Sunday, June 11, 2006

An Evening on Hall Lake

It really shouldn’t be this cool in June, but I’m enjoying it. But will it affect the fishing, I wonder as I slide the canoe off my truck? The wind is fairly brisk out of the northwest. I load the canoe, a fly rod and a lightweight spinning rod and reel, a pouch containing my tackle, a lifejacket which goes under my knees but satisfies DNR if they happen by, and my dog. I’m trying to train him to be a paddling companion, but he’s not a water dog. Actually, that’s good, for I know I don’t have to worry about him going overboard to investigate something. The dog has been through the routine before and immediately lies on the bottom of the boat, between the middle two thwarts. Occasionally he’ll lay his head on the wooden thwart and look out or to invite me to pat him, but mostly he lays low. It’s about ninety minutes till sunset.

We paddle out along the eastern side of the lake, maneuvering behind an island that’ll protect us from the wind. There’s a deep channel through here and I put on a spinner and began to cast along the edges. After a few dozen casts, I finally get a strike. The fish bends the light tackle, but it’s a fairly small bass. Before releasing it, I show it to the dog. He’s not interested. Another few dozen casts, but no more strikes. I move further along the eastern side of the lake, into a small inlet, trying several prime looking spots. Almost ever cast comes up with weeds, so I change to a plastic worm with a weedless hooks. I let the worm sink deeper into the channel. A few casts later, a fish strikes but I miss it. I cast out parallel to a log that juts out into the water. Just after I begin reeling, a fish hits; I yank and he’s hooked. He comes to surface and jumps out of the water. It’s another small bass, but he’s smart. I watch him dive, then turn, pulling my line toward the log. I keep the line taut, and keeping him from tangling my line behind the log. He tires quickly and I reel him up to the edge of the canoe. He’s hooked in the lip, allowing me to reach over the side and release him without taking him completely out of the water. As soon as he’s free, he dives and disappears in the weeds.

The sun drops lower on the horizon behind steely gray clouds that look more wintry than summer. The other boats on the lake are heading in. I stow my rod and paddle a bit, talking to the dog while admiring the purple irises jutting out from the bank. Finally the wind diminishes and I reach for my fly rod. With a little black spider at the end of my leader, I work the lily pads along the edge bank, continuing to make my way along the eastern side of the shore. Nothing happens. I’m all ears listening for the recognizable sound of a fish coming to surface and my eyes scan the surface, looking for that familiar swirl of water at the end of my line.

The calm water begins to reflect the pastels of the sky. Even if I don’t catch any more fish, I’m happy to have been out here at the time of the evening. It’s chilly for June, I think, but I keep casting and waiting. Then there’s a swirl of water, but I’m late and miss it. I cast back, dropping the spider just a few feet behind where the fish was at and slowly pulling it across the water. Another swirl. This time the fish takes the bait and I yank back and begin to work the fish toward the boat, keeping him away from the lily pads. Like his brother earlier, he jumps, but he too tires quickly and I pull him along side the boat and release him. I notice more fish coming to the surface and even though it’s cool, now that the wind is calm, mayflies and mosquitoes fill the air. For the next thirty minutes, as soon as the spider drops into the water on almost every cast, a fish rises. I catch another three bass and eight or ten bluegill as the color bleeds from the sky.

After stowing my fly rod, I began to paddle south, across the center of the lake, back toward my truck. The cool air over the warmer surface of the water creates a light fog, providing a mystical setting. I’m careful not to bang the boat or to make any more noise than necessary. All is quiet except for the sound of the paddle and of fish feeding on the surface. Through the trees to the southeast, I notice the moon rise. I want to keep fishing and to bask in moonlight, but it’s getting late. The dog is happy to be back on shore and wants into the truck right away. That’s fine; I won’t have to worry about him when it’s time to go. It’s close to ten o’clock by the time I have the canoe secured for the ride home.

25 comments:

  1. Sounds like a nice evening. Did you cook the fish?

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  2. What a lovely, soothing entry, Sage. Not a good way to start a Monday morning. ;-)

    Between you and Ed, shortly I will be taking up hiking AND fishing.

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  3. sounds heavenly. absolutely wonderful.

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  4. Nothing like fly fishing to get one back to nature. I've never tried it from a canoe before though. At least you don't have to worry about what's behind you that way. Do you use a pretty heavy tippet? I think it would be hard to land a big one if you caught one unless it was completely worn out allowing you to reach into the water to retrieve it. I suppose you probably had a net for that but I just hate using a net. Just something more to tangle my line in.

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  5. Kenju, I let 'em all go. But it's about time for me to start stockpliing fish for a fall cookout.

