Once all the gear has been unloaded from the box car. A bucket brigade, of sorts, forms relaying the enormous pile of what is supposed to be “essential” and “necessary” gear and supplies onto a well worn and seriously tired looking pontoon boat, and an equally worn large metal boat that will ferry us and our “stuff” to camp. Apparently for one cabin, 10 cases of Molson bottled beer is “essential” to the fishing experience. The ferrying of all the gear requires two trips. It is nearly 5 pm. The skies are somewhat overcast and the air is cool, but not cool enough to dissuade hordes of the Canadian national bird, the mosquito, from attempting to exact a pint or so of blood from any and all exposed extremities. This now explains Sparky’s generous purchase of “industrial” size cans of “Deepwoods Off”. It appears our head nets will come in handy as well. The boat ride to the camp is uneventful, in that we and all our gear made it to the “dock”. The shoreline is devoid of human habitation with the exception of several square box red cabins with small decks.
We pull up to the dock which is made of a 10×10 ft. platform with a floating ramp about 4ft wide that tapers to a little over 2ft wide gangway resting on the soggy shore. I make a genuine attempt to help unload the gear, however the dock and said ramp from shore to the dock are a bit of a challenge for me, and my balance issues. Were it not for the long arm(s) of the host, I would have been swimming with the fishes on more than one occassion. After the second “catch”, I was banished to shore.
The cabins are quaint. Paul and I will share a cabin with Sparky and Mike. My parents will have their own. Each cabin has an assigned outhouse. There is one designated for women. Thinking this one would be the least “visited”, I check out my ” powder room”. Holy crap, this is not as “pristine” as I envisioned, but it’s better than digging a cat hole. We survey the cabins and take inventory. Our cabin is broken into three distinct areas. Two “bedrooms” with two single beds and a main area which includes a propane powered refridgerator and stove. The stove is and old style circa 1930’s style stove and doubles as our heating vessel via a port for burning wood, of which we are told we have to split…What? The air temperature has now dropped significantly, which is good in that the mosquitos have seemingly gone “home” (wherever that is), but bad in that it’s nearly teeth chattering COLD for this SoCal girl. We unpack and attempt to organize our provisions, and realize now that we have brought WAAAAY too much food. Now it’s time to start a fire. I volunteer to collect some wood and quickly find out that it requires more labor and skill than bending over and gathering pieces of wood in my arms. I am greeted with short logs that require spliting, into several smaller pieces if there is any hope of getting them into the stove. I return to the cabin with a load of kindling and solicit help with the logs. Mike offers to help, but was under the impression that he was just needed to carry the logs. Umm, doesn’t work that way. If I’m a danger to myself on dry land, imagine me weilding an ax. Although comical, it is not pretty, nor safe (been there done that). Mike is somewhat dissapointed and offers to teach me how to split wood. Luckily Paul arrives and assures him that me splitting wood is a bad, really bad, idea. Mike is then relegated to the wood splitting and creates a sufficent pile in no time. Back at the cabin, we quickly get to lighting a fire. Glorious heat eminates from the stove, and I no longer feel like I am standing outside. Now it is time to break out our fishing arsenal and prep for tomorrow. Sparky assures us that unlike most fishing events, there is no need to arise early. Here, we are told that the fish will bite ALL DAY. The pattern of the day(s) will require us to arise at our leisure, have a full breakfast and then fish for two hours or so, return for lunch and beverages, nap, fish again (if you want), prepare dinner (if it’s your turn to cook), consume more beverages, accented with a card game of sorts. This shouldn’t be hard to adjust to, but it is. Mike is an early riser, like 5am, and I awake once anything but total darkness brushes my eyelids (thanks to the PCT). We continue to prep our gear. I have brought two fly rods with me, to better hone my skills. I am considered a fool for wanting to fish on a fly, and am told, “if you know anything about walleye, you’re not going to catch any fly fishing for them”. Wanna bet, I say to myself. My plan is to use my more responsive rod and switch reels from my other set up equipped with fast sinking line, and one of several assorted minnowey looking flies. I break out my favorite rod, only to discover that for some unknown reason one of the four sections is missing. WTF? And I was so meticulous in prepping my gear, and picking the flies and line to bring. I freak out a little and rack my brain as