It’s funny to think about it, but I’ve made hundreds (probably even thousands) of fishing trips and the ones that seem to stick in my mind are the ones that haven’t exactly gone according to the plan.
One of my most memorable trips was the time that I talked my wife into going to Lake Guerrero in Mexico over the Christmas holidays. Now keep in mind, she really doesn’t fish much and there were about 1000 things she’d rather be doing at that time of year. “Don’t worry”, I told her. “The weather down there is great this time of year and we can get out of the unusually cold temps that we’ve been fighting here in Mississippi this year.” I filled her head with stories about the year my family went down there over Christmas and swam in the lake and wore shorts all week. It was one of my better sales efforts and amazingly enough she agreed.
Now you have to remember that this trip was in 1983 or so, so the Weather Channel and the Internet was not around. You pretty much got the local forecast and an overview on the nightly news and that was it. I didn’t bother to check and for that matter had no idea of how to check the weather 1000 miles away from the house. It never occurred to me that since it was 10 degrees (about 20 degrees than we normally see that time of year) while we were loading the motor home up in Mississippi that it might be anything other than the balmy 65 to 70 degrees that we were expecting at Guerrero that week. In fact, I was so confident of it, I told them there was not any need to fill the butane tank on the motor home, we’d only need it to cook once we got there anyway, so the 3/8 full tank would be plenty.
So with the hopes and dreams that start almost every fishing trip, my wife, brother, best friend and I headed south on the day after Christmas. Now I have to admit, there were signs along the way that my unfaltering optimism might have been unfounded. It was 10 degrees in Mississippi when we left that morning and; although the temperature did rise on the drive south, when we got to the border it was still only 24 degrees. In fact, the biggest traffic problem we had was that a car wash’s pipes had frozen in Brownsville, TX and there was a huge sheet of ice that we had to get across to get to the border. I don’t remember my exact words, but they were along the lines of “we’re still 4 or 5 hours north of the lake, the temps will come up”.
Well, true to my prediction, the temperature was better at the lake. It was almost 40 degrees but since the wind was blowing about 15 out of the north, you couldn’t prove it without a thermometer. I will say that we had a couple of days that were pretty pleasant, but it still wasn’t over 55 degrees at any time during the week. The nights, on the other hand, were downright unpleasant, so that bit about not filling the butane tanks was making me watch the gauges pretty close.
Worst of all, we had always caught about 50 to 100 bass a day per person, so we planned on 3 nights meals of fish. Little did I know when we planned that menu; that the record low air temps meant record low water temps that the fish were used to either. So after 4 days of fishing, we had caught a grand total of 23 fish among the 4 of us and as you can see from the picture, they weren’t all monster (or even keepers).
These unexpected results meant the pressure was on for Day 5 and in order to avoid peanut butter sandwiches for dinner, we’d better catch some fish. With that in mind, Greg, Michael and I headed out to prove once and for all that we couldn’t come to the hottest (pun intended) lake on the continent and not catch enough fish for a meal. Probably just to prove that she was smarter than the rest of us, Teri decided to stay in that morning and have breakfast ready when we came back in a couple of hours.
That morning was by far the coldest of the trip. The wind must have been blowing 25 or 30 out of the southwest and the temp was hovering just below the freezing mark. The three of us made for an amusing site. We were dressed in everything we had left available; from my camo coveralls to Michael’s layered sweatshirts to Greg’s snow white ski mask. But, like I’ve always said, the first thing that goes away when it gets really cold on the water is any fashion sense.
I’ll always remember that ride out that frigid morning. I was driving, Michael was sitting on the front deck facing back, drinking a bottle of grape juice and Greg was in the passenger seat. We started out the canal that morning, determined to man up and beat the fish, the weather and the lake. There was not a more determined group headed out to the lake that morning. In fact, looking back, I’m pretty sure we were the only group stupid enough to give it a try that day. But that’s never stopped me before, so off we went.
About 4 minutes out, I rounded the bend and entered the open water directly into the wind and hit the first wave. Michael wasn’t paying attention; probably because he was concentrating on not freezing to death, so that first wave bounced him harder than he was expecting and somewhere in that bounce, the entire bottle of grape juice empties directly into Greg’s face, where it instantly froze. I’ll never forget that look I got from Greg that morning. But to his credit, he didn’t cuss or complain. He simply looked at me and said “Can we go home now?”
At that time, I’d never left a fishing trip early. But there comes a time when even the most illogical, die hard bass fisherman will reach his limit and admit defeat. I reached that point that morning and in a very unusual fit of common sense, I turned the boat around and 15 minutes after we left that morning, determined to prove our manhood that morning and fishing prowess, we pulled back into the campground and loaded up for home.
It was a horrible trip, with lousy weather and horrible fishing but it’s a trip that I’ll never forget and that am happy I took. Sometimes the worst trips make the best stories. It certainly did in this case.