[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="685"] A view of Spruce Island[/caption]
Aging is a weird thing. In many ways, it sucks. Let's be honest, we'd all love to have the responsibilities, or lack there of, of a 3-year-old. Taking care of responsibilities like the death of animals, as I learned prior to my trip, is tough. The receding hairline, inability to metabolize alcohol at the same rate, losing a step in your athletic endeavors and the overall realization that you are one day closer to your inevitable demise can get a guy down. At the same time, life is teaching me that with age also comes a maturation that allows you to enjoy things more than you could as a care free youngster.
I learned this lesson this past week in Canada, fishing the great Lake of the Woods with my dad (Dougie), brother-in-law (Bomber) and his dad (Cuddles). (Yes, names have been changed to protect the innocent)
First off I have to admit that fishing hasn't been my favorite outdoor sport. With that said, here is a recap of the trip we had and how it may have changed me some.
My dad actually headed up to LOTW prior to Bomber, Cuddles and myself. He went with buddies for a few days then sent them on their way and welcomed in our new group. We took off Monday morning from Bomber's house in Cuddles truck, loaded with gear and beer. We split up our trip to Canada, by stopping in the Brainerd area at my parent's house to stay a night on their lake and ensure a much shorter trip and earlier arrival in Morson, Ontario on Tuesday.
Bomber, Cuddles and I had hoped to get out on the lake, maybe booze cruise it a bit, but our plans were dashed by horrible wind and weather. So we just swapped stories and drank beers indoors, prior to heading to bed early due to our 4:00 am wake up call Tuesday morning.
Up and at 'em we were Tuesday morning. The adrenaline of the start of a trip motivating us to be bright-eyed (arguable...we did some serious work on my dad's beer supply the previous night even with the early bedtime) and cordial as we were once again on the road to Canada.
It was a pretty uneventful trip up to Canada, other than a second straight day with a McDonald's pit stop that was quickly followed by a second straight day of post-McDonald's meal guilt. After finishing up our McD's breakfast in Baudette, MN, and shaking off the guilt, we prepared to cross the border.
You legally can only bring 24 beers to one person into Canada. Cuddles and Bomber are better at planning than me, and already had their Coors Light cases in the truck. Myself, not so much. I ran over to the Baudette liquor store to purchase American beer and avoid the insane Canadian liquor prices/taxes. Unfortunately, as frugal as I tried to be, Canada still got me.
I was about to purchase a 30-pack of Keystone, thinking a case of beer a person maybe also includes 30 packs and since a 30 pack of Stoners was actually cheaper than a 24 of Coors Light, I was making a wise decision. The friendly cashier pissed on my parade though, informing me of the actual law and indeed it was only 24 cans/bottles per person and that I'd be taking a risk with my Keystones. Now I like Keystone Light for a bulk drinking, light beer on the cheap, but I am not risking getting patted down or worse by Canadian Mounties over them. So with my tail between my legs I went with the Coors Light.
We pulled up to the Canadian immigration stop and the dude grilled us a bit as he looked over our passports.
"Bringing in any alcohol or tobacco?" Yes, but only 24 cans, instead of getting a great deal on 30 Keystone Lights, ya jerk.
Luckily I didn't say that, we ended up having to pull off the side as it was, as the Canadians ran some type of background check on us since we hadn't been in Canada in a while. Finally through the border, we purchased a $5 bag of potatoes at a grocery store and were on our way to the boat launch out of Hanson Bay, near Morson, Ontario.
We met my dad by the docks, he expressed his sympathies for the passing of Garfield and asked about my new eyes (I just had Lasik the Friday prior to this trip, that is a story for another day). We transferred all of our gear, bought licenses and hopped in the boat for an hour to hour and a half trip across LOTW to Spruce Island.
About half way through the trip we went through some narrows, for those of you that don't know much about LOTW, there are a ton of islands, in this narrows there is a rock called "painted rock". It has old hieroglyphs from Native Americans (in Canada) on the rocks, it's pretty cool. Especially as Bomber pointed out, the fact that no one had ever defaced it in all these years. As is the tradition with my dad's fishing group we were to stop, bow and say a little something for some good luck fishing from the painted rock fishing Gods.
Finally after nearly two hours of bouncing across LOTW and the waves that had kicked up on the windy day, we arrived at Mead's Spruce Island Camp. The camp is on a small island (Spruce Island) and there are 6 cabins as well as 2 camping spots. We had a cabin with 3 bedrooms, 1 bath, a nice living room and a functional, yet small, kitchen with a gas stove, fridge/freezer, nice deck overlooking the lake and all that jazz. We unloaded our gear and hustled to get ready for some afternoon fishing.
