schafer, Taylor and I started exploring and fishing around the shoreline of the lake, and soon the rest of the crew had joined. Shoreline was made up of deadfall, giant boulders, and waste deep snow in spots. It turned out to be more challenging than expected, but we were stubborn and made our way around it. Once we made it to the west side of the lake, in the shade and with the most downed trees in the water, we started finding the fish and some really good fish at that.

Once we had made it around shore, everyone but Father Wisdom and Taylor caught a good fish, so we were determined to change that. We also had decided to spend the last few hours of the day at the lake we had left early in the day, hoping it would be half as good as what we just experienced.

Naturally, most of us started our evening of fishing near the spot John and I had pulled out a couple great fish, but Schafer decided to go to the other side of the lake and worked the shore here and there as he went. With many casts and no action I slowly started in Schafer’s direction, until he yelled out that he had a big fish on, then I quickly made my way to his position. He indeed had a big fish on, and one of the most colorful ones of the day as well. We landed the fish, gawked at its size and color, released it and frantically got our lines back in the water. Soon we had more 20”+ fish on our lines and the rest of the guys had joined us.

The fishing was insane and consistent. Nearly every second or third cast we would each hook into a big fish, have a healthy fit to get it landed, increasing our excitement and volume, only to release the fish as quickly as possible to start it all over again. We had all experienced this a few times over, all of us except for Father Wisdom and Taylor, and I was determined to change that. I handed Taylor my rod, told him where to stand, and guided him on his technique and speed at which he was reeling. It was taking longer than he had expected, and I could tell some frustration was beginning to set in, especially because Schafer, Jason, and John were still catching fish around him. Then it happened. A day after catching his first fish ever, Taylor got to experience how it feels to fight a big tiger trout, and how difficult they can be to get in the net and land. He did it all as we walked him through it step by step, not forgetting to remind him that this isn’t normal, and may be one of the few truly large fishes he’ll ever catch in his life. We were all smiles.

Up to this point, what we had experienced was truly unbelievable. The amount of fish, and big fish at that, was turning our fishing trip into a real life fish story. What we were experiencing was heads and shoulders above what we had even hoped and dreamt for. But it was about to get even more unbelievable.

At this point we were all determined to help Father Wisdom catch a fish, and preferably a big fish. While I had been helping Taylor, Jason had given his pole to FW and was helping him figure out the reel technique for the lure set up he had been using, but after several casts in various spots FW had not yet caught a fish. With the sun sinking lower our anxiety for FW to catch a fish was rising higher. We all suggested he stand in a spot that seemed to have been the most successful, and keep casting. Finally, after a few casts he said: “I’ve got a fish on, it’s just a dink though!” While he continued to reel, the fish quickly rolled on the surface about 35 feet from the shore giving us just a brief look, but enough of a look to know it was a good fish. This was reinforced when the end of the fishing rod bent dramatically down and the line began to strip quickly from the reel. We quickly realized this was a good fish, finally.

After a couple of minutes, Father Wisdom had gained some ground and the fish was getting closer to shore. We were all watching intensely, hoping we would be able to help land the fish when it rolled on the surface again. This time we all got a good look at the fish and it was huge! It was a giant. Our excitement dramatically increased as did our anxiety about getting this thing to shore. Everyone weighed in with advice of what to do and not do, and everyone became more anxious the closer the fish got to shore, especially when it would come close to shore only to explode with great bursts of energy back to deeper waters. Finally, after several long minutes and with all of us gathered closely around, Father Wisdom had landed a fish, a giant fish, a fish of a lifetime, a fish you only hear about in fish stories and dream about being able to catch one day before your life ends. All of our minds were blown and we continued to gasp in unbelief of what we were looking at. A quick measurement was taken. “Twenty-six inches!” Jason shouted. “What!?!?” we all shouted and fist pumped. We quickly got its weight. “Six pounds!” exclaims Schafer. We couldn’t believe it, and we were all trying to process what had just happened as Father Wisdom released the fish back into water feeling better than he has in a long time.

We recounted the fish and events of the day, especially that last one, over and over again on our way back to camp, trying to process and absorb it all. We all knew we had just experienced something that very few have or will experience, and we topped it off with the unimaginable. We had just lived a fish story, but for real though.

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