Camping alone re-energizes all my feelings of what I grew up hearing, “good Old Catholic guiltâ€ť. I can eat all the fun stuff out of my food pack first if I want to. Instead of gathering firewood from the dead fallen stuff in the nearby woods, I brought a big pile of split ash from home. I just woke up from a nap where I put my sleeping bag on the top of the picnic table and used one of my hunting jackets for a pillow.
The table is now back to a table and stopped being a bed, so if any of the rule makers would show up, I’m in complete compliance again. If someone else is with on a camping trip, I always consider what they want to do first. This trip, I just do anything I want and do not consciously ask myself what's next. Just Floating through a series of “me firstsâ€ť.
Puffy white and extra clean clouds are drifting overhead. Today is also one of the days I wish I still smoked a pipe. I’d send my aromatic smoke to mix with the big shots floating above. Assembling a fly rod, hauling the kayak to the shore and changing leather shoes for beach boots consumes a number of minutes that I’m not keeping track of. Bread, meat and cheese with a bottle of water is my lunch as I watch the family settling in farther down the lake. Kids are sucked to the lakeshore with all the magnetic forces the planet earth has.
I do not know if it's a brother and sister combo or cousins, but stereo laughing and rock throwing has busted loose and reverberates around the lake. My kayak carves softly the lake surface. Little wake trailing off from both sides of the stern.
Trout are rising lazily. This is sight fishing. In a stream I know which way the nose is pointed on my adversary. Now I’m trying to drop the fly close with a plop. I have criss-crossed this five acre patch of water. The entire lake is close to sixty acres. Trout are dimpling the surface almost timed to where I look. My match the hatch is not working. Guessing which way they are swimming below the surface has netted zip. There nymphing, I’m gonna try something else.
Retiring the fly rod I pull a short spinning rod from the cock pit. Four pound test with a thumb nail size little Cleo is my next tactic. Lure color was chosen based on nothing. It's the little collection of spoons I brought with that I have used along the north shore of Lake Superior. This one is half copper colored and silver with the $1.19 price tag still on. I peel the white tag and most of the sticky adhesive and I set it on its way.
I’m casting the lure and two kids over my shoulder are throwing rocks. Before the ripples settle out I start my retrieve. I did not bring the lake depth map but this is plenty deep. Where I’m floating should be almost thirty feet deep. Where the fish hits, who knows, somewhere between my first few winds on the reel and now is as close to pinning it down as I can get. Wrenching and twisting, he breaks water by only inches. Silvery, with a trace of pink, and for less than a foot long rainbow trout, it feels great. By shoving my foot against the inside of the kayak I can sway the kayak to lay long against the direction the trout is lunging for. How much faster that can tire a trout has to be dramatic. He is coming in now with the tug of war subsiding.
Being so close to the surface of the water because the low profile of the kayak has really deepened my appreciation for fishing on a lake. This trout is splashing water on my legs and water droplets are hitting my face with his tail washes. He is looped to my leather lace stringer. Placing it into the water I get yet another splash. Treble hooks hold solidly but get tricky to unhook on these smaller fish. I switch out the treble for a single and go back to casting.
It's been all afternoon and not one other bite. I have heard the kids being called to dinner and one bout of crying from the other camp site. Daylight's curtain is being drawn and the hint of pink from the rainbow trout is vaguely familiar in the western horizon. Sporadic rises during the day have become an upside down rainstorm. The lake surface is pocked with feeding fish.
An owl floats over my head so low I duck. I have sent, never before, water shocks into this lake. Wow, how that bird startled me. Picking my kayak paddle out of the water I readjust physically in the boat and mentally in my head. When little bugs are coming off the lake surface and I couldn't possibly see even with my glasses on to retie some midge, I opt for a muddler minnow.
Big, gaudy, oh and guess what, none of the trout lawyers are on this lake tonight. Casting into the lighter part of the sky is my only focal point. I wait until I know the ripples have settled out. Its just time. Now stripping line through my fingers and I’m tensed up… weird charge of adrenaline. Nothing…no strike…I cast again.
My kayak has twisted with the constant right hand casts to where I see sparks rising from the neighbor's campfire. I am distracted at watching the large yellow orange sparks into the night sky rise and vanish. I’m the rule maker in my thoughts now and I hope they don't burn the forest down.
The pulsing rod is now after countless casts, earning its daily bread. During the slack time in my retrieve the trout has solidly hooked himself, so I snap the rod tight. Somewhere unseen, it's slapping the surface. And this is its third jump. Some fish struggle when you hook them. They’re small or untested. My rainbow thinks this is his lake. A memory is being sent into my arms and mind and finger tips from this trout. Too bad it's not in color. My living screen is nighttime black.
Maybe a little case of trout trauma, but I can feel my shakiness at the thought of loosing this fish, is creeping into my brain. Maybe too many cramped hours in the kayak, or how about the cool night air is chilling me, but maybe it's the boy in me going way back in time to the first trout ever.
Lifting the rod I can feel the arc my trout is cutting in the water. I’m gaining line. Running down my fingers as I take up slack, water is dripping from my hands and hitting my legs. Trying to find the net is too much to fret over now. Bringing the fish in close to my reach, I grab for bulk trout. Scooping mixed with confused grab and the fish with hook is wrestling in the cockpit. My anxious sigh is replaced with an “I did itâ€ť grin. Fumbling, I have my headlamp flashlight beam working over the pot of gold nineteen inch rainbow, and maybe a twinge of guilt.