Around 11:00am I was up in the Middle fork and had just boated a 4.1 largemouth on a c-rigged lizard on a long island top I'd found a few years ago. After catching that fish, I cruised up along this island top and saw the largest pack of 3 pound spots I'd ever seen. It looked like the way trout stack up under a bridge on a free flowing stream. There were no less than 50 of them cruising around. One cast with the c-rig and before I can start to wind a fish grabs it and heads off to deep water. Grab the Normark and it pops the scale at 3.40. Needless to say, I took a mental note and decided to leave.
When I took off, I was headed for the back of the river, but something, something I can't explain, caused me to veer left and head into the back reaches of one of the large bays. Once I hit the 5 mph buoys, I looked around and wondered, what the heck am I doing in here, I never catch fish in here. I continued forward and then saw it, was in the back to the right, a long finger point extending off the bank, just like the one I left, even had a big tree to the right side. First cast with a OneTon to the tree and out comes a two pounder, Cool, I think I’m getting a pattern here.
Then I heard the yapping. Way off in the distance. At first, I thought it was just one of those great coincidences and the reason we all love the out doors, I was gonna git ta see a litter of wild coyotes or wolves maybe. I searched the hillside from the sounds and could see nothing. The yapping began to sound more stressful than at first. It was then that I realized something wasn't right, yet I couldn't see or find this young dog that was calling me. So I whistled about three times real loud. The echo was purty cool. Then I saw this ball of yellow come flyin down the rocks. I was amazed at how fast this little yellow puppy was moving, and yappin all the way. It came to a stop at the water line, then just looked at me and yapped some more. It was a distinct cry for help. So I beached my boat on that point and called for it, "Here puppy, come on!"
It finally began scampering at the water line following the five points until it reached me. By this time, I'm out of the boat and sitting on the bow. As it came running up, this puppy, just plopped his self right there and gave me that look of, "thank God I found you, I'm pooped, rescue me!" The instant I picked him up, his tail just began to waggle like crazy. I gave him a big hug, jumped back in the boat and set him down on the seat. He hadn't eaten in some time, Although he had a strong looking body, big head, paws, solid shoulders and hips, his belly section was missing. Much like a bass right after the spawn. I found two breakfast bars, which he gobbled up instantly. I then gave him some water and he plopped down on that seat and went to sleep. He didn't move until I pulled the boat out of the water. Now in safe hands, he was sleeping it off.
I went down to Raleys and got him some food and a bowl. He chowed down good. I still had to go check in at the casino. I decided to leave him in the truck, he was sleeping and doing just fine without having to go back out in the cold. After check in, he was still out like a light until I got to Pat Dilling's place later that evening. He was purty docile at this point and just laid there on the floor as Pat, Kate & I, ate cheese cake and watched some blues videos.
As I went off to bed, I took him to the room, laid out his blanket, and forced him down on it. I jumped up on the bed and proceeded to doze off. Well, ya can imagine what happened next. He didn't like not being able to see of feel me right next to him. His yapping and whining began, I needed some sleep, it was almost 11:00pm and I needed to be up at 4:30am and outa there by 5:00Am. So I picked him up and brought him on the bed. He parked it right there and laid his head on my shoulder and was as content as can be for the rest of the night.
I took him with me the for the first day of the event. Didn't think it was fair to dump the puppy on Pat and Kate, especially since he showed us he was not really potty trained yet. Fortunately, I hadn't been giving him a lot of water, so his puddles were small and we'd catch him. But he got to meet his first Am in a fishing tournament. He actually slept till about noon, but on that initial run in the morning, he found his way into Carlos Delgado's lap. He got Carlos' number too, not ta mention half his sammich, later in the day. He road all bundled up with Carlos each time we fired up the big motor. Carlos kept giving him water, "Dude, he pees in the boat, you gotta clean it!" "Don't worry Cooch, he'll be fine, he's a fishing dog now, he knows ta hold it" Well, low and behold he did, right up until we got to the top of the ramp. I put him on the ground and he instantly pee'd a river. Then he went to the grass and unloaded all that food. Heck with the size of his stomach, and all that he ate, I was amazed after Carlos gave him the sammich that he didn't pass it sooner. But he waited, that was a good sign.
