Hayden Mellsop - The Accidental Angler

We sat on the lake’s shore in the sun, gazing back toward the mountaintop from which we’d just returned.

A Forest Service fire lookout, barely discernible from this distance, sat at the peak, itself a long-dormant cinder cone. The lookout afforded sweeping views of the surrounding countryside, up to 100 miles distant on a clear day.

Atop, we’d eaten a lunch of sandwiches and plums while sitting on a convenient boulder, while wildflowers swayed in the breeze and bumblebees droned lazily among them, alighting here and there.

From this vantage point the lake on the shore of which we now sat had reflected the immaculate blue of the sky overhead. In the near distance Mount Lassen loomed, its volcanic flanks still sporting generous portions of snow, while 60 miles further north Mount Shasta, partially obscured by the dirty gray smudge from a forest fire burning somewhere in neighboring Oregon, punctured the sky line.

The shore on which we now rested, little more than a narrow strip of sand and gravel holding back a dense forest of red fir and pine, murmured with activity. At the far end of the beach two fishermen picked their way cautiously along a rocky shoreline then paused before simultaneously casting out into the lake.

Closer in, a fellow pair of hikers sat on a deadfall, boots and socks in the sand, feet dangling in the water. A teenage girl tried unsuccessfully to balance atop an underinflated paddleboard, simultaneously screaming and laughing at the shock of her sudden immersion.

Closer to us, a 20-something guy with a trucker’s tan stuffed a couple of cans of beer into the cup holders of an inflatable doughnut then waded out thigh deep before turning and jumping into the doughnut. Using a tree branch he’d taken from shore, he attempted to maneuver further out in the lake using the branch like a gondolier’s pole, but wind and wave worked against him and he merely spun in ineffective circles before being washed back up on shore, whereupon he took one of the beers and flopped resignedly in the sand.

From around a distant point appeared a kayak, borne toward shore on the same breeze that had stymied the efforts of the guy in the doughnut. First, flashes of yellow and red betrayed the paddle blades then, as it approached the shore, the blue of the kayak differentiated itself from the blue of the lake.

“That’s them,” said my daughter, recognizing the occupants as her grandparents, who had paddled the circumference of the lake while we’d hiked to the lookout. The waves pushed the kayak ashore and we helped drag it up on the sand.

As we congratulated each other on our respective achievements, the two fishermen from earlier trudged past, heading for the other end of the beach.

“I didn’t think there were any fish in this lake,” I remarked.

“There aren’t,” said Poppa.

“Should we tell them?” I asked.

He thought for a few seconds. “No,” he said. “Why spoil a perfectly good day’s fishing with that particular news.”

I thought of this wisdom as we loaded the kayak onto the roof rack, and agreed, ignorance being the better part of bliss.

Hayden Mellsop is a Realtor with Pinon Real Estate Group and a former fishing guide.