Columnist Recasts A Fishing Classic
‘The fish is my friend too,” he said aloud. “… But I must kill him.” - from the “Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway.
The line goes out and out but it is slowing now, and I am making the miserable slimy beast earn every last inch of monofilament.
I am the old man on the pond. Dan Gannon’s tiny private pond that he has stocked with 3,000 hungry Kamloops - all for the taking.
Gannon’s fish farm a few miles east of Riverside is a paradise, especially for outdoor weenies like me.
This is fishing without the misery.
You don’t need a license. You don’t have to obey a limit. You don’t have to sit in a cold boat all day listening to your boorish beer-soaked buddies drone on about their imaginary exploits with women or fish.
On Gannon’s Pond (call 292-2411 for appointments), the rainbow-striped Kamloops trout average 4 pounds. Nobody goes away skunked. Just toss in a line and pay him $2.50 a pound for all the lunkers you haul away.
Hundreds have done just that, says Gannon, who gave the following demonstration after I arrived:
He picked up a pole. Three casts later the fish farmer pulled out a scrappy leviathan.
Yet for some Godforsaken reason known only to “X-Files” script writers, the fish gods conspire to make me look like a dork.
It takes an hour and a half of throwing a baited spinner into the small, fish-crammed pond before one of the dumber ones decides to commit suicide.
“Wow. I’ve had people come in and 15 minutes later they’ve got a dozen fish,” says Gannon, checking his watch. “I thought I was going to have to get out the bobber and resort to the kid’s method.”
The struggle between Doug and Kamloops is epic.
“He took all his pain and what was left of his strength and his long gone pride and he put it against the fish’s agony and the fish came over onto his side and …”
Soon my vanquished fish lay on the grass, wheezing like an old Marlboro Man. “The fish is my friend,” I mutter, opening my scalpel-sharp Chris Reeve combat folding knife. “But I must kill him.”
The land was mostly swamp when Gannon and his wife, Diane, settled here in the 1970s.
They cleared the brush and dumped load after load of fill dirt to slowly transform muck into firm ground. Diane got the idea to create a fish farm after reading a newspaper article on the subject.
So the Gannons dug a channel and created a series of ponds. They laid more than a mile of underground pipe. The water comes out of a creek that is supplied by the Pend Oreille aquifer.
All the minerals make their fish taste as good as any pulled from a lake, he explains.
“This is like a vine-ripened tomato. Our whole goal was to create a complete ecological cycle. But it was a lot of hard work. We have probably 30,000 hours of construction time.
“Everything had to be done inch by inch.”
But when you start chasing a dream, there is no guarantee of success. That’s life in America.
An agonizing bout of gout laid up Gannon for months. Although private fish farms thrive in other parts of the country, business here has been a steadily losing proposition.
Saddled with debt, unable to advertise the way he should, Gannon is having to sell off chunks of his property to keep his trout farm afloat.
“Spokane is 20 years behind the times,” laments Gannon.
Maybe so. But maybe the problem is more elemental than that.
Maybe there are just too many beautiful lakes around and not enough outdoor weenies like me.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo