After covering all these queen crownings,
sandwiches in the parks, Turtle-waxed antique tractors
and chance sightings of the fun drum corps, Bleep, and
marching bands, it was time to find refuge far away
from the maddening crowds - with apologies to Thomas
This was not an entangled love story of two societal
rejects. Rather it was time to commune with a common
loon or two, to send into the touchable sky a bit of
poetic length of fly line.
My mode of harmony is my old cedar strip canoe, as it
has been for almost 16 years. My once proud craft has
aged. The gunwales are scratched and gouged. That
patch covering the hole punched in the side after
being pinned to a point of Patterson Rapids granite
has "aged" differently than the rest of the
fiberglassing, so it stands out like a blemish more so
than a patch of courage.
This was a moment a "stripper" never forgets. Such as
it is when you canoe rivers. One afternoon on the
Snake, a stretch of Class I and II of river rapids
between Pine City and the St. Croix, the Exotic One
and I seemed to be living right, until we took a chute
and hit a point that pirouetted the canoe so quickly
into another rock that the woman was actually
catapulted into the river. Fortunately I saved my fly rod
and two boxes of flies, a point she'll remind me about
until "death do us part."
Patterson's was different with that horrible
crunching, collapsing wood sound. Incredibly, Tommy
Cay happened to be wading below the rapids casting for
walleyes when we hit the rock, smack in the middle of
the canoe. Little did it matter how many CFUs were
cruising through, for we were pinned by brutal water
forces pushing equally against bow and stern, and my
old wooden canoe was collapsing. Tommy and Stangel ran
up river against the current as I jumped out, and
between us we rescued the craft.
We were all impressed that the cedar canoe had
withstood a moment that has bent aluminum canoes into
long silver hairpins. Still, a hole had been punched
into the side that required a repair.
At 4:30 a.m. Saturday on the Green, where I'd gone to ply
for smallies, I found the "placid" lake still a bit
rough for a solo canoeist. With a body of water so
large, the roll of the lake, in spite of having barely
any breeze, was an awakening moment. Nearby was a
safer, much smaller lake for launching.
Perhaps the nice sunnies have gone deep. Wes Konzin
said as much a couple of weeks ago. He was in his "tin
can" canoe plying the depths with an ice fishing rod
and had enough good size bluegill for a family fish
fry. On Saturday, after working the edge and some
pockets with different "bluegill" flies, I caught a
fair share of fish you could stuff into a "thank you"
Tying on a yellow Gurgler, I paddled into the deep
weeds away from boat territory, far from from the
maddening crowds. Although this is a "boat lake," most
had launched in the quiet of the morning and motored
off in the other direction.
On one of my first casts into a fairly large opening
in the weeds, perhaps the size of a couple of business
desks, the Gurgler disappeared in a sudden swirl. When
a largemouth bass - even one that weighed about a
pound, pound and a half like this one - heads for the
weeds, you'll have a good tussle on your hands even
with a five weight.
I lost the battle, though fortunately the bass was
well hooked, and for some reason my four-pound test
leader didn't snap. Reaching into the salad, I lifted
about ten pounds of weeds in along with the little
A couple of pockets over I had another rolling swirl.
No explosion so common to topwater bass. This was a
much better fish, one that would come to the hand
weighing three to four pounds. We had a gigantic
battle and I was able to steer it away from the pads.
Then the bass took a dive. Whoops. After pulling,
grunting and praying it was lipped and lifted into the
canoe with another ten pounds of aqua fauna. What a
beautiful specimen. After admiring it for a brief
moment it was lowered back to the water. Seconds later
it caught its breath and hightailed it back into the
comfort of the lily pads.
After doing some chores back home, it was off to a
motor-less beauty late in the afternoon, the same lake
Wes was fishing a fortnight earlier. I quickly paddled
to his "hole" and dropped anchors.
For fishing and canoeing solo, a canvas stadium seat,
which is very comfortable and stable, is placed in
front of the back thwart. You're sitting low with very
little draft. With Joe Hyde's dual, "soft" anchor
system supposedly controlling both the bow and stern,
this was an incredibly comforting way of fishing. Just
floating in a bit of a wind in a seat as comfy as a
recliner, trying to catch a few bluegill. No deer
flies. No mosquitoes. No parading tractors no marching
bands. No beer. No ball game. Nothing much at all.
Then I realized that I was drifting. Paddling back, I
again dropped anchor. Still the drift continued.
On one of the paddle backs I noticed the free end of
a yellow rope floating in the water. This led to a
bit of a chortle and private hilarity - until I
realized it was my anchor cord. Wow! Ropes that float.
After rescuing my ankle-weight anchor, it was off to
the woods - along the north and west shores several
trees have fallen into the rocky substrait. A few
weeks ago a Zoo Cougar, then later, a Gurgle Pop, had
fooled a couple of bass from this corner of the lake.
Today I was lazy. I stuck with the Gurgler.
Little gills toyed with it, giving me cause to pull
and recast. Old timers back when I caught this madness
advised smoking a cigarette after your popper hit the
water. Me? I just let 'er sit. Then, on about the
tenth cast, came the explosion. A beauty of a fish,
and enough of a late afternoon bass bomb that a nearby
fly fisher yelled, "Wow!" Five or so pounds of "wow!"
We had a fun, running battle, but now that ol'
bass awaits another fly. So are a bunch of others,
including the one that wrapped my Gurgler onto an
underwater tree branch - far from the maddening crowd. ~ JGW