Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Even a Blind Pig

     Wednesday was the result of satellite photos and sketchy research. I'd scanned the state forest several times hoping to find another lake worth fishing. Not an easy thing to do when all there is to go by is acreage and most of the lakes within the forest boundaries lack that in spades. What I hoped for didn't seem to exist. If it had there no doubt would have been a paved road and signs. And that would have killed it for me.
     Over the last decade I'd floated and fished four of the lakes with mixed results. Fish in each but not many and mostly on the small side. However, there never was another soul on any of them. Probably 'cause the fishing sucked, eh? I didn't actually buy that but wrote the slowness off to bad timing.
     But up there near the north end sat this odd little chain of lakes. Chain might be a stretch. About the only information I could get on them was their acreage. Total of about fifty-five. That's for three lakes. But they were connected and would function as one. They were also listed on a Minnesota fishing report website. Seemed no one had fished them or, if someone did, they'd never heard of the website. More likely, if any fish swam those waters they were caught by savvy old coots who'd been fishing them since they were kids back in the thirties and didn't surf the web. And wouldn't snitch on their honey hole even if they were electronically hip.
     Getting to the chain was another question. The photo told me it would be simple as pie. But like I've said way too many times in the past, those photos don't show the hills and erosion. Plus, the chain sat on a side road off a side road. Been on roads like them in the past and have the scratches down the sides of several vehicles to prove it. Also, no indication of a boat launch, a good thing and no indication a person could actually get on the water. Maybe a brush drag though a thicket of poison ivy, though I doubted that.
     In short, I was pumped. And a little nervous.
     The plan was to hit the road mid-morning and be back by supper time. Figured forty minutes there, the same back and five hours on the water. Good plan. And like most good plans, it flew out the window on the first wrong turn, disappeared over the horizon on the second and was never to be seen again on the third. And that didn't get me any further than the first side road.
     At this point I began a short drive to the far end of the forest. Lucky for me it wasn't but ten miles and forty minutes away. You see, my problem is I have this total faith in a sense of place and direction that doesn't exist beyond my ears. I mean, how is it possible to miss a turn that comes immediately after the third small lake on the left and before the sharp right hand turn?
     All went well for maybe the first quarter mile when I passed a small dried up pot hole that might or might not have been one of the lakes. Sharp right hand turns? 'Bout as many as the sharp lefts. And there was a shit load of them. All this on a road so narrow it's all a city boy like me can do to not come upside a red pine. She was a slow-go over the rocks and mini-gullies. Yeah, I passed at least what might have been three small lakes and probably missed a few more just keepin' it on the road. That's when I decided to take the full tour and get the lay of the land. My hope was I'd be able to figure out where I was on the way back.
     Passed a young guy in an old mini-pickup truck on the way. And a middle aged couple on ATVs. We all smiled and waved. Passed them again on the way back. Same smile and wave except I was a little embarrassed about not knowing where I was the first time. By now the road was making sense. Each time I passed a landmark I'd stop, look at the map and zero in on where I was. Also I'd check the odometer and was able to ball park about when I'd hit my turn. Could've used a GPS but where's the fun in that?
     The turn was right where it was supposed to be. Guess you could say that about most everything in the universe. A simple, slow drive in led me to the lake. And a driveway down to the water. Where sat the last Okie campsite in the U. S. of A. I sure didn't expect that. In fact, the Spanish Inquisition was higher on my list.
     To the right on the lower ground sat an ancient twelve-foot travel trailer. You know, the kind Mickey Mouse would've towed with the pissed off duck riding shotgun. Hitched to it was an early '70s pickup truck with a fair number of rust holes in the lower half. Actually an advantage when it came time to inspect the frame. Over the trailer entrance was a relatively new, by that I mean 21st century, blue tarp as an awning. To the side rose one seriously heavy duty steel tripod from which hung a full sized witches cauldron. A face cord of split wood and a couple of lawn chairs completed the scene.
