And the season is open! This is the planetary record - so far!
I was way up North, not quite to the Arctic Circle but close enough. Even in late May there was only a narrow strip of open water between the shore and the ice covering most of the lake. The little cove that sheltered the town's boats in summer was open. Around midnight there was still enough light outside that I saw three kids lying on their stomachs at the end of the wharf in the cove. They were each pitching lines into the shadow underneath and would regularly pull out a good sized silvery fish that they would snatch off the line and toss in a bucket. Every now and then a fish would drop back in the water before it could be secured. I was curious what kind of gear they were using that allowed such quick collection of their catch. I walked over and stood by them a while trying to see it without interrupting. Fortunately for me one of them drew up the courage to talk to this stranger in town and asked where I was from. I told him and then asked how they were catching fish at such a phenomenal pace. He seemed surprised that I was impressed by their activity. He said the bite was a bit slow. "How do you get them off the hook so quickly?" I asked. "We aren't using a hook" he said. "Just bait?" I asked. He seemed very confused that I did not know what they were using so he decided to just show me. They were using small white pebbles tied into a basket woven out of fishing line. The fish were just grabbing at this white flotsam in the dark water under the dock. They would hold onto it long enough that a fast kid could whip them out and into the bucket. Some let go early and escaped. I don't know how long they had been there but their bucket was nearly full and I figured they would have to cooperate to get it home.
Nearly 20 years later, every time I visit Bass-Pro and look over the fancy, expensive lures I remind myself of the day I watched a bunch of kids catch a lot of fish with nothing but rocks and line. But I still buy too many lures because I just can't bring myself to rely on that method. Perhaps I need to try to become a kid again.
The cast sailed straight but high. I watched one of my favorite lures pass over a branch, thread its way through numerous twigs and leaves then fall into the mouth of the creek at which my wife had aimed. There is only one thing to do in such circumstances. First is to raise the lure out of the water lest a fish grab it and make retrieval far more difficult. Then you just have to get to the lure, snip it off the line and reel the now hook free line back through the tree branches.
I handle the boat when we fish, so my wife reeled in just enough to dangle the lure at the right height for her to reach it once I got the boat in place. Keeping it there proved tricky as the approach of the boat caused it to lower and her reeling produced an irregular pattern of raising and lowering plus swinging about.
Slowly steering a boat around creek furniture can be tricky. The lure was dangling over a large submerged stump that I did not want to hit so speed control was important. I took my time and the lure swung about, occasionally duking below the surface.
We were about 10 feet away and the lure was just inches out of the water when a large Bluegill jumped up and grabbed the lure. It hooked itself and thrashed desperately trying to get back into the creek. The added weight and energy created a very wide swing and an unpredictable pattern. I got the boat as close as I dared to the center of the pendulum and stood in the bow trying to grab the line every time it came close enough. After what seemed like forever, the boat drifted on the current and I was out of range. My wife lowered the fish back into the water to keep it form suffocating while I re-positioned the boat. The next try was successful. The fish was boated and released and I cut the line.
My wife and I will always cherish the day she caught a Bluegill in a tree.
My Dad and I spent a lot of time fishing along streams and in his motorized dinghy. The boat's name was 8/7 for reasons that I never really understood but it meant something important to Dad. 8/7 was 10 feet long and powered by a 3 horse power 2 stroke outboard. It sat the two of us comfortably but could accommodate two adults and two kids as long as no-one moved around too much. It was unsinkable.
My maternal grandfather, we called him Pop, was not a fisherman. He loved the outdoors but more in a passing-through-it sort of way than as a place to catch his next meal. According to Mom he started with the usual amount of disdain for his son-in-law but had become fond of him over the years after my parents married. Dad never forgot the original attitude and was a little suspicious that it remained, even as my sister and I grew old enough to understand that adults didn't always get along.
Some-one came up with the idea that Pop should go fishing with Dad, my sister and I. Any four people casting from that boat would have been a disaster so we got under way and each laid out a line to troll for Trout. Well three of us did. Pop couldn't work the reel properly so Dad laid out his line then passed it to him as he sat in the bow of the boat. With Dad steering from the stern seat, my sister and I in the middle and Pop in the bow we cruised around the lake on a beautiful sunny morning.