to where the essential piece (it holds the reel) could be. Hmm, I now realize that it is safely resting on the lid of my trunk, in the garage. Perfect. Sparky is now laughing, great belly laughs at me. “You’re killin’ me Smalls!” he snorts. And so it begins. Shit. This is not good. It is never good to give Sparky any ammunition with which to fuel his cajoling. Never fear, my father the ever over packing planner, has a spinner rod and reel for me to use, which I accept reluctantly. I rig up my sole fly rod for pike, darnit. We retreat to the drafty sections of our rooms and college dorm style single beds with visions of “fish ON” looping through our dreams. I attempt to get to sleep before the boys, and the start of the snoring fartfest, but alas, sleep alludes me. As a result, I am “treated” to an oddly rhythmic “symphony” of bodily sounds that eventually require ear plugs. This is going to be a LONG week, I think, and then suddenly I am shaken by Paul, who says “Wake up and roll over!”. What’s the problem, I reply. ” You’re snoring!”, he exclaims. Sweet. Soon, we are all deep in slumberland and in no time morning arrives with the distinctive smell of fresh coffee permiating the cool air. Outside it is grey and misting, and the wind looks to be building. Waiting till after a hearty breakfast now seems like a brilliant idea. Near 10 am, and after securing a generous supply of live minnows to attach to our lead-head lures, we are shoving off the shore in our respsective 14ft aluminum boats powered by 9hp motors. Sparky will be our “guide” and has offered to show us all the “hot” spots on the lake for walleye.
We head to the south end of the lake, bundled like we are fishing the artic. We ARE approaching summer, right? I thought “global warming” required actual warming. Our first spot we stop and wet our line, and within minutes Sparky gets a bite and lands a decent size walleye (16″). I then pull in a 16 incher as well. This is going to be fun!
Paul and I venture off a bit and he pulls in a 24 inch hog. My father, The Fisherman, who consistently out fishes EVERYONE, is not doing so well, and based on his body language is definitely frustrated. I can’t help but snicker, as this is the first time in my life, I get to tell him how to catch these slimmy creatures. We pull up and head north to another spot called “fireman’s hole”. We drift over the hole a couple of times to no avail. Sparky tells us to be patient. Paul and I decide to break out on our own and explore other areas. We wander out to an island nearby “fireman’s hole” and immediately load two more fish on the stringer. Four in 40 minutes! If this is the trend, we definetly did NOT bring enough adult beverages! As we drift by the island, we can’t but help but notice a loud and intense buzzing sound eminating from it. It is reminicent of a swarm of bees. We see no bees, but there is no shortage of mosquitos. Because we are curious, we move closer to the island, to determine definitively what is making that noise. We can now see a grey cloud of swarming mosquitos that engulfs the island. Because it is overcast, we could not see this from afar. We hold our breath, and quietly shove off shore hoping beyond hope that our “scent” has not been picked up. Too late, they are on us like flies on poop. Quick, break out the bug spray! Where are our head nets?! Luckily there is not much exposed skin, due to how cold it is, and they (for the most part) return to their island. We christen this “Buzz Island”. Meanwhile, Sparky, who scoffed at us for breaking from “fireman’s hole”, has now joined us. No sooner does he drop his line off of Buzz Island, he lands the biggest fish of the day and what may be for the week…a 26 inch 6 lbs whopper! Here comes the gloating and day one no less. Fishing wise, our luck does not hold and we only land one more walleye. Now pike is another story. There seems to be no shortage of pike, but we are NOT in search of pike, who are teethy, bony and coated in slime as viscous as1040W motor oil.
Having worked up a thirst and ironically needing to pee like a racehorse, we return to our cabin with 5 good sized walleye on the stringer, two of which are 22 and 24 inches respectively, with the other three just under 18 inches. Sparky and Mike have already returned and have caught their limit (4 each), for a total of 8 good sized fish. My dad and Jill are fishless. A first, I’m sure, for my father. Now comes the cleaning part. Paul and I are a more than a little rusty with our fillet skills, which pains Sparky who declares that we are “mutilating perfectly good fish”, attempts to coach us, and in short measure gives up in disgust, and commandeers our fish. Tonight’s dinner will be fish, as will be the next five nights. Yum. Sparky takes over fish prep for night one, and what we thought was an insurmountable pile of deliciously prepared walleye (saltine battered) is to our suprise, effortlessly consumed. Day one complete. Nice!