Annastasia Tolley’s fishing story

Maria Elisabeth Dominguez

Maria Elisabeth Dominguez


Content provided by Annastasia Tolley

We received Annastasia’s story as part of our Women’s History Month campaign. Check out more fishing stories!

Over the past summer, I religiously watched Animal Planet’s top rated TV show, River Monsters. I was intrigued by Jeremy Wade’s passion and obsession with unraveling the secrets of what lurks beneath the surface. The feeling was so contagious that I too felt the need to cast a line at the nearest water source with any fish I could find. Fortunately, here in Chico, California, there is an artificial lake right in my own garden.

I search Google for fish species that live in California Park and the results come back for bass, bluegill and carp – and rumor has it that even some sturgeon are known to show their presence in this area. That same evening, I make a plan that, when I finish work the following afternoon, I go to the local Big 5 Sporting Goods store and buy my first fishing rod.

As the following morning turns into the afternoon, I find it difficult to concentrate on my daily work tasks. My mind is focused on one thing and only one thing: fishing! The thought of stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something I’ve never tried before appeals to me. The hours cannot go by fast enough before I can offer my credit card as a sacrifice and be equipped with my rod of my choice.

The clock finally strikes at 2:30 p.m. and I run vigorously to my car as if I had run into an extreme marathon. I can’t turn them fast enough to move … and then the traffic just seems to come to a standstill. It’s like a mythical superpower is working against me. It seems like hours have passed before I finally get to the Big 5.

I walk into the shop and immediately notice the fishing area on my left. I head towards the rod section and am bombarded with numerous opportunities. As someone who has never fished, I have no idea which reel combination to buy. I feel overwhelmed by seemingly unlimited possibilities – and no one asks me if I need help.

Apparently my “mission” mentality, which I’ve had with me since my army days, is fully in place. Everyone has to assume that I really know what I’m doing here. I spend a good 30 minutes, if not more, looking over poles, sinkers, bait, bait, and hooks. The need to make a choice gets a little stressful and time is ticking. What if I choose wrong? What kind of line and bait do I really need? Still, I don’t ask for help!

I keep looking over rods and eventually choose the Rody Silent Hunter Limited Edition because the name sounds cool and the $ 25 retail price is spot on. What do I know about this freshwater spin combo already spooled on 10 pound monofilament line? I wait in line at the checkout and pay with confidence for the octopus hooks, multi-hook sets and some other interesting items. I am ready to fish now!

The heat of the day is still on me and the time to cool off can’t come fast enough. I try to loosen the line from my Rody’s spool, but prove myself to be a complete failure setting up a fishing rod. I start aimlessly searching YouTube videos for YouTube videos and finally land on some great step-by-step instructions. I replay the videos and watch them carefully, but I still can’t check off my line from where it is jammed on the spool.

I am wondering if I bought defective goods. My mind is in distress and all I want to do is get it right. I feel like I failed Angler’s Basics 101! It shouldn’t be that hard! I’m starting to wonder, “Is it really too much to ask to come out and start fishing ?!”

Finally I give up for the night to try to line my fishing rod. I got the idea to overlook the nearby lake where I want to do my first cast. The body of water right in my back yard is full of algae, and yet the kids are still out there, throwing lines with little glimmers of hope that something will take a bite. I note that the only life on the water is the geese that temporarily live in this area and the numerous turtles that seem to dominate the lake.

I continue down the path that leads to an even smaller lake on the other side of a small footbridge. On this side of the bridge, the water is rocky and there doesn’t seem to be much evidence of algal bloom. The little lake has teamed up with turtles and some very well fed crawdads. I immediately decide this is the right place to do my first cast.

The next day after work, I go to Dick’s Sporting Goods and find a more suitable rod for myself. I end up going for an ugly stick that hasn’t been forwarded. I’m also buying 30 pound monofilament line because who knows I can catch the Lakeview Lake monster!

As soon as I get home the summer heat is still bad, but I don’t care! I’m ready to fish … as soon as I’ve lined my rod. I go back to YouTube and follow how to reel my rod and properly undress it. It takes numerous tries to get it right. Even so, it would have been easier just to go to my local tackle shop for help. But in the end I have the right setup with no hooks in my line and I’m ready to hit the water.

As I venture outside on my first fishing trip, the heat rises with a temperature of over 100 degrees. Still, I have to do something. I find a nice little speck on the smaller lake where it’s shaded in the perfect places and I throw my first of many lines in Lakeview. I don’t immediately catch anything other than branches, vegetation, and the attention of turtles. I try numerous places along the small lake, but my luck still doesn’t change and my patience is failing.

It takes me two more weeks to spend hours in the chico heat and develop my patience until one day I wake up from a nap with the gut feeling that I need a leash in the water. I go to a point on the small lake known for its very rocky environment and start throwing Ugly Stick with my rod. It takes several tosses before I notice something in the water that I know for sure is not one of the turtles that have threatened me for weeks.

It is a fish! I start chasing it in the shallows, throwing my line in nearby spots, hoping to trick it into biting my hook. (I later learned this would be my first time fishing.) Eventually something bites my line and this time it’s not a twig – the fish has been hooked! The excitement and adrenaline rush through me and I can’t believe it finally happened!

I reel in my first catch – so overwhelmed with happiness that my patience has paid off. This brilliant fish is a vivacious bluegill who will fight a fight to the bitter end and will still fight if I let it back into the lake where it was hooked.
Even at temperatures above 100 degrees, I endured and achieved something that I never thought I would. Maybe I was really in the right place at the right time, or the Lake Gods decided it was time for my first catch. Over the next few days, I’ll be equally lucky at the same lake and at different times of the day. I develop a new appreciation for a skill that I improve with each occupation.

I remember as a teenager when my late grandfather was telling me stories about his fishing adventures and I thought how boring fishing sounds. That can’t be further from the truth! Fishing has brought a new appreciation for the little things into my life and brought me even closer to the people who mean the most to me.

I finally found a new passion in my life and with every dive into a new body of water comes a new adventure. I threw a line in Lime Saddle off Lake Oroville and spotted some bizarre monsters lurking beneath the surface. I ventured into a mosquito infested creek on the outskirts of Butte County and ended up on Whiskeytown Lake, which dangles my leash from a small cliff into the crystal clear water. I’ve ventured even further and now my sights are set on the Feather River in Plumas County, where the salmon have started to spawn. Male fishermen, move over – my story is just beginning!

Visit our fishing section to learn more about the basic fishing equipment you will need for your next adventure.

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Maria Elisabeth Dominguez

Maria Elisabeth Dominguez is a bilingual writer with international experience in journalism, corporate communications, social media, public relations and radio production. Emotional connection and creative solutions are the key words of this enthusiastic Venezuelan social communicator with 12 years of background experience.