Content provided by Annastasia Tolley
We received Annastasia’s story as part of our Women’s History Month campaign. Check out more fishing stories!
Over the course of this past summer, I found myself religiously watching Animal Planet’s highest-rated TV show “River Monsters.” I was intrigued by Jeremy Wade’s passion and his obsession to unlock the secrets of what lurks beneath the surface. The feeling was so contagious that I too felt the need to cast a line on the nearest source of water with fish that I could find. Luckily enough for me, there is a man-made lake right in my own backyard here in Chico, California.
I google-search for types of fish residing in California Park and results return for bass, bluegill, and carp–and rumor has it that even a few sturgeons have been known to show their presence in this area. I devise a plan that very night that after I finish work the following afternoon, I will head to the local Big 5 Sporting Goods store and purchase my first fishing rod.
As the following morning progresses into the afternoon, I find it hard to focus on my daily work tasks. My mind is focused on one thing and one thing only: fishing! The thought of stepping out of my comfort zone and embarking on something that I have never attempted before excites me. The hours cannot not go by fast enough until I can offer up my credit card as sacrifice and be endowed with my rod of choice.
The clock finally strikes 2:30pm and I power-walk to my car as if I’ve entered some sort of extreme-walking marathon. I cannot turn they key fast enough to get moving… and then the traffic just seems to come to a halt. It’s as if some mythical superpower is working against me. It seems like hours have passed until I finally arrive at Big 5.
I enter the store and immediately notice the fishing section to my left. I head toward the rod section and I am bombarded with numerous choices. As someone who has never fished before, I have no idea which reel combo to purchase. I start to feel overwhelmed with what seems like unlimited options–and no one is asking me if I need any assistance.
Apparently, my ‘mission’ mentality that I still carry with me since my Army days is in full force. Everyone must assume that I really know what I’m doing here. I spend a good 30 minutes, if not more, looking over rods, sinkers, baits, lures, and hooks. The need to make a choice becomes a bit stressful, and time is ticking. What happens if I choose incorrectly? What type of line and lure do I really need? Still, I don’t ask for assistance!
I continue to look over rods and finally settle on the Rody Silent Hunter Limited Edition because the name sounds cool and the sale price of $25 is just right. What little do I know about this freshwater spin combo that is already spooled with 10-pound monofilament line. I wait in line at the checkout and pay for the octopus hooks, multi-hook sets, and some other interesting items with confidence. I am now ready to fish!
The heat of the day is still upon me and the time till it cools off can’t arrive fast enough. I attempt to unravel the line from the spool of my Rody but prove myself to be an utter failure at setting up a fishing rod. I start searching aimlessly through YouTube video after YouTube video and finally land on some great step-by-step instructions. I replay the videos and watch closely, but still I can’t even unhook my line from where it’s clipped in on the spool.
I start to wonder if I’ve purchased defective merchandise. My spirit is in distress and all I want to do is get this right. I feel as if I have failed Angler’s Basics 101! It shouldn’t be this hard! I begin to ask myself “Is it really too much to ask to get out and start fishing?!”
Eventually, I give up for the night at trying to line my fishing rod. I get the idea to go survey the nearby lake where I plan to make my first cast. The body of water right in my backyard is full of algae, and yet kids are still out there casting lines with small glimmers of hope that something will take a bite. I notice that the only life on the water is the geese that temporarily inhabit this area and the numerous turtles that seem to rule the lake.
I walk even further down the trail that leads to an even smaller lake on the other side of a little pedestrian bridge. On that side of the bridge the water is rocky and there seems to be little sign of algae bloom. The little lake is teaming with turtles as well as some very well-fed crawdads. I decide right then that this is the right place to make my first cast.
The next day after work I head to Dick’s Sporting Goods and look for a more suitable rod for myself. I end up settling for an Ugly Stick that hasn’t been pre-spooled. I also buy 30-pound monofilament line because, who knows, I may catch the Lakeview Lake Monster!
Once I get back home, the summer heat is still beating down, but I don’t care! I am ready to fish… once I line my rod. I get back onto YouTube and follow along on how to spool my rod and line it correctly. It takes numerous attempts to do it right. Still, it would have been easier to just go to my local tackle shop for help. But finally, I’ve got the correct setup with no snags in my line, and I’m ready to get out on the water.
As I venture outside on my first fishing journey, the heat is soaring with the temperature over 100 degrees. Nevertheless, I have something that I must do. I find a nice little spot on the smaller lake where it’s shaded in the perfect spots, and I cast my first of many lines into Lakeview. I don’t immediately catch anything–other than twigs, vegetation, and the attention of turtles. I try numerous locations along the small lake but still my luck doesn’t change, and my patience is thinning.
It takes me another two weeks of enduring hours in the Chico heat and developing my patience until one day I wake up from a mid-afternoon nap with the gut feeling that I need to get a line in the water. I head to a spot on the small lake known for its very rocky environment and start casting with my rod of choice, Ugly Stick. It takes several casts before I notice something in the water that I know for sure is not one of those turtles that have been menacing me for weeks.
It’s a fish! I begin to stalk it in the shallows and cast my line in spots close to it, hoping to entice it to bite my hook. (Later, I’d come to know that this would be my first time sight-fishing.) Finally, something bites my line, and its no twig this time–the fish has been hooked! The excitement and adrenaline runs through me, and I can’t believe that it has finally happened!
I reel in my first catch–so overwhelmed with happiness that my patience has paid off. This brilliant fish is a feisty bluegill that puts up a fight to the bitter end, and still fights as I release back into the lake where it was hooked.
Even with temperatures soaring above 100 degrees, I endured and accomplished something I never thought I would do. Maybe I was truly in the right place at the right time, or the Lake Gods decided that it was time for my first catch. Over the next few days I have the same luck on the same lake and at different times of the day. I develop a new appreciation for a skill that I’m improving with each cast.
I remember as a teenager when my late grandfather would tell me stories about his fishing adventures, and I would think how boring fishing sounds. That can’t be further from the truth! Fishing has brought a new appreciation of the little things into my life, and it has brought me even closer to the people who mean the most to me.
I have finally found a new passion in my life, and with every cast into a new body of water comes a new adventure. I have cast a line into Lime Saddle off Lake Oroville and discovered some bizarre monsters lurking beneath the surface. I’ve ventured to a mosquito-infested creek on the outskirts of Butte County and ended up on Whiskeytown Lake dangling my line off a small cliff into its crystal waters. I have ventured even further and have now set my sights on Feather River in Plumas County, where the salmon have started spawning. Male anglers, move over–my story’s just beginning!
Visit our how to fish section to learn about the basic fishing equipment you need for you next adventure.