Monday, June 23, 2014

On the Edge

     Little Jake never disappoints.  Always bass, always bluegills, sometimes perch and pike.  Home of both El and L.'s biggest bass (or would that be basses? They each caught a big one.  L.'s was bigger.  Or so he claims).  In general it's the same configuration and size as South Stocking so that's where we went for our evening.
     The three mile track on the way in had me spooked just thinking about it.  In the best of conditions the road's marginal.  At the entry stands a sign, Minimum Maintenance Road.  By minimum they mean virtually never.  Fallen trees are chainsawed off but I doubt anything else has been done in this century.   Seeing as how the road is mostly rubble, sand and rock any improvements would include dynamite.  Eventually it'll be impassable for anything but an ATV or those not minding a long portage.  Last night's storm on top of all the rest we'd had up north got me thinking, "If worse comes to worst I can always take my time and back out."  And there was also L. and his towing strap as backup.  Slow and easy was the tactic, with the emphasis on slow.
     What was once the sand surface of the trail was now eroded and gathered in the low spots.  Of course those low spots were under water.  Not unusual for this track but this evening puddles were wider and deeper than usual.  In some places a solid two feet.  A fried electrical system was a real possibility.  One school of thought, the x-games school, would see the drive as a challenge.  On the other hand some would see it as pure stupidity.  Get stuck back in the bush and it was a hike out.  Fry the engine, it was a walk out and a new vehicle.
     I took it an inch at a time, all the while peering over the hood to scope out what was coming and might slash a tire, till the last downhill.  At the bottom stretches a hundred feet of beach sand.  The sand's always there but today it was virginally level like we were the first fools in.   Running the sand was where the inching stopped and the short gunning run commenced.  Fly over that dune before we sink to the hubs.  And there at the end of the sand sat the biggest, baddest puddle.  Oh well, how deep could it be?  Up to the grill for sure but we were as good as there.  Once turned around I revved the motor for a while to blow and dry any water off.  Yeah, we were lucky to make the meadow where a cloud of blood lust hovered.
     The first order of business was a slathering of DEET.  Helps a lot but any spots missed became landing and feeding areas.  While spraying we agreed to be on our way out before the sun went down.  Being in those bug infested woods after dark was begging for a trip to the Twilight Zone.
     I've read most people find tucking their pants into their socks as unfashionable.  Guess when there's a good possibility of Lyme disease fashion takes a back seat.  We all tucked and were ready to hit the poison ivy portage.  Yu don't want to be roaming around on this trail.  Straight and narrow as she goes.
     The lake was flooded, as was the last fifty feet of path.  Surprisingly there were no swirls in the water as we approached.  Little Jake is thick with panfish even in the calf-deep shallows.  There are always a dozen or more V's of panic when we drop our gear.  Not tonight.  Got me thinking of the past winter, its bitter cold and heavy snowfall.  Could the lake have frozen out?
     Our first half hour on the water was as quiet as the shore.  Zip.  Nada.  Most likely they were out there, somewhere.  On a calmer evening we could have searched the entire lake.  Or if I was truly obsessed about finding them but I wasn't.  Guess this was't one of my obsessing days.  As far as I was concerned obsession is more tiring than it's worth.  For tonight being where we were was the deal.  Fishing was simply the excuse we used to be in the quiet of water and woods.  As I get older I find quiet to be comforting, even enjoyable.  And what better place to be than on Little Jake?  We were on the water, happy to be there and if we found fish, great.  If not, great.
     Yes we found them.  All were bass and all save one were less than a pound.  Plus one pike about the same size.  El Dean continued to fish his plastic tube.  His method was to pitch it atop a thicket of shore weeds, slide it off and bam!, a bass most every time.
     Never saw that before 'cause I'd never seen a floating, thicket of shore weeds on the lakes we fished.  From a distance they looked like an invasive species called Eurasian Millfoil.  Up close and compared with some internet detective work they didn't match up.  Maybe the weeds had something to do with the flooded lake and were growing in what should be dry land.  Little Jake may never have seen have seen a motor or a boat that could drag in an invasive species of any kind.  Small mystery on a small lake observed by people in small boats.
     Now's as good a time as any to question the strength of aircraft aluminum.  I should have been suspicious when I bought the canoe.  Why would anyone use aircraft parts in a boat?  Back when we were on Three Island Lake both El and I had heard a sharp gunshot.  Sounded close.  Too close.  Nothing more was heard so we gave it a shoulder shrug and fished on.
     Once ashore we discovered one of the support tubes under El's seat had split in half.  Must have been the gunshot we heard.  Could have been a flawed tube from the beginning.  Or maybe the front of the canoe had passed through a intense Vonnegutian gravity zone.  Could have been pretty much anything, even a large weight banging down on the seat each time it entered the canoe.  In the morning we slap dashed a fix.  Once back home in Minneapolis I ripped out a few straight grained ash one by ones with the idea of a new frame from old fashioned materials.  May not be as light as hi-tech but she'll be pretty.
     Back at the beginning of this entry I wrote Little Jake never disappoints.  Well, as it turned out Little Jake felt like just another day on the water.  Not bad, not good.  Can't say it was the lake's fault, as though a lake gives a damn one way or the other as to what a bozo like me feels about it.  Being on the water has more to do with the fisherman than the lake.  We came, we caught fish, we got out of there unscathed.  Reason enough to call it time well spent.  Or call it a time like the B.B. King song, "The Thrill is Gone," if only for an evening.

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