By Andrew Cremata
I’d been fishing for less than ten minutes when a strong gust of wind forcibly pushed the bow of my small boat toward land. With a turn of the trolling motor I was back on track, cruising slowly above a steep underwater ledge no more than a stone’s throw from a precipitous scree-covered mountain slope.
Golden yellows and ruddy reds of fall blanketed the mountainsides from rocky lakeshore to snow-dusted alpine peaks. The breeze was cold. My dog, Rufus, tucked his head into his thick wool blanket perched on the seat in front of mine. Nearly a hundred feet below the boat, my lure was darting back and forth in the darker depths.
Normally, I would have been paying close attention to my electronic fish finder, marking the depth of the lake to keep my boat’s track along the underwater ledge, but I accidentally left it at home.
After five more minutes and another strong gust of wind, I decided to move toward a more familiar spot.
The weather on the lake was erratic. During the thirty-minute ride, Rufus and I experienced sunshine, clouds, rain, wind-driven whitecaps and water so calm that it resembled polished steel.
Of course, the windiest location we encountered was the exact spot I wanted to fish, a place where I’ve had consistent success catching fall lake trout.
For well over an hour, I battled the wind and waves while trying an assortment of autumn laker lures at various depths without so much as a nibble. Rufus had enough sense to remain well hidden in his blanket, never once poking out his head for a look.
I began to wonder whether this would be my last Yukon fishing trip of the season — a grim realization that accompanies every late September angling excursion.
In truth, battling the wind and waves had weakened my resolve. However, it was still early enough in the day to switch gears, motor back to the car and go for a hike.
Rufus must have read my thoughts because he poked his out from under the blanket and gave me a look. He tolerates fishing trips in the boat but he lives and breathes for hiking.
Giving Rufus a quick pet, I said, “What do you think? Should we give up?”
As I fired up the motor, Rufus tucked himself back into his blanket. On the ride back to my car, I decided to take an unfamiliar route along the opposite side of the lake.
Nestled in the woods just behind a narrow gravel beach was an old log cabin with the roof partially caved in. Nearby was another small structure that appeared to be a dilapidated remnant of the Klondike Gold Rush.
Suddenly, the waves and wind gave way to quiet and calm. Up ahead, a large land mass protruded some distance out into the lake. Rather than cut the corner, I slowed down a bit and hugged the shoreline, watching carefully for more old structures or signs of wildlife.
As I rounded the furthest edge of the land mass, a steep mountainside came into view. Dozens of mountain goats were sprinkled along various ridges at different elevations. Some were foraging and others were quietly surveying their panoramic domain.
The clouds parted and sunshine fell from the opening like a waterfall of golden light. Then I noticed a small stream emptying into the lake no more than 100 yards ahead.
The entire scene reminded me of one of those religious pamphlets. Ready for some Sunday morning fishing salvation, I cut the engine, dropped the trolling motor and recited a popular mantra from Chapter 1, Verse 9 of the Holy Scriptures of Fishing…
“Here fishy fishy!”
When my lure was in position, I put the rod in the rod holder and focused on organizing a few odds and ends on the boat. Maybe a minute passed before I noticed my rod tip was bouncing. For some reason, I assumed my lure was hung up on the bottom but when I pulled the rod out of the holder and lifted it, something pulled back.
Then the rod began thrashing, which is usually the sign of a very large fish. For most of the fight, I assumed I’d hooked into a 20-plus pound lake trout but when I got a look at it nearing the boat, I realized it was only about half that size.
Still, a hard-fighting 10-pound trout was a welcome addition to the bottom of my net, especially on a day when I’d resigned myself to the humiliation of getting skunked.
The weather was so pleasant, that I decided to cut the trolling motor and slowly drift around the creek mouth, casting a large spoon with light-action spinning gear.
After a few casts, I quickly learned that there were more fish holding near the bottom in very deep water. It took over a minute for the spoon to sink to the bottom, but only a few slow cranks of the reel resulted in a solid bite.
Feeling the heat of the sun’s rays, Rufus emerged from his nautical nest and watched intently as I hooked into a second fish. It was yet another strong fighter but when it saw my net, the thick trout ran under the boat and twisted free.
The third hookup was the biggest fish of the day. It took a while to horse it up from the bottom, over a hundred feet below, and wrestle it into the net. At nearly 30 inches long and around 15 pounds, it was too big to keep.
There were more trout, a half dozen of which got away. An hour slipped by and then another. When the fishing was done, Rufus and I sat quietly in the boat watching mountain goats do the things that mountain goats do.
The sun passed overhead. Water trickled from the creek. Leaves fell from the trees. The Mountains stood steadfast.
There was nothing else happening of any importance.