    Murf, thinking about it on Monday afternoon--I wish I was back on the lake! Unfortunately, this is a busy week with lots of night committments and I fly out of here on Sunday and will be gone next week, which makes this week really hectic.

    Dawn, looking back over it, I realized I left out the ducks and the great blue heron and the bull frogs--maybe I'll have to rework it.

    Ed, I use a 4.5 pound tapered lead. I do have a net, but none of these fish required it. And because I had the dog, I didn't have my best rod. I was using a five piece Eagle Claw packrod, that's only 6.5 feet.

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  6. Sounds like it was a great get away - peaceful.

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  7. Oh you made it sound so wonderful. Two weeks and I'll be on the Montana rivers....Can't wait!
    Our guide used to take his dog and she has gotten too old. His younger one is like you said and gets too excited and jumps in the river alot so she doesn't go much.
    I can only imagine my own going with me, but I wish.
    It really did sound like just the best day!

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  8. how lovely. the way you tell it sounds wonderful. thank you.

    though i don't imagine every being still enough for that myself :)

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  9. Man and his dog gone fishin'! Sounds wonderful!!

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  10. Why did having the dog prevent you from using your best rod?

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  11. what a great evening on the water!

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  12. Nice writin', Tex!

    I've fished from a canoe (hoping for salmon), but I've never caught a damn thing. I've only caught fish from a dock. The best thing was a rainbow trout, and the worst/grossest was an enourmous, writhing eel. Pew!

    Man, I haven't been fishing in years! I'd love to go now!

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  13. Tim, sometimes there's a bit of heaven on earth, suppose it's either called grace or fishing.

    Deana, Don't talk to me about fishing in Montana! 2 1/2 years after leaving the west, I'm still in withdrawal. I was hoping to get back out there in May, but it didn't work out and now have tickets for late Sept.

    Keda, on being still, it's like meditation

    Karen, it's really my daughter's dog, but you wouldn't know it by the way he follows me around

    Kontan, sure beats teaching summer school remedial history classes, doesn't it?

    Ing, watch the Tex stuff, I've never cared much for that ego-laden place. I'm a Tarheel, but don't want to be called a heel either. You can smoke eels like salmon, but I don't care for it. In Japan, they served eel with pride, but it took days to get the taste of pickled eel out of my mouth. Instead of fishing off a dock or a canoe, how about one of them Sierra streams.

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  14. And Murf (how can I forget Murf!), I don't trust my dog enough to take my favorite rod, which is a 9.5 foot Browning flyrod that belonged to my granddad and is probably 60 years old and is a masterpiece.

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  15. The first time I ate sushi, I had eel and I thought it was the best tasting thing of the night. With the sauce they served it with, this will sound cliche-ish, but it tasted like BBG chicken.

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  16. Sage - He has a fetish for chewing on rods or he would mistake that masterpiece for a stick?

    Ed - Sushi is like listening to John Prine. An acquired taste that I have yet to acquire. :-)

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  17. My expression when around food, "Heck, Columbus took a chance."

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  18. Now I know why you are an expert on bathroom issues. :-)

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  19. Ed, I've had good squid and really bad squid. It may be the same with eel, but the one eel I had turned me off and I never tried it again. It probably had more to do with being pickled as Im not a big pickled meat guy.

    Murf, I was afraid of my dog jumping out of the boat, over turning it and me losing another rod!

    Murf, I am assuming your last comment was directed at Ed.

    btw, yall, I'm pretty busy today and probably won't be around to read other folks posts till tonight.

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  20. Sage, that is correct. Sorry for forgetting to address that to Ed. I like to think that you are not an expert in that area.

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  21. Murf, I'm not sure how to take your last comment except to say that I've been potty trained a lot longer than either of the you two.

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  22. Murf - really the only hard and fast rule about bathrooms that I know is what my father taught me. He said, "No matter how much you shake, wiggle and dance, the last two drops go in your pants."

    How did we get to talking about this from fishing? I blame you Murf!

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  23. Oh, o.k. I accept the blame and I have a comment but I will refrain from extending the potty talk any further. At least here. ;-)

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  24. Here from Michele today...
    I can see how being on the water is incredibly peaceful and quiet and meditative, too. I cannot say I ever got the beauty of fishing other than the thrill of the catch, I guess (Though I am not someone that would get particular pleasure from thar...)...but to catch all these fish hooking them with this sharp thing--and really hurting them-- and then throwing them back in the water--I'd love to understand what the Meditative part of that is...It's not fishing for your survival, which I can certainly undersand...I wish someone could explain the beauty of putting a sharp hookk into the mouth of a fish to me...
    Not challenging here, just trying to understand.

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