Posted by: 1000fish | August 31, 2018

Church of the Almighty Takedown

Dateline: August 13, 2018 – Sacramento, California

I will miss Ed Trujillo.

When you were steelhead fishing with Ed, every strike, whether it just rattled the rod or slammed the tip into the water, was an “MTD” – massive takedown – and every one was just as exciting as the last. A day with fish was a great day, but even a day without fish was still a day on the river, and that is what Ed treasured more than anything, except, perhaps, his wife Carla.

A recent photo of Ed and his beloved Carla. 

A not so recent photo. How in the world did he marry someone that good-looking?

Ed died today. He was 68 years old. When I got the text from Carla, the first that came to mind was Ed talking to me while I fought my very first steelhead. It was January 19, 2002, and he was saying “What a massive takedown! Keep your tip up, I’ll row into shore.” It was a Trinity River beauty, about five pounds, and I will never forget it as long as I live – a big, wild fish smashing a plug in a perfect mountain river.

My first steelhead. I was hooked.

In the 11 years after that, I fished constantly with Ed – some shad and smallmouth in other rivers, but mostly steelhead in the Trinity. As his health declined over the past six years and he couldn’t go to the rivers any more, we kept in touch, but of course, it was never the same. When it got to the stage where he couldn’t row his driftboat, he was heartbroken. As stubborn as an especially stubborn mule, Ed hung in there and got some quiet, good years with his wife and family. But he never got on the river again. I mourned for him then, and I mourn for him now. He was a gifted fisherman and the truest of friends.

I met Ed through a couple of buddies, Chris and Rich.

Chris Armstrong and Rich Terwilliger, from the distant past. (From the Terwilliger collection.)

That first trip in 2002 was a classic steelhead weekend – a race to escape Bay Area Friday afternoon traffic, then the loooooooong run up Highway 5 to Redding, and then left on HIghway 299 and an hour through the mountains into Weaverville. Up way too late having a few beers, up before dawn to have inadvisable breakfast foods, and then on to the river, launching driftboats from impossibly small, secret breaks in the brush. I got my first steelie that day, and perhaps overcelebrated that night with a prime rib dinner that wasn’t all that prime. Indeed, it rebelled at around 2am, and poor Chris had to live through the whole paint-peeling experience.

That next day, after the immodium had taken effect and I dared put on waders, is what cemented the friendship. At the Del Loma put-in (and I’m just using our names for these things – I have no idea what they’re actually called,) Ed rowed against heavy current to get above the launch, well beyond the call of duty, but he insisted there was a nice seam there and we could be in a for an “MTD.” Perhaps three minutes after we set the plugs out, it happened, and it was truly massive – tip all the way to the water before I could pull the rod out of the holder. The fight went on for more than half an hour – the fish stayed in the fast part of the river and hung there in a stalemate that seemed to go on forever. When I finally saw how big it was, I thought it had to be a salmon – but it was a rainbow. A ten pound rainbow, my biggest steelhead for many years, and still one of my “go-to” fish pictures.

I have friends who have fished a lifetime and not gotten a 10 pounder. With Ed, I had to wait 15 minutes into my second day.

Ed celebrates the big fish.

Another photo of the beast. I forgot all about the stomach problems … until I took off my waders.

During the rest of the 2000s, Ed and I got on the river every chance we could get. Thursday was always “fail safe” night, when we would figure out as much as we could about the weather, river conditions, and fish cooperation, and decide “go” or “no go.” We still got it wrong a lot – unexpected rain could show up, the river could go cold, the fish could move up or down. But on the weekends we got it right, it could be spectacular. Before I get into our best day ever, here are some of the fish that made the honor roll –

March 2004, Chetco River. This was my first fish in Oregon.

January 2005 – surprise king salmon on 6# line in the Sacramento.

January 2005, Trinity River – my first ten pound fish “out of the boat” – walking the shoreline where Ed told me to and casting what Ed told me to.

A limit of steelhead caught from shore, Trinity River, October 2006.

We had plenty of two-fish limits, but our personal best day together was March 31, 2007, an Eel River trip joined by Spellman. We caught 11 adult fish, four of which were over ten pounds, and one of which was my personal best – 16 pounds. Spellman got his 11 pound fish of a lifetime on the first drift. It was the steelhead day we all dream of, and to be honest, the conditions weren’t even that good – Ed just knew every seam and fold in the river and exactly where the fish would be holding. I got six of my fish on one Yo-Zuri spoon, and I immediately retired it – it hangs in my garage to this very day.

