Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014 | OUTDOORS
Poor fishing can still be fun
My face was an inch from the dry dirt while my Uncle Del laughed hysterically Sunday morning, only seconds after I was tripped up by a small stick. It was an otherwise clear but narrow path between the woods and a large cornfield, and my fishing pole served as my only padding as I smacked the ground. The fishing pole remained intact despite my slightly broken ego.
“It’s a good thing nobody was here to see that,” Del said, adding insult to injury.
We had just finished dropping a bucket of cookie dough and molasses on a spot in Barron County where Del hopes to tag a bear when the season opens for bait-sitters Wednesday, Sept. 3. The bait still hasn’t been hit by anything other than raccoons and mice, but as frustrating as the work involved with baiting can be, there’s still time. For now, it appears that bears still have plenty of other foods to forage on as corn begins to ripen and blackberry patches remain filled with an endless supply.
We were on two missions Sunday. Bait bear and eventually walk farther south in search of trout. The river where his bait pile sits wasn’t much farther down so with a small cooler, crawlers, fishing poles and mosquito repellent we forged ahead.
My previous face-plant should have been the first clue that the trip wasn’t going to go as smoothly as planned. During this time of year, the burning nettles really do burn, with some of those stinging plants approaching the 8-foot mark. The mosquitoes are overpowering at times, especially in the shade, and at one point Del seemed to welcome the thought of other annoying bugs.
“Boy, sure would be nice to see some deerflies. Don’t they eat mosquitoes?”
All jokes aside, we reached our first spot in the river with relative ease, and the fact that conditions were a bit miserable probably meant that there hadn’t been any fishing pressure on the river for months. The prospects were good and a limit of brook trout was imminent, at least in theory.
Upon entering the water I realized the right leg of my hip-waders had a hole in it and my right foot was instantly wet. It was the second bad omen of the day, and we probably should have turned back at that point. But once we got into the river, the bugs weren’t terrible and the stink of bugspray likely helped, along with the ThermaCELL mosquito repellent we carried in as added protection.
On my first cast, I landed a fat shiner and quickly tossed it back. The second cast was a repeat of the first, and by the fourth and fifth chub and shiner it was time to move on. Not even small spinners could turn away these annoying little rough fish and the fishing wasn’t looking good at all. But with trout, there’s always excitement of the next pool or cut-bank ahead, and this particular stream has plenty of them to choose from. However, we needed to walk, and the deeper we entered the watershed the harder it became.
It wasn’t long before Del tripped and fell, finally giving me reason to laugh and take it all in. He managed to pick himself back up and fish another spot on the river only to find more hungry chubs and shiners. Not a single trout, and we were running tired, and out of options. And we’d only been fishing for about an hour.
Prior to heading out into the woods that morning, I slapped on a pair of rubber gloves and sprayed every inch of my being to keep the mosquitoes at bay. The rubber gloves served as a way to keep the spray off my hands, eliminating the possibility of stinking up my lure. Del used just a bit, noting how much he hates the stuff and the smell. At around that first hour, it was clear I had the advantage over the mosquitoes.
“Ugh, I’m getting hammered by mosquitoes,” he said, while I smirked, but I’d devised a plan to get a bit closer to the river where the sun was shining and the bugs weren’t nearly as bad. The walking also appeared much easier closest to the water, but without warning the bottom suddenly gave out, and sent me straight into the river. It was a 5-foot drop into the water yet the water was still low. I managed to save my cooler of ice, fishing pole and tackle box, but my cell phone wasn’t quite as lucky. Rather than give me a hand back onto the bank, Del grabbed his cell phone to document the event. Scratching my way back up the bank, I grabbed my uncle’s foot and a handful of burning nettles. My waders were now completely full of water and I was soaked from the shoulders down.
Despite the setback, I dried off the best I could and we continued down the river. Del had trouble fishing from that point on from all the laughing, and it wasn’t long before we finally gave up, with nothing to show but a cooler of ice and a long walk home to the tune of squishing, squelching and laughing.