Friday, February 11, 2011

Fishing Northerns in the North Country

My great uncle Almon was a giant of a man who took time to teach. Whether it was fixing the baler or peeling popple, Almon thought to bring in us kids (his nieces and nephews) to share his company and learn.

One summer day, Almon and Viola pulled into the driveway, stopping the car by the milkhouse as Shadow (our Lab) and Sammy (Grandma's collie) circled their car with tails wagging. "Hey Johnny, go ask your mom if you and Billy can come fishing at the 'Spirit'!

To a nine year old kid from central Wisconsin who loved the outdoors, that was quite an invitation, I didn't know what the 'Spirit' was, but I caught the fishing part! Our mom agreed and Billy and I ran to the garage and come out with grins glowing behind our fishing poles.

The Spirit flowage was Almons favorite fishing grounds. He was a logger in his youth and worked the logging camps in Northern Wisconsin driving teams of horses and dreys of logs down the frozen rivers. Somewhere during his adulthood, he escaped work long enough to fish the flowage for solitude and big Northerns. He never had a boat and waded the banks, throwing monster daredevils from one of his bait casting reels and wading to reach deeper water. As kids spying in his garage, we stared in awe at the size of those daredevils, wondering what kind of fish could possibly attack such a thing.

This trip Almon stopped in Tomahawk to buy sucker minnows and some big bobbers. Billy and I sat sweltering and squirming in the backseat with the windows down, it was late morning in August and starting to get hot.

We finally reached the flowage and Almon parked the car next to a backwater separated from the biggest water by the highway but connected by culverts and an overpass farther up the road. The road bed flattened into a grass bank and Almon rigged up our gear with the big bobbers, and showed us how to bait the minnows on minnow harnesses.

He got us started through the first couple bobber disappearances and excited appearances of the gnarly toothed and slippery Northerns, and then disappeared to fish his favorite spots in solitude, leaving Viola to read in the shade of the car and us kids to have the time of our lives by the side of the highway, watching big bobbers duck and run as the Northerns feasted on our sucker minnows. A few times during the course of the day, a Northern would manage to get hooked and the noisy excitement would bring Viola to her feet, her and the Northern reaching the bank at about the same time.
If the fish stopped biting or the minnows ran out, there were plenty of grasshoppers along the side of the road to keep me and Billy entertained. I'll never forget those trips to the Spirit and the man who gave so much.

No comments: