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Had this up on AZOD, a long time ago. I retained all rights, so here it is :)

A Bluegill, a Pig, and an Extra Pair of Socks

By Marshall MacFarlane

As a writer, it has often been difficult for me to turn a nonevent into an event. That being said, it just didn’t seem appropriate, to not write anything, about my first official Arizona fishing trip. Yes, I know – I’ve been here five years. I’ve been busy though, and life had me take a little hiatus from the outdoors. A new job, a new wife, a new baby – it was easy to get sidetracked. With an invitation from a couple of co-workers, the last of my excuses fizzled away.

A peculiar couple for sure, but suitable, I suppose, to get me on a lake for an afternoon. I will call them Richard, and Will – to protect their anonymity. Will is tall, appears distinguished, and is well spoken. One of my more literate co-workers, I admit his vocabulary is rather extensive. He uses this combination of conversation and long words to try and impress most everyone at work, except me (of course). Will is a fly fishing purist, bordering on highbrow. Over the past year, I had watched him take Richard under his wing, to try and teach him the art of fly fishing. Richard is not quite yuppyish. He appears more as a veteran guzzler of Coronas, hailing from some far off beach – maybe Mexico, maybe the Dominican Republic. An aged, not-quite surfer dude, not quite pretty boy. Though clearly out of his element, he is enthusiastic, and makes a suitable protégé for Will. For reasons unbeknownst to me, these two found it in their hearts to invite me fishing with them. I suppose, weary of trying to outdo each other, they decided a fresh new companion was the way to go.

Due to some logistical hiccups, I was unable to leave with the lads – instead, my departure was an hour and a half later. This was just as well, I think – cooped up in a vehicle for two hours while these guys yukked it up and patted each other on the back would have been just too much for me. I haven’t wandered too far from the Valley since I arrived 6 years ago. This was going to be a special treat. I enjoyed watching as creosote flats gave way to mountains and canyons. Literally driving through mountains, I made my way out of Queen Creek, through Superior, and then Globe. At Globe I stopped at a Circle K to pick up my permit for the Reservation. Of course, I felt like quite the adventurer! I love to encounter new things, so seeing the mines, new landscape, and other unfamiliar sights was an interesting part of my journey. By yourself in your pickup, away from traffic – what a great opportunity to drink in the scenery, and let your mind bounce from topic to topic; while paying attention to the road, of course. That was the day some of our troops were captured, and shown on Iraqi television. I listened to the news reports, while thinking about fishing.

It had been a number of years since I had cast a fly line. I was curious as to how I would do. The “elk signs” stirred the adrenaline a little – would I get to see one? I noticed the expansive canyons off in the distance. They were impressive from my view – I could only imagine what they were like up close. I drove by a prison. I noticed tanks, pipes, and power lines amidst the rocks where I wouldn’t have expected them. Were they still in use? Why were they there? All these new things were fascinating – each one stirring a new thought process. My mind was going a mile a minute.

Soon my odometer told me to start watching for the turnoff to Seneca Lake. Lo, and behold, I was there – and standing at the entrance to greet me – a javelina! Now, keep in mind, I’ve been away from outdoor stuff for a while, and virtually everything “Arizona” is still new to me. This was the first javelina I had seen. Even though I lacked in practical experience, I have spent the past 6 years in Arizona reading everything I could, talking to people, and learning as much as possible for the day I would return to the pastimes that I love. This was a big javelina – no monster, but a big one – a fine specimen for anybody. Even better, he hung around while I gawked; he finally trotted away as I made the turn into Seneca Lake. What a treat! Not an elk, but a cool sighting, nonetheless. Now it was time to turn my focus to the task at hand.

I had no specific meeting point arranged with my compadres. Only that they usually go to the “back of the lake.” I drove along until I came to what was, in my mind, the back. I found a place to park amongst the campsites, hopped out of my truck, stretched, and scanned the water for my chums. Soon I spotted them and waved. Finally getting their attention, they began to make their way to where I was on the shore. They pointed out where they were parked. It was agreed that I would drive over there and meet them. The plan was that I would board their canoe; Will would transition to his float tube. I noted to myself that they had fished for about two hours, with nothing to show for it. Having heard their grandiose tales before at work, I could only hope that they wouldn’t try to weave me into their web of exaggerations and embellishments. They were obviously glad to see me. Savvy folks can sense competence, and it was looking more and more like I was their only hope at salvaging this day.