Oh and after we weighed in, he got to run around and was just having a ball introducing himself to everyone. He even found his way to the mike as Long was reading off the weights. Carlos & I had 8.55 or something like that. That put us in 18th and only 2 pounds out of the lead. A very good position I thought since we caught a ton a fish and nothing over two pounds. Shoot, this was a repeat of the Bassmasters for me. A good practice, yet no real quality fish during the tournament.
Day two I drew Tom Cruz. Now this was cool for me. I got sent this dog, them I git to fish day one with "The Mayor" and on day 2, I git a movie star! I am blessed, don't ya think? Shoot, gimme a 3 pounder, then I'll believe I'm blessed for sure! HAR! Okay, back to the dog, I've now named him Orvil, he's taking to it and responding. I thought it was purty fitting and since I already have a Springer named Shasta, I figured why not. Orvil took to Tom right away, and as we blasted off and were heading towards Lime Saddle, Orvil had figured out as he did late yesterday with Carlos, the best place for him while we wuz running was in my partner’s lap! And there he stayed until we got to our first stop. As we got up to fish, he curled up on the seat and went back to sleep. Tom and I began chucking a buzzbait and a spook down the middle of the cove and out around the houseboats. I decided to take a chance and look for that ONE big bite in the first hour or so. I caught on small keeper on the Spook before we reached the back, Tom had gotten nothing on that buzzbait. I just couldn’t stand it any longer, picked up my jig, and began to go to work. Tom on the other hand, stuck with the buzzbait, problem was, I wasn’t moving the boat and he was covering the area over and over like a blanket with no takers. He decided to take a break.
While taking a seat, he grabbed his backpack and took out a fresh new bag of Jerky. Oh man, shoulda seen how fast lil Orvil woke up. Tom, couldn’t resist and gave him a few pieces. As cute as it was ta see the look on that puppy’s face, I knew this would be trouble. For the next hour, as Tom tried ta fish the C-rigged Lizard, he was constantly having to chase down Orvil as that little puppy was hell bent on finding that bag of jerky! This was the first time since I found Oroville, that you could really begin to see the little puppy in him start to come out. He began chewin on everything in site, the bag, rod tips, reel handles, life vest, you name it and he was doing it now with little puppy snarls as well. Tom and I quickly put a limit in the boat after about an hour of fishing back out of this creek arm. We fired up the boat and Orvil quickly assumed his rightful puppy position on Tom’s lap again. The rest of the day, Orvil slept. As we headed into an area in the back of the West Branch I’ve fished before, there was one lone boat back here beyond the bridge. And of course, it was right where I wanted to go.
We pulled up about 100 yards short and on the opposite side and began to fish. I could see the anglers were tossing blades. I explained to Tom we’ll just hang out till they leave, I know there will be fish back here and that boat looks like they are heading out. I doubt they even touched the fish we’re looking for. As we got closer, I could see it was CV. As he was coming out and we got into shouting distance, Cris said they got a limit back there, but cleaned out all the active smaller fish. I’m going, great, here’s the guy who just won the WON finals and he’s found one of the areas I like to fish for the better fish, prolly not gonna be too productive. But it’s a spot I avoided in practice on Thursday and saved for today. I know there are some better fish back here that don’t appear to be getting pressured. So we fish on. Well turns out, Chris did overlook the fish I was fishing for. Tom and I spent about an 1:45 back there and prolly caught 25-30 keepers. We manage to cull out every single fish we’d caught earlier and it looks like I got about the same size limit as the day before. It’s now about noon and time to go look for that 2-3 pounder.
Well, that fish never came, nor did Orvil wake up till we got to the ramp. Once we get off the water and get to the top of the ramp, I put Orvil outside of the boat, he immediately runs over ta relieve himself, three times he pees a river and two times he dumps. What go good Dog! That poor puppy musta been bloated though, remember, he’s been out in the wild fer who knows how long, his stomach ain’t that big. But he held it all day long. The rest of that afternoon, he pranced and jumped around the parking lot making friends with everyone, especially the women and kids. Then Tony Stoltz came up to me and asked, “How’s Orvil? What ya gonna do with that pup Cooch?” Hehehehe, “Well Tony, you should git ta know him, I saved him for you and the kids. He’s the perfect pup for you guys and that new big house. But I’ll make sure he’s ready before I let him go.” Tony is quick to jump back with, “Yeah right Buddha, don’t go there, I remember all too well Max, the last puppy you tried ta pawn off on me. You’ll git attached to Orvil, I know you’ll keep that dog, he’s your new fishin partner, everyone can see that!” Okay Tone, believe what ya will!
