One summer weekend, many years ago, I went fishing with my Dad and brother Rick to the largest lake in the White Mountains, Big Lake. It was early Saturday morning when we left the cabin with the boat and trailer in tow. We went through the reservation fishing and boating permit routine at the Honda convenience store. The Indians have a permit for everything. And yes, we picked up a few snacks to add to our food supply for the day. Dad always planed menus that fit these occasions which usually consisted of all the components required to construct salami sandwiches with accessories like Fritos Corn Chips, pop for the boys, Oreo Cookies and Coors beer. Apples and Oreos were a great combination for anytime snacks. Those tailgate or boat seat lunches and snacks were great.
The thirty mile drive from the store to the turnoff was as spectacular as usual, with the green shades of summer at every turn. The only breaks in the green were the blue waters of• A-1″ and Horseshoe Cienega Lakes and the lily white, vertical trunks of the Aspens just before you top out and enter the grass meadows at the base of the actual •white Mountains”. Many people call the pine country from Heber / Overgaard to Show Low area part of the White Mountains, but it isn’t. Show Low is known as the gateway to the White Mountains and rightly so, you can see them from there and in the winter months, they usually are white with snow. There are several mountains in the White Mountain Range and the highest being Mount Baldy.
The road from the turnoff to Big Lake is a typical forest road with a good gravel base with the traditional washboard ruts and pot holes that keep the driver alert and the passengers awake. Rick & I used to dose off from time to time, but that wasn’t due to the boredom of the drive. We stayed up too late the night before.
After the forty-five minute ride to Big Lake, we backed the boat trailer to the waters edge . We were now eager to get the boat in the water and start fishing. We untied the hold down springs attached to the stern, attached a rope to the bow of the boat, hooked up the motor and set the ores in ore locks. Dad backed the boat in slowly while Rick pushed it off the trailer when he saw it start to float and I hung on to the rope to pull it a shore when it cleared the trailer. So far, so good and everybody was dry. Sometime this is the time we slip and fall in the cold water, but not this time. We were a lot more comfortable with dry clothes when sitting in the boat fishing for hours at a time.
I started rowing the boat out away from the shore while Dad prepared the motor before starting. The gas line was hooked up; its priming bulb squeezed the correct number of times or until it was firm and Dad pulled the rope to start the motor. Nothing happened. He pulled it again and again. While Dad fiddled with the choke and carburetor settings, I started rowing up out in the direction Dad wanted to go. He was good a finding the best fishing spot and it seemed he could always catch fish when no one else around was. But for now he concentrated on the motor. Rick’s pole was rigged for spin casting with an F-5, orange with black dot flat fish. This lure had two treble hooks dangling off the back end and had a lot of action. It was fun just to cast it and feel the resistance when it was retrieved. My favorite still was the Mepps spinners size 0 (ought) or# 1, but I was still rowing.
Dad finally gave up and started rigging his pole. He fine tuned my direction of travel and then started casting his lure out the opposite side of the boat Rick was fishing from. It was a great day!
We were out about seventy five yards, which was three quarter of a football field, when Dad gave me a new landmark to aim the boat toward. To make the adjustment, I pulled on the right ore and then with a loud crack, the ore snapped in half, right where the ore lock bolt goes through the middle of the wood stock. So know we were up the creek without a paddle. Well, in reality, we were out in the middle of the lake in a wide row boat with only one paddle, which was basically the same thing as it takes two ores to row, row, row your boat, gently …. Well you get the picture. So Dad said, “Well, while we are here, we might as well fish” and so we did. After sitting in the same spot for one hour with no strikes or even nibbles, I decided to trade in my Mepps spinner for a lure a little heavier to cast it out a little farther. Changing lures was relatively simple as we used a little brass swivel that looked something like a safety pin but a little more twisted and had the capability of twisting in the center. It also helped keep the line from tangling up from the action of the lure. Dad and Rick were now using cheese and salmon eggs also without success. I selected a shiny, silver Cast Master. Not to fancy but you can cast it a long ways. With this new lure secured to my gold swivel I cranked back and left it fly. What a great cast. I started to retrieve it and suddenly a strikel I sharply pulled my pole back wh i le securing the line my in right hand to firmly set the hook. Snap! Did my line break? No, I still felt the fish through the line in my hand. What was wrong in this picture? Half of my fishing pole was sliding down the taunt line heading to the water. Wow, this was going to make a great fishing story! The fish broke my pole in half just above the ferrule coupling. So Dad and Rick reeled in there lines to make sure this pole busting trout doesn’t get tangled up and lost. So I slowly reeled in the line. It felt like it could be quite the catch . As I brought it close to the boat, Dad got the net ready. Just beyond the point where the line penetrated the water I could see some silver flashes from the lure and from the side of the trout. Dad first grabbed the broken end of the rod as it moved into reach. He held it up while I kept reeling in the line. But something was different when he was holding the end of the rod up. I thought I lost the fish. Then he said •1ook at that trophy” and then smiled and half way laughed, Dad wasn’t a hardy laugher. There on the end my line, firmly attached to my Cast Master was a six inch long trout. To top it off it was skinny, very skinnyf I was hoping it would get off my line to help me embellish this fishing story, but it was securely hooked and had to be landed. I could have cut my line, but good bye Cast Master. This fish was mine, my trophy.
After that we decided to head back to shore. It was going to take awhile with one ore being used as a paddle. We tried to use the other one but it was too short. From the bow of the boat, we took turns paddling three stokes on one side and then three on the other. When we finally made it to shore, we were all tired and ready to head back to the cabin. But first I had to clean my trophy fish along with a few Dad and Rick caught on the trip in to shore. We did have fish to eat that night, so all in all, it was a good outing. Remember the saying “The worse day of fishing is better than the best day at work!” And also, it’s those trips that things don’s go as planned ended up being the most memorable.
As Rick and I got older, we had less time to fish with Dad, but he had three younger sons that he could share fishing trips with. He loved to fish.