An occasional journal of the Life of Reilly

Friday, May 11, 2007

Passionate Fishes


How one spends their free time often becomes a passion. For us, it is skiing, guitars, and artisan bread. For others it is fishing. And the third weekend in April is opening weekend for fishing here in the Eastern Sierra, and coming to June Lake is a pilgrimage for some. For 34 years, Ernie’s, the sport shop just steps from our front door, owned and operated by our landlord, has sponsored the Trout Derby. This contest adds the element of competition to a sport whose participants have already become heavily invested in rods, boats, and clothing dominated by a camouflage motif. These folks really love to fish. And apparently they love beer, too.

Our little town, sleepy all winter, has come alive. Motor homes and trucks towing boats were arriving into town as early as Thursday. The campgrounds, vacant all winter, were fully occupied. Neon lights of the local restaurants were lit, beaconing hungry sportsman. Friday morning we came home from a morning ski, to find a 10-foot pile of snow in our driveway. Posters and banners advertising things like Monster Bait were everywhere. Apparently snow is trucked to this spot every year for the Derby, and it is here that the contenders for Biggest Fish are stored until the awards ceremony on Saturday night.

All day on Saturday the pile of snow was the hub of activity. Country music blared from Ernie’s, and fishermen with cans of beer wrapped in neoprene sleeves milled about. We hid out until the evening festivities, and then joined the crowd for the prize giveaway. A raffle giving away fishing rods was held. I overheard one guy comment that he didn’t need to win one of those -- his wife counts the rods when he leaves the house, and counts them when he comes back, and if there are any extras she takes them to the curb on garbage day. The Derby awards were handed out. There were lots of categories – biggest fish from June Lake, biggest from Gull Lake, biggest caught by a kid, biggest caught by a local, etc. It took awhile. The biggest fish overall was something like 8 pounds, 5 ounces – that’s a big fish. The winner got the equivalent of $1,000 in certificates to spend at local businesses in June Lake – not bad.

Things have quieted down during the week, but weekends are still busy. Thanks to those folks who love to fish, the local economy has picked up, to the relief of the local business who suffered through one of the driest winters on record. We are just glad there isn’t a fish derby every weekend.

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