After everything was all done at the weigh-ins, Orvil and I put the boat back together and headed on down to Gold Country Casino for the awards. I was purty confident from the weights that I’d heard of, that I prolly moved up from 18th and into the top 10, so I needed to go to the awards ceremony. Once there, Orvil was once again fast asleep, so I left him in the truck. During the awards, it was announced that I got 10th. Upon receiving my check, Mark Mendez decided ta call me up and give a brief little story behind my 3rd partner I had on the boat each day. Little Orvil had found his way into the hearts of many this weekend. Ya just couldn’t help but love that little puppy. And before I left, no less than 10 guys and gals came up and said if I decided not to keep him, they would take him home. I said cool, at least I knew I could place him in a good home.
Upon arriving home, I had ta git ta bed early for I was meeting with Tom Atdkins, the teen I was fishing the Hook with the following day. Orvil got to meet Shasta, who just snarled at him with that look, “Gee dad, ya wanna git this pesky thing outa here!” I knew it would take some time for the animals of my house to git used to him. That night, Orvil, like up at Pat & Kate’s, was not about to sleep by himself on the floor. He went on and on with his yapping. “Okay lil buddy, let’s go hunker in on a sleeping bag in front of the fire place, I need some sleep and w don’t wanna disturb the rest of the family.” Didn’t take him long ta cuddle up and snooze off ta NeverLand.
That next day it was much of the same with Orvil in the boat. He took to Tom right away. And he slept till about 11:00a before he became his active rambunctious self. He got a big surprise when I yanked that 8.5 pounder in the boat. Shoulda seen the look of curiosity and confusion on his eyes ta see a bass bigger than he was! HAR! Well, we git back to the weigh-in and little Orvil is just running around and having a ball. There are far more kids here than up at Lake Oroville, he is stealing their hearts and doing it instantly. At this point, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt who his new family is gonna be, it is all about timing, before I introduce them all. [grins]
Over the next two days, Orvil is home with me getting to know Shasta, they now snuggle up together in the garage at night. And although Shasta snarls at him when he wants to play, the two of them do git into this licky lick kissing game that dogs play. Shasta is now becoming the big sister and as much as I’ve watch the attitude and personality of this puppy change the past few days, I see those same kinda changes in Shasta. This puppy is just so damn easy to love! Even my daughter’s cat Simone is now playing and roughhousing with Orvil. On Monday morning, he get’s introduced to the chickens and goats. He’s all over the yard chasing the birds. The chickens are purty smart and fast, not ta mention bigger than he is and are able to scamper away. Big Boy, my giant Black Rooster, stands up to Orvil. Now we’re talking a David and Goliath look here folks. One loud squawk, wing flap, talon kick and flyin feathers and dust, poor little Orvil goes tumbling over backwards only ta land on all fours with this look of shock on his face. It was too funny. He made his way to my side in a heartbeat. Now he has that look of, “Oh dad, help protect me from that monster” Now I’m feeding the two goats, Buddy & Missy. Two fat pigmy goats. As I enter the cage and close the door, Orvil comes up to the gate to sniff em out, ole Buddy, turns outta no where and rushes and head butts the fence in Orvil’s face. Orvil let’s out that lil puppy yelp and again tumbles backwards onto all fours. Now he’s off looking for the security of Shasta. I have my concerns of how long I can keep him around, especially with out supervision, you can definitely see the bird dog in this puppy, he’s still got his interests in the chickens, especially the smaller range hens, irregardless of Big Boys tirade, I gotta watch Orvil and the chickens from here on out.
About an hour later, I walk out to check on Shasta and Orvil, neither are by the back door. As I call for Orvil, he comes prancing around the corner and my worst fears have come to fruition. He’s got one of the small hens in his mouth. And he’s delivering it to me with such pride and enthusiasm. My wife Liz reaches down and takes the small bird from him. She turns and hands it to me with this very distraught look on here face like, “I told you so!” Orvil’s fate and any chances or hopes of staying with us have just been signed, sealed, and delivered. We’ve got enough natural predators around the house right now like the hawks, foxes and coyotes, that are keeping our 60+ chicken flock at a manageable level. Fortunately, this was one of the wild range chickens that Liz had yet to become attached too. Had it been one of her others, who knows what Orvil’s fate would have been at that moment.
