Thursday, December 30, 2010

Small Lakes (part two)

     So began a quest to float and fish all of the area's tiny lakes. Not all turned out to be cabinless or fishing gems but most were both. I knew none of those lakes were virginal but having a pristine shoreline of tree, hill and swamp let me pretend. Not always were we alone on the water but it didn't take long to learn that on fifty acres, two's a crowd. On each and every time up an access trail I began to scan the ruts for fresh tire tracks and silently chant my 'no car' mantra over and over. On occasion I'd pull out of accesses when finding a single vehicle already parked. Mostly that was motivated by selfishness but also by the realization that others might feel the same as I  (even though I might still curse them to eternal oblivion for having the audacity to be on my lake). When those glorious no car moments did occur - which was most of the time - though it might be raining on the water, the sun would be shining in my heart.
     Being on one of those semi-precious gems turned out to be like looking at the world through a magnifying glass. Little became big. Quiet - for little lakes whisper - could be heard. Subtle felt. Small lakes seemed to like people in no hurry to be anywhere else and were already where they wanted to be. When only one canoe was drifting on its surface the pond could devote all its attention to it. Over time I learned there's a lot going on in the world when a person's opened up to possibility. I'm a bonehead and slow on the uptake, in other words a city boy who has a hard time seeing anything unless its sparkly or hearing anything without a siren. Be it on a little lake by the cabin or in the backwoods of Canada, I don't take nature's hand easily or right off the bat. Takes me a couple of days to grow ears and eyes. Only then is the invisible seen and the silent heard.
     Moments to remember: Early fall. Tiny, tiny lake with glassed over surface though there are zephyrs playing about that wouldn't show up on an anemometer. Occasionally Al and I would see an almost non-existent V-shaped ripple pass by us, each coming from the same direction. At first we payed them no mind but eventually began look for them and wonder what they might be. The V's seemed to be causeless, happening for no reason, the gods messing with our minds once again. Finally, as we closely followed the progress of one for several seconds - bam! - a bass explosion put an end to the little bugger. Obviously the bass could see what we could not and whatever it was, was edible. Eventually, one of the V's passed by closely enough to solve the mystery. Spiders. Itty, bitty spiders, with the lower part of all eight legs turned up, riding on the surface film of the lake with a couple of inches of web silk thrown out like kite surfers. Yee haw!
     Same day. Still fishing for bass but the breeze had now built to a near hurricane two miles an hour. We're in a drift, tight to shore. Again we become aware of a nearly hidden subtlety. It was like a hundred, low-pitched, dissonant flutes behind us a half-mile away. Then it stopped. Weird. Then there it was again. I turned around. Nothing there but the browning reeds softly swaying in the wind. I stared and think about it. The reeds, of course, with tips snapped off and the breeze passing over them like a gang of kids blowing over the tops of pop bottles. Though that sound had always been there it took me a half-century to hear it. Now I can't forget it. Every fall I listen for the whistling. Always the same. Always different.
     For more than a decade I scoped the maps of our cabin neighborhood and points immediately to the north hoping for connections to something new. One day my eye caught a symbol that had always been there but covered up by some self-imposed blind spot. A carry-in access? Where the hell did that come from? The lake was less than fifty acres but, most of all to me, any form of access meant fish. A bit of coercion, a warm, sunny day, no fishing rod along and a promise that we'd be on the water in less than a half-hour was just enough to overcome my wife's aversion to any form of canoe travel. The access road was two miles of slow, overgrown, deep sand and eroded, rock strewn, scrub country, two track, dead ending at a line of one-ton boulders.
     Two hundred yards of carry, a quick load and slide put us on the clear, bare-bottomed bay. Beyond shallow everywhere. No reason for fish of any kind to be in that pond but I could mark bluegills and small bass fleeing us in all directions. A quarter mile brought us increasing depth and small cabbage beds. Cruising the far end above the weeds was like floating over an aquarium filled with panfish and loner bass. Having seen enough, I kept my time promise. Came back that night with a fishing partner related through marriage and have returned many times since. Never disappointed. Eagles, osprey, beavers, deer coming down for a drink before bedding down and nary a cabin in sight. Its the kind of lake I'd love to build on but know that pond is what it is because it only tolerates visitors.

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