As I was unloading my gear from the truck, Richard crawled out of the canoe, and headed up the bank. He said he was hungry, but I think he was checking his hair, and freshening up his cologne. While he was doing that, Will stayed in the canoe. Strewn around him were spare reels, spools, fly boxes, forceps, vise – about 300 different gadgets all together. These implements, combined with his furrowed brow and busy hands gave him, to the uneducated, an appearance of importance. A maestro, conducting his orchestra of tackle. I was piling my gear on the dock, checking on Richard out of the corner of my eye, and trying not to seem impatient with Will, when it happened. A shout, a “kerplunk,” and the sound of an entire section of the LL Bean store dumping into the water. It happened so fast, I barely saw any of it. A flailing of the Maestro’s gangling arms and legs, and the instantaneous inversion of the canoe. Where there was, only a moment ago, a canoe full of fly fisherman and six bushels of doodads; there was now the canoe floating bottom side up, and Will dog paddling towards shore, muttering to himself, yet looking as dignified as possible under the circumstances. Richard had since thrown his bottle of Drakkar Noir into his gear, and was guffawing at the unfortunate plight of his friend. As much as I personally hate to laugh at people less fortunate than I, especially a friend, I could not help but smile as Will crawled up the bank, dripping wet, sliding in the mud, and uttering profanities. Richard, of course, in between gales of laughter, was absolutely begging me to grab my camera and take a picture of Will in his altered state. I chose the high road instead.

What was even more curious to me was that an experienced woodsman like Will didn’t have any spare clothes with him. Only the greenest of greenhorns leaves the house on a fishing trip with no spare clothes. In his fog of nervousness and anxiety caused by the thought of fishing against someone other than Richard, a change of clothes must have slipped his mind. I had a light jacket in my truck, and a spare pair of socks. Richard had some spare clothes too – leather chaps, neon French bicyclist’s pants, a lavender chiffon blouse (I didn’t ask) and a pair of sweat pants that must have belonged to his wife. Will took the sweat pants, and between Richard and I, we got him fixed up and ready to go again.

Out on the lake I feigned rustiness so as not to intimidate Richard. Used to being coached by Will, today he was, for all intents and purposes, flying solo. I tied on the most atrocious flies that I could find in my tackle box, hoping that Richard would catch more fish, giving him the confidence he needed. Tattered clumps of fur and tinsel, dull, rusty hooks; I even purposely missed strikes to give Richard every advantage I could. I sensed it was cold there, in Will’s shadow. Besides, no one likes a show-off, and to out-fish everyone on my first invitation would have been in poor taste, indeed. The lake itself was an interesting experience. For those of you who have not been to Seneca, the best way I can describe it is that it is similar to an urban lake that has been plunked down in the wilderness. All walks of life were well represented there – hard core fisher-folks, less well-to-do families, better off families, dogs, kids – you get the picture. If you’ve ever been to Kiwanis Park, or some similar urban lake, Seneca even provided, at least on that day, the familiar blaring of folk music. An oddity in this relatively pristine setting. The lake was ringed the with garbage and other signs of careless slobs that I detest. Not that I wouldn’t recommend this lake – quite the contrary. Relatively easy access, and a beautiful drive, and reasonable campsites make this a future spot, for my family, at least.

Every once in awhile, one of the Hemingways that accompanied me managed to “horse in” a stocked trout – they were rainbows, around 10 inches long. I had since dropped my act, and was starting to actually fish. The slightest twinges of concern were beginning to stir, however, in the far reaches of my mind. Maybe I had given these guys too much of a head start. What had began as an exercise in nobility and generosity now had potential to be a skunk day. At the peak of the day’s heat, not another soul on the lake was catching anything now, and my skills would be challenged, to say the least. I even broke down and asked Will to keep one of his fish, just in case, so I would have one to show my daughter. Every man has his low point, and that was mine, for this day. My partners were almost giddy with their two or three fish apiece, and that only served to further motivate me. As usual, my fears were unfounded – soon my semi-seal, purple leech with buggy eyes and a bead head and a half twist was violently slammed. Skillfully I set my hook on a strike that a lesser man would have surely missed. The eyes and ears of the dozen or so fishermen left on the lake turned to me, as my reel began its scream. Will and Richard’s jaws thudded in unison, as they struck their chests.

One could only imagine what kind of watery beast I had snagged upon my sharpened steel wire, tied at the end of a fragile, silken line. As I skillfully played this creature to exhaustion, and got him closer to the canoe, I could start to make out his form. It appeared that my first official Arizona fish was indeed, a bluegill. Of course it was huge, and I have often read that bluegill are much harder to catch than trout, so I was beaming with pride. So humbled I was by the strength and beauty of this fish, that I released it immediately. To fawn over it, and take pictures, or display it to the other fishermen would not have done it justice. The rest of the day was relatively uneventful. Good camaraderie, easy talk, some cold sodas, and it was time to head home. The same scenic journey but in reverse, and this time with a sunset.

All in all, not a bad day. It could have been better, but “c’est la vie” – that’s French for “oh, well.” As an Outdoor writer, I couldn’t have not written anything about my first real Arizona fishing trip. Hopefully, this will be the first story of many. Oh, and a special thanks to my two friends who made it all possible. A warning to them, as well -next time, I won’t be so generous.
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