Lighter Side

What is life if there is not laughter? Welcome to the lighter side of flyfishing! We welcome your stories here!
May 21st, 2001

Bone Lake

By: Steven H. McGarthwaite

Years ago my high school friends and I decided on a camping trip during the summer. Our group of four was comprised of Tom & Paul Kubas, Eddy (forgot his last name), and myself (forget mine sometimes too.) But this trip to Bone Lake was a special adventure, never to be forgotten.

None of us had a car, so we talked Tom and Paul's grandfather into driving us to Bone Lake, Wisconsin. We planned, and planned and planned some more. We had a list of everything we would need, and saved up money from our miscellaneous summer jobs, to finance this trip. We spent many evening hours discussing what equipment, supplies, and groceries to take, and meals to cook. Who's duties where what, and so on.

I had never been to Bone Island and the name sounded sinister, then I was told the abandoned island we were going to camp on was called Skull Island. I started to have a bad feeling about the whole adventure.

Bone Lake

The day of the trip to Bone Lake the sky was blue and it was a sunny summer day, the kind of day that if you were stuck indoors working, you would find some excuse to leave.

On the way up to the lake, from the Twin Cites, we pasted thru Luck, Wisconsin, who's claim to fame is they make the Duncan Yoyo's. I thought Luck, Wisconsin, I would rather camp out here. It doesn't sound anywhere as sinister as Skull Island on Bone Lake.

We arrived at the resort that was going to lease us a row boat (a genuine row boat, not a boat without a motor). Those of you who have never experienced the joy of rowing a genuine rowboat have missed something in life. They are long and narrow and when you pull on the oars, the boat glides thru the water as a hot knife thru butter. When you have two people rowing, you can speed across the lake as if you were a powered boat. This was an extra special row boat, it had three sets of oars, so we could fly like the wind. It didn't take us long to get to Skull Island, we found it abandoned and overgrown with tall grass, vines, and bramble. It was perfect.

We unloaded our gear and set up the tents, with duties done, I was for going fishing. I assembled my fishing rod (these were my pre-fly angling days), dug thru my gear and discovered I didn't have my tackle box. And as the sun set on our first day on Skull Island, I started having my doubts. The next morning I decided to row back to the resort to see if they had any tackle that I could afford. I had spent most of my money on my share of the provisions and the gas money to take us up there and to have grandpa Kubas return to take us home. So to say it politely as possible, I was tapped.

The other three co-padre's were not interested in rowing that morning as their bodies were reminding them of the trip yesterday. So here I found myself, rowing a long heavy boat into the wind across a lake with white caps. I rowed, and rowed, and rowed some more. The distant shore never looked as if it was getting even an inch closer. After an eternity (maybe two eternities), I arrived at the resort.

Yes they had some tackle, and with what little money I had I frugally bought what I needed. Grandpa Kubas, always said, "Needs, Wants, and Gets are three different things!" I had just enough money to buy some worms, when the bad news hit me. They were fresh out of worms and would not get anymore for three days, when the bait guy came again on his weekly rounds. Minnows and Leeches were out of the question, as I had nothing to store them in, and I didn't have enough to buy them and a container.

So with the remaining money, I bought two Nesbitt Orange Sodas (they were the best Orange Soda ever made, and I miss them to this day), and a couple Hershey Chocolate Bars. Now I had the long row back across the lake.

Rowing back was a lot easier because I was going with the wind. But there is one draw back if you are in a row boat. The waves crashing over your stern and filling the bottom with water. Now these old wood boats had no floatation devices in them, and people back then didn't have life jackets or floating cushions. Those were different times.

So I was a bit worried about the boat filling as I had nothing but my hands to bail with. If I did stop to bail, the wind may take the boat broadside and swamp me for sure. So to cut to the chase, I made it back, but I was starting to feel shivers up my spine. This was looking like a bad outing.

Have you ever fished with a bare hook? Well I was not about to. I had the fishing pole, I had the tackle (at risk to life and limb), but no bait. I used the camp shovel for the latrine and dug for some worms. You know, there was not one single worm on that whole island? Somewhere (eons ago) that island was submerged and all the worms drifted off to wherever they go when their island is sunk. I could not find any grasshoppers (too soon), no minnows, or anything else. We had one can of corn, but that was for dinner Thursday night and I could not have it.

Meanwhile, while I was risking life and limb, my three co-padre's were having a great time. It seems there was this girls summer camp on the lake, very near the island. And three canoes filled with teenage girls came over to the island for the day. And to make matters worst, they all were wearing bikinis. And I had missed it all. The rest of the week I was on that island, the girls never returned.

Day after day I fished, using stuff from breakfast, lunch and dinner for bait. I tried potatoes from the canned stew but it kept dissolving in the water. I tried to get spaghetti to stay on the hook with no result. Fish do not like pea, bean (green or baked), carrots, onions, and they didn't like beef or chicken either. I knew they would go for corn but that was for Thursday night and we were leaving Friday morning.

Finally I got an idea, I took a filter off of one of my cigarettes, yes I smoked as a teenager (I don't recommend it, I don't encourage it, and I wish I had never started). Stripped off the paper and pushed it onto the hook, and frayed the end of the filter back by the point of the hook and gave it the old heave ho into the water . . . It worked! I finally had caught a fish. It was a Rock Bass, with their big ugly Red Eyes. So I threw it back.

Finally Friday arrived we packed up the remaining gear and rowed back across the lake. Grandpa Kubas was waiting for us and we went back home. Yes I remember Bone Lake, although I still can't remember Eddy (whatever his last name was). When I remember and look back on the adventure I smile. ~ Steven H. McGarthwaite

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