I am up a little past sunrise. I dress warmly and trod out to the “powder room”. The sun is just cresting the treeline on the horizon and an eerie mist floats atop the mirrored lake. Odd sounds of cooing loons, belowing moose, howling wolves and screaching bald eagles peppered the previous nights air. It is now quiet and serene. It is like I’ve walked into a giant empty magestically decorated cathedral. One can not help but feel at peace in this moment and time. The sun rises fully and I retreat to the cabin to get the coffee going. I can already tell today is going to be an awesome day. Paul and I break from “tradition”, skip breakfast and are on the water by 8am determined to have a stringer full of fish by 10. Sparky and Mike throw “tradition” to the wayside as well, and leave a little after we do.
Paul and I head south, back to where we caught the big guy. Problem is, with the lake being so serene and the fact that it is bright and sunny, we have difficultly returning to the “scene of the crime”. We try numerous spots that look like they may, and should, be “fishy” to no avail. We explore the entire south end of the lake. Maybe Sparky is right, we are at it too early. We currently have the lake to ourselves and discuss how lucky we are to have this experience and how genuinely sad it is that most people will never have, let alone take, the opportunity to enjoy such blissful splendor. Fishless but happy, we make our way north in search of Sparky and my parents to see how they are faring. We find Sparky not far from where our cabins are, stringing their fourth fish. We drop a line and drift with them for a spell. We snag bottom, while Sparky and Mike are catching fish after fish. We can’t understand how we are not raking them in as well, as we are using the same lead-head configuration, and drifting through and over the same hole. The only thing different, is that they are both smoking. We consider asking them to toss us a pack of smokes. They string their 8th, and last, just under 18″ walleye. With cigarettes bouncing out the sides of their mouths they chuckle loudly and annouce, “Later, Smalls! We’ll go make breakfast”. It is 10am. Disgusted, and with only one measely 14″ walleye that I caught down south, we abandon this hole and head further north. After an hour, with not even a hit from a pike we surrender and head in for breakfast. Sparky, we are told, made a point to do a slow and deliberate “drive-by” of the other cabins whilst standing develishly proud with their days’ limit out stretched stringer between his arms, displaying their 8×10 haul, and loudly proclaiming their fishing prowess. This of course sent the late rising anglers scrambling for their boats. We are dejected upon our return to camp, but it’s nothing a hearty breakfast and coffee laced with Toasted Carmel Whiskey can’t repair. After a food coma inspired nap (maybe the whiskey had a little to do with it as well) we clamor into our aluminum water chariot and head to Buzz Island for another attempt to fill our stringer. The only ripples on the lake are those caused by the wake of our boat as it skims merrily across the mirrored freshwater surface. We reach Buzz Island and in the dead calm we are soon engulfed in a fog of mosquitos. Behind the veil of our headnets we watch biteless (both fish and insect) as what appears to be a well choreographed flashmob of mosquitos glide upon the surface of the water like a saturday evening “all-skate” at the local ice rink. Above us more mosquitos circle like planes backed up for landing at Chicago O’Hare. On a whim we decide to give “fireman’s hole” another shot. We drift once, then twice through the hole, and the third time proves to be the charm. Fish On! Drift again, Fish On! It now becomes a game, and we have marked the exact spot and countdown with what proves to be uncanny accuracy the moment we feel a tug on our line. In a matter of 20 minutes we have our days’ limit, and they are Nice Fish. It’s nearly 5pm and we motor triumphantly back to camp. I ride in the bow of the boat with outstretched arms leaning slowly side to side as Paul matches the boat to my movement. I feel like a little kid again (and probably look like one too). With the boat shifting left and right, I feel as if I am flying. Life is Good! We approach the porch of our cabin (#4) and are greeted by Sparky who bellows, “Well?”
We display our fully loaded stringer. “Nice”, he exclaims. Mike examines our catch as well. We will not go hungry tonight!…not that we could anyways. Dad and Jill remain virtually fishless, with only 3 walleye and lots of bites from pike.
We have so much in fillets, seviche has been prepared as an “appetizer”.
Mike is on deck and prepares a crushed salt n’ vinegar chip, parmesean cheese coating for tonight’s fish and bakes it to perfection. Our gang of six are the only ones in camp. All others have yet to have met their “quota” and are fishing into the night air and the long setting sun. Sparky who has imbibed to the point of mischief, decides to prop the door of our neighboring cabin open. The guys in this cabin are Woods Cabin regulars and have been coming up together the same week each year for 30+ years. This particular week is also the week that Sparky and his family (to include his father) have been intermittently coming as well. Sparky’s opening of their door signals to the swarming mosquitos that there is a party in cabin 3. They crowd in and mill about in the hundreds, waiting for their “hosts” to return. An hour later, the blood donors have yet to return, so Sparky decides to now close said door, trapping the mosquito horde inside. Sparky is chuckling and near tears at his “brillance”. We are dreading the potential fall-out from this prank. We are all sworn to secrecy and plan to deny any and all knowledge of said prank. Another two hours pass and the faint and distinctive sound of single prop motors grows louder. They allight onto shore, and gruff murmuring voices can be heard outside. We have all retired, with lights out and our hushed voices acknowledge their return and impending discovery. Wait for it…wait for it…”What the FUCK?!” “How the HELL”. “Oh MY GOD!” can be heard echoing from our neighbors. We bury our collective heads in our pillows and laugh hysterically as the sun sets on another perfect day.