Opening Day 1988 (Or 1989)

Among the many opening days of trout season I recall, few stand out as well as 1988 or 1989’s.

Sorry, I really should remember what year it occurred, but I was borderline hypothermic at the time.

Indeed, it was a cold, miserable morning day on a Cascade Mountains lake. Even from miles and miles away I could tell it was going to be wet. As we cruised up the highway through rain in Greg’s dad’s yellow Buick station wagon towards my dad’s place in North Bend, Wash., I could see that the snow line was right below the level of the lake.

But Greg, Eric and I — all buddies in our sophomore or junior year at Woodinville High School — had warm clothes, and it was the opener after all.

We had to get out, rain or shine. It’s tradition.

At Dad’s we piled out of the Buick and loaded our gear and Greg’s raft into Dad’s van along with his raft, then headed for the hills.

Soon we were off the county road and following muddy Weyerhaueser logging roads up towards clouds spitting rain and snow at us.

I don’t quite remember why, of all lakes, we had to hit Calligan that opener. Dozens more were available at lower and probably warmer and drier altitudes, all stocked for reliable bites.

Perhaps Dad had read something about it in the old Washington Fishing & Hunting News.

Or maybe Greg and I couldn’t get it out of our minds after finding it in the old Lakes of Washington book.

Or maybe it was the decent-sized cutt that had washed out of a feeder creek as Dad, my sisters and I drove through it on a rainy day the previous spring.

Yeah, must have been the fish. Heck, if one’s in the creek, just imagine how many more must be in the lake!

We pumped up the rafts and pushed off, generally trolling fairly close together.

We made slow paddles around the middle of the big lake, getting soaked by the fat flakes — rafts aren’t the best craft for fishing in crappy weather — and then cold.

Nothing bit.

The outlet end of the lake intermittently brightened, raising my hopes things would dry up, but then would go gray again as more snow and rain clouds barreled into the mountain valley.

After awhile we pulled ashore — on the opposite side of the lake from the boat ramp.

We had to get warm. We were all wet — as were the woods. But fortunately, somebody had been putting cedar shingle bolts together, so we poached a couple for kindling.

Can’t say it was a warm fire, but it and lunch gave us enough energy to head back out, and then just bag it all together as the weather worsened.

Rather than going all the way back to the launch, we cut across the thin upper end and beached the rafts. Dad went to bring the van uplake while Eric and I ran up and down the gravel road trying to warm up.

Eric recalls the day as one of the bleakest of his life and, only half jokingly, is still surprised one of us didn’t succumb.

I don’t think I was much use loading the rafts and rods in. All I wanted was to get out of my coat and in front of the heater.

We slammed the doors shut, said goodbye to Calligan and spun our way out of the mountains.

THE FORECAST FOR TOMORROW calls for possibly similar conditions at the lake and elsewhere in Washington’s North Cascades as well as the eastern side of Oregon’s Cascades, according to the National Weather Service.

West of the mountains, there’s a 50 percent chance of rain in Washington, lower in Oregon, but it may be dry in the Columbia Basin.

It’s April, after all, which also means an assload of trout have been stocked this spring and last fall in preparation for tomorrow’s big day — 20.5 million alone in Washington, according to WDFW.

If you haven’t figured out where to go yet, their stocking plan is available online as is the most recent weekly planting report.

In Oregon, the big news is that Diamond Lake is iced up and unlikely to thaw in time for boat angling, though there are some shore spots with open water. Lemolo Reservoir, however, is ice-free and should produce browns, trophy rainbows and fresh stockers.

And I’m guessing tomorrow will indeed be a whole lot more productive than that day up at Calligan, one that still brings shivers to me.

But I’ll be out tomorrow. See you on the water.

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