New water. This year's spring trip the Boundary Waters will be to a lake I've never paddled. But it's not as much of a mystery as it might've been twenty years ago. More so had it been fifty like my first trip to the waters of the Arrowhead. Back then we fished lakes without a clue as to what we might or might not catch. That we tied into some smallmouth bass came as a complete surprise. Same thing back in the early '90s concerning the little lakes near the cabin. You root out a way to get onto the lake then start searching for Lord knows what. That's what my mind's eye sees when it conjures up mew water.
The lake Brian and I will fish is not a mystery these days even though we've never seen it. The internet has provided us with the fish we can hope to catch, where to find them, probable sizes and what the campsites look like. Dozens of photos provided through the wonder of computers and communication satellites. So is it new water? Yes, but it sure's not an unknown.
Yet there still remains a mystery or two, weather and bug hatches. Brian and I have spent seven nights camping in the Arrowhead in the last two years and haven't shipped a drop. Even the skeeters and black flies have left us alone. Makes me nervous. In in the northwoods of Minnesota there's always a piper standing down the road. How far is never known till he taps you on the shoulder. Then you better have the rain gear near at hand. And maybe a head net.
I have no great expectations. Small ones yes. Might be different if my son-in-law and grandson were coming up. There's a thrill in sharing something as wonderful as wilderness camping and fishing. And the flip side of knowing the excitement and fears of the newcomers. Canoe towing pike balanced by wilderness bears. Camping out and noises outside the tent in the dark. The possibility of shared wonder with Ryan and Jakob would no doubt get me jabbering away on the drive up. I do that a lot. Do my best to paint a picture of what the next few days will be like and don't do a good job of it. Create expectations that only pan out one trip out of ten. Might be best to keep a leash on my mouth and let reality speak for itself when the time comes.
Yeah I'm happy to be in my seventieth year but there's a part of being ten once again that has its appeal. A man with many thousands of casts under his belt knows well the odds of a lunker being at the end of his line. A ten year old has expectations. Big ones. Knows the fish of a lifetime hasn't yet been seen. Makes me happy there's a little bit of kid left I haven't outgrown. Just enough to keep me on my toes with each cast. Pick a likely spot, lay my lure or fly as best I can and work it in. Small expectations are reason enough to pay attention.
For now Ryan and Jakob are no more than maybes. Brian is for sure, as is our upcoming trip. When I made the permit reservation it looked like an early spring in the Arrowhead, maybe too early. Not so anymore. Seems like winter is holding onto three feet of snow up there. Temperatures this weekend are supposed to drop below zero. Gets me thinking of frozen lakes to the end of May. It's happened before, might happen again.