Some fishing stories are affirmation of the mystery of what makes our time on the water so precious.
One of mine began in 2018 when I guided Don Hise and his son-in-law Elmo Baur of Merced on a striper trip to San Luis Reservoir. Heavy wind and waves pounded us as we tried to get a trophy fish for Don (nearly 80) since he had never achieved that personal goal. But it didn’t happen.
Elmo called me recently to tell me that Don passed away in March at age 85 and that he never caught that bucket list striper. Elmo and his wife Julie (Don’s daughter) had an idea to do it for him.
A month later in August, Elmo and I hit San Luis on a beautiful fishing day. Don’s personal-best striper was only 20 inches. (He had mostly fished canals and banks.) Elmo’s personal best was 19 inches. Beating those seemed likely, but the ultimate goal was trying to land one Don would have considered worthy of being a bucket list catch.
On the water, Elmo told me that Julie was home intently following our trip and praying for a great fishing day – and a big catch for her dad’s sake.
Pretty quickly we landed a nice 21-inch fish. Good start. In the next two hours our best grew to 24 inches, 26 inches, 28 inches. Wow!
Elmo called Julie and told her the good news. Don would have been very excited. Julie was so happy, she cried. I was relieved.
By late afternoon, the fish were biting only on his lure. I had given him a silver jig I thought might work and he got a 12-pounder that Don would have been proud of. I decided in the last 30 minutes of the trip that we needed to go fish one last spot. On the way, a little voice says, “That lure is working so well you better change to a heavier line and a bigger pole just in case he hooks a good fish.” I try to listen to “the voice,” so I changed his gear.
Thirty minutes later and no bites, it’s time to head in. Just as I said: “Time to reel in,” Elmo exclaims, “I’ve got a big one!” His reel is sizzling and the line is heading west at warp speed. This fish was a real athlete, stripping out line and running deep.
I finally netted the huge striper, and as I placed it on the deck, the sole tine of the treble hook – the one holding the fish – fell onto the floor. The tine was completely bent out and almost of no use. How had it held the raging striper?
Don’s new heavenly PB was 39 inches and 18.2 pounds. We watched the big fish swim away, knowing it’s what he would have done, too.
If you don’t believe that Don didn’t see that great victory, I will beg to differ!
Last cast, last minute, and it all happened on the very day we set out to accomplish this almost impossible quest. Lucky? I don’t think so…Never give up.