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October 31

Shovels, Shotguns, and Trout

Here is a somewhat scary, strange but true story for this year's Halloween. I have told this story to several people, but never written it before.

About a dozen years ago, in July, I was feeling adventurous and wanted to try a remote stretch of a stream in the local mountains. According to my map, there was a dirt road going down to the stream, which was supposedly passable to ordinary 2-wheel drive passenger cars. I drove up to the mountains, and found this dirt road, which was okay for several miles. At one point, it went straight through a fairly sizable creek, but that was not a problem for my car. Eventually, I came around a bend, and saw that the entire road was washed away about 50 feet in front of me. Fortunately, there was a turnout in the area, so I was able to park my car, and be able to comfortably turn around to go home. There was another passenger car on the other side of the road, an old Sedan type car, perhaps a Buick. (At least it reminded me of the Buick my parents used to own.) I could see that the stream was a ways down from where my car was, perhaps 100-150 feet lower, and looked like it could be reached with a fairly short hike. Thus, I collected my flyrod and fishing equipment, and headed down what was left of the road to go fishing.

There were actually 2 streams in the area which converge, and I had a nice fishing trip as I fished both creeks. I wound up catching several modest size Rainbow Trout in the 7-9 inch range, which I believe are native to these creeks, saw another one that must have been at least 12 inches, that wouldn't bite, and lost 1 or 2 non-native Brown Trout, all using artificial flies with my flyrod. I wanted to leave before it got too late, so that I could drive the dirt road while there was still daylight. Thus, after a couple hours of fishing, I decided to leave. There was a sort of fisherman's trail along the north side of the creek, and as I approached it, I spotted a couple who were also heading back. The strange thing was, they were both carrying shovels and shotguns, but no fishing equipment. The husband, who was an average size Caucasoid type with lots of brown facial hair, and a good sunburn where there was no hair, called out to me. "Hey, Howya doin.?" We converged to talk, despite some trepidation on my part due to the couple's odd and dangerous looking equipment.

The man explained to me that they had gone about a mile farther downstream, for some "fishing" with another couple. He opened up a cloth bag and proudly showed me their catch. There were about 7 or 8 Trout, all around 12-13 inches, very good size for a Southern California creek. About half of them were Rainbows, and the other half, Brown Trout. I certainly wish I had caught fish such as those. Noting their lack of fishing equipment, I was certain that however that had been caught, was definitely illegal, however. I asked the man how they caught the fish, and he proceeded to explain it to me. He said that they had found a good spot to divert a lengthy stretch of the creek, using their shovels (4 people all with shovels), waited for the water to drain out of that area, then herded the fish and scooped up the larger ones by hand. I remained cool about the entire thing, as I didn't want to anger a couple armed with shotguns, but internally, I was pretty disturbed. This guy was definitely "the Redneck From Hell," if you know what I mean. After loudly displaying his flatulent powers of which he was proud, the couple was on their way back to their car. Meanwhile, I saw the other couple, who were lagging behind and also had shovels but no shotguns, come into view.

At that point, I decided that I would try fishing a little while longer, while these characters went on their way home. After that, I returned to my car, and the other car was gone -- so far, so good. As I drove back, however, I soon spotted their car in front of me, driving very slowly. As I approached it, I noticed a very large quantity of some liquid leaking from the car. Perhaps the trip though the creek had damaged some tube in the car's engine. In any case, the car had a problem. I stayed behind the car, memorizing its license plate so that I could call the Department of Fish and Game to report their poaching activity. Before long, the car came to a stop. At this point, I realized that I was going to have to help these "Rednecks From Hell." But I was game; it was only the right thing to do for my fellow human beings. The head Redneck dude told me that his car had sprung a leak in its fuel line, so if he could siphon some gas from my car, and tape the leak, he thought he would have enough gas to get back to civilization. I readily agreed, and he proceeded to tape the leak and siphon 1-2 gallons of gasoline from my tank to his. Fortunately for me, my gas tank was pretty full when I began my trip, so I could afford to give him a couple of gallons. We actually talked in a friendly way during this process, as I ate my homegrown nectarines and offered some to them. I actually felt sorry for them, and all people such as them who live pretty much on the edge, barely scraping by. The other couple, to my surprise, were Hispanic, so apparently, as Redneck as the first couple I met were, they were not racist. The Hispanic couple were looking pretty nervous, and they asked me if I could take them home, given the situation. I could see that they were not happy campers, so I agreed. However, when the taping and siphoning were complete, they changed their minds again, and went with their Redneck friends.

I decided to stay behind them, in case they needed any more help, but the tape and the gasoline held up, and they made it back to the paved road and relative civilization. That was the last I saw of them as they began to speed away once they made it to the paved road. I presume they made it back with their "poached Trout" dinner okay, in Yucca Pie, which was the Redneck guy's humorous reference to Yucaipa, where they lived. In the following days, I thought about reporting them to the DFG, since I had memorized their license plate, but I didn't have the heart to do that to people who were already in such dire straights. They also had mentioned a couple of kids at home, as well. I figured the Hispanic couple would not be trying any such stunts again, since they were finding the whole experience pretty traumatic. And the expense of fixing the car would act as a disincentive to future such adventures to the Redneck couple, I figured. One could call it Karma, natural consequences, or poetic justice, to use a few terms which fit. Meanwhile, I saw a side of life which I rarely am exposed to. I was actually glad I was able to help them out of their jam.