     Up the hill to the left, a late '80s white Ford Taurus. I considered yelling out a hello but recalled my windshield note of the spring and thought a quiet smile was the way to go. Seemed the occupants were out. Or shy. Or dead. Not a one of which was my concern as I was there to fish. So I went about my business quietly and efficiently. Took no more than five minutes. Then moved my truck uphill and out of the camp. Crossed my fingers it'd still be there when I returned and hit the water.
     The plan was to paddle my ass across the lake and away from the camp as fast as I could. Also to keep my ears tuned to the sound of car jacks and engine hoists. Lucky for me there was a lily pad bed in the bay where I was headed. So I figured, "What the hell, might as well fish seein' as how I've got four rods strung and ready." Yeah, I'm a regular wizard when it comes to seizing the moment.
     And fishing. The idea from the get-go was to go at it like I knew what I was doing, even a master of the trade. Short fly rod in hand working out the line. It was breezy but not too breezy. Enough to give a drift and an occasional, uncontrolled swirl. If I left the canoe alone it would eventually have drifted into firing range of the squatters, that kind of breezy.
     Wind and fly line. That's the problem with the way I'd like to fish. That and sitting down with a short rod in hand trying to keep the line off the water as I false cast. When a zephyr comes huffing in, line on the water has to be dealt with or it can end up as a snarl. So it's reel up time. On a calm day it's no problem. Gusty day, it's cast it out, crank it in. Again and again. That usually lasts about as long as it takes me to pick up the spinning rig.
     That's kind of the situation I found myself in about a half dozen casts into the day. Fly out and a loop around the reel compounded by a high speed drift. So the popper sat out there unattended for maybe five seconds. 'Bout the time I got the canoe under control and the loop out, the fly was gone. I mentally ran through all the ways it could have disappeared till I reached: 7) Fish on the Line. Figuring that was as good a solution as any I set the hook. Turned out to be a bass. A small one but a bass nonetheless.  Then I actually said this out loud, "Could be bass in here." My perception knows no bounds.
     Can't say catching that bass with a fly rod made me feel much like a savvy fisherman. But it did give me a laugh. Like the title, even a blind pig finds a truffle now and then.
     A dozen fruitless casts later reason snapped up its ugly head. So I went sightseeing to the far end of the chain with the idea of fishing my way back. Those three little lakes proved to be a series of lily padded bays connected by two narrow channels. Got me to thinking of global warming and extended drought. An eighteen inch drop in lake level would be devastating. The chain would be cut. One would become three. Not mindless daydreaming either. It's gonna happen. Doubt I'll see it. Mainly 'cause I don't see myself dragging a canoe in here when I'm eighty years old. But for sure my son Allan and grandsons Jakob, Matthew and Luke might. Maybe it'll mean something to them, maybe not.
     The far lake was no more than a dozen acres. But did hold bass and bluegills. The first bass was a fat three pounder that stripped line and got me to say, "Mmm. This baby's got shoulders." Good thing nobody was around to hear drivel like that. Next thing you know I'll be kissin' 'em like Jimmie Houston. Then it'll be time to give up the ghost.
     Caught a couple of smaller ones. Enough to convince myself these lakes would require a return trip or two. Good water indeed. The kind a person would rarely have to share. The tourists would stick to the big waters. The locals with a good sized boat wouldn't come here. Canoe and jon boat country. Closest building was six miles away. Not quite like northwest Manitoba but a lot shorter drive. And my fertile mind could easily imagine this as wilderness.
     At that point I switched rods to the ultralight and slip bobber combo. It would have been more fun with the fly rod but I was looking to catch a couple of dozen bluegills or crappies. Get the lay of the water as to numbers and size. And it didn't take more than fifteen minutes to find out this was seriously hot bluegill water. Pockets of five to six-inchers here, eight and bigger there. Vibrant color and clouds of them. What more could an avid panfish hunter want?

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