Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring Trip

     It's in the planning. Or at least the serious thinkin' about it stage. My son-in-law and daughter just sold their house. My first thought wasn't ain't that wonderful? It's not pretty but it went more along the lines of oh shit! There goes the fishin' trip. Maybe I wasn't raised right. But their closing's not 'til the end of Summer so all's well that doesn't stop the fishing.
     Smallmouth bass and trout. Four new lakes. Hard to believe there's still lakes up by the cabin I haven't been on. Truthfully, I have been on one of the lakes we'll fish. But the Iowa and Dakota boys haven't. So they'll all feel new.
     New lakes are always a crap shoot. New water has to be learned. I'd like to get up there and hit each before the big trip. The trout ones are tiny. Would be no problem to figure out if they weren't trout lakes. Twelve and eighteen acres. Up two tracks off gravel. Not too hard to find. Google Earth shows the way most everywhere. And I say I don't use fish electronics. Have to admit I like looking at the satellite photos. Almost as good as flying over. Better than maps. And about on the same level for brewin' daydreams. And I do like to daydream.
     But, you see, trout are weather snobs. Bluebird skies and they get mighty shy. Always a cast and a half away. I've seen 'em surface feeding on such days. Little pops and ripples. Tried to dead drift their way with no luck. Once chased a pod of them all around a ten acre lake in the Boundary Waters.
     However, should the weather be overcast, maybe even a little sprinkle on the surface, then we'd have a chance. Back when Allan was twelve, the two of us caught a half dozen rainbows and brookies when the old farts were skunked. Got 'em on tiny spinners. Spinners, is there nothing they can't catch?
     New lakes, new fish and, of course, new rods. Or at least one new rod. Five and a half foot ultra light. It was cheap beyond cheap. Fifteen bucks. So I conned my son-in-law into buying me a Christmas present. If I wanna get fancy, there's always the fly rods. Maybe break down and buy a few real trout flies. Or set up an old Minnesota standby. Nine foot fly rod, spinning reel, split shot sinker, spinner and fly with worm. Slowly paddle and troll the lake. It ain't pretty but I've heard the old timers, real old timers, used that rig to put a lot of fish in the black pan.
     So I've got the rods. And started making spinners last Fall. Itty-bitty ones. Never caught a trout on a home made. Wouldn't kill me if I never did. Though I have to admit, the thought of a successful home made does have its appeal. As a backup, there's good old fashioned slip bobbers and micro jigs tipped with Power Bait or even, God forbid, worms. For now, I'll keep making spinners.
     If the gods smile upon us we may even kill a few for dinner. These are stocked lakes. Not a trout was ever born in one. They're DNR babies and will be replaced every year. No worries about fishing the lakes out. If we catch 'em, we'll kill 'em and have some fine eatin'.
     The bass will be more civilized. In lakes with cabins. Now I don't think of smallies as being civilized. Don't want them to be. They were my first wilderness canoe fish. And the ones I went back to the wilderness to find. See if they were still there and doing fine. They were.
     Around the cabin there's still some undeveloped water. Neither house nor dock. And most of those lakes have shoreline that looks right. Fist sized rubble where the crayfish the smallies love to gobble should be hangin' out. Probably are. Not disrespect to the largemouth we catch but they're not the fish I'm looking for when I see those rocks. So it's a conundrum. If I want the right water and the right bass, it ain't happening near the cabin. So be it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sleeping at the Cabin

     Said I wasn't gonna do this 'til Spring. But I got to thinking about sleep. And how wonderful it is to hear and smell the outdoors when in bed. Or in a sleeping bag. Or a blanket roll. There's something about sleeping outside that makes me feel a part of it all. Even if the outside has to be inside.
     When I was a kid an open window at bedtime was a joy. The cool of the dark evening air on my face made the warmth of my toes feel a pleasurable balance. Like being out for a run in the rain knowing a roof and dry clothes ain't but an hour away. What's the fun of being warm if you don't know cold? Opposites define each other and together, make a whole.
     Alone at the cabin I sleep on the window bench. One time, twenty five years ago, it'd been a child's bed. A nice one to be sure. First Annie, then Allan, slept on it. Three drawers beneath. All-in-all, a nice case. And would have maybe been handed down for grandchildren had not Lois liked the idea of a window bench beneath the triple mullion casement window in the addition. And back then we weren't thinking as far down the road as grandchildren. So I cut 'er down to size. Same length but only two feet wide. Added oak block feet to raise it to the right height and Lois sewed up a covered four inch thick pad for the top.
     Come bedtime I top the wood stove off. Damper it down all the way. It's a Franklin stove. Not efficient at all but the glass doors let out a nice light. An indoors camp fire. Shadows dance nicely on the vaulted ceiling for a couple of hours 'til it's only coals and glow.
     Me, I throw a light sleeping bag on the seat. Prop a coupla pillows and read. But not for long even if it's a good book. The highlight of the night comes when I crack the window by my nose. Turn off the lamp. Let my eyes get used to the dark. Never fails to strike me how black it is when the light goes out. And how light it is two minutes later. And how good a cold nose feels. I don't want it to end. Don't want to fall asleep. But I can't resist.
     Come about 2:30 my bladder comes to the rescue. Time to stoke the stove anyhow. If I'm near a full tank, the trip to the yard will come first. Clear skies and I better spread my feet a good distance. Gonna be looking up while I'm streaming down. If near to full moon the trees will sillouette against the washout above. Once in a rare late Fall, the Northern lights might be curtaining. Mostly, it's just the Milky Way for entertainment. That's a funny line. On a black sky night you can almost see the cosmic dust clouds up there. The Milky Way is always a knockout. The show above makes for a reluctant return to the bag. Don't know why it is, maybe a kind of sauna effect, but ten minutes outside at thirty above feels comfortable. Even in t-shirt, drawers and Homer Simpson flip-flops.
     Inside, maybe a few coals will still be glowin' on the fire grate. Crumpled newspaper, kindling and a fistful of finger sticks will get it started. Close the doors and wait for the roar. Twenty-two feet of straight, eight inch pipe gets Benjamin sounding like a jet taking off. Give it a minute. Stuff it to the gills with oak and damper down. The box will be warm, and the room like summer, come morning.
     Finally, it's cold nose, warm toes time again. Maybe a cryptic dream to chew on for the morning hours. Listen to the owl make its forays to lunch as I drowse off. Probably the grandchild of the one we first heard in the early '80s. Not sure why it likes to hunt from up there. Maybe for the rodents living in our woodpiles. Life is built on death. And wakefulness is built on sleep.