The Tribe that controls the lake made a slew of rule changes during the thick of the VID pandemic, and for reasons unknown they decided to close the beach we used to occupy in years past to camping. My brother spent many an hour eyeballing the map, and eventually decided that Fishless Beach was the perfect place for us.
Three of his friends headed up on Thursday and claimed a piece of sand just far enough from the shitters so that we wouldn’t smell them yet they’d still be convenient.
I loaded up my truck Thursday night and was eastbound a few hours later on Friday. At that hour it was an easy drive through the city, over the bridge, and across the central valley. I stopped for gas in the foothills, and then continued east up the western slope of the Sierra Range towards Donner Pass, where in 1846 some pioneers headed for California spent a rough winter buried in snow and ended up eating each other.
The big rigs monopolized the right lane on the climb up the grade, hazard lights flashing, and they crept up the asphalt no faster than a well trained runner.
As the sky brightened I could see fresh snow on both sides of the highway. Not enough to alleviate the drought, but still welcome.
Upon reaching the top of the summit the sun came out of hiding. It filled the windshield with a blinding light, and I put on the song I always play when I'm driving at this time of day.
Snow and trees morphed into desert, and the highway soon ran parallel with the Truckee River as it descended the eastern slope into Nevada.
Not long afterwards I stopped at a warehouse-sized hotel/casino, the outside of which had been dressed up with Old West, Hollywood-set style facades. Let’s call it Sadville: a blot of pathetic depravity just off the interstate. Mix the smell of stale cigarettes and desperation with the image of obese gamblers and seventy-year-old cocktail waitresses in high heels and mini skirts around in your brain. Add a handful of ignorance and a healthy dollop of misery, and that’s Sadville. Best to shower soon after you leave. For several years now Neil and I have always stopped at Sadville for breakfast while on our way to fish Ladder Lake, and traditions must be upheld.
I navigated through a sea of slot machines to the 24/7 restaurant, where a heavily tattooed ex-con led me to a booth with a view of the entrance. Neil was half an hour behind me, so I asked my waitress if there was someplace I could buy a newspaper. I might as well have asked for directions to the local blacksmith. With nothing to read, I sipped a beer while memorizing the menu, and was finishing my second when Neil showed up. We both ordered chicken fried steak and eggs, and after finishing our meals we headed over to Cabela’s.
Neil hates Cabela’s. He used to love Cabela’s but claims that once BassPro took them over, the stores and selection turned to shit. Cabela’s hadn’t opened yet, so we drank a beer in the parking lot and waited for the doors to unlock. Another tradition. By the time they let us in, the chicken fried steak had worked its magic, and we were thankful that the restrooms were just inside the entrance.
In February I got Neil drunk at the Fly Fishing Show and we booked a trip to Baja. Since then I’ve been teasing him about being undergunned for the fish we’ll be chasing and trying to convince him that he needs to buy a twelve weight. I send him videos of guys catching big marlin, roosters, dorado, and tuna, and always follow them up with, “So do you really think your ten weight can handle something like that?” Some of the walls in Cabela’s were adorned with taxidermied big game fish, and this presented another opportunity to plant some seeds of doubt into Neil’s brain. I looked up at an eighty pound rooster and said, “Man, I wouldn't want to try landing something like that with a ten weight.” Neil said nothing.
I found a used twelve weight for sale, picked it up, and gave it a shake. It had all the wiggle of a two by four. “This is what you need, Neil. Right here. Nice twelve weight. And it’s on sale. A bargain. Wanna know how I know? Because it's in the Bargain Cave.” He gave out a grunt and then turned and wandered over to the clothing department. We left soon afterwards, had another beer in the parking lot, and then split up. Neil headed for Sportsman’s Warehouse to return a gift he’d received for his birthday, and I made my way to the lake.
Cornholio called just as I reached the beach. I met him on the sand and we caught up over beers and cigars. I noticed he had two fully rigged fly rods sticking out the back window of his truck, and said, “Looks like you’re ready to go fishing.”
“Those are the same rods and reels I used last time I was here. They’ve been sitting in the garage like that for over a year now.”
