I met Bob Adams at the lake at 8 AM. The air temperature was 35-degrees; the water temperature not much higher. Bob's first words were, "Come sit in the truck. Let's have some coffee." It sounded like good advice--simply to give others more time to arrive, of course.
Ten minutes or so later, John Welty arrived. Some minutes after that, Bob Stephens. Bob Adams broke out the doughnuts, and we all chatted, about fishing mostly--our favorite places and experiences. The San Juan River, the Madison and Missouri, and our own North Twin Lake came up. Full credit to Bob. He wasn't able to fish today, but he'd volunteered to bring doughnuts and give us the benefit of his experience on Cranberry Lake. He fishes here often and knows a thing or two.
I had to laugh when, on this February morning, he began, "The fishing's best starting in May." I could see that my philosophy of, It's never too...anything...to go fishing, was going to get a good test. "Just to the left, here, is a rock face. About fifty feet off that is the deepest part of the lake and the best place to fish," Bob said next. "I've had days when I've caught thirty fish right there." I could feel the fisherman coming out. None of us expected a day like that on a day like this, but you can't stand on the edge of water with stories like that wafting by and not feel a tingle of excitement.
The day was crystal clear, and by now the sun was high enough that we couldn't really justify standing on the shore any longer. Phil Latendresse hadn't arrived yet, but we figured he wouldn't be much longer. Into the water went our boats, bods came out and were strung, and there was the inevitable talk of what flies were likely to do well today. The consensus was leaches moved deep and slowly, but Chironomids were second. It was time to find out.
We rowed back and forth in Bob's prescribed location like expectant fathers once paced hospital waiting rooms. No fish. Change flies; change speed; no fish. Gradually I find myself concentrating less on the fishing and more on the morning light and the surrounding shoreline. There is a long swampy swale between ancient dunes that extends south from the open water for almost half-a-mile and is home to beavers and ducks. Wind- and salt-battered fir and spruce line the shore except to the west, where the lake is separated from the Straight of Juan de Fuca by an isthmus narrow enough that I (or my major-league-fielder dream self) could stand in the lake and throw a rock into the sea. What marvel of geology or physics keeps a freshwater lake so near this ocean of salt?
My eye is drawn back to my rod and the line extending down into the murk. No fish. Scanning the lake I spot an otter head spy-hopped and staring to see how I'm doing. Apparently fishless itself, perhaps it's checking to see if I have the secret. Resigning itself to the knowledge that I'm going to be no help, its back arches into a dive, and the last I see is the tip of a tail.
Phil has arrived. "Thought I'd wait for things to warm up a bit," he says. No doughnuts for Phil. He's in his Old Town peddle kayak, a versatile craft that keeps him nicely out of the water. Bob Stephens and I have Outcast Stealth Pros. Only our legs from the knee down need be wet. John Welty is using a smaller kick-boat that has him sitting in the water. It may be a bit uncomfortable today with cold water and a bit of wind, but he'd be way ahead of us packing into a more distant lake. I can't imagine being on the water with a better group. Such is the case with all our club members: fine and fun people. No fish.
I have now installed an olive mohair leach on the end of my line and am drifting downwind through Bob's honey-hole. There's a strike! Really?! And apparently it's a hook-up! Really?! Fish so often appear just that way, coming out of seemingly nowhere to draw you from your reverie. A short fight brings the rainbow to my net, and I take advice once given me by my son, to take five seconds just to admire it--shape, color, brightness, its fishness. Then the release with gratitude.
That was the only fish caught this day, but no one was complaining. Sun, clear air, scenery, and good company dominated the day. We were all satisfied. I look forward to fishing Cranberry Lake again--maybe starting in May.