It’s one of those days when you’re simply glad to be alive and fishing. The late June sun shone down on us beaming it seemed with benevolent happiness. Beautiful, fluffy clouds drifted across the sky and the temperature was perfect, in the middle 70’s, but with enough of a breeze to keep you cool and refreshed. There are times when you simply have to tear a big bite out of life and savor it. Today was one of those days; you couldn’t help smiling, life a joyful experience, the rest of the world with its cares and worries forgotten.
But despite the beautiful weather and perfect conditions the sunshine had a faint, filtered quality about it that triggered the attentive fishermen’s instincts. A feeling vibrating in the cosmos which years of fishing and close attention to all nature’s influences hinted that just maybe the fish, muskies in this case, were on the prowl. It was time to go fishing!
My wife Jane was especially thrilled with the weather. Usually we’re on the water when rain fronts, thunderstorms or other triggering weather turns the fish on, but today she could dress in shorts and top, catch some sun and enjoy fishing without the challenge of inclement weather.
Jane pushed her hair back, gazed at the sky and water, thought for a moment and felt her best chance of catching a bass, walleye or Muskie today would be using a 5/8ths ounce spinner bait with twin willow blades, once copper colored, the other silver with a white skirt. She snapped it on, watched the lures appearance in the water and smiled, that combination looked and felt right.
I fired up the motor and guessed the fish would be most active on deeper weed edges today. Leaving the dock we quickly ran down our shallow bay, turning hard around the point, our boat jumping a little, the white water flying from the bows, occasional droplets of spray tingling on our bare arms and face. Man, what a thrill just to be flying along, alive and excited, life’s an adventure!
Out on the main body of the lake the waves were rolling cheerfully along with tiny whitecaps cresting here and there. I positioned us at the end of a narrow, deep channel bordered by heavy weeds and began our drift.
I was throwing a perch J-13 Rapala when what I initially thought was a walleye appeared deep behind my lure. I stopped the retrieve, twitched the Rapala twice, but so close to the boat there was only a figure 8 left to try and entice the fish. As I completed the second go round the dim shape ghosted up and I found myself eyeball to eye ball with a 20 lb. lunge which sniffed disdainfully at the Rapala and swim insolently under the boat.
“Muskie!” I cried and Jane turning saw the fish clearly giving me an awed look and smile. The fish were moving, alright!
However, she didn’t change lures, sticking with her spinner bait. She felt the unique flash of the copper and silver blades in these peculiar light conditions was the perfect combination. I have painfully learned not to question her instincts, the girl gets into fishing in a major way and on more than 1 occasion those instincts of hers really pay off; girls intuition.
Drifting now over scattered weeds in 10 feet of water I felt the boat jerk and looking up saw Janes pole bent over just as she called; “Fish on!”. Her fish stayed deep, diving into some milfoil, cutting the stems off, and then we saw the golden flash that could only mean a walleye.
I grabbed the net and was surprised how strongly this walleye was pulling until I got a better look and saw its size. We both became very nervous as larger walleyes seem to have an innate ability to escape; their small, hard mouths are notorious for slipping hooks.
Jumping behind the wheel I started the motor and backed us away from the thicker weeds, moving upwind of the fish. Don’t ever allow larger fish to remain upwind from you if drifting rapidly; this forces you to pull much harder and the boat’s constantly moving away from the fish, especially at that critical moment you’re trying to net it. Best to avoid that situation for Jane was nervously biting her lip concentrating on the battle and glancing at the weeds ahead.
Fifty feet directly upwind of the fish I stopped, lifted the prop out of the water and then grabbed the net. The walleye came up, tired by now and I quickly slipped the meshes under a fat 25-inch walleye. Whew, got him! A minute later we were over the thick weeds.
Jane was all smiles and very relieved, it’s tough on anyone losing a fish you so very badly want to land and we’d both lost nice walleyes earlier in the week right at the boat because of the wind.
A couple pictures and I wrapped the eye’ in a wet towel skipping it under the seat, out of the sun, to keep cool.
With the prop out of the water, the boat drifting freely, we both sat down to take a break and enjoy the day. This particular weed bed was 500 yards wide. The wind was pushing us directly across it, the next deep water appearing when we drew even with a small island. So, taking advantage of this opportunity we sat comfortably talking, enjoying the day and sipping on a drink. Nearing the island we picked up our poles once again and prepared to cast parallel to the weed edge, your best chance of getting a hit in most cases. Jane took the left and I cast right.
No action here so we continued drifting out into the lake toward a bar which held a small weed bed. As we drew near I another Muskie followed. Darn things, don’t just follow the lure for crying out loud, hit it!
Then that familiar little hitch in the boat again as Jane set the hook. I immediately looked up in time to see her reel down, slam the hooks home once again and then repeat it, her rod locking up solidly. Following the line a big boil appeared on the surface with the green and white flash of a muskellunge, a good one too.
The fish rolled, thrashed the surface white and then ran directly away digging the rod butt deeply into Jane’s stomach. She let out an “Oh!” but held grimly onto the bucking rod as the fish bored away, upwind of course, away from the drifting boat, adding to the stresses exerted on the already straining fishing rod, her hands and arms.
Jane’s face assumes a very determined expression when she’s battling a big one and she had her game face on now, especially with this fish refusing to come any closer to the rapidly drifting boat. I’d made a long cast and by the time I had it reeled in, made sure our tackle boxes were closed and the net wasn’t tangled on immovable objects she was glancing very impatiently at me to start the motor and get upwind of this strong fish.
I fired up the Johnson and slowly and gradually turned into the wind so Jane wouldn’t lose her balance in the rocking boat. By now the fish was 50 yards away, deep into the scattered weeds and unmoving.
Edging closer and closer Jane kept the pressure on until we were almost directly over the lunge. Jane reeled down and lifted hard, her knuckles white, lips compressed in a grimace, her rod bent deeply with the strain. Slowly she lifted the fish, reeled down and lifted again when the lunge suddenly tore off ripping line off her reel in another lightening run.
Jane held doggedly on, steadily tiring the lunge and finally we saw the fish, easily over 40-inches, adding to the tension of the battle. He shot off again and Jane patiently worked him back 3 more times. The third time he was beat, rolled on his wide side and I slid the toothy head deep into the net, lifting him triumphantly into the boat.
Jane’s arms were tired, her fingers ached and unconsciously she was rubbing the growing bruise on her stomach, but her face was lit up into a brilliant, triumphant smile as she gazed at her beautiful muskellunge. I stepped over the seat and gave her a big hug, then she held her fish up for pictures, a task she is not fond of her fingers being so close the sharp gills and nasty teeth, besides, the fish was heavy.
After I finished with the photo’s she plopped down in the seat, opened a soda, added a little sunscreen, propped up her feet and relaxed.
She gave me a mischievous little grin, her eyes twinkling and merely said; “Your turn.”
You know, I never did catch a lunge that day, nothing but follows.