Needless to say, I’m not ready to give him up yet. But I do have to be careful and supervise his visits outside. Over the next couple of days, Orvil gits his medicated bathes, lots of potty training and begins to learn real fast the word “NO”. He now understands the difference between, “Bad dog” and “Good Dog.” He is really a fast learner, this I’m sure is the Lab in him. He also loves ta play tug of war, his teeth are very sharp and his jaw is strong. As each day goes buy, he is getting stronger and more playful. He’s also playing very rough. So at times, I’ve popped him on the snoot and told him “No”, ironically he ignores “NO” and thinks the pop on the snoot is a sign to play more and play harder. So I revert to the swap on his hind end and a loud “NO”. Oh, this he understands! A sharp “NO” and a swat on his butt, is a clear sign to him, he’s done something very wrong and needs to avoid it in the future. Like I said, he learns REAL fast.
On Thanksgiving Day, my mom and dad are over for dinner. My parents have been breeding and showing dogs since I was a young boy of 3 years old. It’s probably where I git my competitive nature for fishing. My mom has worked at El Cerrito Pet Hospital for over 35 years. She’s also been in charge of the East Contra Costa County animal Rescue program. So she brings me the plethora of medication, Advantage, worm pills and a distemper shot for Orvil. They too, just absolutely fall in love with this puppy and assure me that if I decide to not keep him, they can place him in a home. As has everyone I’ve introduced Orvil too has said, after watching that puppy and me, “Andy, your gonna keep him huh?” I told my mom, the same thing I told Orvil, “I’m gonna take care of him, and make sure he has the best home possible, and that may not be with me.”
Just last Saturday, Orvil got to join me on yet another fishing trip. He’s become very accustomed to my boat. Many times all week when I put him outside, if I did not see him on one of the porches with Shasta, I would always finding him snoozing right next to one of the trailer tires of my boat. When we showed up at the Break for the DTT event, he came out of the truck and just began wandering around like he’d been here before. Once I got paired up with my two teens Nick & Andrew, after introducing them to Orvil, that puppy followed those two boys all over the marina until we all climbed in the boat and launched. And as he had in every fishing trip previous, he found his lap to snuggle in, the napped the entire morning of fishing. When we got back at 1:30 for weigh-in, he was up and about, out of the boat and playing with all the kids.
Well, little did anyone but me know, on this day, Orvil was gonna git introduced to his new family. Personally, I thought he was ready and the timing was all too perfect. Ali & Danny Stoltz just fell in love with him as did Tony’s girlfriend April, who said, “You didn’t tell me he was this cute and adorable!” Tony then gave me that look and simply said, “Your killing me Bruddah!” HAR! Ali, Danny, Cory and Sarina all just had a ball with Orvil that afternoon. No less than ten times did they ask me if they could have him. I said sure, but the okay must come from your dad. Then Ali played the Birthday trump card, her birthday was on Sunday. Orvil’s future was signed, sealed and delivered last Saturday afternoon.
I wanted to keep him for one last night and to e able to git all his things together. Sunday afternoon, I delivered Orvil to his new home over at the new Stoltz’ place. They got all his bowls, toys, bones and food, Including a hardwood Birth Certificate of sorts! [grins] I knew that 10th place trophy would come in handy some day! He just loves those kids, as much as I know Danny, Ali, Cory and Sarina will love him. And he’s got a big giant peacock of a bird to play with that lives next door who frequents their yard. Orvil took well to Tony’s Ranger, lot’s of space for this fishing dog, and a dual console for him to nap under. And it was at this point I needed to make my exit from Orvil’s life. As I was walking away and turned to look, there he stood on the bow of the boat with his new family. He had this look of confusion on his face. That same look he’d have when I’d leave him in my truck. That, “Don’t leave me” look.
But as I had promised this little guy from the beginning, “I will never leave you alone and stranded”, I had this great glow and feeling come down upon me, I had kept my promise. You’ll soon forget me, until we meet again. As of today, Orvil is doing great and one happy little puppy surrounded by love. Guess its time I go pay him a visit. I also made him another promise, and one that I needed Tony and the kids to make to me. Every time I had that puppy in my boat and we were fishing, we’d have a great day of fun and fishing, I needed him as my reminder, that this is what fishing is all about, the love of it, and havin fun!
God bless ya Orvil! You are a heaven sent Angel!