September 2, 2000
Wow. I know, I hate to start a journal entry with the word “Wow” but it seems to apply. Now just take a deep breath. Prepare to leave your surroundings and go to the cabin. Its not easy, I know. You’re at home, or you’re working or you have some kind of “meaningful” crap hanging over your head. But it’s important that you find some way to let loose of that and come with me to the cabin. Just for a few minutes. Do it.
Had a late night last night. Sat by the fire until about 3 hours after supper time and never really got supper. So we pieced together some sandwiches and some snacks and what do you know, I was full enough to sleep. After putting the journal up for Day 1, I got to bed about midnight.
But naturally, when you’re sleeping in the north woods, you don’t need much sleep. 7 or 8 hours is a waste. Get 5 or 6 hours of deep sleep and you’re ready to take on another day. Anything more than that is wasteful and could easily be compensated for upon your return to civilization. Contrary to popular belief, and those who would rather NAP, you CAN catch up on sleep.
So… Up at 7:00 AM and lots to do. I’m up here for less than a day at this point so I have to reorganize my tackle (which resides here) and rig up my very first Musky rod (More Musky talk to follow….), cook some breakfast (damn I miss Betty…) pack a day bag for the boat since I’m fishing out of Hoser’s boat today instead of my own boat, brew up not one, but TWO pots of coffee, and plan out the day ahead.
We’re decided. Canada is the place to be today. Everybody says the fishing is good up there so Canada seems to be calling. So we’re off to Windigo Island to get a license, then off to Cyclone Island to get clearance into Canada. By the way, this whole "checking into Canada" thing is a bit of a joke. It's as if we’re some kind of undesirable American influence that has to be controlled in Canada. What a bunch of Scone eating cowards….Like we’re going to sneak into Canada. What do that think, that we’re planning to swim across the boarder and live the Good Life !!!! Give me a break.
It’s about 9:30 AM by this time and still a little cloudy and overcast. No real rain by this point, but it’s relatively warm. Low 60’s. I can live with that. No wind, no problem…..
Off to Canada…
We head north and east. Around Falcon Island (check your map) and directly to some “secret spot” that Hose knows about. We drift around looking for Walleye and sure enough, an hour or two into the day, and we’ve got two nice little Wally’s in the live well. In fact, if we fast forward a little, we’ve got four fish, one about 13 inches, one about 14, one about 49 inches, and one about 42 inches.
Wait, can that be right? Was that a typo? 49 inches !!! Don’t be a dumb ass. That’s a misprint. Or is it…..
Now, before you read further. Prepare yourself. This is a “life altering” event. You’re about to share in a major milestone for several of our Fox Harbour Faithful… Do Not Take This Lightly. You’re one of the lucky few that gets to share in this, only hours after it occurs. This is special. Don’t hurry.
You’re about to see some photographs that may move you, possibly even upset you. These are not fakes. This is the way things looked at Lake of the Woods today. Rather than offering you the typical “thumbnail” as I usually do (a Thumbnail is a smaller version of the actual picture. You click on the Thumbnail to get the enlarged version) I don’t want to give you more information than you need. Now wait. Seriously. This is no small thing. You’re about to experience the equivalent of “A small step for man, a giant leap for mankind…..” or what ever that quote was. There’s no way to prepare you for this. If you’ve ever caught a fish in your life. You’ll understand. Ready?
This is the first of our “gator action” for the day. Given the opportunity, I would walk you through this experience moment by moment. But the space here is limited so I'll do the best I can. Even with a limited description of this experience you’re going to understand that it was exciting. You can tell just from the picture that…. OK, somebody caught a big fish. But I’m cheating you if I don’t find a way to bring you to this catch. It was perfect.
Cloudy, rainy, and calm. We’re moving around this famous “Point” where Hoser saw some guy catch a nice Musky last year. We’re thinking, “Well, what the hell?” we’ll give it a shot. Hoser’s got a new Bow-Mounted trolling motor on the Slayer and we’re able to navigate at will. We can wiggle in and out of every little nook and cranny of the shoreline. We can inch our way right up to the weeds and our world-class casting abilities allow us to put the lure (we’ll talk about the lures in a moment) right where we want them. We can place our lure with surgical precision. Pilots of the stealth fighters, F-177-A pilots would be jealous. If there’s a fish there, we’ll get his attention. Right?
Right you are. I’m throwing a BuckTail spinner bait tied nicely to my new St Croix Musky rod, using a reel I borrowed from Snoot. And Snoot’s tossing what amounts to a 2X4 with eyes painted on it. Some of these lures are somewhat comical. They do not resemble anything in nature. No rational fish would be interested in a hunk of wood with treble hooks the size of small chandeliers hanging from it. But that's what makes the Musky so desirable. They're just a little nuts. Much like the men who chase them.
Hose on the other hand is casting a traditional (that’s Hose) Buck Tail. This is some giant hunk of hardware with a hook the size of a tire iron and a bunch of Deer Hair knotted up around a piece of wire. This a traditional Musky lure but with one exception. This one has a bunch of “Christmas Tinsel” hanging from it. On dry land, this lure looks ridiculous. But in the water, it has an appeal that only a giant leviathan could appreciate.
