The first thing that struck me was the wind. It buffeted us in great currents and only the din of the waves crashing against the rocks could be heard above the relentless bombardment on my eardrums. Anything I had to say, I had to shout.
“Same spot!”I yelled. My friend nodded in agreement but that as well was barely discernible. The darkness was continuing to grow more opaque.
The boat ramp we walked on shot 50 yards out into the water and offered little amenities for the diehard fisherman walking upon it. One bulb offered its meager light at the end, but all other illumination came from whatever torches we had on hand.
I hugged the sleeping bag around my neck tighter lest it should catch the wind and fly out into the cold lake. Each of us carried assorted gear, a flashlight, and our sleeping bags to huddle in once we got settled.
The wind seemed to take away even our light so that between us and our destination was one long, dark expanse. I could imagine being a rider on the Mayflower, as darkness fell each night the sound of the waves against the boat hull is all that told the crew they still floated upon water. The thought that no one could hear me scream flashed across my thoughts. Suppose a pack of coyotes trapped us at the end giving us the choice of death by warmth from frigid water or slashes of frenzied teeth. I presumed I’d choose the latter. At least then there might be pieces of me easily found. I’d rather die by fight than to be simply drowned. It was a tremendous comfort to have another person on my excursion out here, just the simple presence of a trusted companion helped sooth my mounting nervousness.
As if sensing his role, my reverie was broken. “Is this it?” he shouted and motioned to the general silhouette of the rocks alongside us.
Much earlier in the day I had stacked two rocks upon one another as a stand to set my poles, tonight their role was as a marker. We walked slower and scoured the side we presumed to be the location of the place we wished to find. From land our roaming flashlights appeared to dance above the water like will-o-the-wisps luring out innocents by way of their curiosity.
My friend tapped me on my shoulder and pointed a little ways ahead of us at the sign of our destination. There was no time to waste. The wind out here was completely unbroken as it travels over the lake and yanks heat from any exposed surface. In all regards it feels as if powerful hands push and pull you from every direction. The sleeping bags anchored with rocks, I handed off a fishing pole and bait box to my partner and he shuffled off into the gloom. Only a few steps and he became a featureless shadow. I pulled from two more rods from the bag and opted to further prepare while I was comfortably secured. I slipped off shoes and slipped on the sleeping bag then cowered as low as possible on the wind blocked slope. Instantaneously, I was struck with the differences in this general change of position. After such long exposure to the howling wind, it was a great relief to be out of it. The sound of waves was still a permanent fixture but it was clearer without the wind plugging my ears. It roared and rocked against the wind blown side of the pier but the white frothed water could only shower dismal mist on us from time to time. I also noticed the warmth. Out of the wind the air felt dry and less numbing. The rocks we laid upon still held residual heat from the sun and coupled with the sleeping bags rendered us free from the cold we had endured in getting here. All I could do was smile to myself. Now most, upon finding white capped waves, would succumb to stowing away the fishing gear and huddling in tents or RV’s hoping that the weather would subside. By way of dogged determination and foolhardy reasoning I thought there is no harm in trying. So I went. My friend came along as well and I was impressed with his staunch manner. Not once did I hear a moan or groan saying otherwise. As a result of our decisions, now here we are, both lying in pockets of tranquility surrounded by Mother Nature’s violence. My friend raised his hand to a testament of this phenomenon.
He said, “I think the wind calmed down.”
I laughed. “It’s only because the wind is blocked here.”
Intrigued, he raised his hand above the hill and his mouth widened into a smile. “Nope, the wind didn’t change.”
I smiled as well and raised my own hand. What a paradox! My body free from the cold and wind yet my arm wrenched by the relentless currents.
In a sort of awe from the moment, I took to feeling and drinking in my position. By now it was pitch black, windy, and freezing cold. Yet my torch gave enough light to work by, the wind was blocked, and my body was warm. Mist touched my skin and wind-blown sand peppered my face. The light behind me illuminated a forebodingly empty boat ramp and it rattled loudly against its base. Fishing gear lay strewn around me in a semi-circle and when I lay down on one of the bags I could see the moon shrouded in heavy clouds. It was uniquely beautiful. I took one last glance all around and set about my work assembling rod pieces and tying on the various weights and hooks I knew that I would need. From then on it was simply a waiting game. Now we were fishing. I angled my light on my rods and sat listening to my meandering thoughts. Looking over at my company told the same story.
A trivial amount of time had passed and I noticed movement a tiny bit up the shore from where I sat. It’s probably just a shadow. Just in case, I looked at the same spot hoping to catch a glimpse of the apparition again.
A tiny little mouse was bounding under and over the rocks next to me in bursts of motion and sudden disappearances. Being unafraid and rather happily amused I watched the little creature run and jump. I’ve no doubt it would tell me stories if I could have heard its little squeaks above the wind. I laughed the cringed at how loud such a squeak would be.
“Look it’s a mouse!” I shouted over.
“A mouse!” I smiled and pointed but though he heard me, no effort was made to see it. Eventually the little creature left me to areas unknown and it was back to watching my lifeless rods. Tight lines meant that even the smallest bite would show up as a tick on the rod tip but the way the waves pulled at the line caused it to bend and straighten over and over again. It was almost a cruel, mocking dance. Just to show you there’s no fish, the waves will show you how it would look if there was mwahahaha. Still, it was mesmerizing.
The sudden clatter of rocks drew my attention. I looked over and my friend was bolt upright and wide-eyed, halfway in and halfway out of his sleeping bag.
“A mouse was on my bag!”
I laughed. So that’s where it went!
“Yeah I had one over here too.” I casually informed him.
“Want to head back?”
“Sure, had enough?” I asked.
“I hate mice.” Came the reply.
He leaned forward and shouted with confusion when he picked up his rod. “I think I’ve got one!” He stood up and began fighting a fish that must have taken the bait seconds after the mouse attack. The arched rod inspired me I grabbed the net and stood up. It felt as if I had jumped into a whitewater river the way I was hit by the wind. Somehow it had managed to increase in velocity and by so much that there was an apparent difference in it from when we arrived and now. The screaming reel kept me focused.
Lift, pull, lift, pull he brought the fish in.
Crouch, reach, and scoop I took the fish up.
Both lights trained on it revealed it was a decent sized grass carp. Its skin glistened in the artificial light with an eerie sheen and the pumping gills gasped at the air. The release was quick. An unspoken agreement was made to get off the boat ramp as quick as possible. My friend stowed away his rod and gear and as I ran over to mine I was greeted with a surprise. Once perpendicular, one rod now pointed out into the water, precariously balanced on the edge of the rock it sat on.
“I’ve got one too!”
The same fervent panicking ensued and it was another carp albeit quite large compared to its predecessor. This particular fish was a common carp, hence the larger size.
My friend laughed. “Right as we were leaving we both got one!”
I laughed too. It’s funny how that goes sometimes.
Finally able to pack up we got ourselves situated for the long walk back to camp. The beginning of our journey met us at the end. The roaring waves. The howling wind. Nothing was able to be heard so nothing was spoken. We walked in silence.
Although eager to leave, I had my friend stand for a picture to commemorate the experience. If I fished purely for the fish, I would have given up long ago. Rather, I fish for memories. Tonight I made one.