In the lake in front of us were eight guys, all on ladders, and all exactly the same distance apart. They were fishing with indicators. Behind them was their guide. Hands in his pockets, he walked from one sport to the next, checking their flies and the length of their tippet. They most likely had been there all morning, and they stayed until four. None of them touched a fish.
Once everybody in our group showed up we unloaded the trucks and set up camp.
Once that was out of the way, we put on our waders, made our way down to the lake, and started fishing. I noticed Cornholio dunking his reel in the lake and said, “What are you doing?”
“The reel keeps seizing up and grinding. I probably should have rinsed this shit off before leaving it in the garage all year.”
As the afternoon progressed, more and more motor homes and travel trailers arrived and claimed spots on the beach on either side of us. Some parked their rigs and set up their camps no more than a dozen feet from the water.
Fishless Beach lived up to its name, and eventually everyone in my group left and went in search of greener pastures. I was in no mood to do any more driving, so I stayed behind and spent the remains of the day emptying the cooler.
That night three of my brother’s friends made dinner. Rather, they heated up the dinner their sister made for us. Stuffed shells, Italian sausage, meatballs, and garlic bread. Spicy and good.
Cigars and Hobo Spice for dessert around the fire pit, and what I estimated was a thousand dollar fireworks show put on by a group on the beach south of us.
I was the last one up Saturday morning. Everyone had been fishing for a couple of hours by the time I crawled out of the truck, and they hadn’t caught shit. I cracked a beer, put on my waders, and walked out into the lake between Neil and Cornholio’s ladders. The water was cold, and we were all bundled up in fleece, waders, jackets, gloves, hats, etc. I made a few casts and then noticed a little kid about a hundred yards to my right, walking towards the shore. He was well short of four feet tall, wearing nothing but swimming trunks and a pair of flip flops. We all watched him march out into the lake until the water touched his nipples. He had what looked like a little Zebco rod reel combo, and after digging his feet into the sand, he wound up like a major league pitcher and launched a Rapala into the horizon with all of his might. I heard Neil say, “That kid is a stud,” and we all hoped he’d hook a nice one. He stayed out there all day, casting away, until his parents finally called him in for dinner. Poor guy never touched a fish.
Neil, Cornholio, and the rest of the group soon tired of catching nothing, so they decided to try their luck elsewhere. I had no desire to travel, so I cracked a beer and bade them farewell. I took a stroll up to the outhouse and made a deposit, and was glad I’d brought my own TP, since there was none available. After that I walked back into the lake and resumed casting the streamer I’d tied on earlier.
More and more people arrived as the day progressed, and a young couple, Kevin and Vanessa, pulled in and made camp roughly 100 feet to the left of our fire pit.
I’d been looking at the far bank of the lake and the clouds in the sky while stripping streamers for well over an hour, and Vanessa proved to be a welcome distraction. She drove down in a shiny F-150, and the back of her truck was loaded with still-in-the-box gear. She had a brand new canopy and a brand new tent, both of which Kevin helped her set up, but she unloaded everything else in the truck by herself and set up the rest of their camp on her own. She had chairs, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, a gas grill, a propane tank, coolers, pool toys, a free standing hammock… Tons of shit. Everything one might need for a romantic weekend on the beach. She’d also brought her dog, a good sized German Shepherd.
I’d had a few beers for breakfast and needed to take a piss, so I reeled up and started walking back to camp. When Kevin saw me leave the lake he jogged over and said hello.
“Hey man! Catch anything?”
“Aw, sorry to hear that. So hey, like, do I need a permit to camp here?”
“Really? Damn! So like, where do I get one? Nevada Game and Fish?”
“Nope. You’re on tribal land. You need to buy one from the Injuns.”
“Really? Damn! So like, can I do that online?”
“Sure. But I’m not sure how you’re going to print it.”
“Well, can’t I, like, save it on my phone?”
“Maybe. I couldn’t say.”
“Cool. Thanks man.”
“You bet. By the way, is that your canopy?”
“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea. It can get pretty windy out here.”
“Oh it’ll be fine. We got it secured down really well.”
“Well I’m sure you know what you’re doing.”
“Yeah man, we’re good. Thanks.”
