Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Delusions and Salvation Desert Trout Part 3

Leaving Pyramid Lake after fruitless hours of casting and retrieving purple crystal buggers on the South Nets Beach I headed for town to check into my hotel and prepare for work. The overnight reservation had been made by my employer for the next two weeks. Tired and wind beaten I had made no attempt to recover from the two day drive out of Fort Worth. The two weeks ahead would serve as an on the job interview at what was and still is by some considered to be the premier taxidermy studio in the country. I needed rest, food and to be out of the elements.

After all these years I don't remember which hotel/casino it was I walked into still a bit dazed and confused from the drive out and my unproductive day on the water. Growing up as southern Protestant doesn't prepare a young man for the atmosphere of a downtown Reno casino/hotel. It's not that I hadn't seen my share of sin and debauchery it's just that as a southern Protestant we're taught to do it in private so we've got something to be ashamed of come Sunday morning.

I hadn't seen that much smoke in one room since my post high school, rock & roll pot and keg party days. Though we had our share of mind altering drink and substances we never had hookers hovering around the bar or those clanging slot machines. We knew the wandering ladies of our parties and confined our gambling to poker the best we knew it then. My wanton days of high immorality were long gone by 1994. I had spent years trying to remove myself from such scenes of open immorality. I thought I had seen it all; my delusions of worldliness were shattered. It was all I could do not to turn around and walk out. The only reason I pressed through to the lobby and the check-in counter was pride and fishing. If I turned and ran now it would be in defeat and there would never be another chance to fish Pyramid Lake, the real reason the journey had been made in the first place.

After checking into what still remains the most dismal room I've ever slept in I called Sharon to let her know all was well. There was no mention of the scene downstairs. Why would any sane man mention that scene to his wife? I had no intention of partaking in any of it but there's never an occasion when mentioning such things is a good idea.  Luckily exhaustion had caught up so sleeping was not a problem.

Work was a rude awakening. Working alone in my little garage shop didn’t prepare me for the magnitude of what I walked into on Monday morning. It was all overwhelming and completely different from what I had experienced working in other small shops around D/FW. These guys were world class and the learning curve was extremely steep. By the end of the first week I had been openly insulted by the boss, laughed at by a couple other taxidermists and taken as an apprentice by another. I learned later it was all a part of the process to weed out those with a weak constitution and test egos. I was really ready to hit the lake come Saturday morning but I was also way behind that learning curve, trying to get the grasp of everything that was being thrown at me and wanting to finish the Mule Deer mount I was working on.

By lunch time the Mule Deer mount was pinned and drying.

During the week I had secured better housing arrangements. No more hotel/casino nights. Two nights there were more than enough. I stopped by for a change of clothes and my daily call home before heading back out to the lake to try again. I had also acquired the proper fast-sinking shooting head, running line, backing and a new reel spool along with an expanded set of flies.

All week I had been making inquiries about where to fish for the best chance of encountering trout without the crowds that gathered on the North and South Nets Beaches. The word was the area near the pyramid would be my best bet. The drive took me a different route than that of the week before. Once you leave I-80 at Wadsworth the landscape takes on a surreal, foreboding character. Once again I found the thrill of the unknown creeping up my spine like the fear before jumping off a high cliff into a lake. The one little voice in my head was telling me one thing while the other pushed me forward.

The town of Nixon on the south end of the lake offered no comfort just more unfamiliarity and an uncaring mood. On subsequent trips up to this side of the lake my view of Nixon changed drastically. The small reservation town fits the landscape perfectly. What started out as foreboding and unfamiliar became comforting and eventually moving as time spent on and around the lake mounted. It was to become my solace, the only thing that could sooth me in the absence of Sharon. Whether it was just the landscape, the fishing or both I still can’t say even today 24 years later.

Driving north of Nixon the NV-447 winds up onto a natural promontory over the lake. For just a moment I could see almost the entire length of it. It had not occurred to me the week before how large the lake is. What I thought from that vantage point was the pyramid turned out to be Anaho Island, a much larger rock formation just south of the pyramid. It finally dawned on me as I made the turn off of NV-447 toward the pyramid and trout island. Bouncing along the dirt road an almost overwhelming feeling of solitary insignificance took over. I had never been confronted with such a landscape. After making the arduous drive across the southwest on I-40, down to Las Vegas then up along US-95 it seemed the further this journey took me the smaller I felt. Driving along what was once the bottom of an ancient sea can do that if you let it and I let. There was no way to fight it so rather than struggle I decided to roll with it.

I stopped adjacent to Anaho Island in sight of what I knew now to be the namesake pyramid shaped rock formation to take it all in. Pelicans and sea gulls circled Anaho, both on the ground and in the air. The stark landscape in shades of white, grey and rust contrasted against the azure blue of the lake’s surface was moving and frankly a bit frightening all at the same time. The lack of human presence was palpable in a way that a storm cloud in the distance makes its presence known whether it’s coming your way or not. I thought about how work was going and what an awakening it had been to how little I actually knew about the work I was doing.

Off in the distance I saw a vehicle parked by the lake. It looked to be a pickup and I could just make out a fisherman standing in the water casting. Despite the fact I had made the trek to this side of the lake to escape the crowds I was suddenly drawn to be near a human. I restarted the truck and went off to find the road that led to where my immediate salvation lied.

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