Anyway, we’re all casting our brains out. It is common knowledge that you must cast about 10,000 times to catch a musky. And you must cast about 30,000 times to catch anything meaningful. Well, this is Lake of the Woods, and we don’t go much for statistics.
We’re about 35 minutes into our morning of Musky hunting and the mood takes a dramatic change. Hose is retrieving his cast and suddenly, all the breath leaves his body. He goes speechless and there is a large swirl of whitewater about 20 feet from the boat. He’s got a strike. And this, as you can imagine is no small fish. They don’t nibble. They hit the lure like a passing train. This one was actually chewing it. Chomping on it and moving up the lure towards the leader. After what seemed like 5 minutes (it was actually about 2 ½ seconds) Hose gets the rod up, and needlessly sets the hook. I say needlessly because these fish pretty much set their own hook. They attack and then turn and run. Providing you’ve not allowed the rod and reel to fly off into the lake, the hook gets set for you.
Now there are a number of important operations underway in the boat. Hose is playing the fish.
Snoot is going for the net and a glove. Not a small glove. This resembles a welder’s mitt.
Talcot is supervising the whole operation (note his position in the lower right corner)
And I’m scrambling to get out the camera.
The actual fight didn’t last that long. Now I understand why a Musky rod looks more like a rake handle than a fishing pole. Anything less and you’d never get the fish near the boat. Every time it approached the boat, this fish would get a look at us and BOLT !!
Unbelievable that the whole setup, rod and all, didn’t go flying out of Hoser’s hands. Or that he didn’t end up in the lake himself. Imagine having a fish the size of a Labrador trying to depart the area in a hurry. It is quite a sight. The swirl that these fish make as they turn and run is uniquely Musky. They’re big but they’re fast and nimble. More like a shark than a fish. But the fish is eventually boated. Hearts are pounding and knees are shaking….
Here’s a shot of the landing team. Fisherman and Net Man.
So there is a short celebration. You don’t boat a beast like that and not stop to reflect and absorb the moment. We talk about it and agree that it will not sink in completely for a while….
So finally, back to fishing. The monster is safely released and swims away tired but healthy. This fish has been caught before. Lots of scars….
We motor back to drift over that point again. Where there’s one, I guess there could be more. It finally starts to sprinkle. Not a bad rain, just enough to bring out the rain gear. And not enough to diminish the celebration. We bust out the good cigars and it's high-fives all around. About 15-20 casts later, Wham. Snoot starts cussing like a sailor. Yes, that’s right. Back to Back ‘Gators. Only this time, it’s Snoot’s rod that’s bending way over.
This is a slightly different story in that this fish hit right at the boat. There was no time to play the fish and tire it out. It hit hard, 10 feet from the boat and it was ready to be netted. If you've ever witnessed someone catch a big fish, there's always something about it that stands out in your memory. In this case, it was a very tense moment, just after the fish hit. Snoot was doing his best to play it tight and not let it throw the hook but quickly discovered that he couldn't really breath properly. So through clenched teeth he muttered, "Would someone please take this cigar out of my mouth?" It was very funny. He did his absolute best to sound calm and collected. In my mind, he pulled it off. We were very impressed.
Being an experienced Musky hunting team, having just been through this drill 10 minutes ago, we had this process down. Caught the fish, netted it, shot some pictures and got it back in the lake all in about 2 ½ minutes. Funny how you get good at stuff faster when it’s fun. If this were work, it would take us weeks to get this process down. But fishing, that we can master after only one try.
We spent another hour and a half there, trying to get a third fish (for me) but no such luck. Finally elected to call it a day and head back to the cabin. Talcot has calmed down and we took his lead and calmed down a little ourselves.
On the way to the cabin we happened to pass Sunset Lodge and so in for a celebratory drink. Can you see the GLOW in these faces?
Hose’s fish was 49 inches and Snoots was 42. That’s a little over 90 inches of fish in about 15 minutes. Not a bad day on the lake.
Before we got to the cabin we came across another black bear swimming from one island to another. We tried to get close enough to take a picture and in doing so we caused him to abandon his trip and retreat to the nearest shore. We apologized.
After arriving back at the cabin. We agreed that a normal dinner didn’t seem good enough. It was time for a proper celebratory dinner. I started this journal entry, while Hose assembled a very nice Garlic Port Loin. Stuck that in the electric roaster for a couple hours and it was very tasty. Even the gravy seemed special. Some nice red potatoes and of course, Sweet Corn combined to make up a nice supper.
Properly stuffed, we wandered over to the Blue Eyed Chief. Had a few too many there, and somehow, miraculously walked back to the cabin in the dark with the genetic drive (blind luck) of a swallow flying back to San Juan Capistrano.
This has been a long and full day. Long in that lots of good stuff happened today. And full, well you just read it. I hope it got you a little closer to the lake…wherever you are.
Good night, Friends.