I walked back to camp, took a piss, grabbed a beer out of the cooler, and then walked back into the lake. Cast, sip, strip. Repeat until the can is empty, and then walk back to camp, take a piss, and crack another cold one. I did this until noon and didn’t touch a fish.
Eventually everyone made their way back to camp, and Neil, Cornholio and I made lunch. Smash Burgers and fries. Neil went all out on the toppings. Bacon, grilled onions, sauteed mushrooms, a variety of cheeses, sliced avocado, sliced tomato, lettuce, pickles, sliced red onions, mustard, mayo, ketchup, relish, BBQ sauce.. I’m sure I’ve left something out, because there were a lot of fucking toppings.
After lunch Cornholio looked at his phone and said, “We better make sure everything is nailed down, because the wind is going to get fierce this afternoon.” We took his advice and then settled around the fire pit, where we had an excellent view of Kevin and Vanessa’s campsite. Cornholio commented about their tent and canopy, then re-checked the weather app on his phone and said, “In fifteen minutes their shit is going to get majorly fucked up.”
“Nah, they’ll be fine. Dude told me they've got everything ‘... secured down really well.’”
And then it came. Like Zeus blowing on a birthday cake covered in ten thousand candles. The first gust lifted their canopy and twisted it into a pretzel. The second gust did the same to their tent. The third gust shredded their hammock, and while they scrambled about trying to save what they could, the boxes that everything had come in went rolling down the shore, like dozens of cardboard tumbleweeds.
After they had everything more or less under control, Vanessa made a phone call, and an hour later a large, white, fleshy couple with a Pit Bull showed up with more gear. The male wore shorts and a tee shirt, and exposed his cavernous ass crack to the world every time he bent over; like someone had ridden a bicycle through fifty pounds of dough. The female wore a black one piece bathing suit. Her arms and legs were covered with tattoos, and she looked like a walking Rorschach test.
Vanessa had taken down her mangled tent and thrown it into the back of her truck, and her friends set up a new tent in its place. The fabric covering the canopy was gone, but they left the twisted skeleton of the frame in place, and everything that hadn’t blown away was underneath it. Apparently they thought the damaged frame’s stick-like shadows would offer some kind of protection from the elements should it start to rain. Vanessa changed into a pair of Daisy Dukes and a bikini top and then fired up the gas grill and served everyone burgers. After that she waded out into the lake with one of the pool toys she’d somehow managed to save and started hitting the vodka - hard - and we soon discovered that Vanessa was the kind of gal who had trouble controlling her liquor. Half an hour earlier she’d been sitting in Kevin’s lap, nuzzling his neck and cooing into his ear, but now she was on her toes, jabbing a finger into Kevin’s chest, her face inches from his, screaming, “FUCK YOU KEVIN, YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT! I FUCKING HATE YOU! I HATE YOU, YOU FUCKING FUCK!”
Vanessa, though attractive, had a limited vocabulary when she was angry, and she repeated this short diatribe over and over again for the next thirty or so minutes. Kevin, who was sober, never replied to her. Or at least not that we could hear. The German Shepherd and the Pitbull however picked up on Vanessa’s anger and started going at it on the beach, at which point
Cornholio said, “Damn! I haven’t seen a dog fight since I was back in the Philippines! Can this get any better?”
“I know, right? It’s like having front row seats at a Jerry Springer show.”
The other couple tried to intervene and said, “Vanessa! Calm down!” but it had no effect. Vanessa spent the next half hour throwing her stuff around the beach and screaming at Kevin.
Eventually Kevin sought respite in the front seat of the truck and locked the doors. When Vanessa saw this she staggered to the truck, pressed her face to the window and banged on the glass with her fists, screaming, “FUCK YOU KEVIN, YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT! I FUCKING HATE YOU! I HATE YOU, YOU FUCKING FUCK!”
Kevin eventually emerged from the truck with a backpack and a duffel, presumably all he’d brought for this romantic weekend on the beach. He’d had enough, and he started walking.
Cornholio said, “Damn! There ain’t nothing but desert for miles around here! Homeboy must think he has a lucky thumb. Hope he’s right.”
