Wednesday, December 11, 2013

McFarland and Pine

     Once again the wind was up.  Nothin' we could do about that and since we were here to fish, we headed back up the Arrowhead Trail.  The plan was to fish Pine Lake.  To do that we had to first paddle the length of McFarland then do the short upstream battle into Pine.
     At the access we met another of the ancient mariners who seemed to populate the area.
     - God, I just had a scary thought.  If I was to carry out my intention of fishing the Arrowhead once again, one of those ancient mariners might be me.  A lone wolf whose only purpose in life was to fish the waters I could still reach and ruminate about how much better it was way back when to innocent bystanders.  Like that's a whole lot different than writing a blog. Oh Lord, protect me from myself. -
     He seemed a nice enough guy, hopefully harmless, who'd had a pretty slow time of it on the water.  His stringer held a single, ten inch walleye.  He nearly had tears in his eyes about how bad the fishing had become.  His lone pickerel told me he'd not quite picked up on the concept that dead fish can't breed.
     All I could do was pat him on the shoulder and offer a consoling, "Ain't that just too damned bad, old man, ain't that just too damned bad.  Now, why don't you walk slowly over to yonder white pine and bang your head against it while my son and I get the hell out of here as fast as we can."  Strangely enough, that's just what he did.  Sounded like a pileated woodpecker with a dull beak.
     McFarland presented a problem we'd yet to face on the water.  Once launched we were lookin' into the face of a stiff wind and shushing whitecaps.  Had I more experience in a canoe or had Allan been older than twelve it might have been a lot less scary.  Top that with the thought Lois would be a bit upset if the kid drowned and I didn't, and it was time to be extra cautious.
     At least I knew enough to tuck behind points and when out in the open, keep our nose into the wind.  Still, the two miles was a stiff workout.  Looking back on it I wonder how hard the wind could have been blowing if us two neophytes could cover that stretch.
     At the north end we found calm black water.  Black as could be black.  Something about the blackness draws me.  Maybe it's my German nature and all I needed was for some nixie to lure me under to my death.  Gets a man to wondering about those ancient Dutchmen that some imaginary tart in a lake or river could sucker them into drowning.  Water nymph or not, we found no fish.  But casting to nothing beat the pants off sitting in camp.
     A short distance away ran the connecting stream to Pine Lake.  Pine is a couple of thousand, seven mile long, narrow acres.  Good numbers of walleye, great smallie and fair lakers swim in its waters.  Also, its seven mile length gave the wind a running start at building up a head of steam.  Made McFarland look like a ripply little pond in comparison.  Still we gave it a go.  Angles across the half mile width in hopes of finding a few protecting points we might fish behind.  No such luck.
     So we back tracked and pulled into shore.  Bladders called and it was our last chance to sit and watch the BWCA for the year.  By now we'd seen a few campsites and knew one or more of them would be ours when we returned the next spring.
     The run down McFarland was another learning experience.  Sure it was a lot less work than a headwind but it was also a constant fight to keep our nose downwind.  Head or tailwind, doesn't matter, both like to turn a boat sideways.  However, this was the first time I got to hear the song of the whitecaps.  We didn't exactly surf those waves but for a few seconds at a time we were in the froth and serenaded by the 'sssshhhuussshhh' of the wave as it slowly broke.  Not exactly life changing but, as far as I'm concerned, unforgettable.

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