Monday, August 27, 2012

Waitin' on It

     Got a new lake to fish. On a two track off bad forestry gravel. Never been there but sure will next week. Woulda gone tomorrow but there's family considerations. No doubt I'm wrong but most died in the wool fishing writers are either married to anglers or ain't married at all. Might have been married at one time but like all long time fly rodders, evolved into catch and release. In my case it's three generations of family - and the Minnesota State Fair to boot - and family trumps solo canoe trips on small water.
      Long story short, it's a case of children. My daughter and son-in-law in the process of moving. Yeah, I could blow that off but Ryan's one of my fishin' buddies and you don't turn your back on someone who could roll your ass in a canoe. Besides, Jake will be there and so will Larry. And three out of four Deans trumps everything.
     On the flip side, my all time fishin' buddy and son Allan is on the edge of becoming a father once again. That gives me the willies about next week. D-day could be then. It's been five weeks since I've been up north and it's starting to look like a long ways away.
     No matter what, it will be what it will be. For now I'm still thinkin' new water.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Jake Gets His Fill - Not Really

     Even though most of the United States is in drought northern Minnesota is doing fine. Enough rain so that the forestry roads can be hit or miss. Where we were going today was at the bottom of the pecking order as far as Minimum Maintenance - Travel at Your Own Risk, roads go. Back when I was driving a Jeep, road conditions were no concern. But now, with front wheel drive, I give it some serious thought. Mostly the concern is ground clearance and tires. The rocks left by glaciers weren't dropped with much consideration for the hundred dollar tires that were coming. Or unprotected oil pans for that matter. Mother nature could have dropped them smooth side down But no, razors to the sky. Those things weigh heavy on my mind when two track sand turns into eroded glacial till. Not so much that I'm cheap, which I am, but more that being stranded in an inconvenient location is a pain in the ass.
     So those were the thoughts running through my head when we passed the landfill on the way in and were approaching the always angry hound running down the two track driveway. Slow and easy. Say it again and again. Slow and easy. But don't just say it, do it. And see all the rocks. Keep to the high ground. No matter how slow, it's much faster than doin' a four mile portage.
     Again it was suntan weather. Mid-day. Only Englishmen fish under those conditions. In tweeds to salmon that have no interest in eating. But we knew where the bass and sunnies could still be caught and that's where we were heading. The idea being Jake at one end of the line, fish at the other.
     Two things: the trail to the lake is poison ivy lined. Jake likes to run around and explore. Not a good combination. I've never reacted to poison ivy. Been through it many a time and never had a problem.That isn't so for everybody. Jake carries a little bit of my blood but that doesn't mean he wouldn't swell up like a balloon and fester eternally. So he was warned. Loudly and often, like we really meant it.
     Again, Ryan made Jakob carry a load. Not a big one unless you factor in relativity. Jake, for his part, didn't squawk. He did grunt a bit however. To me, that was a good sign. The grunts carry the world. Hopefully Jakob will always carry his share in a somewhat useful direction.
     The jon boat was another story. Even though part of its intention was to be dragged it into small, remote lakes, I doubt the instructions said anything about the effort involved. She don't carry like a canoe laddie. We had a choice, one at each end or drag the bugger. Tried both. Carrying turned out to be a drag. Dragging wasn't much better. One of these days someone will have to invent the wheel. Even if they never do, me and Ryan won't complain a bit. Not manly don't ya know.
     We worked the shallows. Not a problem for this lake has a lot of shallows. So much so, a first look will have you wondering how it could hold any fish at all. But it surely does. And high numbers in crystal clear, foot deep water where the fish can see you for fifty yards. Gotta be quiet and move only when necessary.
     There were a few bass to be found but it was mostly sunnies. Jake found the bluegills to his liking until he realized they weren't as big as the bass. Guess even when you're six years old size matters.
     What I learned was that a dark green metal boat with dark green metal seats can sear a butt. Standing up was a short relief from the frying pan but also an opportunity for the sun to to relight the burner. Jake solved the matter by standing up most of the time. Sure couldn't blame him for that. Seein' as how he's a slim kid he could move around all he wanted and not rock the boat.
     Outside of the panfish it was a slow late morning and early afternoon. We worked half the lake's shoreline and made a few passes over the middle where the drop off holds thickets of cabbage. Yeah, the kid brought a few bass to the boat. And a whole lot of sunnies. But he was spoiled to the charms of bobber watching. At least as far as the nibblers went. He was lookin' for slam, bang, run with the thing.
     And demanding. Like it was my fault we weren't catching any four pounders. Not like he was saying it exactly. But his continual mantra of "I wanna catch bass. I wanna catch bass," had me thinking it was my fault. Like I could do something about it. Give me a break kid. Next time we'll try it in June, after supper and you better be ready to hold onto your rod 'cause they're bigger than you realize. Lots bigger.
     Truly, the only thing we did wrong was stay on the water too long. We had snacks, and they melted. We had water, and it was body temperature. Even though we used ample sun screen, we left the water glowing. Like janitors at a nuclear melt down. But it was a hoot. Jake got a taste for what fishing can be. And an assurance that it can be better. Stuff to dream about over the winter. Don't know if he will. But I will. Always have.
     Dinner was at the best down south barbecue in the northwoods which just happens to be in Pine River. Name of No. 19. The pulled pork sandwich is worth its weight in lead free jigs. Seriously unhealthy, good eatin'. Jakob wasn't too happy with the place 'cause he had his teeth set on a chocolate ice cream cone at Dairy Queen. Both Ryan and I kept telling him it was on the list of things to do but he was of little faith. Yeah, he got his cone. And moaned his way through it. Not bad for a kid who likes his hamburgers plain. Meat and bun. Nothin' else.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fire and Ice Cream

     Back when I was a Jake's age matches sang to the children of the world. The tune went something like this:
                 Come play with me,
                 'Cause I'm your friend.

                 Come play with me
                 And burn something down.

                 Ain't I pretty?
                 And so easy to use.

                 C'mon chump,
                 Burn something, anything, down or up.
                 I don't care. Just burn something.

     What I'm trying to say is that matches were everywhere. And, yeah, they were easy to use. Open flames were a part of life. Most everyone smoked. Even us Junior High kids. Back then we burned our trash in the alley, come fall, our leaves in the street. Once in a while, our university football coaches in effigy (see: Murray Warmath). And kids were allowed to torch that stuff. It was great. Nothing like a fire when you had the need to stand and stare.
     No longer. One of my fifteen year old nephews didn't know how to strike a match 'til I showed him. Not that he was slow on the uptake. Just that he'd never had the opportunity. Sheltered and deprived lives we live today. Can't fire up a match so you might as well break into the old man's gun cabinet and blow away your gym class. Maybe an exaggeration but I dearly love to go off the deep end when at the keyboard.
     So Thursday evening was campfire night in the burning pit. Wasn't quite dark yet. Didn't matter at all. Jakob was definitely up for it. Ryan kept a short leash on him. I was happy for that. Jake didn't realize it but he was happy too. There with his dad, in the woods and dancing around the flames as they snapped up toward the birches. Been quite a while since man first barbecued a mastodon but I think Jakob would've understood their celebration.
     Before that we'd taken part in a couple of other ancient rites, miniature golf and dinner at Dairy Queen. Finished the day in the cabin. Ryan and Jakob trying to figure out a simple, but impossible, wooden puzzle. Yes sir, life in the big woods is a basic one.
     Sorry, the ice cream doesn't come 'til tomorrow. And it wasn't really ice cream. Soft serve Dairy Queen. But that's close enough in my book. For me it's most always the same thing, medium cherry shake. If you're ever passing through Minnesota and happen to be in Little Falls, that's the town Charles Lindbergh came from, stop in at their Dairy Queen. Probably the best in the state. Until a couple of years ago you could get a pina colada shake. Wasn't on the menu, you just hadda know about it. In with the in crowd kind of thing. Not my cup of tea but Lois said it was the best. Only needed a dollop of rum to make it heaven. Then, one day they ran out of coconut syrup and the owner brought a great tradition to an end.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Jake and the Art of Bass fishing II

