Freedom, trout and the Almighty
Zach Urness/Daily Courier

Lake Selmac is mostly known as a lake to catch large bass, but this season also has seen lots of trout and crappie.

The unexpected gift of a free afternoon in spring means one thing: go fishing. I decided to head south to Lake Selmac, Josephine County’s largest body of water, or risk angering the Almighty ...

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By Zach Urness of the Daily Courier

At exactly 1:19 p.m. this past Friday, my boss informed me that he no longer needed me to work that afternoon.

At exactly 1:27 p.m., I was driving toward Lake Selmac with my fishing rod and tackle packed snugly in the trunk. Reports from the Selma-area lake promised hungry bass in the weeds and dull-witted trout along the shorelines. There was little time to waste.

The gift of an unexpected afternoon of freedom — particularly on a glorious 80-degree day — is not something to be taken lightly. I strongly believe that anyone foolish enough to waste such an opportunity by staying indoors would tempt apocalyptic retribution from a power beyond human reckoning.

And so, being never one to trifle with the disposition of the Almighty, I drove south on Highway 199, turned left at Lakeshore Drive and prepared to go fishing in the sunshine.

It was the least I could do.

As I pushed my boat out onto the water, I looked first at the green hills surrounding the lake, and then at the snow-frosted mountains rising above the hills, and finally upon distant shapes of fellow fishermen bobbing atop the water's surface.

Lake Selmac gained its reputation by producing mammoth bass — the lake even boasted the state record for a few years during in the early 1990s — but I decided to ease into the day by attempting to decrease the lake's population of rainbow trout.

I slipped a nightcrawler onto a red wedding ring lure and began trolling a patch of water along the eastern side of the lake, near a small wooden footbridge and a series of campsites.

A warm breeze rolled small ripples against the bow of my boat, and I could smell the trees on the shoreline. I watched the sun slip in and out of puffy white clouds and was snapped into consciousness only by a quick strike on my fishing rod. The trout attacked my nightcrawler twice more, and the third time I set the hook with a short snap of the wrist. He did not enjoy this development and responded by darting in every direction his brain could conceive, but I eventually pulled in a nice, thick, 14-inch trout the color of an autumn sunset.

The first catch of the day presents you with a choice. Do you sentence the rainbow to execution, or do you pardon him to swim back among his brethren?

My philosophy is usually to show mercy. Unless I have time to clean, cook and eat a whole brace of fish the same day I catch them — or there are pretty young ladies on the shore to impress — I remove the hook as quickly as possible and send him happily back to his kinfolk.

I caught four more rainbows in the same area before trying my luck with the lake’s more famous fish. My attempts at catching bass didn't go nearly as well, however. The only fish gullible enough to swallow my line was a crappie that appeared both confused and outraged to have been swindled.

As the sun dropped lower upon the snow-frosted mountains, and the hills began to glow yellow-orange, I began gradually trolling back toward shore where my car was parked.

I caught one final rainbow trout, who jumped twice out of the water, up into the fading orange light, before reaching my boat. His performance was rewarded with his quick release, and I tidied up my fishing gear and headed to shore.

Few things in life are better than an unexpected afternoon of fishing in the sun.

At exactly 7:15 p.m., I got into my car and headed home.


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