Ass Crack tried to talk Kevin into staying, while InkBlot tried to prevent Vanessa from killing him. Then a vehicle pulled up, Kevin got in it, and he was gone.
Vanessa went batshit. She got on her phone and started lighting up his voicemail with “FUCK YOU KEVIN, YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT! I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU LEFT ME! I FUCKING HATE YOU! I HATE YOU, YOU FUCKING FUCK!”
Then she started sobbing and was back on the phone. “KEVIN! I LOVE YOU! I MISS YOU! PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME! PLEASE COME BACK!” followed a few moments later with “FUCK YOU KEVIN, YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT! I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU LEFT ME! I FUCKING HATE YOU, YOU FUCKING FUCK!”
And so it went, until she filled up Kevin's voicemail. She then resorted to stabbing text messages into her phone with such violence that we thought she might dislocate her fingers.
During one of her sobbing spells, Ass Crack put his arm around Vanessa and said, “There there, Vanessa, it will be OK.” InkBlot did not take kindly to this, and now she was in AssCrack’s face screaming “WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT? ARE YOU HITTING ON MY FRIEND RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME? FUCK YOU!”
That fired up the dogs again, both of which were now bleeding.
Vanessa kept staggering back and forth across the beach, crying and screaming and hurling all of the shit she’d brought into the back of the truck. She was too drunk to drive, so once the truck was loaded AssCrack got behind the wheel, fired up the vehicle, and hit the gas. The tires started spinning and sand started flying, and in a matter of seconds he buried the truck up to the axle. He got out, looked at the truck, looked at us, and then headed in the other direction in search of help. He convinced some Texan in a jacked-up four by four to pull him out, and then off he went, followed by Inkblot and Vanessa. They’d left their firewood, so we went over and grabbed it.
While all of this was going on, a group of Mexicans drove down to the beach, towing a trailer that held a pair of jet skis. They backed up into the lake until the water was halfway up the doors and unloaded the jet skis. I was certain they’d get stuck, but they drove out as easily as they went in.
“Guess they didn’t want to pay the boat launch fee.”
Once they parked the truck, they jumped on the jet skis, did a series of doughnuts in the water a few feet from the beach, and then tore off across the lake. They returned about fifteen minutes later, and after throwing back some beers, off they went again. This pattern continued until a couple of hours before sunset, at which point they once again nearly drowned their truck in the lake while trailering the jet skis. Once again they drove out without any problems, and I could only assume that the spot they’d chosen was covered with rocks instead of sand. Once everything was secure, two young men, each with a beer in hand, climbed on the trailered jet skis. Whoever was driving the truck then gunned it and started racing up and down the beach.
Cornholio said, “Damn! Between the lake water and that sand, by tomorrow his truck is going to sound like my reel.”
Once the show was over, everyone went back to fishing while Cornholio and I started on dinner: Egg rolls (of course), pork fried rice, chicken satay, deep fried meatloaf, shrimp tempura, pot stickers, and some other stuff. I can’t really remember it all, but there was a lot of food, all of it good. We wrapped it up with pineapple cobbler, and that night I slept like the dead.
By the time I crawled out of the truck the next morning, the dishes were done and Neil was getting ready to leave. There’d been one helluva storm during the night (hail, wind, rain) that had soaked our camp and kept everyone awake but me.
My brother and his friends wanted to try a new spot, so they jumped in their trucks and took off. Cornholio and I said goodbye to Neil, and then waded out into the waters of Fishless Beach.
We caught nothing.
Cornholio then loaded his truck and headed home. Most everyone else on the beach was doing the same.
Some guy towing a travel trailer stopped on his way out and drained his wastewater onto the beach. Once he'd left a couple of dogs picked up the scent and started rolling in it.
By the end of the day there were only three of us left. My brother and his friend were scheduled to cook dinner that night, but decided to start packing up instead. We drove to town and had dinner at a sports bar, then headed back for one last night on the beach. Another storm rolled through during the night, and Cornholio had warned us that a bad one was supposed to hit at noon the next day, so at sunup we finished packing, loaded the trucks, and headed home.
My brother caught the big fish of the weekend. Not the thirty pounder he was hoping for, but enough to win the annual trophy.
A few more pictures.