Perpetually gray, continually covered in a thin layer of clouds, desaturating the overwhelmingly drab hues of the desert, it gave a sense of twilight. To decode the reasons for the lake to maintain a mysterious air brings me back to my first visits. Sunny day trips were inevitably squandered by the cloud cover looming over the proverbial castle of Frankenstein himself. Conjuring thoughts of the deranged, but the thoughts were not unfounded. Some years ago, someone lost their truck down the boat ramp and when the scuba divers went to retrieve it, they found a different vehicle with an entire family trapped in their car at the bottom of the lake. No sign of the truck, however. Maybe it was the dismal brown of the lake that hid its secrets, maybe the clouds hovering above that covered up what the lake had done. Maybe staying too long could pull you in as well.
During the summer, the water changes from heavily creamed coffee to a chalky shade of green. In neither situation does the light penetrate to see what is underfoot. Could be anything down there, any depth, any creature. Around the bend could be a skin walker or any number of mysterious beasts. The air of the unknown. The landscape and the imagination wide open and empty. Rather than be filled with real and rational, instead, the mind wanders to parts unknown.
Colloquially, it is referred to as “THE DEAD SEA”. No fish in New Mexico is more tight-lipped than the ones found here. All the while adding to the idea that secrets are abound. There is the distinct possibility, they too, fear what is around the corner. Fear of the beasts themselves who lurk within.
We shuttled along the riprap of the world’s 11th largest earth-fill dam. The blackness of the massive basalt structure disappeared at the shoreline. For the second time in my life, the skies overhead were clear. Only, this time we didn’t have a wayward rattlesnake trying to seek refuge in the boat. The high altitude sun was brutal. The air was still and quiet. No other boats or children playing, no airplanes or birds, just a fly line sailing through the air. That familiar whistle evoking the mind’s deepest thoughts of the world.
No fish yet. No carp stacked in the inlet of the mighty Rio Grande, no bass on the cliffs, no pike in the grass. All hope was fading, ushered out by the burden of heat exhaustion. Our options dwindled equally. The last hope was a small population of bluegill and perch that I knew were in the lake. There have been rumors of white bass, but in all of my days I have yet to see one. I sat in the boat looking at materials to jumble together to make a small enough fly and commenced tying the stupidest fly to date. Just a hook with black dubbing and black shimmer fringe. I lobbed a cast at the bank with everything I had left and saw a familiar white flash. Game. Set. Match. I had found the elusive white bass.
…Or so I thought
Maybe the beasts and denizens around the corner, although unexpected aren’t really that unreal after all. Definitely not as frightening. Unless, you are afraid of crappie.