Sunday, July 11, 2010
“Red Five, I’m going in!”
At first this sounded like an easy day. Hit the back pond early, catch a few bass and sunfish, then high tail it out before the storms roll in. Weather had been playing havoc on the landscape all week but was sporadic and mostly confined to the afternoon hours. It seemed like an easy enough plan where every possible problem was factored in. Looking back I wonder why my sport obsession didn’t land on an easier indoor sport like “curling spectator” or line judge at a sleeping tournament.
So it begins…
5:10 AM I pull up to the tiny scrap of dirt we use for a parking lot. Seeing that I have beaten Don to the meet up spot for the first time in a long time makes me smile. I have a lot of gear to get together on this trip so an early start is prudent. Everything is looking great and ahead of schedule. I open the door and step out to get the gear ready.
“Zzzzzzzzzzz!” The sound of a nano-sized chainsaw rips by my left ear. Another and then another sound comes along less than a second after. “Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz” More coming in on my right.
Before I can blink my head is being completely swarmed by mosquitoes. Hundreds upon hundreds of fuzzy little vampires dove this way and that as if organized like fighter squadrons of the tiniest sort. As I turned and swatted my hat at one formation another would great me head on from the opposite side. My face and hands took a few stings despite my vigorous display of turning, swatting, dodging this way and that trying to get the tooner off the truck. It was quite the spectacle to be sure.
“I’m under atta-ACK!” My voice cried out before choking on at least four of five mini-winged terrors. Thoughts of West Nile virus and malaria began to seep into my mind. Taking it all into account my lips muttered “Things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.”
The cloud covered sky in the early dawn morning along with the heavy rains from last night created very humid conditions, which is a bit rare for Colorado but perfect for mosquitoes. On a typical June\July morning an angler should prepare for modest mosquito squadrons of maybe six or seven at a time. What I faced now was a billowing cloud of hell. It was all I could do to get the tooner down, the gear out of the truck and strapped on to my new wagon\trailer prototype. Then I hopped back into the truck, slammed the door and waited for the swelling to kick in.
“#$%^ me! I said reaching into the glove box for the DEET repellant. I know its not there. Just giving it that one hopeful check. Opened the door. Shut the door. “That’s right. I used it all up on that last trip in September.” Pause for a moment. “And those weren’t even real mosquitoes. Humph. Those were $%^T mosquitoes compared to this.”
After several moments of self-chastising and wiping out a few skeeters that had followed me into the truck, Don rolls up to the parking spot still feeling the hangover from a number of beers the night before. He steps out and is instantly greeted by the swarms.
“Holy #$%^!” Don yells out and picks up the pace on his early morning gear up. He gets stung a few times right off the bat. “We gotta get moving man. These skeeters are death! Did you bring any bug spray? No? Me neither. ‘K’ and me burned ours out on that last trip near Durango. Man, that was nothing like this.”
Seconds later Don with his back-strapped tuber along with me and the tooner in tow; we abandoned the safety of the vehicles to reach the trailhead. The grass is tall and crowding the walkway on both sides. The foliage seemed to arch outward further blocking the sun while providing the perfect domain to launch wave after wave of mosquito squadrons. As Don and I looked down the trail once more we swear that the sound of mosquitoes was actually overpowering the loud chirping of June bugs. We knew there was no turning back. After taking one last moment to swat at a few stings, I lowered my head and grabbed the tooner-trailer.
“Red Five, I’m going in!”
The next ten or fifteen minutes were painful. It felt like being shot by tiny blow darts on the hands and face. The Mattsabasser garb is worn for protection but even this is not perfect. On a day like this an angler could show up in a beekeeper outfit and all of us would have asked, “Where can I get one of those?” Protocol between Don and me is mostly “help a brother out when needed”. This was the one time were we just moved forward and didn’t look back.
By the time we reached the shoreline I was itching like crazy but probably only down about half a pint of the red stuff. Don faired better as most of the mosquitoes would get drunk and pass out shortly after they bit in. One or two would tell their friends and come back for more in full force. A few got him real good.
But this was time to scratch our wounds. The shoreline of the pond was met with a wall of mosquitoes. We had to get on the water and away from the bugs as quickly as possible. It took everything a mind and body had to get the boats set up with gear and launched. Once a few feet out it was sweet bliss. The fish were coming up in good numbers and we seemed to be hooking up at steady intervals.
A few hours later Mountain Goat Keith showed up with his belly boat and ported in. Within minutes he was hooking up. Some of these fish were putting some serious bend on the long rod. More of an extreme high country angler, it was nice to see Keith slammin’ fish in the low land as well.
The cloud cover stayed with us most of the day. At noon we found ourselves encircled by dark and ominous storm clouds. Colorado weather is merciless at best some times and not to be taken lightly. But not wanting to end the day or brave the vicious swarm of mosquitoes, we chose to ride things out while looking out for lightning.
“If we get lightning, I have to pull off.” I said to Don and he greeted this with a nod. “This coming rain shouldn’t be too bad.”
Oh why did I say that? No sooner had the words left my lips before the sky let out a thunderous boom that shook the very air around us. Then the clouds parked on top of us and a deluge of rain ensued. Sheet after sheet of water came down and we were soaked to the bone in minutes. It was everything I could do to simply keep the camera gear dry.
“This is probably the worst of it!” I yelled to Don condemning my fate a second time. The raindrops seemed to separate and get larger. They were hitting the water with big splashes. This is nature’s subtle warning that you need to put a hard hat on. “Oh no…Get ready for hail!”
Tap! Tap! Tap! Pea-sized balls of ice began raking across the tooner. I had just enough warning to grab the lifejacket and place it over my head. Don and Keith were not so lucky. They were forced to pull their arms over their heads and ride it out the best they could. Thankfully this was only a minor test of hail and things turned back to rain.
We continued to fish our way around the last quarter of the lake and ported out. The rain helped ground the squadrons of the billowing plague we braved through on the way in. Porting out, checking gear and prepping for the haul out was a bit of a wet mess but tolerable. A few light formations buzzed us under a large tree while I fashioned the tooner back on my groovy little tooner trailer unit. (One tooner pod was a bit squishy…I’ll have to detail that and the trailer on a later post maybe.)
Just as we are ready to take that last minute breather\mental psyche up for the long haul out, the rain slows to a drizzle and then a mere few drops here and there. As the air turns back to hot and humid the sound of a gazillion mosquito squadrons warming up and launching could be heard all around us. Don, Keith and I looked at each other as if the sun was setting and we were in a land of vampires.
That was the last thing I heard as we forgot all about rest and second gulps of water. We were arms and elbows out of there battling through the air superiority of tiny little bugs of pain. I took two more bites to the face, one on my eyebrow just above the shades and ten or twenty bites on my hands. Pulling the tooner does not allow me to fight back so I have to use as much speed as possible while taking hits from some of the faster skeets. Reaching the vehicles our gear load was done in record time. Goodbyes were brief as the deluge of rain had circled around and was beginning to pour down again. Once again I hop into the truck and wait for the swelling to kick in.
Driving off I mutter, “The summer bite can work both ways I guess.”
My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic
Posted by Coloradocasters