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Fishing in the Central Valley: Recounting the first big loss and big catch of a young angler

Here’s a special fishing story that I think exemplifies every fisherman’s dream of catching the big one.

Some years ago I had an older avid angler call me about guiding a striper trip at San Luis Reservoir with him were his teenage grandson and his grandson’s friend . He explained that both boys loved fishing but neither of them had ever caught a striper - or anything bigger than some small trout- so he thought this would be a fun experience for them.

The trip was all about the kids and hopefully getting them on some fish and maybe even possibly a bigger striper. “You never know .” I agreed.

Now, of course, everyone who goes out, hopes to hook into a big striper. That’s the dream. You certainly can’t say they will- but it’s a possibility - if your lure is in the water.

When I finally met the group at the dock, I could tell both boys were excited and the friendly ribbing about who was going to catch the biggest fish was flying, even though neither of them had ever caught a striper before. It’s funny, but just having the chance of catching a big lineside made all of us feel like we were on a big game adventure.

We started off trolling and before long , both the grandson and his friend had each caught/ released their very first fish. Off to a good start, and grandpa was happy.

Several hours later I moved to a new area and started trolling again, this time in about 50 feet of water. We had only gone about 100 yards when the grandson’s pole got hit hard and a very big powerful fish took off running flat out to the west. He’s hanging on as the drag is screaming out. Fifteen minutes later, I’m coaching the kid and he’s doing a great job working the fish, which is refusing to come up. I can tell it’s probably over 30 pounds from the stamina and power it’s exerting.

The grandson is steadily fighting the fish on one of my heavy action 9-foot rods. loaded with a 20 pound test line, so I know we’ve got the equipment to hopefully land this bucket list sized trophy.

Finally, it ends up going deep right under the rear of the boat and suddenly the line goes limp. He had done everything just right but something had gone wrong. It seems that the hook had pulled out and the fish was gone.

The grandson literally collapsed on my rear bunk in abject despair. He didn’t cry, but I could see that he was devastated. His buddy and grandfather tried to console him but losing the fish of his dreams and getting so close to landing it left him sitting there, silently. We all felt the loss and the atmosphere went from an exciting celebration to a somber mood.

Trying to refocus, I told them we needed to get back trolling - and yes- there might be another big one around .

That’s when grandpa came to the rescue and made the suggestion that since the grandson’s fish wasn’t landed - that it should still be his turn for the next bite. His buddy agreed. I put the lures out and we began trolling the area again. I wasn’t too optimistic that another monster like that would hit but we had to keep trying.

I don’t believe we had trolled more than 100 yards when we got another hard hit and the drag began screaming just like before.

Could this really be happening again? The grandson was hanging on for dear life to the bent pole as the powerful fish kept easily peeling off line.

I prayed that he wouldn’t lose this fish. Two big lost fish back to back could even make a grown man cry

It was another 15-minute battle as the striper kept bulldogging its way back down deeper. Slowly but surely the fish came up and when it surfaced, exhausted and spent, it looked like a small aircraft carrier in the water.

We all held our breath as I netted the huge fish. It was a “double sweet victory.” The fish spanned over 45 inches and weighed just over 37 pounds.

It was a massive personal bes) striper in anyone’s book, let alone one caught on a first ever trip.

To this day it’s still the biggest guest catch in my boat.

We took a few pictures and then released the striper back into the water to thrill the next angler.

Unforgettable.

It’s amazing, but going from abject failure and a huge loss to a lifetime victory in a matter of minutes for an excited young angler, made the experience one of my favorite all time trips.

I think the lesson we all learned that day was: Just when you think it’s all lost keep going and … Never give up.

Roger George: rogergeorge8@protonmail.com, Rogergeorgeguideservice on Facebook and @StriperWars.

Roger George
Roger George