When in doubt go to proven water. The coward's way out. Big Jake did not disappoint for the Deans. Good for them. I was looking for panfish, something different than the blue plate special. Supposed to be big crappies, bluegills and perch in there. Um-um. Maybe the DNR netted them all out in the survey 'cause I didn't find a one.
Could be it was me and my method. Yeah, I wasn't throwing spinners and that's my thing. Instead, at the end of my line was a tiny jig and an unnatural chunk of something that smelled like an plastics extrusion line. Maybe I need to give some thought to the morality of throwing something toxic in a lake clean enough to drink.
Okay, I confess to having a thing for panfish and realize in the land of walleyes those little flat fish don't count for much. Here in Minnesota we've got walleyes in most of the lakes. If the DNR finds one lacking in the state fish they dump a million in. Lord knows we've gotta have our walleyes. On the other hand jumbo perch are hard to find and they're tasty. I keep saying they're the only fish I'd gladly kill and eat. Big Jake's supposed to have them in spades but I've yet to see one. Or a crappie. Seen bluegills but haven't caught a one. And I call myself a fisherman.
The other boys caught way more than their share of middling bass. Happy campers. Oh well, it's better than not catching anything. If Big Jake's anything it's consistent. Wall to wall one to two pound bass. If you want to catch bass by the numbers, this is your lake. Panfish? Guess I'll have to go back and give it another go. They're there, just got to find them. We pulled the plug after the Dean's caught the required three dozen. Time to move on. Oh yeah, almost forgot, it started raining. Slow steady drizzle and building.
We headed to a lodge for lunch. Huddles on the south shore of Leech Lake has been in business since 1928 and is about the biggest mom and pop operation around. Not fancy. Solid and built around the huge muskies up on the walls of the restaurant. And it survived the Depression. We took our time. The food was good and the rain said we weren't going anywhere for a while.
Nine years earlier our first good lake was Three Island. Filled with panfish, some honker bass and pike, and a few walleyes for those into trolling. Pretty lake. No cabins, tree-lined, points, bays and reefs and, of course, three islands. El Dean wasn't along the first year. Back then L. And R. caught more than their share of fish. Not an Iowa bullhead among them and the boys had their mandatory dunking. Somehow they survived and we once again stood at the access.
Three Island is a relatively popular lake. Oddly enough fewer fishermen show up when the wind is down and the weather is good. Big Leech Lake isn't but two miles away as the musky swims. So when it's possible to head out on the big water not many are interested in panfish in little water. Fine with us. Outside of the drizzle we were one boat shy of alone. And we had rain gear.
We'd been back once before but it had been a while, maybe five years. Coming off the water back then we were approached by a man who looked like he'd walked right off the set of The Grapes of Wrath. Don't know where he came from, he simply materialized out of the woods.
"You fellas keep any fish you'd be willing to sell?"
Had to say no to that. Don't know whether we're too lazy to filet our catch or we find the thrill of catching reward enough. Either way we throw them all back and had nothing to sell. The way the man looked I doubt he had more than pocket change. Of course he could as likely had a million dollar motor coach back in the woods and simply had a hankering for some walleye fingers while he watched Wheel of Fortune on his sixty inch flat screen. Regardless, as soon as we gathered at the access again he was the center of the discussion.
Overcast and drizzling, it's a great combination. That and knowing forty minutes south sat a dry cabin, three cords of dry hardwood and a meal warm and waiting. Yes, it was a good evening. The fishing was a cut above fair, mostly bluegills and crappies. Throw in a few bass and pike and it was definitely okay.
Third time on the lake and we'd yet to fish but half of it. Three virgin bays, what was wrong with us? R. and L. set off to the northwest bay to do penance for our neglect. Turned out it was the promised land complete with angel and flaming sword. Maybe that's an exaggeration but the drizzle was now turning into a full fledged rain. Top that off with the forecast of thunderstorms and deluge, we called it an early evening. But not after, bam, bam, bam, R. and L. hammered two bass and a pike. Or maybe two pike and a bass. And the bay did look like the promised land of incredible fishing. Didn't matter, we had a hot dish waiting. Like I said, what was wrong with us?