I'd like to share a story that the more I look back at when it happened a couple of years ago, the less I can believe it. Fortunately, there were four other witnesses to corroborate the episode.
This happened on our annual Canadian trip on Eagle Lake in western Ontario. Actually, it was on Winnange Lake (known locally as Buzzard Lake), which is a hike-in portage lake where our camp has boats placed at the top of the waterfall draining into Eagle. The camp where we stay, Stanley's, is located on the West Arm of Eagle and has several different portages to choose from but this lake has become one of our favorites.
To set the stage, Jay & I are fishing in one boat; John & Pete are fishing with our guide John-Allen who, over the years, has become more friend than guide. On this particular day, he accompanied us on his own time because he felt bad that our guide trip with him earlier in the week was cut short due to a torrential thunderstorm that came through just as we were finishing our shore lunch. That storm wiped out fishing for the rest of the day. Bad luck for us, but that's part of the deal.
John-Allen knows that we only fish with bait until we get lunch; we spend 99% of our time throwing lures for pike, bass & muskie so he isn't constantly baiting our hooks when he goes out with us. Further, we insist that he fish, not guide, so he gets to play rather than work. Being the camp's resident "muskie specialist", and knowing that we were going to have a pretty good chance at them on Buzzard, I think those facts may have factored into his generous decision to join us that day.
Buzzard is a pretty large lake - actually it's more like two large lakes joined by a channel in between. There are endless coves and bays to explore - some large, some small - and during our 10 years of going there, we still haven't hit them all. Our usual attack mode, once we decide on location, is to have each boat take smaller, adjacent bays and work the shorelines and other attractive structure. On the larger bays we work together - one boat will start at one point, the second boat starting on the opposite shoreline point; both boats working their way to the back of the bay/cove. Once this happens, notes are compared, beers are opened, and promising areas worth a second go-round are targeted. Having thoroughly worked a location to our satisfaction, we'll jump to another spot on the map.
On the day of this adventure, we were utilizing our standard M.O. on a rather large bay. Jay & I were on the south shoreline, the other boat was working the northern shore. About three quarters of the way back to the end of the bay, Jay and I both commented that the other guys had been in one spot for quite some time - maybe 30-45 minutes, almost as if they had to resorted to jigging for walleye, which wouldn't be that unusual given the numerous rock piles throughout the area. Finally, they started to move in our direction once again.
Upon meeting up with them, naturally, we asked what they got into at that spot they were covering so thoroughly. Hoping to hear some great tales of angling prowess, we were shocked and mildly amused to hear the real story. Apparently John, while momentarily distracted by who knows what, made a cast resulting in a pretty sizable backlash. Compounding the situation, his distraction and subsequent dismay were worsened considerably when his rig slipped out of his hand, over the edge of the boat, and disappeared into 18-20' of cold, dark water.
No small loss - a brand new loomis rod, curado reel, fresh braid and his favorite Mepp's - all in all, close to $500, gone in an instant. The reason they stayed on that spot was they were dragging baits to try to retrieve it before finally giving up, unsuccessful. After seeing the dejected look on John's face, Jay immediately insisted we go back to the spot and give it another go. At that point we felt that at least John would appreciate our efforts and perhaps be somewhat lifted out of what could be a two day funk.
Having been in a similar situation once with another buddy (and losing 4-5 nice lures in the process), I was hesitant to say the least. Guide John-Allen said the same (in much kinder, diplomatic words than me), but after deliberation and a couple cold ones, we agreed to try. Jay and I each volunteered one big spoon (that had never caught anything anyway). We'll drag the bottom with them until irretrievably snagged. If we lost those, at least we tried, right?
So John-Allen (with the look of "why are we doing this again?"), leads us back to the spot, unaided by GPS. There was a rock pile in the area, the top of which we could just barely make out with our polarized glasses, so at least we had some sort of landmark point from which to start. Given the size of the water, our probability of finding was less than that of a needle in a haystack. As we motored to the spot, Jay had already changed to a large Cyclops spoon; I was still fumbling through my gear to find my virgin Dardevle. When John-Allen said "it was right in this area", I thought he was just being nice. I started to troll slowly over the spot with Jay already scouring the bottom. Just as I was about to drop my "donation" lure, Jay began to slowly reel up.
There aren't words to describe the incredulity of what happened. One of the hookpoints of Jay's Cyclops treble had found its way through the tip-top eyelet of John's loomis. On his very first drop! By far, the most skilled (okay, lucky) catch I have ever witnessed. The look of disbelief on John-Allen's face had to have mirrored my own. The elation on John's face was, understandably, even more priceless. That formerly unnamed bay is now appropriately known as "Loomis Bay".
John-Allen told us that protocol in such instances was that "rightful ownership" of John's rig now belonged to Jay. Of course, Jay declined. Jay & I later concurred that for the next several years, he can still reap the benefits by reminding John of the incident. As in - "John, can you carry the gas can, net, cooler and minnow bucket? No? Remember when..." or "John, since that rod you caught all your fish on today was the one I rescued for you, can you go down to the dock in the pouring rain and get my tackle box?" You know, that sort of thing. I figure he's got a good ten years of "mileage" coming to him for his efforts.
I don't remember much about the fishing the rest of the day, nor did any of us need to. However, there was one exception. Toward the end of the day, Jay had some serious line twist in his reel and peeled off several yards to fix the problem. While doing so, his lure sat on the bottom of the lake. As he reeled in the slack and his line became taught, attached to his lure was a big, fat, beautiful lake trout. Talk about good karma! Had there been a Canadian lottery retailer within 100 miles, I would have insisted he go buy a ticket.
Lessons learned? Don't get distracted when casting, and as the late Jimmy V once famously said - "don't give up, don't ever give up".