Tuesday, June 19, 2018


     After all these years I should be good at it but most every time we head off to the boonies I manage to forget something. That's why I start packing better than a week in advance. At the moment a pot of spaghetti sauce is simmering on the stove, all my clothes are packed, rods and tackle checked and double-checked, and the food's bought. But eating away in the back of my brain is the sure-fire knowledge I've forgotten something.
     On Friday, my son Allan and I are off to Red Lake, Ontario. Saturday morning we climb in a small floatplane and fly to a cabin on a river system that might or might not be good fishing. The scary part is the weather forecast. It's too good. Highs in the eighties every day, favorable winds, and no rain. Good reason to pack the sunscreen.
     We have a week to explore around seven hundred acres of the small chain of lakes that form the headwaters of the Nungesser River. There's walleyes, pike, and perch and I've packed for all three. However, our gear is simple, spinners, jigs, plastics, and a half-dozen rods and reels. Even packed the fly rod and am determined to use it a lot (we'll see).
     Also as usual, I've got the pre-trip jitters and get depressed that once again Allan and I are off to the woods. That usually lasts as long as it takes to start the car and back out of the garage. Then it's ten hours of conversation, music, and staring through the windshield as the world slowly changes from Interstate to backroads.
     You can bet I'll be the one behind the wheel when we cross the border, will misunderstand every question I'm asked, smile stupidly, and hope the guard has a sense of humor. Good thing Al has good ears.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Eye of the Beholder

     In the last week or two I've watched a couple of big pike fly fishing videos. The one with a pair of Swedes—I recall it being on FLY TV and titled Shallow Water Monsters— was the best. They were a pair of amiable guys who sounded pretty much like you'd figure English speaking Swedes would sound. You know, pretty much like us Minnesotans. And they did catch some big like. A lot of big pike.
     Briefly they showed big, fluffy flies they were fishing and then upped the ante with a monstrosity of a jointed thing. Seems like when fly rod fishers go for pike and muskies they leave the number twenty-four midge hooks in the box. Don't know what they'd cost but figure them at south of ten bucks a pop. Way too rich for my blood.
     Anyhow, I recalled tying a few pike monstrosities a couple of years ago but had never used them. Rooted around for a few minutes, found the box, blew the dust off and checked them our. A few were not much bigger than bass-sized, most were around four inches and a couple were seriously hideous, eight inch, floating popper affairs. Damnation, they were not only ugly but absolutely perfect. There were even a few beaded, garishly colored, homemade lightweight versions of an inline spinner. Wow, I even got a little teary eyed looking at the mess I'd made of perfectly good material.
     They're packed and heading to Ontario with Allan and I. Best part is, if I don't catch anything it won't surprise or disappoint me in the least.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Never-ending Winter

     April 19th and the ground is still buried under seven inches of white. The ice normally sinks from the local lakes around the 10th and now looks to be at least two weeks away. Call that late, late. Figure the up north lakes at a week or so after. The Boundary Waters lakes I would most likely fish, another week after that. Not that big a deal, it's happened before. Back in '66 the ice came off the lakes my buddy Rod and I were fishing on Memorial Day, went a long way toward explaining our bad luck a week later.
     So what does a fisherman expecting at least three trips up north this year do? Oils reels and winds line of course. Yup, they're ready to go even if Mother Nature ain't.
     There is an upside. The small, fly-in lakes my son and I are off to in late June should be primed and ready for action. Yeah, hope springs even if spring doesn't. I've got a vision of those Nungesser River widenings and it tells me they fit me about right. All told, no more than eight hundred acres with the biggest at a spit over three. Even the name, Night Hawk Lake, draws me. Wrote an entry a few years back that'll be in Deadman Lake when it comes out titled, 'Small Lakes Fit Me Best'. Yup, where we'll be going could easily be fished by canoe. There's even what appears to be a mile and a half of navigable river that'd take us north into Nungesser Lake proper should we want to flounder on big water. But being a cheap bugger at heart, the extra cost for an additional flight is beyond my idea of affordable.
     All the spinners are wired up and done. Eight of them are even double bladed. Don't know if they'll work but we'll find out.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Nail Polish

