The Washington Outdoor Report - week of March 29

Skunked

Ready to go kayak fishing. Courtesy John Kruse
You are never too old to eat a slice of humble pie, that’s for sure. My problem is, when it comes to recent fishing expeditions, I’ve been on a steady diet of this less than delicious dessert.
If you would have asked me last October what I thought of myself as a fisherman, I would have shared so many stories you would think me a braggart. Truth be told, it was one of the best fishing years of my life when it came to catching trout, walleye and bass. I got skunked once last year while my best friend, Rusty Johnston, cleaned up on bass at our favorite lake. However, I was usually the one that ended up with the biggest bass or walleye on our combined outings and caught more fish too. Trust me, in the 40 plus years we’ve fished together, that hasn’t happened too often. Rusty’s “a pretty good stick”, as anglers like to say when they are describing those who have the ability to reel in good numbers of fish no matter what the conditions.
In addition to those outings with my friend, Rusty, I went on a number of solo trout trips not only in Washington, but also in Montana and Wyoming and every one of them was successful when it came to catching trout. Mind you, it helps when you are fishing rivers that literally have more than a 1,000 fish per square mile but to the casual observer of my Facebook page, I was looking like “a pretty good stick” too.
Then came 2021 and the appearance of a skunk whose persistent stink stays with me. I caught fish the first time out with Rusty this year going after carp but on the five trips I’ve taken since then with Rusty, my daughter, Faith or by myself? Not a fish to be found…At least, not by this angler.
Humans are great when it comes to self-deception and I’m just as fallible as anyone. The first time out I blamed the weather, which was valid, since the winds were gusting to 40 mph. The second time? I blamed an approaching cold front which must have put off the bite for my daughter and I going after trout at the Quincy Lakes. The other three trips though? That’s where doubt crept in to take up residence with that stinky skunk. You see, the next two trips were with my friend, Rusty. And each and every time while I failed to catch a single fish, Rusty was catching them. Trout, bass, he caught them both and handily too. It would be fair to say my friend Rusty had found his mojo…and I had lost mine.
In desperation, I loaded my kayak into the back of the truck for a fifth trip. This time I headed to the north end of Potholes Reservoir and fished flooded areas close to shore that are normally magnets for bass this time of year. I cast a variety of offerings into the water for four hours but after all that I turned around to see that pesky skunk in the back of the boat, just sitting there staring at me. 
At this point I had a couple of ways to deal with this situation. My initial game plans of curling up into a ball or pouting like a petulant child didn’t hold much appeal for me. Instead, I focused on other things. Number one, I was out in nature and it was a beautiful day. Second, the bird life was abundant. Ducks, geese, hawks, and several bald eagles were seen and heard on this trip and many of the other ones too. Good company? I had that too on several of these trips and going fishing with friends or family is certainly an event to be treasured no matter the end result. 
Finally, being a duck hunter, I couldn’t help but notice a couple of mallard decoys that were washed up amongst a wave of broken willow limbs floating near shore. They were in good shape and still had both their cords and their weights. Some duck hunter had probably lost them in high winds this past season but that hunter’s loss was my gain as I hauled in the hen and drake decoys. Suddenly, I felt empowered. I had caught something after all. It wasn’t the fish I was after, but it was something I could use. It was enough for me to shoo that skunk out of the back of my kayak. He had to move anyway because that’s where I tossed the decoys.
Here’s hoping your next fishing trip brings you many fish but on the off chance you do get skunked, remember the real reasons you are out there and see if you can find something else of value to reel in.
 
John Kruse – northwesternoutdoors.com and americaoutdoorsradio.com
 

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