Fishing guide John Garrison pulls the "Babe Ruth" of fishing

by: SCOTT STAATS/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - John Garrison with a 25-inch bull trout.

I've often said that the hardest fish to catch are the first one and the last one of the day.
   I try to will that first fish to bite, visualizing the tip of the rod starting to dance, the setting of the hook and the fish eventually in the boat. This seldom works, however.
   Once that first fish miraculously finds itself on the end of my line, a false sense of confidence builds and I think I can catch fish all day. Then the second hardest fish awaits-the last one. How many times has it been said, "Just one more fish and we'll go." This sentence has resulted in many missed dinners or even sleepovers at a lake or river.
   But getting back to that first fish . . . The other day a friend of mine, and long-time fishing guide John Garrison, invited me to tag along with him to Lake Billy Chinook to try out a new boat he recently bought. Of course we threw in the rods in hopes of getting a bull trout to bite.
   As with most people I fish with, Garrison often out-fishes me. However, on our previous outing, I did somehow manage to catch five bull trout to his one. This rare occasion called for a little ribbing on my part, but that short-running streak was about to come to an abrupt end.
   We sometimes partake in a bit of spirited competition-the first fish, the biggest fish, the most fish, etc. It's not out of the realm of reality that Garrison will yell out, "Got one." I turn to see what he's hooked into when he says "Just kidding."
   So here we are up the Metolius arm of the reservoir and he's piloting his new boat as I'm casting to shore. I might add right up front that I probably made several hundred casts that day and only turned two fish.
   Finally, Garrison grabbed a rod and did something I haven't heard about for many years. He pointed toward shore and said, "One cast, one fish." I simply laughed.
   Of course this reminded me of Babe Ruth's called shot in the fifth inning of Game 3 of the 1932 World Series when Ruth pointed to center field and hit his second homer of the game on the next pitch-over the center field fence.
   I paid little attention to "Babe" Garrison's remark and continued my fruitless casting campaign until he cried out, "Fish on!" As he has remarked in this fashion so many times in the past, I again thought of him as the guide who cried bull. However, this time it wasn't bull, but an actual bull trout.
   Oh great, I thought; I'll never hear the end of this. From the bend in the rod, it appeared the fish was the usual size that I catch-16 to 18 inches. This won't be too bad a burn on me if it's just a little fish, I was thinking. However, as the bull trout got closer and we both saw its white flash, I slowly and made my way to the net. Now I knew I would never hear the end of this.
   I even missed the fish on the first pass with the net and assured Garrison that the fish was just too quick and the miss was not intentional. When the net and fish finally made it in the boat, the Rapala instantly detached from the trout. Just think, one more miss with the net and the fish may have gotten off.
   The plump fish measured 25 inches, an inch over the legal keeper size. Garrison decided to keep the fish and his day of fishing was over. New regulations state that it's unlawful to continue angling for any species of fish once a bull trout has been harvested. I tried to tell him it's like getting an elk opening morning and ruining the rest of your hunting season but he didn't buy that.
   As the captain continued to pilot his new boat around the reservoir, I commented on the beauty of the surrounding canyons and the many bald eagles flying about in search of their next kokanee meal. This is typically what anglers comment on when they don't catch any fish.
   All of the fish we caught on our last two outings came while casting Rapalas near shore in about three to ten feet of water. Over the years, Garrison has had more luck casting for bull trout in April but has caught several nice fish while trolling earlier in the season during March. He'll be fishing the Metolius arm of Lake Billy Chinook for most of April until the high lakes open for the season. He'll also be fishing the Deschutes arm of the reservoir for rainbow and brown trout. For more information or to book a trip, call Garrison's Guide Service at 541-593-8394.
   So, was it luck or was it skill? Each of us has our own answer to that question, but the fact remains-he did catch that fish on one cast and even called it. One thing we did agree on, however, is that he should christen his new, lucky boat One Cast, One Fish.
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