When my friends Kristine Stuart and Aaron Rygas first joined us at El Salto, I could tell that Kristine was a lukewarm attendee. It’s not that she resisted, but she’s not a huge fan of mornings and didn’t quite know what to expect. Now, three trips into the experience, it’s pretty obvious that the soon-to-be Mrs. Rygas can’t wait to get back.
I’d guesstimate that I have 80 pounds of tackle in the two bags I keep in storage at Lake El Salto. Most of it consists of proven tools, but there are also plenty of items that haven’t produced a single fish for me down there – including flutter spoons, umbrella rigs and various glide baits. Their lack of production might be because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, or because I’ve fished them at the wrong times, or a combination of the two, but the bottom line is that they’re wasting space, and so far they’ve wasted time, too.
Two years ago, when my wife Hanna was planning a trip for women to El Salto, I reached out to my friend Dan Brovarney to see if he knew any ladies who’d be interested. He suggested that I get in touch with Samantha Sukupcak, who “knows everybody.” I followed his advice, and while Samantha couldn’t join us in January of 2017, she identified two other friends who ended up making the trip.
I bought my first Megabass Vision 110 when they started to make a name for themselves at Table Rock and Beaver Lake, but were not yet known in many other places in the US. They certainly weren't available in tackle stores from coast to coast, and ardent acquirers were paying up to a hundred clams to get one in one of the "right" colors.
I haven’t been to Mexico since June, and I’m starting to feel a little bit itchy over the whole deal. I miss the fishing, the food, the people and the weather. I had one day available to fish in the past week and it was this Saturday, when the mercury didn’t rise above 31 degrees, so I elected to stay home.
One of the reasons Hanna and I go back to Anglers Inn again and again and again is because after a dozen or so trips the staff has started to feel like family. Actually, better than family – because none of my close relatives has ever unhooked a fish for me, tied a knot for me, or jumped up from the seated position to carry my overstuffed tackle bag from my boat to my room.
I came home from El Salto a few weeks ago not quite mad, but a little bit disappointed. My biggest fish on this trip was 7 pounds 10 ounces, which made it the second smallest “big fish” on any of the 11 trips I’ve taken there. My smallest big fish came on my first trip, when I topped out at a little over 6 pounds. It is a special place, one that will spoil you, and the vast majority of the time I’ve topped 8, usually several times. To put that in a bit of perspective, I’ve only caught one 8 pounder in Virginia in my life, and that one just pushed the needle to that mark.
I’ve had a front row seat for lots of fishing industry scoop – everything from watching the Classic winner catch the fish that puts him over the top, to staying in Elite pros’ guest bedrooms, to having pro staff coordinators call me for my thoughts on whether a particular angler would be a good fit for their team. I feel like I have a pretty good sense of how certain things operate both on stage and behind the scenes, including some parts of product development, having attended several carefully orchestrated dog and pony shows from various manufacturers.