I've been incredibly busy the past six months and actually took my first break last week when I went fishing in my favorite Northern Wisconsin waters. The Sand Country of Aldo Leopold fame is where I feel most at home, and this week offered everything I've come to love about this part of the world--frigid weather (high 40s), intense heat (97), unpredictable weather, and lovely vistas. And, of course, a few fish.
As I'm working on my new book in my spare time on glass fly rods, I thought I would take along three glass rods to fish with, two vintage and one newer one. For the first time I used my custom built "Gnome Glass" 4 weight. Jeff Hatton built this for me on a vintage Scott blank (that was marked "Save for L. Kenney). I'm sure Larry would be happy to know it has been put to its designed use. It's a lovely, lovely rod. I was fishing bass with some home made poppers but could not keep the ravenous freshwater piranhas off the hook.
The schools of large sunfish were so big, in fact, it was difficult to get a bass to hit. I decided to beat the fish at their own game. Up at 5 a.m. I stalked down to the end of a particular point on a lake I fish regularly and cast out a hand made red popper. Here's what hit almost immediately:
A sixteen inch smallmouth that came out of the water several times. The 4 weight Gnome Glass threw that bug 50 feet with ease, and even with a two pound test tippet the fish was landed and back home in less than five minutes. What a blast!
I decided that since I was in Wisconsin I would fish one of the Badger state's home rods--a St. Croix. This was a 10th Anniversary rod dating from the early 1960s and threw a five weight line very nicely. In an effort to get down deeper I switched to a sinking line and a bead head green bug. Fat chance. This just gave the biggest sunfish a chance to hammer it. I was regularly pulling 7"-10" bluegill and punkinseeds in. A lot of fun, but not what I was after. I began to feel like Jeremy Wade in the Amazon fishing for a big catfish and only catching Pacu.
The weather turned brutally hot by the end of the week. So hot I didn't want to fish, but instead decided to try out my new underwater camera.
It's nothing special, a little 12 megapixel model, but it's waterproof to 30 feet and has a nifty underwater mode. I decided to see why I couldn't get many bass. Here's why:
But this one explained everything. We could see them from the canoe, but dang, there were thousands of silver shiners in huge schools.
No wonder the bass were reluctant to hit. My brother-in-law took some underwater video which I'll try to get uploaded tonight or tomorrow.
The problem was the weather felt off. It felt like something big was brewing, and even the night before--a calm, pretty night--when I tried out my 1960s custom built J.E. Van Wettering fly rod, I couldn't shake the feeling that something bad was on its way.
My spider sense did not fail me. The storm to end all storms was about to descend on the sand country of Northern Wisconsin.
NEXT TIME: An inland hurricane.
-- Dr. Todd