Dateline: July 2, 2011 – Eagle Lake, California
I have now attempted to play parent – for a single weekend – and having had close experience and observation of the upcoming generation of American 17 year-olds, I have come to the conclusion that, as a country, we are screwed.
No, dear readers, I did not get a shocking phone call from some old college girlfriend, at least not one that involved children. This recent experience would hearken back to our good friend Garreth Bowman, a.k.a. Eminem’s evil twin, a family friend who I attempt to take fishing now and then. (See https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/blue-suede-sturgeon/)
The July 4th weekend happened to be free before my planned trip to Europe. As I pondered my options, the Fish Gods decided to send me on a strange path that would end many miles to the north on a semi-pointless quest, all in the company of a teenager/cell phone hybrid. It all started with an innocent “what the heck have I caught” email from a buddy, Kevin Fried, who had caught a Tui Chub in a Sierra Lake. I have not caught this species. So I got thinking, and after a few hours of planning, I had set up a largely sleepless agenda that involved a 6 hour drive to the north, part of 2 days fishing for said chubs, then a stop at Lake Oroville for the legendary spotted bass there. Garreth’s lovely and ever-patient Mom, Donna, arranged for him to go along.
It was during the lengthy drive to and from the fishing grounds that I discovered why this particular generation is doomed.
There is apparently something called “Facebook.” I am not sure exactly what happens on “Facebook,” but apparently if you have a page on it and you do not review it every 8 minutes, you will die. There is also a device called a “Smart Phone” which grinds itself onto the right hand of teenagers, and if they do not send a “text message” every 4 minutes, they will die, again. There is also apparently a requirement to make or take a phone call every two minutes, which always contains the same conversation – “Yeah. Huh. Yeah. Aardvark. Later.” I never thought that Beavis and Butthead could sound like Einstein by comparison, but there you have it. The downside of this is that this entire generation never has more than 45 seconds of uninterrupted thought, meaning that any problem that can not be solved in 44 seconds or less will never get solved. We are doomed.
Now, a number of my friends are likely to jump up indignantly and say “Uh, Steve – you’re on your cell phone 24/7.” And I would reply “Yes, but my stuff is IMPORTANT. Now get your finger out of your nose.”
Garreth actually kept it together fairly well on the drive up to Eagle Lake. As we went in and out of cell phone coverage, he would get sweaty and twitchy, but then we would have coverage for a moment and all would be well with his nervous system. He mumbled intermittently to himself, like the inventory guy at Fort Knox – “One bar, two bars, 5 bars, 2 bars …”
Mount Shasta. People actually hike this thing.
On the way up, the scenery was simply beautiful. We drove up the central valley from Vacaville to Redding, then turned east through the mountains. Snowcapped Mt. Shasta loomed in the distance, a stark reminder that any hike I have ever done was comparatively easy. We wound our way in and out of redwood forests and mountain lakes, stopping once to fish in the spillways on the Chester Flood Control Channel, where I caught a beast of a Sacramento Pikeminnow.
The Chester Flood Control Channel – a weir every 300 yards. The truck driver is not crazy – he is driving on a concrete ford – but watching him head into the river certainly got my attention.
The native and reviled Sacramento Pikeminnow. Fishermen criticize it for eating the eggs and fry of planted gamefish, but it was here first.
We got to Eagle Lake around 2pm, met guide Steve Williams, and headed on to the water. Once again, I’d put myself into the odd juxtaposition of traveling to a famous trout fishery with an excellent guide only to chase some sort of poorly regarded “junk fish.” (That term always bothered me.) He checked tactfully a few times why it was that I would be pursuing this creature, then hustled us quickly to the ramp so we wouldn’t tell the other guides.
High summer on Eagle Lake. What’s not to love about downriggers?
These are Rainbow Trout up here. Eagle Lake is highly alkaline, and for whatever reason, this means the trout are meaner than other trout. (I guess I would be mean too, if my eyes were burning all the time.) We got a nice batch of rainbows under a cloudless summer sky, but unfortunately the chubs were not biting. There was always tomorrow morning, so I tried to just enjoy the afternoon – high summer in Northern California.
Note the shameless plug for Steve Williams’ S&S Guide Service, 530-640-0419. The guy was good, and remember that I had him doing something that must have seemed unfamiliar and indeed perverse.
Garreth and I ended up staying in a horribly grungy hotel back in Susanville. The kind of place with hot and cold running dope dealers and a crack in the shower wall that a rhinoceros could crawl through. (I actually think this may have happened. I don’t know how else to explain the rhino in the shower, unless one of the Kardashian sisters has gone missing.)
The next morning was more beautiful than I could imagine – sunrise was breathtaking and the lake was glassy still, reflecting a cloudless sky. “The cell signal is better if it’s cloudy.” Garreth mentioned, but once he started catching fish, it was all about the outdoors. It was sweatshirt-cold until the sun rose over the mountains. We again nailed a load of very solid trout, but the chubs were still nowhere to be found, and my disappointment over this left Steve in complete bewilderment. Still, I knew a Tui Chub was an outside shot, and it was a thrill to be here, even if Garreth was cranky about the inconsistent cell signal.