The beast of beasts. My “go-to” trout picture for all occasions.

Spellman’s 11 pound hog, caught first thing in the morning.

Ed rowing the Eel. We had just released Spellman’s fish. He didn’t stop smiling until the following Wednesday, and even then it was only briefly.

Over the years, Ed and I fished together 95 days, 69 of which were devoted to steelhead. Marta even got in on the action, but even though she loved Ed, she did not like sitting in an open boat in the mountains in the middle of winter. She also had no sense of how hard steelhead fishing really was, because she caught an eight pounder on her first trip and a ten pounder on her third.

Marta’s first steelhead, January 2005.

Marta’s second (and last) steelhead, July 2005. She was smart enough to quit at the top of her game.

Steve and Ed from the same summer Trinity trip.

I managed to get a bunch of my friends out steelhead fishing with Ed. Going through the pictures for this article, it hit me that Ed was the center of so many great weekends with friends, some still regular fishing buddies, some who I need to give a call. A partial list –

Chris Armstrong, who also introduced me to Jarvis in Singapore.

This is how Chris normally looks.

Richie Terwilliger, Sacramento River, January 2005. He handles a driftboat as well as anyone I have ever seen.

The fabled Mark Spellman, February 2007.

Scott Perry, February 2007. I can’t explain this picture.

Garreth “Eminem” Bowman, March 2007. I wonder whatever happened to him.

Jim Tolonen, January 2010. A top-notch angler, Jim is an expert fly-fisherman and also holds the world record on the sand sole.

Dave York, great friend of Marta’s, March 2009. He’s a USC grad, so I brought him a Michigan sweatshirt to wear.

Matt Schaeffer and his son with Ed, May 2009. Matt is one of the better hockey players I have ever skated with.

Ed Martini Shad

Martini Arostegui with a line-class record shad in the American with Ed, May 29, 2011.

You can’t spend 95 days fishing with someone without getting to know them fairly well. Ed came from a Mormon family, but he seemed to spend most Sundays on the river instead of church. I gave him a hard time one Sunday morning – asking him if they would miss him at the prayer service. He looked at me in all seriousness, looked around at the river and the pines and the two big fish hanging on the side of the boat, and said “This is my church.”

The altar at the Church of the Almighty Takedown.

I learned a lot from Ed, not only about how sacred these rivers and fish are, but also from his limitless decency. I am not a patient or forgiving person, (ask Marta) and in my pursuit of a species or a record, I can be downright overfocused and ruthless and forget that we’re just here to have fun. In his own gentle way, Ed always reminded me that even a bad day on the river was still a pretty darn good day. I never apologized to him enough for being the most difficult client ever.

Ed in action on the Eel. He was the guy you wanted on the net with a big fish on the line.

A few years after we started fishing together, Ed began having more and more health problems. He would miss a season here and there with diabetes complications, but he always seemed to bounce back, and there was never anyone happier than him just to be back on the water. As we got into 2010, he was noticeably slowing down, and our outings became less and less frequent. Our last steelhead trip together was in January of 2011, and the last steelhead I got with him was a beautiful red buck that smashed a Little Cleo spoon that Ed had specially selected for me. From there on in, we stayed closer to home in the American River, where he could do shorter day trips.

If I had known this would be our last steelhead together, I would have worn a better sweater.

By my records, I caught 62 adult steelhead in my career with Ed, and 8 of those were over ten pounds. (According to Ed’s fishing reports, we caught just over 9000 fish. You be the judge.) Again by my records, Ed also guided me to 540 fish of all types, including six new species and a world record. (Plus Martini’s record shad.) There were not a lot of species chances on a steelhead river, but in our adventures, I managed to get:

The American Shad on May 12, 2002. They were wide open. Even Spellman caught one.

The Klamath Smallscale Sucker on September 2, 2006. This fish is the world record we caught on January 29, 2011.

The Sacramento Sucker on June 24, 2007. That’s “Eminem” Bowman in the background. Eminem – If you’re out there, drop me a line.

The Redside Shiner on July 21, 2007, on one of our Umpqua trips. These were awesome, dawn-to-dusk smallmouth marathons.

The Redeye Bass on September 10, 2011. There is no parking on this river, so Ed drove me and waited.

Our final species together – the savage prickly sculpin, November 5, 2012. That was the only thing we caught, but look at him smile.

