Bodine gets an early taste of tall fishing tales.
Anglers have a knack for spinning a yarn, so to commemorate the opening of the 2016 Fishing Season I decided to listen to some experts. One of the best spots to catch a tale is at Tom’s Place Resort, just a cast away from Crowley Lake. But, the place is full of wise guys that it’s hard to get a straight answer out of anyone.
Local Fred Johnson told me his first catch of 2015 was a seagull tangled in monofilament dragging a lure. He bragged that the bird flew away after he untied it and he saved the lure that went on to become one of his favorites.
Johnson’s buddy Andy Lehr was quick to point out that Johnson was alone in the boat when the bird incident happened and there’s no way to confirm the tale.
Judy and Tom Walsh of Lancaster wanted me to believe that their dog, Freckles, caught a rainbow trout last year when nobody else could get a bite. Judy caught a “big” fish last year and got her photo on the Tom’s Place wall. I call it “big” because it weighed between three and five pounds depending on who you talk to. Their grandson, 4-year-old Riley wouldn’t come in out of the blizzard of the 2015 Opener until he limited out.
I asked Dean Leonard, veteran gateman for Crowley Lake Fish Camp, how long he’d been working there. His reply, “Since 6 a.m.” His favorite spot to fish is the hatchery and his opening day cocktail is PowerBait and cricket hoppers.
Leonard’s lived in the area, off and on, since 1953, gathering a treasure trove of tales in that time. His quick wit and sarcasm make the stories even funnier. He had a story of two guys coming up from Southern California to throw a line in. They rented a cabin and a boat and spent the entire day fishing but didn’t catch anything until the next day. On the way home, one angler turned to the other and said, “That fish cost us about $1,500 a pound.”
The other replied, “Good thing we didn’t catch two.”
Leonard was willing to answer some frequently asked questions from fishermen. He doesn’t know when the best time to fish is because he’s never caught a fish that’s wearing a wristwatch. He doesn’t know if fishing is better under a full moon or starlight because the lights are always on at the hatchery.
I asked Leonard if he’d ever seen an angler too drunk on opening day. From his favorite barstool at Tom’s Place, he took a pull off his rum and Coke and said with his eyes wide, “They all look fine to me.”
He attended Hot Creek Elementary School and high school in Bridgeport. After high school he chased women, he told The Sheet. But it’s hard to chase women without a car. So, he became a car guy, and was at a wrecking yard all the time, poking around for parts. The owner of one yard eventually offered him a job.
He opened his own yard in the 1980s in Sun Valley, CA “down the street from the Foothill Police Department.” Surrounded by cars, he started racing them. He said he raced stock cars “for almost 40 laps” and crashed a lot.