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El Gato

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

Strangely enough, the east pond had predominantly more browns than bows, while the west pond had only bows that I knew of. I’ve worked both ponds regularly and collectively for years and always wondered this. These ponds are only about 20 yds apart and the east feeds the west by a little creek.

The east pond was mostly shaded and had thick growth and undergrowth almost completely surrounding it. For only a few morning hours, the pond would get direct sun. I could only cast from one side up and down the small bank but if double hauled while missing the large tree behind me, I could reach the far side. A nicely weighted squirrel leach mended the entire way across this little gem would always produce that hard jolt and aggressive strike of a hungry wild brown. They were never large... just over pan size... but their resilience and their fight was captivating enough to bring me back and had me thinking about them even when I wasn’t there.

It was time to invite my close friend James to share my spot. I made the call for permission a few days out and made sure to bring the property owner a nice bottle of wine in exchange for access.

We met at the fire house and carpooled out of town. I was myself, consumed by my typical morning silence and all the while holding back my giddy feelings about this treasure. I really just wanted to observe James’s eyes bulge out of his head with excitement when he saw the pond. Let’s just say I struggled to not let the cat out of the bag too soon, so I brought up one of our other favorite subjects... motorcycles.

We are both gear heads when it comes to bikes and have turned many a wrenches although he’s been in it probably before I ever had my first girlfriend. I brought up the mystery of the mid year 1958 rigid frame Harley produced for California highway patrol with the stamp on the frame XE ###. Subsequently Harley quit production of rigid frames in 1957 except for this special request. Rare as hen's teeth as the local colloquialism goes. I’ve had one and I’ve seen one other while being told the story by a true Harley Davidson hoarder named Mason. What a lifetime ago.

As our morning caffeine took up more of a permanence, this helped me to get out of the fish brain and possibly, accidentally spill the beans about what we were going to get into.

The sun was peaking over the east ridge and all the conifers seemed to come alive and express it with shades of green. No frost on the grasses – just dew that reflected this sunrise. The first thing that crossed my mind was that it could very well be a buggy morning. I’d hoped so. These valleys out of town usually are about 10 degrees cooler and to finally not have a frost was or could be an insect event... just a thought.

We made the driveway and got out of the truck. The smell was crisp and damp and there was not even a breeze. This was already a great day. I placed the wine on the deck by the door as instructed and we made our way to the east pond. I couldn’t help but glance at the lower pond on the way and saw a few risers sipping the morning hatch. I struggled to move along but I did.

As we neared the east pond, James who also struggled to pass up visual trout asked about fly selection. I said leaches. “Leaches? There’s going to be a hatch... it’s drys!” I said just wait. As we hit the casting area and looked over the pond, the sun was just exposing light on the far bank while everything else was in the cool shade. I handed him a size 14 olive squirrel tied on a jig hook with a tungsten bead head. A couple false casts and he had that leach out in open water doing the tug, tug, tug and pause, now repeat. On his second mend the brown struck aggressively enough for a grown man to let out a whooping “son of a.........”!

James’s Pflueger reel squealed and he let the fish run all the while spouting profanities out of disbelief and excitement. After putting on the brakes and slowing the brown down, I netted the feisty fish and handed the net over. I had to take a picture of them together. One; because it’s my friend. Two; because it was great to see my friend giddy with a great fish and three; it wasn’t even 8 o’clock in the morning yet.

Best of it was that I didn’t “let the cat out of the bag” and I shared with my friend the experience of the east pond. First cast, first fish.

Well done brother.

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