Chaos in trying to get a trout into the creel at West Branch
Imagine only one McDonald's in all of DuPage County. Then think about how long the line would be at the drive-up window.
Do that, and you have a pretty good picture of what it was like on the opening day of trout fishing season at the DuPage County Forest Preserve District's West Branch Deep Quarry Lake.
I was at the lake by 5:30 a.m. But right away I knew I should have been there about the time the moon came up, not just before sunrise. Because the line of cars waiting to get in stretched a good half-mile from the entry gate.
By the time I got into the parking lot, I got a taste of the calamity that has been predicted if state leaders don't come up with money for public transit. Cars' bumpers were inches apart and no one was going anywhere. A couple of angry anglers were laying on their horns.
I managed to wheel my way out of this mess and drove off to park in the far south lot. No problem getting in there. But getting to the lake took a long, treacherous walk in the dark.
I heard some rustling in the tall grass. Probably some deer. Or trout in oxygen masks, knowing what was coming, waiting to ambush me.
I finally got to the lake. There was a pretty good crowd of anglers already on the shore. But I did find a spot that had a good deal of distance between the fishermen to the right of me and the one to the left of me. So I set up to fish.
Then a guy came crashing out of the woods to wreck my day.
Ernest Hemingway, the greatest trout fishermen ever, once wrote: "Somebody just back of you while you are fishing is as bad as someone looking over your shoulder while you write a letter to your girl."
Only this guy was right at my shoulder. And he brought his girl with him.
She put a bobber on her line that was the size of Jupiter. I don't know what kind of fish she expected to be able to pull that thing down. Maybe the kind that Roy Scheider shot at the end of "Jaws."
Abandoning all angling etiquette, she tossed her setup into the lake, nearly crossing my line. Then her boyfriend did the same, almost crossing her line.
Who needed hooks? You could just tangle up the fish in all the lines that were in the water.
At least I got the gratification that the rude couple did not catch a single trout.
But neither did I. Everywhere else, anglers were reeling in the stocked fish. And I seethed. I wanted to do a Bobby Knight on my worms, shaking them violently and screaming at them to get going and get me a fish.
Instead I packed up and left.
I went out again the next morning. It was much less crowded.
But after two hours of drowning worms and throwing into the lake every spinner and lure in my tackle box, I got one stinking fish.
And it wasn't even a trout. It was an ugly, odd looking thing, something that had to have been bred from a carp and a Chihuahua. I released it. You don't eat something like that, unless you want to turn into a Chinese toy.
I called it a day. It was the first time, in a trout season, I didn't get one for the pan.
Instead, I went out to dinner.
And hoped that no one would lob a big bobber into my soup.