The second one of my rainbows was the 1000th fish (not species, just fish) I caught in 2011. Yes, I also count the total number of fish I catch, and no, July 3 is not the earliest in the calendar year I have accomplished this. (How about May 8, back in 2006?) We fished for a few more hours and called it a day, and alas, no Chubs. So it was a beautiful weekend, but not a new species in sight. Being me, I was faintly disappointed.
A lovely Eagle Lake Rainbow trout. The 1000th fish (NOT 1000th species) I caught in 2011.
The look on Mr. Williams’ face says it’s probably shower time for Garreth.
While waiting for Steve to pull the trailer down the ramp, I noticed that there were hundreds of little fish under the floating dock. I rigged up a #22 hook, which is smaller than a #20 but bigger than the part of Pink’s brain that chooses hairstyles. I put on a microsmidgen of night crawler and proceeded to watch the little @#$% fish ignore me for ten minutes. Garreth didn’t notice because he was on the phone. (“Yeah. Huh. Yeah. Platypus. Later.”)
It was just then that one of the little things decided it was hungry, and I flipped the mini-beast up on to the dock. It was a Lahontan Redside, a new species for me, and I did the primeval dance of joy which almost landed me in the water but earned $1.27 in tips. Garreth hadn’t noticed. (“Yeah. Huh. Yeah. Echidna. Later.”) Steve knew he was supposed to be happy but couldn’t quite muster up a high five over a fish smaller than his pinkie finger.
In my warped little mind, this made the whole trip worthwhile.
We then headed over for Oroville to spend the afternoon float-tubing after Spotted Bass. It’s about a three-hour drive in the mountains, and the scenery again was stunning. Clear blue alpine lakes, small trout streams, snow-covered peaks. We stopped at a couple of the small streams, catching and releasing half a dozen rainbows. Well, at least I did – Garreth didn’t leave the car because there was a good cell signal. I even turned off the AC to try to get him out into the fresh air, but no way. Facebook was calling to him.
Mount Somethingorother in Northern California. Snow-covered in July.
An absolutely amazing trout creek right off the freeway. I got 6 rainbows in here in about 15 minutes, at high noon, in the middle of summer. Imagine what it’s like with better conditions.
During the drive down from Eagle to Oroville, Garreth made the terrible mistake of drifting off to sleep. I have explained to him that his only job is to stay awake and keep me entertained. He failed. Park of growing up is learning that there are consequences for failure.
Seconds after this picture was taken, I slammed on the brakes and yelled “TRUUUUUUUCK!!” Once Garreth pried himself off the roof, he managed to stay awake the rest of the day. His mother tells me he is still having trouble sleeping through the night, but that his fingernails have grown back.
It was getting late in the afternoon when we finally set up the float tubes, and we would only have a few hours to fish before we needed to get back on the road. Float tubing in the summer is one of my favorite pastimes: kicking around the lake, getting to wear my cool red swimsuit, and never needing to look for a bathroom. It’s hand-to-fin fishing at its finest. I also noticed that Garreth was ignoring his fishing duties and playing with the smart phone, which he apparently felt he was going to take onto the lake with him. I took the drastic step of seizing the phone – not because I had been granted any specific parental authority, but merely because it was driving me nuts. Once he got over the trembling and sweating, he actually started catching fish. The kid is pretty good at this.
“Nice Garreth” with a Spotted Bass. In this photo, he looks like one of those Disney boy band kids.
And then his mood shifted (likely a cell phone withdrawal tremor) and he got that “Eminem” look – like a mug shot of someone who took the School Nurse hostage.
I like to think of Spotted Bass as “Bass for Beginners.” They aren’t as big as largemouth, but they come in droves and they aren’t real picky about what they eat. Even Spellman can catch them.
A very solid Spotted Bass. These are very aggressive fighters and will take most artificial baits.
Garreth and I both caught about 10 good fish, and we enjoyed the summer heat and the cool water. As the sun set late in the evening, we pulled out of the water, jumped in the car dripping wet, and headed for home, with a stop or two at Taco Bell on the way.
On the drive back to San Ramon, Garreth did not dare nap, because he had a previous traumatic experience – see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJouSk_FQ1o. So we talked. We had a fascinating discussion in which he presented his case why it was morally wrong to force teenagers to take summer jobs. He also summarized his research on why forcing him to rise before noon could stunt his growth. My counterarguments, which sounded a lot like things I used to hear from my parents, all went longer than 44 seconds and therefore went completely unprocessed by Garreth’s brain. We got home at about 2am. There was a bunch of work to do, like cleaning out the car and putting away gear, but I told him we could wait until morning. Predictably, he had his mother pick him up before I got up, leaving me stuck with the lousy part of the trip. Creep.
And so, in short, Garreth and his generation are doomed. He has no attention span, avoids responsibility, and cannot focus on anything but Facebook and girls for more than 44 seconds.
Reminds of another 17 year-old I knew, way back in 1980.
PS – There is also another species to report. On a Half Moon Bay party boat on June 25th, I somehow caught a type of sculpin called a Brown Irish Lord. No matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t make this one exciting, so I’ll report it here and we’ll save you all the trouble.
The Brown Irish Lord. The delightful byproduct of an otherwise unspectacular day of rock cod fishing. Oh, except someone barfed.
Yes, we had quite a few “Rail Bunnies” that day. For some even better seasickness shots, see https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2010/08/07/im-a-sole-man/