Expectations vs. Reality

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For the second year, I have anxiously looked forward to the “ice-off” at Strawberry Reservoir.

It has been famed and legended that as the long winter’s ice recedes from the shoreline in the early days of the high mountains’ spring, these channels between the shoreline and the darkened ice covered depths, warmed in the direct sunlight, attract small fish in big numbers. And small fish in turn attract hungry big fish.

The legend says these times are the time to find the fish concentrated within casting distance of the shore and eager to take minnow imitations. And as most legends go, the stories are too tempting to not to want to participate. And I, like others, watch for the word, like the beacons of Gondor, to take up our arms and seek the broad-backed, gluttonous, monster Cutthroats of Strawberry Reservoir. Friday afternoon, the torch was lit and on Sunday I arrived at the 7,600 foot elevated lake.

The promise is that so long as your arm can cast and your presentation reaches the water, the fish would be in-line to take your offering. A fish on every cast is what I had been conditioned to expect.

Well, as the day progressed, it became apparent that it would take more than one cast per fish.

I endured the wind, the snow, and the hours of standing on a cold shore, casting in various angles and using various speeds to attract the fish that prowl the slim channels in search of their spring buffet. But these fish do not get large by being caught every spring. They still possess their smart, suspicious hunting prowess.

In all I spent 8 hours for 6 fish landed. Legendary? Not exactly. Worth it? Oh hell yes.

You see in reality, at least for me, the fish made me do exactly what I like to do: to use my own skills. I had to change colors, change speeds, depths, and action. I fished. 6 fish in 8 hours? Yeah, I’ll take that. I’ve done much worse. And the quality of the fish was incredible. All 18-21 inches. All hefty and all hitting the jig with no doubt. They expected a juicy stray minnow and instead were completely fooled.

All my fish landed yesterday returned to the reservoir and are most likely plundering the warm-water-seeking little fish again today. No harm done, but perhaps making them a bit wiser and tougher to catch next time.

In reality, if the fish were as easy to catch as legend promised, there would be many more people there and many more fish removed from the lake. In reality, I’m happy to put in the hours to be rewarded as I was rewarded yesterday. Am I adding to the legend? No. But in reality, that’s a good thing.

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