Fishing upside down, Part VII
Fishing and hunting
BILL LYNCH stalled mid-span on the zip line and had to be retrieved by the canopy ride guide.
Photos courtesy of Huilo-Huilo Preserve
Heights are a very natural thing to fear. My branch of human development evolved from apes that stayed on the ground, with good reason.
I know other humans who clearly evolved from tree-climbing ancestors – my wife, Dottie, for example. She was always the one who went with our kids on scary rides at the fair while I guarded the baby stroller.
The thing I looked forward to most in the Huilo Huilo Biological Preserve in Chile last month were the remote, unspoiled trout streams. Dottie was excited about the canopy ride (zip line), thought to be the longest (and possibly highest) in South America.
El Vuelo del Condor the locals call it – the Flight of the Condor. I should have read up on condors.
It never really sunk in until the drive to it. Our four-wheel-drive truck kept climbing higher, switchback after switchback, up the steep side of a dormant volcano. Up and up we went, and I kept thinking, “Just how far do we have to go to be above the treetops?”
The going got steeper and finally the truck stopped and we, wearing harnesses and helmets, followed our guides along a narrow, tree-lined trail even higher up the steep mountainside. We reached a small wooden ladder leading to what appeared to be a wooden landing about 15 feet off the ground.
“That’s a little high for me, but I can handle it,” I thought.
It wasn’t until I got up on the platform; saw the steel cable tied to the tree and where the other end led that my legs turned to Jell-O. The cable stretched out into nothing but thin air, the kind condors apparently fly in. Whatever was below was so far down I couldn’t even see it – rocks, crocodiles, the bones of previous canopy riders – whatever. As panic gripped me, I wondered what the little bicycle helmet they gave me was for – to scoop up what was left after I plummeted to earth?
The guides demonstrated how we attached to the cable and told us to hold the harness connection with one hand and use our other, onto which they placed a heavy leather garden glove, as a brake to slow down if we got to the landing platform too fast.
One of the guides went first, the line made sort of high-pitched zinging sound as he disappeared into space. Katherine Culligan went next, followed by Dottie. Then it was my turn. I honestly don’t remember much about the launch. I was like a condemned man walking the plank. I remember being hooked onto the cable and the other guide reminding me that the glove was my brake. Then I was out in the air, not sure whether it was the cable or me making that high-pitched screaming sound. The wind made my eyes water as I zipped along.
I must have learned the braking part better than the zipping thing, because as I neared the middle of the 500-meter span, I started to slow down and then stopped.
And there I was, dangling high above the chasm, twisting slightly in the wind.
I’d like to say that I knew I was in no danger and remained calm. That would be a lie.
Instead, I kept muttering “Oh sh--” over and over until one of the guides zipped out, attached a line to my harness and dragged me to the landing platform. Apparently it happens all the time when one uses too much brake. Now they tell me.
Tom followed without a hitch and a smile on his face. Yeah. Go ahead and rub it in, Tom.
That was the first of five long flight sections. Tom, Katherine and Dottie loved every one. They flew like condors. My legs were so shaky I could barely hike to the next launch platform. But I did, and on each flight I flew, too, but more like a crazy, runaway chicken with no brakes – flying as fast across the chasms as I could, barely slowing as the guides stopped me from crashing into the landing platform. When I walked away from the last landing, I felt like a guy who somehow escaped the gallows. Dottie just laughed and said she’d like to do it again.
The next day, Tom and I went fishing, and it was better than good – both of my feet were on the ground, even when they were in the water.
Fishing near Sonoma picked up this week in spite of the midweek storm. Striped bass fishing in the Bay, “… is the best it has ever been this time of year,” said Keith Fraser, at Loch Lomond Bait Shop in San Rafael. He added that the sturgeon bite had also turned on this week with the better tides and fresh rainwater. The best action is near the Pump House and China Camp.
Valerie Lightborne, at Leonard’s Bait Shop at Port Sonoma, said that fishing up and down the Petaluma River is excellent now, with a lot of guys catching stripers and some undesired sturgeon as far up as the Petaluma Marina. Joel Sinkay has plenty of fresh live bait, including bullheads at the shop for this weekend’s action.
Capt. Rick Powers, at Bodega Bay Sportfishing, is still finding plenty of Dungeness crab and sand dabs for his customers this week, and said that the upcoming salmon opener in April is looking good.
Bass fishing at Lake Berryessa, Clear Lake and Lake Sonoma picked up this week as the water warms. Anglers are finding bass in the shallower water and fishing their lures very slow for best results.