Trolling is very fickle. The fish don't care who is holding the rod and chose which one of many to bite based on factors only they understand. I had four nice ones in the boat while no-one else had caught any. Pop was doing his best to entertain both himself and us. Dad was getting a little stressed trying to ensure everyone was safe, comfortable and at least not grumpy. The general lack of success led him to change baits fairly often, a process made more complicated by the need to pass Pop's rod to the stern and then back to the bow, all while steering and keeping his own rod in the boat and out of anyone else's way. His task was even more complicated by the many times we hooked bottom, forcing him to bring 8/7 about and all of us to reel in while he recovered the trapped hook. I was unaware of just how anxious he had become.
Suddenly the quiet pleasance of our cruise was shattered by Pop's rod being nearly torn out of his hands. The idea that he had hooked bottom again was quickly dispelled as the rod bounced and shook from a vicious series of head shakes. He had a big one on the line. A big fish on means the motor is turned off and all others reel in to avoid fouling the lines as it is reeled in. While the three of us did that Pop fumbled with his reel and tried to keep his rod from going overboard but made no progress toward landing the fish. We all scanned the water hoping to see this monster. We didn't have to wait long. An explosion of silver scales and white foam revealed an Atlantic Salmon as it leapt clear of the surface. It was huge. Dad hollered out that it was a Salmon and started barking instructions at Pop on how to work the reel. Pop, who was partially deaf, either couldn't hear him clearly or just didn't understand what he was saying. Again the Salmon leapt, this time closer to the boat with the now slackened line swinging around as the fish attempted to shake off the hook. We could see the spinner hanging precariously from its mouth. The hook was set, but not very deeply. Dad practically climbed over us two kids as he insisted that Pop hand him the rod. The boat was rocking wildly by this time making the passage of the rod even trickier. Finally Dad gets a firm grip on it and regains his seat. He was desperately trying to take up the slack when the Salmon breached a third time, closer and higher than ever. It seemed to hang in the air a bit longer than the previous jumps and with a gentle flexing of its lips it expelled the hook. The spinner flashed in the sun as it fell away from the now lost trophy. Our prize slipped beneath the water and was gone. The sound of the splash had barely dissipated when Pop yelled back to Dad "You lost my fish!"
Some say silence is golden, others a virtue. Dad's silence was ominous. He looked at Pop in a way that my sister and I immediately understood as NOT GOOD. Pop had a sly smile since he had not yet realized the depth of the tragedy that had just occurred. I distinctly remember reassuring myself that Pop was a great swimmer. My sister laughed first and that made me laugh. Pop joined in and Dad just sat there, not laughing but at least calming down enough to eventually just shake his head and begin re-baiting the hook. Once the three of us had stopped laughing he made sure everyone was ready, we reset the lines and fished our way back to the dock in silence. Pop had his one and only "one that got away" story with someone else to blame it on just to make it more fun to tell. My sister and I had a great story about breaking tension and my Dad? Well he never brought it up again and when anyone else did he would just sort of snort and then smile. Pop never fished again, claiming he had already hooked the biggest one out there so there was no point.
I was five. My dad decided it was time to take me out fishing. I didn't really know what to expect as we got up before dawn and skipped breakfast to head a little ways down the road from my Uncle's cabin. Mom expressed concern that we might get hungry. Dad assured her we would be back soon.
The little stream was just deep enough that I had to worry about flooding my boots as I navigated around the densely overgrown banks to get to each little pool. I caught my first trout fairly quickly and then another and another. They were everywhere and they were hungry. Also everywhere and hungry were the mosquitoes and blackflies inhabiting the bush that time of year. The flies didn't bother me, I failed to notice getting hungry. Dad began suggesting we should go home. Eventually I agreed that once we were out of worms I would go home without protesting. Shortly after that I caught Dad "spilling" some worms from the bait box he carried. I asked to carry the box and he handed it to me with a sly grin.
Well after noon I put the last worm on my hook. I had become pretty good at it after Dad insisted it was time I learn to bait my own. Once there was nothing left of that last worm we headed back upstream. I have no idea how far we went but the walk back was slowed by my reluctance and fatigue.
We arrived back at my uncle's cottage where Mom was frantic with worry and concern about what had happened to us or how we had fared without anything to eat all day. She took one look at my fly chewed hide and declared that I looked like I had measles. We had a lot of fish - catch limits were much higher in those days and we may have ignored them. I proudly showed the string to everyone and then we all ate freshly caught trout for our dinner time breakfast.
Dad told that story about me catching him spilling the worms to all of his friends and our relatives. I think he wanted me to catch him at it. He always laughed about it.
My kids both caught their first trout in that same stream. Even though my kids are not as devoted to fishing as I am, someday I hope my grandchildren do the same.