On the trail: The last laugh, a fishing story

 

By IKE FREDREGILL

Golden sunlight danced across Gelatt Lake’s ruffled surface as I released the shimmering rainbow trout back into the crystalline waters.
The mottled 10-inch fish was the first catch of the day and a welcome sight after a quiet hour on the water Friday morning.
“Yep, he took the midge,” said Don White, our guide and co-owner of Four Seasons Anglers  “That’s probably what they’ll be hittin’ on all day.”

After a few fruitless casts with a leech pattern, White rigged my line with two nymphs about a foot apart — a green damselfly, trailing a mayhem midge. Mike Gray, my fishing partner and Laramie-area guru, used a similar setup. While both our midges saw plenty of action, the damselflies did little more than add a bit of extra weight to the line, helping punch through the stiff breeze that occasionally whipped across the plains lake.
“Before this was a lake, the rail road used to pass through here to a quarry — limestone, I believe,” Gray said.

A few feet beneath the drift boat, we could see a round, metallic device through the limpid waters.
“(Wyoming Game and Fish) uses aerators to prevent winter kill in these shallow lakes,” White said, pointing west toward the mountains towering over Meeboer and Twin Buttes lakes. “They used to have a put-and-take policy, which meant they stocked the lake, and figured on people keeping what they caught, because (the fish) would just die come winter anyway.”
With aerators providing surface tension, the lakes don’t freeze over as easily, which he said would allow fish to grow quite large.
I’ve always been more of an aquatic comedian than a real angler. Anyone can catch a fish, but it takes true skill to entertain the fish with your poor bait choices, awkward casting style and inability to land those trout unfortunate enough to skewer themselves on your hook.

To that end, I decided to take Gray under my wing and teach him the ways of farcical fishing. A serious sportsman-type, I was a little worried he wouldn’t be up to the task.
“Oh man, this is a real rat’s nest,” Gray said, reeling in a mess of tangled line.
Casting your rigging into a knot is a classic gag sure to have the underwater audience flapping their fins with delight.
“I got it,” Gray announced, re-casting his line into a nearby riffle after spending a few minutes pulling at the knots.
Fumbling through his tackle box throughout the show, White said, “Good. I was hoping if I waited long enough, I wouldn’t have to untie it for you.”
Gray smiled. No comedic act is complete without a heckler.
“I thought maybe you’d know a nifty trick for untangling knots,” Gray said.
Quick to the response, White shot back, “I do — my grandkids.”
Laughter filled the morning air, broken only by a fish tugging Gray’s line taught beneath the water. Secure in his newfound talent, Gray ignored the urge to catch the fish, and instead, he brought it in close to the boat before artfully releasing the tension on his line, allowing the specimen a chance to free itself.
The student out-shined the master, and while at least six fish managed to hook themselves on his rig, Gray shook them all off before they could get in the boat.
I hung my head in shame, having accidentally landed three by the end of the trip.
Despite our combined talents, the bigger trout didn’t attend our performance. But, I’m confident that first 10-incher was a talent scout, and I’d be willing to bet they show up for the next act.