That trip in November 2012 was one of our last times on the water together – he was already having serious mobility problems. Our final day out was on June 8, 2013, a shad trip where there were no shad, but he just couldn’t stop smiling because he was out on the river.

I went up to Weaverville once or twice after Ed stopped fishing, but without Ed, it had lost its magic. It wasn’t about the river or even the fish – it was about fishing there with Ed. We might not have always caught fish, but it always felt like we were just about to.

We still talked on the phone quite a bit – he always wanted to know where I had been and what I was catching. And he always seemed to know how the Trinity was doing, where the fish were, when the rain was coming. He wanted to be back there so badly, and even surrounded by a large and loving family, that big piece of him was always missing the last few years of his life, until he finally was ready to let go, early in the morning on Monday, August 13. When I got the news, I pulled out this picture – my favorite of Ed – with a big steelhead he caught on the Eel.

January 2004. The custom rod was a gift from a friend, and this was his first fish on it. He tried to hand it off to me and I wouldn’t let him – it was great to see him catch one now and then.

The text from Carla was very simple – “Edward, the love of my life, is finally free from pain.” The last time I saw Ed was about six weeks ago, and to be honest, he was miserable. No one should have to go suffer like that, but he bore it gracefully and cheerfully, just like he handled everything. But there is no way I want to remember him like that. I think of him walking on two healthy legs along the Trinity, casting his favorite Krocodile spoon – which I never saw him get a hit on – waiting to row to the next hole and the next massive takedown, hopefully with a quick window of cell service so he could check in with Carla. That is how I want to remember Ed, and I hope that is what he doing right now, because the river misses him.

Steve

 

Ed at the Umpqua “ski jump” launch ramp, April 2006. He convinced me that we had to get into the boat and ride it out like Splash Mountain. I was in the bow bracing myself when he let me know he was joking.

The Pigeon Point fire, September 2006. We got caught on the wrong side of this, so instead of driving 45 minutes back to Weaverville, we had to drive two hours west to the coast, an hour south to Fortuna, then three and a half more hours east back across the mountains on Highway 36 into Weaverville. Ed still insisted on fishing the next day.

Ed on the Trinity. I never could figure out those left-handed baitcasters. (Photo from Terwilliger collection.)

Ed being Ed, January 2010. I had just lost a big fish, but he was so happy to even see the “MTD” he couldn’t stop smiling.

The Ed smile. (From the Terwilliger collection.)

Ed could nap literally anywhere.

Rich with a nice fish on the Trinity. He is standing in almost exactly the same spot where Ed is napping in the photo above. (From the Terwilliger collection.)

Trinity River, January 24, 2004. He kept telling me to cast to a particular seam, which I gave up on, so he cast and immediately got a fish.

Awwwwww.

Sunset at Ed’s memorial service.

 

 

Advertisements

Responses

  1. Steve,
    Your blog is one of my favorite weekly destinations, any update is the highlight of the day I see it. I love and understand your obsessions, and I love the way that the people in your stories are always more important than the fish, even if you would (might?) argue the opposite. I am profoundly sorry for the loss of your friend, but I find hope in the fact that the impact you both had on each other’s lives carried through to the end. Truly our legacies are the connections and relationships we have with other people.
    Thanks again for your awesome blog.
    Todd

    • Thanks so much for the kind words. Ed was truly a great guy.

      Steve

  2. Very sad news. Had my first time on a drift boat with Ed and many more great ones after that. Driving all the way up to Oregon with my father(who has also passed on) and Ed , with me deciding to put on a movie in the Dvd player that at age 14 seemed like a good choice but quickly had me realizing was not the most appropriate I could of chosen with two men in their 50s in the front seats with nothing but the volume to picture what I was watching. No it wasnt an Adult film lol So we quickly changed it to ‘Dances with Wolves’ my first time ever seeing it and I loved it. How fun the Trinity river was catching my first steelhead and by the end of the day being dunked under water by Steve thinking I could somehow dunk him first(cellphone in my pocket didnt come back from that trip). Ed was a great guy and always seemed just as happy seeing me catch a fish as I was doing the catching. Rest easy and give a hello to my father. Steve my email is bowman101409@yahoo.com … love to catch up sometime.

    -Garreth Bowman “Eminem”

    • Great to hear from you. I sent you an email – I think that’s your Dad’s old address! Feel free to contact me any time.

      Steve


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Categories

%d bloggers like this: