Station 51's A-shift drifted from the stationhouse, out to the parking lot, on the way to their respective vehicles. It was the start of a four-day off cycle. There was a breezy camaraderie as the crew departed for their time away from serving the citizens of LA County.
"So you three are really going fishing together for the entire four days." Hank's voice didn't question, but his eyes certainly did.
"Sure," Roy shrugged. "The brochures for the lake really looked nice. Lots of peace and quiet, fresh air, and the company isn't that bad." Roy added the last part as an answer to Hank's unspoken question.
Johnny and Chet joined Roy and Hank. "I'll pick you up around noon," Johnny advised Roy, he then turned to Chet. "Then we'll swing by and get you, so be ready."
"I'll be ready, Gage. You just make sure you aren't late." Chet nodded to Roy and Hank, got into his station wagon and roared off.
"I won't be late," Johnny yelled at the retreating wagon. A pall of burnt oil hung in a blue haze behind the aged vehicle.
Johnny got into his Rover and backed around Roy and Hank. "See you at noon." At Roy's nod he selected first gear and popped the clutch. A grin spread across his face as the tough little engine barked the rear tires.
Hank shook his head at John's adolescent departure. He turned to face Roy. "How do you get away with going fishing for four days with those guys? I'm facing a 'honey-do' list that I probably couldn't finish with four months off."
Roy laughed. "Joanne is taking the kids to her parents. She was actually relieved that I'm going with Johnny and Chet and not moping around at my in-laws."
"Aahh," Hank nodded. "Good plan. Well, you guys have fun, be careful, and don't bring back any fish." He waved at Marco, then Mike, as they passed on their way out of the parking lot.
"Thanks, Cap." Roy used the familiar title unconsciously. "And don't worry, we rarely catch enough fish to bring any back."
Now, only the cars and trucks belonging to B-shift remained in the parking lot.
"Two fishing poles, Gage?" Chet asked skeptically. "How can you fish with two poles? You expecting to break one and need a backup?"
"Chet, shut up and I'll explain how a real fisherman operates," Johnny said with a sly grin.
"Oh, this I gotta hear." Chet crossed his arms and stood solemnly, waiting for Gage's sage advice.
"This one," Johnny indicated his open-faced reel on a light action six-foot rod, "is for worm fishing. It'll just hang over the side until it attracts a fish. Now this," Johnny indicated a shiny new baitcast reel on a medium action six and a half foot rod. "This baby is for casting spinner bait. All the tournament pros use these now."
Chet looked at his beat up old Zebco combo special that he'd had since he was twelve. He squinted in the bright sun light at Gage. "I bet I catch more fish than you and all that fancy gear." He turned and headed for the canoe.
Johnny blinked, started to say something, then just shook his head. He gathered his gear and followed Chet to their rented boat.
The three off-duty firefighters sat in a seventeen-foot aluminum canoe on a pristine lake in Nevada. For the next four days they would fish, camp, and generally enjoy the great outdoors. At least those were the thoughts at the outset of this trip.
Roy let the rays of the late afternoon sun warm him. They had settled into a quiet rhythm of casting and retrieving. The gentle rocking and the quiet sloshing sound of wavelets slapping the sides of the boat, not to mention a general weariness, threatened to lull him to sleep. Roy's head snapped back from a brief doze. He rubbed his hands over his face and looked up to see Johnny grinning at him. Busted… He grinned back at his partner; glad Johnny didn't tease him about nodding off.
Roy took in the unfamiliar surroundings. It was a nice size lake. They were relatively close to the shore on his left. He saw a man up to his waist in the lake fishing while his wife, Roy guessed, sat on the shore in a lawn chair reading a book. At least they're together… He couldn't help thinking about Joanne and the kids.
The boat lurched, knocking Roy out of his reverie. He grabbed the sides of the boat to steady himself.
"What the…" Johnny began, then saw Chet standing up in the bow of the canoe. "For crying out loud, Chet, sit down!" Johnny's mouth flew open when he saw Chet's fishing pole bend towards the water.
"I've got one!" Chet exclaimed excitedly. He struggled with his fishing pole; it lunged towards the water again, nearly pulling Chet in too. "It feels like a whopper."
Roy noticed the boat drifting, or being pulled, towards shore. He glanced at the fisherman he saw standing in the water earlier. The man was waving frantically at them. Roy had to grab Johnny's arm to get his attention away from Chet and his 'catch'. "I think we may have a problem here."
Johnny looked around. "What?"
"Watch that guy fishing over there. Watch closely."
Johnny sat down. "Oh, man," he groaned. He watched as the man hauled back on his fly rod and Chet's rod pulled hard towards the water. Then Chet yanked back on his rod and the man's fly rod stretched towards them.
"Chet!" Johnny yelled. "Stop. You're hooked on that guy's line."
Chet paused in his efforts, giving Johnny a spiteful look. "I am not. It's a fish. I can feel it wiggling."
Johnny paddled the canoe closer to the fly fisherman. Chet reeled in his line as they closed the short distance. A large lake trout appeared at the end of Chet's line.
"See. I told you." Chet's eyes were wide with wonder at the sizeable catch. "What a beaut."
Chet let out an audible groan when he pulled the fish to the side of the boat. His hook had snagged the fish at the tail. A delicate chartreuse Woolly Bugger fly was attached to the corner of the fish's mouth; the attached line led straight to the man standing in the water scowling at them. Chet lipped the fish out of the water, removed his hook, and then slipped the fly from its mouth. He took a moment to admire the beauty of the lake trout; its silvery skin gleamed a rainbow of colors in the sun. Reluctantly, Chet stretched the fish out to the fly fisherman, who waded out chest deep to meet their boat. The trout flipped its tail, jerking out of Chet's grasp, and splashed into the water between the boat and the fly fisherman.
"Look what you've done, you…you klutz," the fly fisherman yelled at Chet.
Chet wasn't all that sorry the fish got away. "Sorry, man. Better luck next time."
Johnny readied his paddle as the man in the water glared at Chet. "Sit down, Chet. We'll head back and set up camp.
Chet slumped back in his seat. "I knew I should've brought my fly rod," he stated in disgust. He removed his hat and adjusted the array of flies on the hook patch. He fingered the dark Woolly Bugger that he had tied himself last week, imagining a large lake trout fighting and stretching his line.