The best fishing for lake trout is ONE week after the ice goes out. Ask anybody. People catch them by accident in the shallows during that week—and the Tuscarora Lake die hards are usually chomping at the bit to get in there the minute fishing opens. This year—the ice was a little late, so technically nobody has to miss that week.
Last year, one Saturday in June, my friend Monica and I headed out. We wanted two things: lake trout, and a work out.
So here’s the thing….we have a group of guys who go out every year in May—to one certain lake. I cannot give away their private destination on the internet, but let’s just say that I hadn’t fished it before, and they always always catch fish. But mostly, they also catch fun, and they’re usually laughing so hard when they are telling their stories that it made me want to visit THAT lake. They call themselves The THAT (name changed to protect their secret) lake boys.
Monica and I headed out for THAT lake. Let’s also just say that it is more than 7 portages in, so we also accomplished our workout–actually two work-outs, because it was also more than 7 portages out, with our lake trout.
Ever since I worked at Wilderness Canoe Base, and we hoisted the well cared for (heavy!) standard Grumman canoes around, and it hurt my shoulders from start to finish, I’ve craved portaging. I cannot explain it. I like the way it hurts. I would think I would be a good runner as well, with that craving, but I’m just not. I run really really slow: I don’t happen to LIKE the way that running hurts. But portaging, the activity where nobody ever wins a medal, I like to do until I’m shaky. Go figure. Away we went.
To paddle away on a busy Saturday was such an indulgence right there. And to have an uninterrupted chat with my friend that I don’t get to see enough—second bonus. But when we got to THAT lake, the wind was just right. And I also knew the trick, ….paddle right down the middle, and let the wind drift us back toward the portage. Easy as pie. Only—it was such a warm year that I knew the fish were….40-60 feet down, so we were letting out a lot of line. We had torpedo weights to pull down our Sutton spoons—tipped with minnows…we couldn’t fail, right? Since we were seriously fishing, we thought we’d leave the dog at home, but she HEARD us talking, and it was like she was attached to my knee, and the minute I put the canoe to float she was patiently in it. First one. We had to take her.
So we paddled, we floated, and BAM, we both caught fish. Same time, first pass. They felt like snags, classic. So we reeled and we reeled and we reeled and we reeled, and the wind picked up in the meantime and we started floating into the rocks with our beautiful Escape, so I had to stop reeling and put the rod between my knees,and start to paddle. Monica kept reeling, and my rod started to bend until it was obvious that somehow our fish were wrapped around each other, or our lines, or….oh, the trickiness of it. Denali was very politely trying to stay in the middle of the boat but she did have to supervise every move, so there was also THAT challenge to stay steady.
We were a little surprised after the fiasco of the landing to end up with one trout actually in our boat (her name was Edith)…….the other line broke….the wind picked up….we were tangled beyond belief, but we had Edith! What a great day!
Then we had to eat our lunches, and blow around, and re-tie our lines, and blow around and get tangled in the weeds and blow around…and….then, it really was time to take Edith and head back…we knew it would take us almost 3 hours..so we paddled and portaged….by the moose and her calf in the weeds, we couldn’t have been happier under the sun. Once we pulled the stringer up, and …….no Edith……we had to paddle back and retrieve her from the mud at the last portage.
Whoa, were we ever tired when we got back— where Caleb was waiting, to clean up little Edith, so Monica could take home the filet. Work out, check, lake trout, check.
Isn’t it funny how a day in the woods can feed a person’s soul in so many ways? I was feeling just a
little more commeradarie and gratefulness for the exhuberance of those THAT lake boys, for passing on their expertise, for Edith, for our tangled adventure. I hope everybody gets a “day in the woods” this spring….and if you stop by the office, I can point you to the secret place where Edith’s cousins are waiting…hungry….in the shallows.