Memory: Canyon Lake

Canyon Lake, Arizona

As I mentioned in my last Memory posting (Encanto Park) after I found a good job, bought a car, and could afford to travel, I began to fish in many of the lakes around and outside of the Phoenix area. 

Lake Pleasant was one of the newer lakes and the closest to where I lived.  While I caught many nice Striped Bass, Crappie, and Perch in the lake, it was altogether uninspiring as far as looks go.  It is essentially a big man-made puddle of water. 

I also fished in Apache Lake, Roosevelt Lake, and Saguaro Lake which are all nice lakes where you can catch your limit of whatever freshwater fish on any given day, but for pure, awesome beauty, plus fish, you cannot beat Canyon Lake .

Though I cannot swim a stroke (something about the rocks in my head pulling me down), as often as I could afford it, I’d rent a boat at the marina and go out just to explore the lake.  It is called Canyon Lake for a reason; the lake is in a canyon with waterways that branch off in all directions.  Many of these waterways lead to a dead end only accessible by small boats where you can sit in your craft and stare up at the soaring cliffs that tower hundreds of feet above the surface of the lake.  These spurs were usually very isolated, so I’d sometimes forget about fishing and just lay back in my boat and look up at the true magnificence of nature.  It was in these moments that I often wondered if there really was a god who made this place and put me there to observe his/her handiwork.  If so, I hope him/her knows that I was impressed.

During one of these lazy fishing trips, I heard the drag on my new Zebco reel (and rod) fiercely playing out.  Picking it up, I realized that my gear may just be over matched since I could not, at first, turn the fish that had taken my bait.  After 15 minutes or so of a back and forth struggle, the fish started to give in.  When I finally got the beast up to the side of my small skiff, I realized that it was a “Submarine” Carp and I knew that I could not get it in the boat and that I would eventually release it but, still, the massive size of the fish made me want others to see it and to get some idea of how big it was.  So, like Hemingway’s “Old Man And The Sea”, I hooked the fish up to my stringer and slowly, in deference to the Carp, made my way back to the marina. 

When I pulled up to the dock, I told the attendant what was up and that I’d like to weigh and measure the fish.  He took one look at it and agreed heartily.  So, after we tied up, we hauled the fish into the marina where there was a scale.  The Carp weighed 62 pounds and measured 44 inches in length, both statistics this attendant had never seen before. 

When we were finished, we carried the fish out to the dock and released it.  The attendant thought I was crazy, but I kept thinking about my grandpa and what he would do which was the same as I was doing.

Decades later, when I was a frustrated writer, ready to give up on the craft, I wrote a story about this incident called “Just Another Fish Story” which has never been published but did win a Blue Ribbon at the Ventura County Fair.  That ribbon, along with a few more, started me writing again after a decade or so of neglect of my craft.

So, fishing rebooted my desire to write and thus created this blog.

What goes around comes around…

Advice from Grandpa: Always use a fishing pole and a wishing pole!

My fishing pole and my wishing pole

In Michigan, in the 1950’s, it must have been illegal to fish with more than one pole at a time, but Grandpa Duffy, who was a very law-abiding man, told me to use two poles “when I could get away with it”.  What he meant by this is that if possible, fish at more than one water level at the same time because not all fish feed in the same way. 

The “wishing pole” was the one that you cast out to the deepest part of the lake that you could reach and weight it so it would stay on the bottom where the biggest Catfish, Carp, and other bottom-feeders dwelt.  If you caught something that you didn’t want to eat, like a giant Carp, you at least had the sport of landing it.  Then you’d throw it back. 

The “fishing pole” was the one that you held in your hand at all time.  You could use a bobber if you liked to keep your bait off the bottom but Grandpa Duffy, and me too, liked to just use what he called “drift lines” where you cast your line out, without a weight, and let it drift so fish would think it is just a floating meal.  Perch, Crappie, Sun Fish, and Bass all feed this way along with many others.

This plan holds true in the ocean as well where Sharks, Rays, Halibuts, and many other fish feed on the bottom and these tend to be bigger fish.  Mackerel, Perch, Croakers, and Sea Bass, among many others prefer bait that is drifting and moving almost as if it were alive.  Using a drift line means staying aware of what is going on, keeping your pole in your hands and watching for every dip in the tip of your rod.  It is a very interactive way of fishing that many fishermen don’t have the patience or energy to deal with which is why I can be standing 10 feet from another fisherman catching fish after fish while they are being shut out.  On many days, I show people how I fish and they still don’t catch anything because they are not interested in putting in the effort needed to fish this way.