It’s “Bass Week” in Washington, but for the Walgamott clan, that happened last week and a state to the south.
We enjoyed an extended Fourth of July campout at Central Oregon’s Lake Billy Chinook, a trip that included plenty of water fun under the sun and smallies, along with great food, campfires and stargazing.
Yeah, watching my two sons catch their first fish years ago was pretty special, but I was thrilled when my niece Vivian landed hers this past Thursday.
We were at the upper day-use site on the Deschutes Arm and the evening before, my sharp-eared son Kiran had heard another angler mention that a cove there was a good spot for bass.
The next morning I’d purchased four one-day fishing licenses for myself at the Cove Palisades Resort and Marina and met everyone down at the beach there, two rods and a box full of baits in hand.
I gave bank fishing with crankbaits a go unsuccessfully, then hopped into one of our inner tubes and floated out into the cove.
I’d switched over to a green grub on a 1/4-ounce jighead and was just kind of prospecting and working on my tan when a bass bit.
The kids were all right there and that sparked their interest in trying their own luck, so I went ashore and began everyone’s first lesson on how to catch bass.
First up was my oldest son, River, then the younger boy, Kiran, who wanted to hold the spinning rod upside down, like how he holds the baitcaster he’s shown promise using down on our saltwater beach.
Unfortunately for the boys, the bass didn’t respond to their casts, so they soon lost interest and left me with the rod.
Damned screens anyway — no patience!
Vivi had been watching and she promptly came up to me and asked if she could give it a go, so I showed her how to pull line from near the reel to the rod and hold it there with two fingers, flip the bail, bring the rod back and snap it forward and let go of the line.
I now realize I was a little vague about what exactly a bail is, but after her first successful cast, she had it, so I wandered back to the shade to watch.
Less than five minutes later the rod was bent and Vivi was battling her first fish, a feisty smallmouth!
We all rushed towards her, her mom Ilene and my wife Amy encouraging her and taking cell phone videos, the boys crowding around to see the fish.
I figured we’d all catch bass, but the speed at which Vivian had caught one was surprising (especially after yours truly, believed by family to be a fishermen, had landed just one in like two hours).
And it only got better from there as five minutes after her first, she had a second!
It’s one thing to be the editor of a fishing magazine and put out all these how-to articles and receive reader success photos in exchange, but it’s quite another to teach someone in person and see that instruction result in a catch.
I tell you, I was positively glowing!
In the days afterward, we fished more, including off of a pontoon boat we rented on Saturday to travel up the Crooked and Deschutes Arms.
In the former, near the head of the arm, River hooked the biggest fish of the trip, a footlong or so northern pikeminnow.
Later in the afternoon and in the lower end of the latter arm, where a chukar family had come down to the water, Vivi showed that it was no fluke she’d caught her first two so fast.
Earlier in the campout I had worn a Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association shirt on which was printed a slogan she’d inquired about.
“You are right,” Vivi said later, “the tug is the drug.”
She just seemed to figure out what the fish wanted better than the boys did, but they all had plenty of fun. Kiran wanted to keep every fish, regardless of their size or whether we had toted our cooler along with us to the water or not.
The bass were on the small side and I expected to catch more, but the bright sunlight of midday might have affected the bite. But as I was flapping around the day-use cove in the inner tube I found the fish to actually be closer to shore than out in deeper water by the no-wake buoys.
When I go again, I’ll pack a lot fewer crankbaits and a wider variety of grubs and tubes, including in more pumpkins and chartreuses than just browns.
Drop-shotting with flukes and wacky-rigged worms wasn’t effective, though that might have been due to how I had to fish them — with half a rod after breaking the top end — or the sheer size of the baits versus the size of the fish.
It’s a pretty far pedal from our house in Shoreline to this part of Central Oregon, but besides fishing and water sports there’s plenty to see and do. I’m a geology geek, so it’s all cool country and I’ll gladly return someday.
Besides their jet ski runs around the lower end of the reservoir with the three adults, I think that the fishing will stand out in my sons’ and niece’s memory from our trip.
I know watching Vivi successfully figure out how to catch bass will stay in mine.