Weathering the challenges of a truly wonderful sport
I am dedicating this week's column to all those hearty souls who are always willing to brave the elements.
These are the people who are so obsessed with making every minute in the outdoors count. It's the love of the outdoors that drives so many of us to fish the lakes until they no longer can be navigated with a trusty outboard. It's that passion that keeps us in a duck blind or tree stand even when the feeling in our fingers and toes has left us.
I am frequently reminded of the week I spent on God's Lake in Manitoba when the season barely opened and the weather refused to be kind to Mike Seeling and me.
We suspected the pike fishing would be a tad slow, but we knew the walleye action would probably be tremendous. We didn't, however, count on 4 inches of wet snow accumulating in our boat. Can you imagine the weight of 4 inches of wet snow piled up from stern to bow? And we charged ahead to some great walleye fishing, despite a watercraft ready to be swamped.
The weather also was nearly our undoing on Bangs Lake about 20 years ago.
My pal Roger and I were catching largemouth in a grand way when low-hanging, black clouds appeared over our heads. We kept casting. Suddenly massive lightning bolts shot out of the sky, and as we foolishly continued making casts the mono line shot straight up in the air from the static electricity. We dropped the rods and dove for the bottom of the aluminum boat. And then an incredible monsoon came down on us with the addition of marble-sized hail.
A similar happening occurred in Delray Beach, Fla. Roger and I were fishing Lake Ida when a hurricane-like thunderstorm engulfed us, filling the boat with water.
While a trip to the Quetico Provincial Park north of Ely, Minn., provided fantastic smallmouth fishing and great camping, there was no early warning of an approaching storm. So there we sat in the canoe working a shoreline when a flight of birds screamed by, apparently heading for shelter.
Not bright enough to recognize the warning signs, once again we got caught in a massive storm. The canoe filled like a bathtub and almost sank. We inched our way to shore to sit under the canoe, hoping it wouldn't be an all-night affair.
Another time, Gordy and I were heading to my ramshackle cabin on Minnesota's Gunflint Trail. The forecast called for a dusting of snow, but as fate would have it the dusting turned into a blizzard.
For those of you who don't know, the Gunflint Trail is miles and miles of winding roads going west out of Grand Marais, Minn. Visibility was down to less than 10 feet. Gordy suddenly yelled for me to watch out and stop the car. We could barely see out the front windshield. Gordy tried reaching into the back seat for his rifle because two bull moose stood in the road, blocking us from continuing.
Horn blowing, engine racing and whistles failed to budge the heavily racked beasts. We wound up sitting in that spot for over an hour. With a good 6 inches of snow on the hood, Gordy then opened the door, fired a shot in to the air and managed to scatter the cantankerous animals into the woods. The car, however, was stuck in mud ruts. After an hour of digging and pushing we made it to the cabin.
Eagle Lake Ontario near Dryden is known for its great muskie fishing as well as unpredictable weather. A.J. Paul, his wife Peg, my wife and I experienced five different climate changes in one day.
Our muskie excursion started out with a sunny sky and hardly any wind. An hour into the boat ride we felt the day's first rain drops, and then a heavy downpour. The rain then changed to sleet that severely hindered our vision.
And then it hailed. It was like a thousand snare drums being played at once as the hail stones landed on the bottom of the boats. Finally, the snow arrived. Not a flurry, mind you, but a typical Ontario blizzard. A.J. and I never heard the end of that debacle.
Is all this craziness worth it? It must be otherwise we would be sitting home learning how to knit.