12:01 am, the goal set by my son in law. It sounded like fun but I also knew it could be a time of frustration; not being able to see, or at least see well enough. I had shortened up our leaders in the hope tangled lines would be minimized. Everything was now unloaded and the darkness made the cold seem extra cold as we slipped into our waders and donned our life jackets. The three quarter moon remained hidden by the rain clouds that had been giving us on and off light rain throughout the evening.
With head lamps glowing and fins firmly tightened, the water eased up around me as I backed into the darkness. The water lightly lapped against the side of my float tube as my fins propelled me away from shore. I flipped off my head lamp and now in almost total darkness began letting out the line a pull at a time. Lights here and there around the lake, gave us our bearings and I took note of the depression in the silhouetted tree line against the black sky as to where we had parked the truck.
I had assured my son in law, KevQuill, that we would catch fish, “I just don’t get skunked anymore,” I had told him at dinner. Even as I said these words a little voice said, ‘pride goeth before a fall.’
I had set KevQuill up with a full sink line and a green bead-headed Wooly Bugger. The lake was a typical stocked lake for bait tossers, 12,000 rainbows and 2,700 triploids, all placed in a 111 acre lake. The stocking report said it had happened earlier in the month but no exact date had been given.
I purposefully did not give KevQuill a net, knowing it would be one more place where tangles would cause frustration. Besides stocked fish are hardly fish at all, undernourished and shocked from the stocking pens. I knew the fish caught would release easily because of the barbless hooks and of their weakened condition.
The words, “I just don’t get skunked anymore,” began ringing, getting louder and louder in my ears as the minutes began to stack up. Two hours had gone by and not a fish. Occasionally I could hear a splash nearby from a fishing jumping. The moonlight occasionally would pop out behind the clouds, and the moonlight shimmered kissing the tips of the ripples made by the light wind. A soft rain had been sprinkling around us for the last hour but our rain coats were shedding it easily.
The circulation being not quite as good as it used to be had been sending a message from my now numb toes, that a thermos of hot coffee was only a few hundred yards away. My bladder had also been requesting attention for the last 30 minutes. I started kicking slowly against the wind back to my truck – fishless btw.
What was that? Something bumped my leg… It was probably a water logged stick. Regardless, it was a bit unnerving. There was no repeat but imaginations run wild in the dark. I soon felt a light strike as the hit magnified its message down the shaft for my pole. Sadly, I had missed another fish by not paying attention. I had been trying to decipher if my course back to the truck was on track. One of the troublesome parts about fishing in the dark is that, it’s dark, and you are never really quiet sure where you are or what exactly is happening around you.
I had lost track of my son in law in the darkness. The lake was not that big, so I figured he was not that far away. Steadily my fins moved me back up the lake at a slow troll. I had changed it up and was now dragging three flies, a black Wooly Bugger #8, brown Wooly Bugger #10, and green scud #14. I had had a couple soft hits but was concerned my sinking tip was not getting the flies deep enough. I had moved from deeper water back into shallower water several times but nothing. I had thought several times of switching lines but doing that in the dark was a thought I did not relish. My almost old eyes have a hard enough time doing that function in bright sun light. This was another reason to head for dry land. I pulled up the line and added a cheater weight above my flies and dropped it back into the blackness. Immediately a solid hit but I missed it.
About then out of the darkness from across the water I heard, “Grayquill, I got one.” I headed that way in hopes of getting a picture. From that point on it was steady fish catching for the both of us for the next hour.
As typical in Washington, often our sunrises are not seen, they happen above a layer of rain clouds. So, as the sky lightened and turned from black to gray, we ended our night on the lake. We had both missed more fish than we released but it was a great time. I think KevQuill might have even caught the fishing bug.
My pride was still intact knowing fish had been caught – Thank you Lord, and the Washington Fish and Game Department.