By K. R. Stevenson
Every spring my friends and I go on an outing to Fish Lake. This has become a reunion of old friends and also an outdoor adventure as well. I believe my friends and I have all fantasized having a gigantic lake trout on the line at one time or another. Fish Lake has a large log cabin style lodge that overlooks the crystal clear high mountain lake. The lodge has boating facilities, cabins and an excellent dining room. Just off to the north side of the lodge is a steep running spring-fed creek with heaps of white water which has the appearance of whipped meringue. Many wild flowers with all of their colors and huge pine trees surround the lodge forming a natural flower garden border.
In past years we have had little or no luck catching large fish. Back then we obviously would return year after year for the scenery and a traditional recreational activity with friends. I doubt anyone would continue coming back every year because of the size or amount of fish we caught, which was generally a few little rainbow trout. Nowadays, things are much different. The last couple of years we've caught our limit of lake trout, and nice sized ones, too. This is because my friends and I have done a study on lake trout - better known as mackinaw - and have developed new techniques in angling.
The last time I went to Fish Lake was an experience of a lifetime. At first light we were on the water in my friend Mike's boat. We had, or should I say, my friends had several nice fish on the line that morning. I remember hearing complaints of why had I turned loose another one of the mackinaw they had caught. By the end of the trip we were all glad I had been turning most all of the fish loose. Nonetheless I have to admit their complaints that the fish I had finally caught and kept was at least a couple of pounds smaller than several of those I had previously released, was definitely a legitimate complaint.
On the last day of the trip we got into the mother lode school of mackinaw. Klint, my younger brother, landed another laker we guessed would have been around 11 pounds. Shortly after Klint let his line back out, he hooked into a massive fish that broke his line. Five minutes later it was my turn. My dream of hooking into a monster laker had come true. I was prepared with a new full spool of high-dollar line. I recall thinking, "Just go ahead and try to take all my line out - you'11 never make it!"
I was really surprised when he took all my line out in a couple of minutes. There was no traditional tug, tug, tug of a fish on the line. Hooking this fish could be better described as hooking onto the bumper of a semi truck and then having it just drive away.
I hollered at Mike, "Quick, turn the boat around and follow that fish!" As Mike headed the boat toward the huge lake trout, I was able to retrieve the vast majority of my line. The game was on. The big fish would strip my line off the spool with the graphite rod bent over double and the reel's star drag singing.
Next, we would follow him with the boat, retrieving the line again. For at least an hour Mike stood by with the net saying, "He's got to be tired by now." I only wish the fish had thought so, too.
Finally the enormous laker rose to the surface. I knew he was big; nonetheless, I was shocked at the sight of his massive body. I've personally caught 20-pounders before and seen a few fish caught by other fishermen that were over 30 pounds but the likes of a fish this size I had never seen before. The fish was perhaps the state record. The big laker had finally stopped pulling out line.
His dorsal fin and tail were breaking out of the water as he made a large half circle around the boat from where he had first surfaced. Mike yelled, "He's tired! He's tired!" But it seemed to me that the giant fish was sizing up his opponent for his next move.
After making a 180 degree circle around the boat, the fish turned and headed back the other way. It was so strange. The fish went back to the spot where it first surfaced, then turned and headed straight for the boat at ramming speed. As I reeled in line as fast as I could, trying not to allow slack in the line, I anticipated his next move. I figured as soon as the fish reached the boat, he would turn and race out, snapping the line. I recall thinking, "You just try it. The split second you turn out, I'll loosen the back drag on my Cardinal reel. I'll beat you at your own game."
However, the massive laker didn't play according to my rules. Instead of making a sharp turn when he got to the boat, he went straight down. It was just like tying your line to a hundred pound rock and throwing it overboard. I got nervous that the fish was going to take all of the line off my reel heading down. I certainly wasn't going to follow him in the boat on this run. Finally, the fish stopped on the bottom, out in the middle of Fish Lake.
We all sat there, wondering what to do next. My arms ached. I was the one that was tired and played out. I was the one ready to be netted. After sitting there for a few minutes resting, I realized that the giant laker was resting, too. The fish on my line now felt no different than being snagged on the bottom.
After all that time, trying to tire him out, and then just sitting there helpless while the fish was resting was too much for me. I tightened my drag and started trying to horse him off the bottom. The king mackinaw started to slowly come up an inch at a time. It was like trying to bring in a dead weight that came very close to breaking your line. After I had spent several minutes raising him about 10 feet off the bottom, the huge mack raced straight down so fast I didn't have a chance to change the drag. I quietly said, "He broke my line."
Mike and my brother said, "No!"
I said, "Yes."
They said, "OH NO!"
I said, "Oh yes, damn it!"
I really wished to be a good sport about being outsmarted by a fish. After all, that monster mackinaw had won the game fair and square. Nevertheless, I couldn't sleep all night after the event. I do have to admit I was extremely disappointed. The dream of having that one special gigantic lake trout on the line had come true. Maybe I'll have to dream of catching a gigantic lake trout next time, instead of just dreaming about having one on the line.