Mike Stevens – KNEE DEEP

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018
My Lottery Lake
Friday, January 25, 2019
Tough Love: trout edition

2018: Lessons learned
There’s always a long list of topics swirling around in my head that I think could make a decent column one day in greater detail, but I’m not quite there yet in terms of information at hand and the angle of attack I’d take. There were a lot of those this past year and most of them fit the “revelations” genre, epiphanies, or things I straight-up didn’t know existed until 2018. What follows is a few of them, along with the bare minimum of context for various reasons:

There’s a Christmas tree “hunting” season. Really, there is. For sure in NorCal, and I can only imagine where else. They issue tags and close the season when the harvest limit has been reached and everything. If you cut one out of season, are you a “poacher?”

Deckhands get seasick. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, two of the three on the same trip (along with over half of the passengers). God bless ‘em, turns out they are men, not machines! They were younger guys, but deckhands nonetheless. It made me feel less bad about feeling it a bit myself.

“Full rack bendo!” I can’t think of anything I’ve heard on a boat make me laugh as much as that one. Captain Wes Flesch on the Options would yell that every time he would drop down a Sabiki rig and come up with five mackerel on as many hooks. It was really in the delivery — as if it fired him up just as much as landing a tanker seabass — and I can’t really do it justice here.

Vegetarian hunters exist. Indeed, they’re out there. Good for them. I still don’t think I’ll hear of a vegan hunter any time soon, though.

Fishing for rockfish can be fun. Braid has scaled down the size of the rods, reels and tackle needed to fish for them, and feeling the tap, tap, taptaptap of a 10-inch fish 200 feet deep is very cool. Thanks braid.

Top-level bass anglers are obsessed with the idea of calico bass. I got to work with a bunch of them at an event out at Kentucky Lake in Tennessee — I’m talkin’ the household-name BASS, FLW and Major League Fishing guys here. When they heard I was from Cali­fornia, most of them grilled me on all things calico bass.

Trailcameras are being used for fishing purposes. I’m not sure how widespread the practice is, but it’s definitely happening, and it’s actually quite genius. That’s about as far into that as I would like to get into because I am not interested in winding up in a hole in some corn field.

Stock-truck-chasing trout anglers are still convincing themselves they need a $250 rod. Eastern Sierra trout fishing arguably occupies the top spot on my preferred brand of fishing list, and I’ve still yet to think to myself, “You know what? I really wish this $70 Daiwa Presso was better at (insert rod function here).” Multiply that by 100 if I’m chasing stockers on local lakes.

Having a column topic blatantly ripped off, rewritten and passed off as an original thought on a website actually felt kind of cool once the steam stopped spewing from my ears. Glad I helped you hit that deadline, buddy.

Charismatic megafauna” is a great term for dealing with anti fishing/hunting folks. I first heard it from Steve Rinella on the MeatEater podcast and it basically means the wildlife that most people tend to care about above all others. If there are stuffed animals or calendars made of them, they fit the bill, which is why the ignorant masses knee-jerk to saving every last sea lion but couldn’t care less about a salmon. Ever see a kid lugging around a Tickle-Me Salmon?

Public Land laws, history, battles and madness is one of the most fascinating fall-down-an-Internet-rathole and read-all-you-can topics I have ever been exposed to. It’s a huge deal in our western states, and I couldn’t join Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and support the front lines fast enough once I became even a little informed.

That seasick deckhand trip was loaded with first-timers, and the thought that most of them might never get on a boat again bums me out. Maybe a public service announcement needs to go out urging charter masters to opt for a cushy summer outing rather than a late November 3/4-day if you have a boat full of rookies.

“Florida likes fishing” was something I heard an industry mentor originally from Cali­fornia say at an event in his new home state. I think what brought it up was, I was boarding his boat and realized I didn’t have a Florida fishing license yet. He then gave me a web address, and I bought one ON MY PHONE while we grabbed some live bait. I did the same thing in the backseat of a Jeep on the way to Kentucky Lake, so apparently Tennessee likes fishing, too. I imagine many more states also like fishing, and I wish mine did more.

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