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Wednesday morning blues

Success on the water wasn't as evident on fishing trip number two

Just one of the many long battles I had reeling in fish on Lake Winnipesaukee last week. Rick Forge - Courtesy photo. (click for larger version)
August 01, 2011
GILFORD – Sophomore slump.

That's the only term that popped into my head last week, as my second adventure into the fishing community netted much different results than the season's first trip. To recap, an early July excursion on Lake Waukewan in Meredith was extremely successful, as 17 fish were landed (including my first ever) in an overcast morning on the water.

Fast-forward to last Wednesday on Lake Winnipesaukee, and things didn't go quite as smoothly. I went in expecting trouble however, as the morning got off to an inauspicious start. Halfway from home to the Town Docks in Meredith to meet my guides throughout my summer on the water, Chuck Kenney and Rick Forge, I realized I had forgotten my fishing license on the kitchen counter. While some may toss that aside as simply a bad moment in time, I just knew that the fishing gods weren't likely to smile down on me after disrespecting them in such a way.

As we took Kenney's boat out onto Winnipesaukee, passing several of my future homes on Governors Island in the process, we nestled into the "Broads." With Gunstock Mountain's neatly carved trails hanging in the distance, our morning finally took shape around 6:15 a.m.

Let me stop right there for a second and key you in on a few of the things I've "learned" from my meager time as an angler. First and foremost, everyone has their certain superstitions, or as Forge calls them, "absolute proven facts." The one I enjoy the most, and like to bring up in annoying 10-minute increments on the boat, has to do with the 'odd number' rule that my trusted mentors employ. I mentioned this in my previous fishing story, but every fishing pole is set at an odd number depth (27 feet, 29 feet, etc.) and the lines are released at odd number lengths from the boat. It's become a (somehow) consistently funny point of conversation every time depths are reassessed and examined. My sense of humor definitely plays into this beat a dead horse theory, as once I think something's funny, it will probably always be funny.

One other topic I have to mention has to do with the bait we use to snag our swimming prizes. From what I can see, every fisherman has a preference on what the best and most effective lures are in particular situations. That was no different on this bright and sunny morning. With no "brown owls" on board this time around, our secret weapon was no longer at our disposal. That meant we dabbled in several different little guys, with Forge's custom-designed dotted lure. As superstitions go, I'm not at liberty to say exactly how many dots were on this lure. But suffice it to say, the number was odd.

Now that we've got that out of the way, let's discuss (or forget) what took place the rest of the morning on glorious Winnipesaukee. When I mentioned my bad start to the morning before even stepping foot on a boat, that stayed in my mind as I reeled in my first fish of the day. As omens go, losing your first fish of the day isn't a particularly good one, but that's exactly what happened. After losing just two fish all day at Waukewan, I was already halfway to that total and I hadn't even taken a sip of Kenney-provided coffee.

"You didn't expect it to be that easy, did you?" said Kenney with a smile.

"I felt bad for that little guy, won't happen again," I replied in an unjustifiably cocky moment.

Oh boy, now I had done it.

After tangling a reel in the process, I soon break through for my first landed fish of the morning. After a long battle (for my standards), I reel in a lake trout at 7:30. With the trout needing to measure 18 inches to keep, my fish of about 16 inches gets tossed back into the water.

"Not good eating at all," Forge says of the lake trout.

That particular line was set at 351 feet back (an odd number), which brings about some more sage advice from the veteran guide.

"351 feet. That's 351 chances to lose the fish," explains Forge. "You've got to do a lot right to land a fish, and there's a lot of time for something bad to happen."

That little pearl of wisdom would unfortunately sum up the rest of my morning. While our orange lures were relatively successful in hooking some decent-sized salmon, I was just as successful in giving them back to the lake. A streak of three straight mishaps after my first landed fish turns the increasingly warm day into a perilous one in my eyes, and I'm pressing like a major league athlete in a slump.

The morning takes a turn for the better at 8:45, as I land the first salmon of my life using Kenney's DB Smelt. I say salmon in the loosest terms possible, as the fish was about as tiny as you're going to find, measuring about 13 inches. After tossing it back, Forge and Kenney explain that it's likely a freshly stocked salmon or yearling, not yet growing to where many of the older salmon are in size.

While that would be my lone salmon of the trip, I snag my biggest fish of the day at 9:35, as another lake trout comes aboard, this one of the five or so pound variety. It's a good-sized critter, but the lake trout smell pretty awful and are slimier than the other fish I've hooked so I release it as well.

We decide to call it a morning around 11 a.m., with our haul of landed fish including seven lake trout, two rainbows and one (very small) salmon. While 10 fish is nothing to be ashamed of, I matched that double digit total in lost fish.

"That's fishing," says Kenney in summation.

The ride back to the docks is filled with ways on how to best spin my mediocre success into something clever and positive. The best tip comes from Forge, who says I was embracing the indigenous New Hampshire fish (native lake trout) since I'm not indigenous myself (from Massachusetts).

Works for me.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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