Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Jake and the Art of Bass Fishing

     One thing is for sure, a six year old boy recovers much faster than a sixty-five year old man. Or a thirty-seven year old one for that matter. Nearly two weeks have passed and I'm still draggin' butt.
     Also learn I've gotta come up with some form of seats for the jon boat if we're going to do the trek up north again next year. Seared buttocks syndrome (SBS) is not a joy. Low 90s, blue skies and dark green seats are a near deadly combination. Beware should you find yourself in a similar situation.
     Began with a road trip and ended with one. Guess that's inevitable unless you ain't comin' back. Twenty miles into the drive, about the time we caught sight of the Buffalo Ridge wind farm, Jakob was given the okay to ask, "Are we there yet?," anytime he wanted. Did him no good. It was a long drive no matter how you sliced it.
     Being six years old can be a lot like being sixty-five. At least as far as time goes. In both cases it's our enemy. For Jake in the back of the truck it drags like concrete in mud. Takes an eternity for the cottonwoods to turn into white pines. For me it's a jack rabbit. Here and gone in the wink of an eye. Lois says that's why I'm so dull. On the other hand, I figure being a bore slows the passage down a tad. Mundane stuff. But true.
     When I'm with Jakob and Ryan it's their dime as far as the way we do things. And having Jake along makes that a necessity. When we stop for lunch at an A and W, we eat inside. A break in the flow recharges a young mind. At least I think it does. Seemed to be that way for me when I was about ten. Heading up north for a week on or near the water with my Uncle Ed and Aunt Margaret. Don't remember lunch so much as stopping at a bar for refreshment. We all had Tom Collins'. Only mine didn't have the gin. But it did have a half dozen maraschino cherries, the good kind with red dye #2. You know, the one that causes cancer. Seems like the things that can kill you tend to make food taste better. Didn't know that back then. And probably wouldn't have cared. At ten I figured I was gonna live forever. Or at least make seventy-five, which was about the same to me.
     As for eating inside, it's a sin as far as I can see. Burning time needlessly while on the way to somewhere I want to be. Don't actually believe that but have a proven pattern of acting exactly like I did. Turned out eating inside was a bit of okay.
      I've gotta say this again, Jakob is six years old. And six year old boys have an attention span that lasts about as long as it takes them to take a leak.
     My memory of standing on a dock on Lake Roosevelt back in 1954 and endlessly casting is no doubt flawed beyond recognition. Untying bird's nests from abided dacron probably made it seem endless.
      We were hoping he'd be able to handle an hour in the boat without going nuts. Both Ryan and I wanted this to be something Jake would remember all winter long. When next year rolled around he'd be asking us when we could go again. And, oh yeah, it'd be a plus of the first order if he didn't fall in the lake or hook himself. And if he did, be mature enough to keep his mouth shut so his mom didn't find out.
     His mom is my daughter and the victim of the infamous woodtick affair. When she was the same age as Jakob is now we spent four days at the cabin. Just the two of us. We worked, played and caught some sunnies. And we ate those sunnies. Moral lesson that it was okay to kill fish so long as you ate them. Life was good. Until we got home and Lois found a woodtick in Annie's ear. Oops. Some things are never forgotten.
     We hit the cabin in the late afternoon. For sure fishing was on the top of the list but, good Lord, the boy had never been in the woods. Or used an outhouse. Or peed outdoors. Or seen Earl the Dead Cat hanging from one of the rafters. Or climbed into a loft. Or hiked the paths. Just being where we were, no phone, no pool, no pets, was an adventure. And Jakob seemed to be having a great time right where he was. Good kid. No doubt about it.
     Simple supper. Hot dogs, chips, some Iowa sweet corn. Seven o'clock. If the two of them wanted to bag it and hang around the cabin, it was fine with me. But since we were there to fish and they wanted to fish, it was time to string the rods. And load the jon boat on the trailer.
     I'd modified the trailer for hauling canoes, not jon boats. By now you must know generally avoid boats I can't power myself. Sweat is good. The savior of the world. The jon boat had a lot of things going for it considering the money I paid. And none of those things actually sold me on it. What did was the three oars that came with it. Motors break down. Usually when you need them the most. And, unlike a nineteen foot bass boat, this little bugger could easily be rowed most anywhere on the small lakes I fished. And if some day I became too decrepit to paddle a canoe, there was always the jon boat and trolling motor. Couldn't visualize that ever happening but it sounded good when I was talking with normal people.
     I'd hoped the boat would load and haul with no problems. And it didn't disappoint. Don't know if I'm getting better in my old age or luckier. Or maybe the quality of modern lashing straps has improved and can overcome general incompetence.
     Since time was short we chose a nearby lake. Not the best water but there are fish in it. Good panfish and that would work nicely for Jakob. Learning curve time in the northwoods. And not just for Jake. There was the ever popular "Learning to Work a Trolling Motor on a Thickly Weeded Lake". And "Keepin' Your Kid Rigged so He'll have a Good Time". Followed immediately by "Was That a Treble Hook Grazing My Chin?" Seems both me and Ryan were doing two things at once and neither was familiar to us. We didn't have a good game plan. No organization. And it took me a few minutes to realize that fishing was not what I'd be doing in the boat. That I didn't mind at all. So long as I spared the rod, the child could be spoiled. And a happy kid makes for a happy boat.
     Eventually the routine evolved. Jake always had a rod to fish. That meant two rods rigged with slip bobbers. He preferred to fish with a spinner. Must be a genetic thing. But casting a sharpened hook proved a danger. Jakob could cast alright and would have done just fine if he was standing at the end of a dock by himself. In a fourteen foot boat, seven feet of arm, rod and line put both me and Ryan in the danger zone. An overhand cast with a bobber rig allowed Jake the time to learn while cutting my potential ducks way down. Jakob seemed fine with that arrangement. And had a good time even though we were skunked that first night.
     Without a spoken word between us Ryan took over rerigging Jakob's rod and I was in charge of bird's nest central. Slowly Jake worked to my end of the boat. That allowed me a great time helping him fish. Once in a while I'd cast into a tight spot for him. Usually he did his own work. I was just there to cut down on the things that could go wrong.
     And keep ripping the weeds off the frickin' propeller. Even though I'd been on that water many times I'd forgotten how shallow and weedy it was. Heck, it's not but a widening in the Pine River with a single small hole off to the north side. Good fertile water that would be a fishing treasure if you couldn't put a boat and motor on it (like we were doing).
     We landed in the twilight. First order of business was a short walk down the road to the culverts under the gravel road. The spot where I'd watched a couple of dozen bass and panfish waiting on a passing lunch a couple of weeks earlier. The water had gone down a few inches and, in the spreading dark, it was hard to see into. But there were a few sunnies there. And Jake had a fine time seeing them as only young boy can. Believe me, I know. The small boy in me still likes to watch fish, even on a bike ride.

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