Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The FISHmas that barely was

Each year I try to dial the Colorado bass spawn setting myself up with a week off from work right before the fish start spawning. This is an ultra aggressive period for bass and one of my favorite times of the year. I go so far as to call this week off my “FISHmas” and wait anxiously while putting forth much planning. Water temperatures, weather patterns, moon phases and other astrological charts fall into play of my mathematical fish formulations. Once I have contemplated all factors a week on the calendar is circled. Work release forms are signed in triplicate with seven-layer management approval and my FISHmas begins.

“This year will be perfect!” I exclaim nearly tasting the pending victory that would soon follow. “This year I will time things just right.”

I say this every year. Every year something happens to make me miss the mark by at least a week. In the world of fishing this could mean a lot. This year was no exception. As soon as FISHmas week started, a series of cold fronts parked right on top of me pushing the prime time from within my grasp. The temperature dropped nearly 30 degrees over a few days time with gusting winds of +30mph. Low temps are below freezing as opposed to 40 and 50 just a few days earlier. High temperatures flirt with high 50’s but that number is greatly deceiving. Most of the time I am going to be bearing through the 40-45 range with high winds. This literally knocked the fish out turning my mode from easy-slammin’ to “@#$% me!” The previous weekend I am nailing huge bass in a hungry mood. The following week the fish get more tight-lipped than Gandhi on a hunger strike.

Monday: I had to get the truck finally into the shop and then over to the DMV for new tags. Seconds lurched at first as I watched the sun coax even more crabapple blossoms open. There was a subtle breeze that failed to bend so much as a blade of grass outside as I left the shop, drove over to the DMV and grabbed number 64 from the little paper ticket machine that hasn’t been replaced since 1973.

“Number Thirty-Seven? Thirty Seven?!” A brightly orange haired lady yells over the broken intercom speaker. It’s been broke for years but we all still hear her. Why she uses the intercom microphone at all is a mystery.

Now I will spare you the unique characterization and serious mental inefficiencies of what I saw that day but rest assured NONE of these people should be allowed to drive any vehicle, anywhere at anytime. Sure these people looked normal enough but when presented with any question such as insurance, registration, emissions reports, driver’s license and even last name seem to make them freeze like a deer caught in headlights.

“Wha?” 37, 39, 42 and 51 exclaimed. “I need all of that?” or response B “ Oh, I just brought that little postcard thingy you guys sent me.” Then they would proceed to argue, dig through their purse blindly before rushing off to their vehicle in hopes they had actually kept any of that information there.

I took it all in stride thinking I had the whole week ahead of me. This was merely a minor obstacle and something that has been put off way too long. Another 15 days and I would be pulled over, pinned down, cuffed and stuffed for out of date tags. That is a fishing trip killer for sure so checking this off my list was more than worth the wait. Or so I thought. As the ground warmed the winds started to increase. Weather patterns changed right before my eyes. Temperature forecasts dropped and heavy winds kicked in. By the time I presented my registration, insurance and received my tags the wind kicked up quite a bit. I went to a quick stop-n-fish on the way home and stood at an angle while casting into the heavy gale. Saw two fish, caught one dink…furious!

Tuesday offered heavy winds from sunup to sundown. Early in the day wasn’t too bad, about 10-15mph was the average. By 11AM the water is wind is whipping and the water is white-capped. I fished until my eyes filled up with dirt and then drove home hoping tomorrow would fair better. Keeping a positive attitude is a must if an angler intends to fish long hours through the week in tough conditions with few bites. Switch up, size down, cast shallow and search deep, knocking on every fish door that I could find. Knock, knock, knock…nothing. [There really is a lot more to the Tuesday story but going to summarize the daily events.]

Wednesday came and the wind was more tolerable. I chose a place with consistency and a few big fish. At least now I was getting bites and landing fish. But they weren’t BIG fish. The tug was enough to lure me into that false hope of that big fatty hawg just waiting to be caught. Instead I would pull the fish off and second-guess my lure size, color and even the toothpaste I used on my haggard grill that morning.

(Above: This is likely a spawned out female. Just a day or two before and this fish would have been ultra fat.)

Thursday rolls in and I am starting to come unglued. My pep talks and crazy fish philosophies aren’t helping. Desperation isn’t the case so much as a feeling of futility. I can’t make the fish go into that happy bait-slamming mood. I have no choice but to hit the big fish spot in the tooner and battle for every scrap. Row, row, row, anchor and cast. Row, row, row, anchor and cast. The gusts were pushing the tooner too fast to drift fish. This was going to be a park and plink day for me and the tooner…not our best mode.

Finally dig up a bite, set the hook, and it feels like a sturdy fish. Bring it in and the fish turns out to be a stocky 16’er bass. Any other day and this would be a good fish. Today, at this moment, it is just another average bass. Toss it back and start slinging. Worked a few more surface acres before dark clouds rolled in overhead. Cast, cast, cast. Pull up anchor and head back to the boat landing.

(Above: Getting a little egregious with the forward hold on this fish to make it look more legit. But there is no passing a 16’er-wannabe 18’er bass off as a huge ol bucketmouth. This fish was caught later in the week when I realize that FISHmas Cards might be a little weak this year.)

It just gets worse from there folks. I am transitioning through spools on a daily basis. Wiping down rigs about every other day. To pour on the pain a buddy calls me from down south on Friday…”Dude, we are nailing crappies down here! Big Slabs!”

Saturday: Wake up at 5AM and go straight back down. Done in by body aches and fatigue I ended up sleeping nearly 18 hours. Sunday was Mother’s day and locked into a social thing…and of course to add to my torment, that was the warmest day of them all with darn near perfect conditions. That’s the way things roll for the Mattsabasser sometimes. Take a deep breath and plan for next weekend.

In closing…

My forearms are sore and my hands ache from a lot of casts in cold weather. My thumb still smarts from a photo op with a big fish caught during the previous weekend (That post is coming up. Folks are going to have to put up with a few of my blog posts being out of sync until I can get caught up.) Rowing in this wind doesn’t help matters much either. This is not the pain I am supposed to be complaining about after my FISHmas vacation. My fingers should be rubbed raw from lipping big fish. My shoulders should ache from setting the hook and battling monster after monster largemouth and my cheeks should hurt from grinning ear to ear. That was not to be. Now I will be in back peddle mode for the next few weeks trying to adjust. And I will adjust.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

1 comment:

Mel said...

I applaud you, Matt, for fighting through all the weather obstacles and giving it the best you could under the conditions. Sometimes the fisherman win, sometime the fish win, and, sometimes we give it up to the weather gods.