Bass, Ticks and Grandpa’s Ranch

Jordan wanted to go fishing again. My dad’s birthday was Saturday. These seemingly two separate events collided on Sunday when we decided to head to my dad’s ranch in Corning to fish on the lakes there.

Mind you, my dad had been fishing all week with his buddy Roy on Lake Shasta, not deterred a bit by the full sun despite his Stage 4 Melanoma, which, for those of you following that, has resurfaced on his adrenal gland and requires asap surgery. We’ll know more Thursday.

“Come fish here,” he said. “They’re biting like crazy.” That’s fisher-talk.

So off we go in the fully packed SUV with Bailey in tow, not really knowing what size line, hooks or bait we were supposed to use (because we just learned they differ) or, for that matter, even what we would be fishing for because it never seemed to matter.

“If we go to Grandpa’s lake, I want to keep them and eat them,” said Jordan.

Oh, good. So now we get to learn how to catch, clean, and eat yet a new (I think) fish. And, now, it definitely matters what kind they are.

After lining up the pole, which involved lots of commentary surrounding themes like, “I remember when I could tie that knot without my glasses before my arthritis” and “Are you going to use the blood knot?” The blood knot?

Slight breeze with bright sun shimmering off the lake, we set forth, fish whisperers all. I cast out first cast with my newly lined invisible line straight from the fly shop with swanky bobber and dry fly attached. I cast gracefully out by the reeds. A bite!

“I got one!” I yell.

I knew I could do it. I reeled it in, head held high. Clearly it was my malfunctioning line last time and not the user as the dancing fly fisherman had rudely pointed out. I’d just proved my fishing prowess. I was one step away from joining a professional fishing association. This was the joy those men on the fishing channel had that I never got before.

“Ah, that’s WAY too small to keep,” says my dad throwing it back. “Small bait, small fish.”

Come on! Where’s the big bait then?

Rethinking the whole thing I cut off my swanky bobber and little dry fly get up. I get the huge hook with no bait, just the little plastic fluorescent green grub thingy which I expect to find out back any day now because half way through the day, Bailey swallowed it when I wasn’t looking. I do a lot of reorganizing when I fish it seems. (Bailey did not, by the way, swallow the hook, but at one point it did get hooked on her nose when she was trying to “help” me reel in a big one which consequently got away.)

We fished from shore, we took the boat out (and Bailey swam out and around the boat several times which tends to scare the fish I think). We caught about ten bass and a blue gil on the first lake. For the afternoon trip we headed up riding in the back of the pick up old school style to the “really nice fish” lake.

“They’re hungry up there,” said my dad, which seemed kind of unfair. You know, unlevel playing field and all.

Sure enough, it was. There we were, reeling in fish after fish until we had about ten nice bass. Jordan landed his first fish all by himself, from cast to putting it in the bucket. This is what they’re talking about, I thought. Geese flying over head. Dove cooing in the distance. Sun sparkling on the water ripples. Feeling the cool lake water on your feet, happy lab on standby to help land the big one.

“Maybe we can make this a tradition every Sunday,” said Jordan with an enthusiastic I-caught-a-fish-all-by-myself smile.

Fast forward to last night. We’ve just finished our delicious fish fry, proving ourselves once and for all, Native American users of the land. I lean over to spend some time with Bailey and scratch behind her ears. What’s this? A big, FAT black tick! I call my dad, panicked.

“How do you get the ticks off?!” I ask.

“Ah, don’t worry. I saw one on myself this morning in the shower. You just put your fingernails down by the skin and pull it off,” he says calmly. Okay, so maybe he doesn’t have cancer. Maybe he has Lyme Disease.

“I have to touch it?” I ask.

“Don’t be a wimp,” he says all rancher style.

All things equal, I’d rather be a wimp without Lyme Disease then a wimp with Lyme Disease.

Well, the one tick turned into an Easter egg hunt. Under Bay’s thick coat, Mike and I found 20 ticks in the course of two hours, a midnight shower and blow dry and new dose of Frontline.

Bottom line: if you don’t hear from us, it’s possible we all caught Lyme Disease and died.

But wait the good news. When I got home from my writing session, Mike said, “You’ll be happy to know, I found the grub.”

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