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I won't get skunked again

Dawn. The boat weighed heavy with tackle, poles and Steelhead IPA. Green bugs danced on the surface of Diamond Lake, feeding in the coolness of the morning.

The fish, the smart ones anyway, feared for their lives.

Fishmaster, the Texan and the Chronicler — my eyes sleep-shocked and itchy — were taking to the water Sunday for a day of fish slaughter the likes of which Southern Oregon had never seen.

Poisonous algae be damned. This was our day to shine. To be men.

The whining began two minutes after reaching the boat ramp.

"Ah! These mosquitoes are everywhere!"

"I know. They're huge..."

"Where's that bug spray?"

"Gah. I just got bit again. Let's hurry."

"We're being eaten alive..."

We survived the mosquito onslaught mostly intact. Nerves calmed a bit once we hit the water.

Diamond Lake is a beautiful hunk of water that doesn't get its due because of its proximity to Crater Lake.

Personally, I feel more relaxed at Diamond Lake. The crater makes my stomach do loops when I stare at it for too long. Plus, it's an eerie place. Volcano my arse. Aliens used that thing for a docking station when they enslaved our ancestors 8,000 years ago. Gives me the creeps.

In what was surely an "Altered States"-like vision the previous night, Fishmaster had determined night crawlers would lead us to glory on Sunday. We set about digging them out of a crawler box once we hit the lake's sweet spot.

I ripped mine in half and was preparing to skewer it onto my hook when I looked over to see the Texan's look of revulsion at the whole process.

The Texan must have grabbed a genetically altered superworm — like the ones out of "Dune" — because his struggled mightily against Thanos.

Eventually, Fishmaster took over and tortured Superworm into submission. He handed the baited pole back to the Texan and shot us a quick glance. He silently acknowledged it might be a long, long day.

This was my second time in Fishmaster's boat. Earlier this summer he took me salmon hunting and patiently worked through my cluelessness.

We were skunked that day, and I suspect he might think I'm bad luck. We went a good while on Diamond Lake without a serious bite, cementing his concerns about me.

About the time Fishmaster was thinking about snatching his pack for a .38 to cap me in the back of the head and dump me overboard, he and the Texan began landing some trout.

The fish were sleek and long, with a spray of pink and orange connecting gill to tail. Lovely fish.

The aesthetics didn't stop me from jamming a pair of needle-nose pliers down their throats to retrieve a hook that soon would be used to slay more of their species.

My companions traded strikes for a few hours as my bobber mocked me in stilled silence. At one point, I would have welcomed an old tire grabbing onto my hook. Anything to not get skunked again.

Late morning. Time to crack the first Steelhead.

For luck purposes, I always pack beer with fish themes when ... yeah, when I go fishing. Sometimes I am like your annoying, whitebread, yuppie friend whose ultimate idea of fun is theme dinner parties. You know the type. It can't possibly be a party without ridiculously stressful-to-put-together-at-the-last-minute costumes. I hate those people.

Three brews in, and my pettiness started to bubble to the surface. The Texan swiped a quality trout and my face flushed with hate.

"Good god, here I am able to bait my own —— hook and you're catching every ——- fish in the pond," I said.

Like all Texans I know, this one is able to shrug off insults as long as he's performing well at something, and you're left grumbling in the corner, weak and impotent.

"Duuuude, look at this one. That's a nice fish," he said.

I snapped at Fishmaster to grab me another beer.

On we fished.

Eventually, I got one, and my spirits rose. Soon after it was time to head back because the wind was picking up with each passing minute.

Fishmaster, himself the victim of a couple beers, kicked his boat motor into gear and attempted to putter us to shore. A few minutes passed, and it became clear we were stalled against the breeze.

Emboldened by my catch, I took the oars. I scoffed at the puny motor and began to hammer the water, both sticks slapping the water this way and that. I'm far from the best rower in the state, but I was determined to get us to the ramp.

After five minutes of hard labor, it appeared we had gone backward. How the hell?

"Come on man! Get on it!"

"I am. I am. What am I doing wrong?"

Fishmaster tired of my ineffectiveness and ordered me back to my seat. I sat dumbstruck as he took his turn.

His mouth set in a grimace, we pushed forward a few inches before an invisible wall halted our progress.

A look of calm deflation crossed Fishmaster's face.

"Hey, why don't you pull up the anchor," he said.

I glanced over my shoulder and saw the rope pulled taught over the side of the boat. On the other end of said rope was an anchor. The same anchor I had dropped into the lake minutes before.

After a good laugh, Fishmaster made us promise this episode would not make it out of the boat.

Sorry, man.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.