Bomber and Cuddles rented a boat from the resort, my dad and I were in his Lund. We were off, loaded our jigs with some leeches and dropped them to the bottom, mainly drifting the boats in depths ranging from 15-30 feet of water off of islands, bouncing the jigs off the bottom of the lake. We did ok that night, caught a few, Cuddles I believe reeled in a 23 inch (4.5 lbs) Walleye for the first fish of the trip.
Once back in camp, we enjoyed our cases of brews and swapped stories and jokes. This is where fishing and hunting have started to really hook me and where I've started to really enjoy the experiences more than when I was a youngster. As a kid, fishing and hunting themselves as activities were exciting when there was action. Unfortunately for you fishers and hunters, you know, that on a weekend or week there are only short bursts of excitement followed by waiting and searching (aka, fishing or hunting). When you are young, and lacking patience, this can get a bit tedious. You'd rather be catching and shooting, not fishing and hunting. An hour or more of inactivity as a 13-year-old is like being waterboarded...or so I imagine.
Now as a "mature" 28-year-old, I realize those quiet moments either in the boat discussing life with my dad or sitting in a tree stand all alone in the silence of the woods thinking about life, are the moments that make fishing and hunting special. The nights hanging out with the group of family and friends bullshitting and talking smart about the world are now the things I look forward to the most.
Wednesday was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and the temp neared 80. Great weather isn't usually a great thing for walleye fishing, but that day it worked out just fine. We found a great spot on Gardner Island and spent the entire day reeling in various sized walleyes.
About midday I got a big hit on my fishing pole. The drag on my reel zipped as the fish took line. It took a good amount of time to bring the big boy in, but finally he came up from the depths of the lake. Just as he was about to be captured by the net, he took off again taking more line and going under the boat. Another couple pulls and reels and finally the 24 inch (5 lb) walleye gave up and came into the boat. (I'll add a picture of him later) The walleye is the biggest I've caught in my life, and that was the peak of the fishing portion of the trip for myself. After getting a picture with the fish, I let him go.
Promised I'd add a pic later, here it is:
After a great lunch on the deck of our cabin of fish caught that day that were not as lucky as my 24 inch walleye, with fried potatoes, onions and baked beans, we fished the evening had dinner and then sipped down brews as the sun set over us.
Cuddles, as previously mentioned is Bomber's (my brother-in-law) dad, and I knew him prior to this trip, but had never spent all that much time with him. Through this trip I learned he is a hilarious guy, with jokes for every possible situation, he is also a great cook, craftsmen with a car, and knowledgeable about many things. More than that though, I learned he is a great guy with a heart the size of the lake. It was great getting to know him better, and fishing was the reason I had that opportunity.
Thursday was a crappy day all in all, fishing was bad as storms were moving in and out of the area all day. We gutted it out and actually logged many hours on the lake, considering the need to run in to shore from time to time due to lightning. We caught enough fish for our lunch, which again was amazing. In the end though, it was a bit of a downer to have the last day of the trip be for all intents and purposes, a wash out. We polished off our fourth case of beer that night and Cuddles made a glorious meal, that brought the spirits back up.
Friday we made our trip back to Minnesota. We made it back to my parents house in the mid-afternoon. The weather was immaculate. 85 and sunny with only the slight hint of wind. Cuddles, Bomber and I then made the decision to stay overnight Friday and head to the cities in the morning.
Multiple booze cruises, a trip to the Harriet Club, cigars, and a 5th dead case of beer for the trip capped off with a shot of McGillicuddy's was the cherry on top of a great week.
Fishing was the main attraction that brought the week together. My 24 inch walleye I caught will be one of the many memories. In the end though, fishing is a small part of a "fishing trip". It's hanging out with the guys, spending time with my dad, getting away from the grind of everyday life, coaching each other up on answering border patrol questions, the food, the beer, the cigars, comparing each other's discharges of gas and the reflective quiet moments with the only sound being the lake lapping up on the boat that make the whole fishing experience something to remember and cherish.
As a kid, I couldn't realize all that, the quiet moments bored me. The beer was Pepsi. The cigars were Doritos. The gas was gross and embarrassing. The grind of everyday life didn't exist, so why would I want to get away from riding my bike around and playing with friends?
I asked my dad while we were out on the lake one day last week, "If you had to choose, fishing or deer hunting on one weekend, which would you choose?" He answered with a great dad take of, "Well as long as you're along son, I'd be fine with either..." Which as sappy as it is, I have to agree with him on. I would also take into consideration who I would be completing the activity with. Hunting or fishing? I'd take my dad first no doubt. Not only because he knows more about both than I will probably ever know and therefore increases my chances of having a successful fishing or hunting outing, but because even putting the "dad" label aside, he is just a great guy to hang out with.
In the end, my dad couldn't really decide between fishing and hunting. He never asked me the question back, I think he may have actually landed a walleye prior to having a chance. If he had though, at the time I would have said deer hunting. That was early in the trip though and now I have to say it would probably be a toss-up for me as well.