Welcome to Warmwater Fishing!

Far From the Maddening Crowd

By John White, Minn.

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 Hardy.

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" card envelope.

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 battler.

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

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