     Day two was at a lake on which anybody can catch bass. And Ryan did. And Jakob did. Me, I manned the boat. Got used to bein' in the crew back in my Army days and ain't left it since.
     We were in no hurry to leave the cabin. No need 'cause of the lake. Good weather, bad weather, full sun, mid-day, it rarely matters. Today it did. Since Jake hadn't ever caught anything, he didn't know how slow it was.
     When it comes to lakes, I never learned to share. Poor upbringing I guess. My heart dropped a half inch when we hit the landing. There sat a truck with a rack for a couple of kayaks and a boat trailer hitched to the back. A herd. Tried to write it off with an "oh well, at least they're paddle boats."
     I lie to myself way too much. And with a six year old along I've gotta watch my tongue. Pretend I'm a mature man, the kind a kid would like to grow up to be. Near as I can figure no one ever grows up to be that man. Best you can hope for is to not slash the tires of someone who has every bit as much right to the water as you do. Vindictiveness is not a good thing to pass on down the genetic ladder. Or so I've been told.
     The north bay is about forty acres, holds fish and was ours alone. If that was our option it'd do the trick. Took a half hour of putzing, zig-zagging and general snafuing before we found some bass. Not a lot but enough.
     Jake's first was around a pound. He played the bass by himself with his grandpa's hand hovering over the rod handle's butt just in case. Seemed only natural that he'd crank the fish all the way to the tip. Probably would have cranked it down through the guides and onto the reel if he was strong enough (if you ever read this Jakob, being made fun of can be a good thing. Takes the edge off of being too wonderful. And it's what an old guy like me says to start treating you like the man you'll become someday).
     Like the old gray mare, my memory ain't what it used to be. When I conjured up our time on the water I saw trees, lily pads, lake and sunlight. And three guys in a jon boat staring back at me with a look that asked, "Sooo, big shot, what ya gonna have us do? We gonna catch fish or just sit here basking in the glory of your blank mind?" Embarrassed, I had to e-mail Ryan to learn the answer. He had no such problem. Also had five minutes of video and four hundred photos.
     I remembered Jakob as being excited by his first bass. But you know how sketchy memories can be. That is if they exist at all. In times past, when catching big pike in Canada, I'd have liked a minute's video to recall exactly what went on. The words we said. The excitement of the moment. Did Allan and I sound like sage fishermen? Or should we have worn oversized shoes and clown makeup?
     Jake's video told the tale as no memory could. His pure excitement and the explosive gleam in his eyes said it all. It was a big deal to him. He may someday forget most everything about that moment but not everything. Like mine of East Pike, he'll remember he was truly excited, the flashing light on the water and the feel of the northwoods. As a grandfather, the video told me the moment was all I could have hoped for. 'Course it could have been a seven pounder with a two pound trout in its mouth, been ripped off his jig by a bald eagle and returned to a hovering flying saucer.
     The second bass was much bigger. Near the top end for this lake. Jakob had it to the boat when the bass gave him his first lesson in spitting the hook. Hopefully not his last. Also his first taste of the big one that got away. Classic moments in fishendom.
     Finally we sucked it up and puttered off to the south end of the lake where the horde awaited us. By then I'd learned most of the pros and cons of a trolling motor. I'd hoped for a top speed of six or seven miles an hour. When that idea of speed was put in my bonnet is beyond me. Blind stab in the dark is more like it. Turned out we moved about as fast as a leisurely paddle in a canoe. However, we ran a straight course so I guess it was faster. And there were three of us instead of two. And we could stand up. Didn't have to pee but we could have. Ability sometimes negates necessity.
     Positioning the boat was another matter. In a canoe I do most of the positioning with a one handed sculling stroke. Grip the paddle at the blade top and draw, pry or paddle. Simple and efficient. The motor was okay but not in the same league as the paddle. Old dog and new tricks problem I suppose.
     Turned out there was only one boat in the far end. And it had a motor. Seeing as how it was nearing lunch time - for people, not fish as it turned out - they blew out of there within minutes of our arrival. Might also have had to do with the fishing shutting down. Good thing we brought sunscreen.
     We gave it a go for an hour then hummed our way back to the landing.