Sunday, July 15, 2012

Some Days are Diamonds - Even in the Rain

     Third day. Enough with exploring, time to hammer down. Our lake du jour was an old friend. Over a dozen plus trips and I'd never been disappointed. Flat out my favorite lake near the cabin. It has everything. A treasure. And it's well under a hundred acres. Mostly bass and bluegills. However, I've seen a couple of perch that looked like small, day-glo walleyes. Four of them would feed two people nicely. Over the last ten years I've claimed again and again that if I ever tied into a handful of jumbo perch, they were supper. I'll believe that when I see it.
     Also, there was the time I was bobber fishing with a small jig on four pound test. Why not? Never caught anything with teeth in that lake. Light line was perfect for the bluegills I was bringing in simply to ogle their colors and throw back with a satisfied chuckle. All fine and dandy until the bobber slowly sank at an angle, turned and came at the canoe. Kinda like the great white shark in Jaws. First it was stripping line, then I was reeling as fast as I could. The fish seemed in no hurry. Like it hadn't a worry in the world being connected to such thin monofilament. Finally it hung a big bodied right, stripped off line 'til it pinged and was gone. Had to be a big pike. Or maybe a beaver. Since then a pike turns up once in a while. Nothing big, but they're in there.
      Even though it's one of the loves of my life, I was reluctant to head that way after breakfast. I remembered Eldon as not being a fan of the lake. When the subject came up, he said he remembered it as me who wasn't a fan. What we'd had having was a failure to communicate. We were off in a shot. In a dense, misting overcast.
     The lake is truly a carry-in body of water. One look at the line of boulders ending the total crap two-track leaves no doubt of that. What had me worried this morning was the oil pan deep, two-hundred yard long, sand pit we had to negotiate before reaching the boulders. It'd rained pretty hard during the night. The sand had me thinking a good length of towing strap, a come-along and a chain saw would have been fine additions to our fishing gear. Coming down the last rubbly downhill, I gunned it as much as I dared. Something of a slow down but all-in-all, no sweat. Once again my fears were bigger than my stomach.
     Right from the get-go Larry and Ryan went into their shore hugging routine. Not that they're predictable. That's just what they do. Always. Don't know if they're scared of open water or like being near trees but creeping along in six inches of water seems to work for them. There's a lesson to be learned there. Some fly fishermen always fish the same type of fly. And manage to do as well as those who match the hatch. Some fish spinners to the exclusion of common sense. It seems familiarity may breed contempt but doing the same thing over and over does lead to some degree of skill and adaptability. So the two of them fish shallow. And do well at it.
     Me and Eldon are of the fart-in-a-lantern school. Not exactly sure what that means but my Mom used the phrase once in a while. And not in a complimentary way. I also don't think she had fishing in mind. As for me and El Dean, we move. Work a spot for a short while. If it proves hot, we stay. If not, we move on.
     Right off we headed to a small bay that most always holds fish. But not today. In fact, we fan casted the shore from one end to the other. Then back again. The one or two hits we had were no reason to stay. We moved deep and found a couple. Then a couple more. Aha! Or maybe, Eureka! A plan was quickly formed and we worked it over and over for the rest of the morning.
     The south wind became our friend. At least during the fishing part. To set up we'd paddle most of the way up wind across the small lake. Then turn broadside to the breeze and let it slowly drift us over the drop-off weed line. There the lake deepens from five to ten feet. As a plus, a line of cabbage follows the drop. Each drift was worth a half dozen bass. Once in a while a jumbo perch or aggressive bluegill. Most bass were around a foot. A few topped sixteen inches and one of Eldon's, just under twenty. That's a near wall hanger for a fifty acre lake. Or most any Minnesota lake for that matter.
     All the while the drizzle came and went. Again and again. Sometimes building to a two minute light rain. We don't sight fish so there's always time to scan the skies and shore. Ospreys and Bald Eagles have come to be a common sight. I was forty-seven when I saw my first eagle. Now it's a rare day when we don't see a couple. And we did today.  Wading great blue herons,  tail slapping beavers, deer drinking from the shore. Always loons. We gave them a wide berth. Come June they usually have a fuzz ball or two riding their backs or paddling alongside. Knowing they're there and being serenaded is enough.
     We broke for a short lunch with the other two. Actually we paddled down to the access to take a leak. Larry and Ryan had the same calling. So long as we were there, we snacked and made plans for the afternoon. Normally we'd have moved on. But not today. The other two had done at least as well as me and Eldon. In fact Larry had put our catch to shame with a twenty-two inch, paddle measured bass. And had the picture to prove it. That factors out to between six and seven pounds. Possible bass of a lifetime. When Larry dies we'll know for sure. Hope he catches bigger and lives long.
     So the plan was simple. Why leave when we're having one of those days we're gonna remember for years? So we stayed and caught bass 'til our arms were tired. Then caught a few more. It's a long time between bass for Eldon. This day had to last him through the winter.
     So we headed back through the sand pit toward some steaks waiting at the cabin. Seems the sirloins had a hankering to become fertilizer. And we were more than happy to oblige them.
     Ryan is the barbecuer. It's not so much that he's good at it, which he is, but he seems to relish having the hair and upper layer of skin burned off the back of his hands by oak flame. Me, I get a kick out of seeing him dance through the smoke. He's like a windsock when the breeze is up. Like Mary's little lamb, no matter where he places himself at the pit, the wind is sure to follow.
     My job is to fry the spuds. My mom was a master at turning the mundane into simple pleasure. There's no way I can duplicate her art with spuds or my fourteen year old taste buds for that matter, but I try. Half baked potatoes, sliced thin. Two, yes two, vidalia onions coarsely diced. A wad of butter in the pan thinned with a dollop of olive oil. My mom never used olive oil. My God, how could she? She was one hundred per cent German.
     Fry the onions 'til they turn clear. Then add the spuds. Salt and pepper to taste. For me that's light on the salt, heavy on the pepper. If the boys from down south didn't have such delicate stomaches I'd shake in a tablespoon of Tabasco. Yum! Then fry the hell out of 'em, turning constantly. A lot of gold and a hint of black is what your looking for. Problem is there's no way you can fry enough 'taters for four hungry men when using a two burner stove.
     Meat, potatoes and asparagus. Oh well, what you gonna do when there's no capers? Hard to tell we were suffering what with all the satisfied moanings.

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