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Adjusting for stripers, but settling for catfish

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POSTED October 28, 2009 1:50 a.m.
The last time I went night fishing it wasn’t completely dark, and I wasn’t completely fishing.

It was just after midnight, but the glow from the moon made flashlights unnecessary. It lit up the smooth river rocks and churned water just below a large pool that previously provided me a cutthroat trout in shades of gold and pink I didn’t know existed.

I just casted into the night, because for those 15 minutes the dark river and its early running salmon interested me more than the charring of cedar and campfire chatter.

Since I returned to California this summer, my fishing has been done exclusively with fly-rods and in a more delicate manner, so when the idea of hooking bass at night was floated around I didn’t hesitate.

All day Friday I was psyched to catch my first California striper, and if not one of those, then my first catfish since I loaded up the cooler with a bunch from lakes in Nebraska and Kansas long before I even had my new set of teeth.

I went with the usual anglers, but there would be nothing delicate or majestic about tossing chunks of mackerel on Size-6 hooks out into a body of water I might not even swim in if money was involved.

I fish with Nate and Brad most of the time.

I talk fish with Chris, but had never poked water with him, so regardless of the time, I was ready to get a little slimy and trade delicate flies for entrail-leaking rounds of bait.

Chris fired up the lantern a touch after 9 p.m., and in minutes, line unspooled for the first time since I retrieved my sixth salmon of the day way back in July.

There were a couple other lanterns pulsing from across the river and occasionally a boat would carefully navigate the water, stop and plop.

The five of us settled into our spots and took turns talking to the fish that were nibbling at our bait. Once in a while there would be a violent hook set that everyone noticed in the near darkness.
 
“Get him?”

“No.”

We returned to waiting and watching. Conversation broke out just the way one might imagine it would between five dudes with 150 years or so worth of living experience.

Brad, Nate and Chris chose to use branch stands to rest their rods, giving them full range of movement and the chance to elaborate their stories using hand gestures. Brian and I held ours the majority of the night.

The tap-tap-tapping was too much for me to idly watch from my chair as I sipped coffee. I was supposed to wait for the thing to take the bait and run with it, then set the hook.

I’m programmed to rip lips on the first hit. Twenty years of slaying silver salmon will do that to you.

When I finally set and hooked, it wasn’t the striper I had hoped, but a strip of mud with fins and a heartbeat — a catfish.

It’s always nice to catch fish, even if it’s not exactly what you want, and especially if the fish in the world-class Umpqua gave you the bird the last time out.

The mackerel ran out a little after 1 a.m., shortly after Chris snagged a catfish in the back, so we headed back into town.

I immediately started a load of laundry, so my bait-juiced jacket wouldn’t create a superfund site.

I then laid in bed for almost an hour.

Maybe coffee at 10 p.m. wasn’t the best of ideas, even if fishing was.

To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail aklund21@gmail.com.

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