     Back home and it's time to paint the blades. The idea is to replicate a Mepps #5 red and white without getting too cute and violating any copyright or patent laws. Don't know if that's a consideration but figure the Mepps has caught a whole lot more fish than a Picasso so I best be careful.
     The idea is to head to our closest drug store with a blade in hand - I bought a bunch of white ones -  and match up the Mepps red with an appropriate nail polish. Truth is I figure Mepps tried their best to duplicate the color of fish blood. Seems fish like an easy meal and will go for the wounded figuring they'd be easier to catch. I don't know that for fact but then I know little for fact and somehow have managed to survive. Call ignorance and imagined truth my guiding principles of life.
     My first lure paintings were done with tape and spray paint. Not perfect but solidly okay. Then one day I came upon a one buck rack of closeout nail polish and the lightbulb lit. Looked like paint, was durable in water (even said so on the rack) and best of all, had a paint brush right in the bottle. I bought a half dozen. Turned out most offended me but not so the one called Ruby Pumps. Wow! A rich red with tiny sparkly flecks, three coats sure did look pretty on a spinner blade. Even caught fish. What more could an outdoorsman want?

Friday, March 30, 2018

New Water

     Yes, lakes I'm familiar with have their charm. Something like visiting old friends. Mostly they're comfortable but every once in a while will throw in a new twist I didn't see coming. Maybe even an angle that changes my outlook on a place I've been to dozens of times. Truth is, even though I think I know what I'm doing, I really don't. Never the same river twice also seems to fit for lakes.
     Old friends aside, I have to admit I like new water. It's exciting standing on the shore and looking out on a world fresh with possibility. There have been a few times when that feeling struck me hard. Two in particular, East Pike Lake in the Boundary Waters in '66 and South Stocking in the Chippewa National Forest close to thirty years later. Those two moments filled me with a tingling, gut feeling. It's a feeling that still hangs on as I sit here at the keyboard. Both lakes live in my head as changing points. East Pike planted the seed and South Stocking provided the first fruit. Yes sir, it was a long time coming.
     That morning on South Stocking led to an exploration of what grew to be my home water and eventually to numerous, wilderness canoe trips with my son and a few others. None were great undertakings but a few led us more than three days off the beaten path in the Manitoba bush. Both my son Allan and I found a little bit of ourselves on each of our paddles over the horizon. Even the tough times were good times.
     Come this summer the two of us are off on another adventure, just Allan and I. And we'll be on new water where we'll wet a line to see what truth can be found beneath the waves. New water is always out there, somewhere, waiting for a man to come visit. It's also inside patiently biding its time, holding onto unrealized truth. In my life I've come to fish both ways, inward and out. Can't say which is better. And no, it's not a religious thing, at least not in an organized religion kind of way. Call it more of a oneness with a few big pike thrown in as a bonus.


Thursday, March 29, 2018

New Day

     At the moment Draftee is finally cleaned up about as good as I can get it and Deadman Lake is sitting on the sidelines where it can mellow out for a month. Once both are done and published I can move on to the trips to the Boundary Waters and Canada. What I'll write from then on is a good question.
     For the moment there are three fishing trips, maybe four, ready to go for next summer and early fall. A while back I wrote an entry, at least I think I did, called Never Enough Time. Damnation that's true. Figured that'd be a thing of the past when I retired, guess it's not. At age seventy-one the window's still open but is getting harder to squeeze through. Suppose I'll keep climbing in the canoe till I can't.
     The lake Allan and I will fly to in late June is not all that big. Figure the little chain in Ontario at 5-600 acres but big enough to hold a few fish of size. Also small enough to get a grip on how to fish it. The main body, Night Hawk Lake, is close to the same size as the unnamed one I wrote up in Between Thought and the Treetops. Hadn't made that mental connection when I signed on the dotted line. So, once again it's a combination of good and bad; wish it was bigger but at the same time I'm glad it's not. Story of life in a nut shell.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Tackle Box

       Don't know if I have the guts but do like the idea of a pared down tackle box for the upcoming fly-in to Ontario:

       1 dozen, homemade, red and white spinners (big pike size only).
       1/2 dozen quarter ounce jigs.
       1/2 dozen eighth ounce jigs.
       1 sleeve of two inch twister tails.
       1 sleeve of three inch twister tails.
       Snap swivels.
       Back-up line.
       Jaw spreader and needle nose pliers.

       That should do it and outside of the needle nose and jaw spreader, will all fit in a small plastic box plus a one quart zip lock bag.