Mike Stevens – KNEE DEEP

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Friday, September 20, 2019
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Lessons learned in 2019
With another year in the rear-view-mirror, there were a lot of lessons learned on and off the water. Here’s a little of everything from 2019.

NOOOOOO! — Dillon Stevens about to get traumatic lesson in catch-and-release from his dad, Mike Stevens of WON, on a creek in Red Lodge, Montana. He was not in favor of letting this fly-caught rainbow go. WON PHOTO BY MIKE STEVENS

• Black seabass inhaling an entire white seabass within gaff range apparently happens way more often than I ever imagined.

• Two-year-olds don’t really compute “catch and release,” and the first time they witness it, it can be quite traumatizing. My grandma was the same way, “What do you mean you let them all go?”

• Generally speaking, you can almost always get away with heavier line. It may not be as fun, but the fish you’re targeting will still likely bite it. If you’re looking to stack meat on the deck, mix in the bigger stuff.

• I’ve never had the nerve to think I might know more than the Captain and crew, and no matter how much I think I may know, I’m always going to listen to them. This year, aboard the Options, I made a point to do everything the crew suggested to the word, and I ended up hauling up a pair of halibut on back-to-back drops for a combined total north of 60 pounds. My previous personal best flattie was barely legal.

• On the flip side, if you make it very clear you’re going to do your own thing out on the water despite the availability of professional advice, be prepared to be made a target. I witnessed some pretty savage ribbing on the high seas under those circumstances in 2019.

• When it comes to fly fishing, I thought my skill level was getting into the upper levels of “average” now that I have a decent Eastern Sierra playbook. Then I floated 11 miles of river in Montana in a 2-man raft with a guy calling out targets along either bank, and if I missed a target, it quickly became a lost opportunity. Update: I am a beginner fly fisherman.

• The Gucci-swimbait bubble doesn’t appear ready to burst as early as I previously predicted. So now, we wait.

• This SoCal swordfish thing could very well be just scratching the surface on a new frontier. I’m looking forward to seeing how much (targeting them) grows just between this season and next. You can bet on the fact it’s already going on at a much higher level than is being made public. I already have a contact trying to get it done from a kayak, and he’s had multiple hookups on the deep drop.

• Hatchery-truck-chasing trout anglers are still taking themselves way too seriously. Instagram fame is a hell of a thing!

• I’d have two major platforms if I ever ran for president: a growler fill should never cost more than a six-pack, and you’re not allowed to claim “Photoshop!” on a fishing photo if your only experience with the program is knowing it exists.

• With each passing year, I grow more convinced there are lures designed to catch fish, and there are lures designed to win Best of Show at ICAST. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

• South Lake (Bishop) is 20 percent larger than Lake Mary and gets a small fraction of the human traffic. In 25-plus years of fishing the Eastern Sierra, I had actually never laid eyes on South Lake. Then we took a flyer on it on the last day of my week-long trip in June, and while the fishing that day was a legitimate “trip saver,” I also left there putting South Lake up there with Convict and Saddlebag as the most scenic of the region’s drive-up lakes.

• In most bass tournaments in which limits are overwhelmingly 2- to 3-pound largemouth, every fish hooked but lost by a competitor that day was absolutely, positively, without a doubt…”a 6 pounder.”

• There really is no reason for anyone who fishes SoCal salt to not participate in the WON Big Fish Challenge (BFC), which runs for 10 weeks every summer. The registration fee ($10 per target species or $40 “all in”) is negligible when compared to the absurd grand prize hauls you’re fishing for, and the “you’re fishing anyway” factor makes it a real no brainer. The BFC is up there with the San Diego Offshore Jackpot and Lake Havasu Striper Derby in terms of two events on the WON Events schedule I really wish I could take part in as an angler.

• There really is no reason for the chemical spill called “wasabi.”

SOUTH LAKE IS no secret to most Eastern Sierra trout anglers, but it in 2019, it saved a trip for WON Editor Mike Stevens who drove down there from Mammoth on the last day of his vacation. Shown here is his brother, Brian, after releasing one of many trout caught that day. WON PHOTO BY MIKE STEVENS

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