A Nature Hike On The Shoulder of a North/South U.S. Highway

In the midst of one of the scariest times in the history of the world, things happen every day that allow me to enjoy just being around home.

Those things or events throughout a day, in these times really vary. If one doesn’t keep busy and just sits around watching Netflix videos, YouTube or just continue reading one book after another I’d imagine boredom can be a part of one’s life. For me, I try to do as many things in a day’s progression as I can. As Charlie Behrens in the Manitowoc Minute says, “Keep er Movin.” 

A daily hike has proven to be a real great mental cleanser for me. My hikes range in distance from 3-6 miles. Some go “Over The River and Through The Woods” while others traverse compacted aggregate or crumbled, rough and at one-time fully paved roadways in the neighborhood. Heck, one of the worst one-time, fully paved roadways is a U.S. Highway that ends in these two digits – 51.

On every hike I note and observe a multitude of things. During the past week I have been able to discern where all the breeding pairs of Sand Hill cranes have chosen their annual propagation routines. If they could plant stakes I have figured out where the boundaries of each avian domain would lie. While in flight, if a second loving pair of birds gets close to the imaginary boundary of another pair’s domain the pair that have it claimed begin a strident, gravelly warning that apparently means: Find another place to raise another family! The birds that flew over the boundaries quickly turn and move off to land in another part of the marsh areas of Oshaukuta and its surroundings.

Some of, I should really say, most of my hikes and meanderings result in prizes I find on the road, in the ditches or in the fence lines. Today for instance, I left with just a rapier-like shaft. Actually it was a golf umbrella I dug out of a trash can at the ball yard a couple years ago which was still in good shape. I returned home with a plethora of items that just could come in handy in one way or another (no pun intended) “down the road.” I was able to add to my collection of black, rubber tie straps. Most of those in my extensive collection have been discovered without one or both of the S hooks on the ends. Today’s find was a perfect one – no cuts or tears in the black rubber with two intact hooks affixed to each end. The rest of today’s finds included a fiberglass dowel about three feet long that could someday be used as a stir stick or ramrod for one of my many “front stuffers”, A clear, glass or plastic dowel about two feet long that may in time serve as a method to affix one of my wood carvings to the base of a scene; a piece of fairly heavy wire with a loop on one end and a small, flat piece of rubber that looks like it could have been part of an automobile floor mat. One can from time to time need a piece of heavy wire to hold something to another something and the flat piece of rubber will become part of my soon to be updated fishing rod building apparatus. 

It’s not unusual for me to come home from anywhere with more items than I left home with. Most of said items were at one time other people’s trash but in my possession they become a treasure (the aforementioned items for example). Years ago my wife sent my young son to the then “dump”, now called recylcing center with me with instructions from her to “make sure dad does not come home with a bigger load than he leaves with.” 

My plan this morning was to go southbound on the shoulder of Highway 51 and return on the northbound side. Once out and moving I then consider all my choices for the actual route and ultimately make decisions based on nothing other than a whim. Today as I rounded the curve just before reaching the confluence of East Morse Road and the aforementioned highway I was hiking on, I chose to just keep going until something stopped me and turned me around. Perhaps it would be distance. Maybe it would time. With the umbrella in hand it could also have been a sudden downpour. I had no clue that my turnaround point would be three quarters of the way up a rise in elevation on said route caused by a caustic odor originating from whatever material the fella is burning in his outdoor furnace a short distance from the shoulder of the highway. I am allergic to many things that trigger an asthma issue. That pungent smell instantly turned me 180 degrees back toward home. 

When writing about the pungent smell from that toxic smoke it reminded me that on my return trip I encountered a second pungent smell not once but twice. I’ve done my share of hiking outdoors, hunting and have also been a trapper and not ashamed to type it or talk about it. At the base of the fence on the southeast corner of the Inch Heights Trailer Park I believe there is a fox den close therein. The familiar smell of fox urine at a den site was pretty strong. I stopped and took a bunch of whiffs. As strong as the fox aroma was it cleared my nostrils of that awful smell from that outdoor furnace. When I continued on and had crossed Hwy. B I encountered the same acrid smell as I had when I recognized the smell of fox. Perhaps there are two dens within a couple hundred yards of each other. It would be rare but could be. It just might be.

I hike on shifting my thoughts to nine seniors and a dozen underclass girls that normally would be looking at the third week of the softball season a day from now.

Alas,

SARS-CoV-2 has so far, delayed the start of what had promised to be an exciting sofball season attempting to search for better and claim a third straight state softball title. Whether or not a season takes place is yet to be seen. I started planning for the 2020 season moments after the final out was recorded when winning the second straight title a year ago. I know that may sound like poppycock to some but it is the truth. Conversation with several players that would return this season took place before the girls even received their championship medals. Those girls needed instant information on where they fit into the program’s and their needs for 2020. Time was spent during the summer in small group training sessions while other instruction took place during the Wednesday night league games and the three weekend tournaments the Summer Pumas played. Other Pumas’ players were members of other teams, a couple based here and a couple others on teams that traveled far and wide. The latter groups were told what would be expected of them once the high school season got underway on March 16th.

That date has come and gone and a foreseeable first-day is not known. I have a plan in the event that the faith I have in the rest of humanity abiding by the urgent messages from the scientists who understand communicable diseases will make it possible for not just the seniors but the freshmen, sophomores and juniors to also be able to “seek better” on a daily basis. 

My hike this morning was more than a breath of cool, moist fresh air. My mailing address is N4944 U.S. Highway 51. My two driveways both end at the shoulder of the highway. The Wisconsin DOT has told me that, on average, 5000 cars pass in front of my house daily. Sunday’s are always lower numbers but not as low as I experienced on this morning’s hike. By the time I had reached that aforementioned curve in the highway, a distance of 3/8ths of a mile just one car buzzed past me going the same direction I was hiking and not a single vehicle faced me head-on. I hike for more than an hour along that busy highway. The final vehicle zipped past me when I was about 10 feet shy of my mailbox. It was just the 11th car to go northbound while just 15 had gone south. That’s 26 vehicles. 

We just might have a chance girls! We just might!

Spread the word. It seems to be working. Social Distancing, a term none of us did not even know that we did not know was a term, just might get us a season. 

For now I think I will work on that red fox carving I started years ago as it hops into the air to attack its prey below. After all, I now have that clear dowel to hold the beast airborne.

Keep it Rising Folks — KEEP IT RISING!

Bob

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Sometimes It’s Takes More Than Just A Knack

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Sandy Kienast at her workbench busily working on a recent production

The would-be fly tier looked up from her fly tying vice and said, “There is a real knack to this fly tying stuff.”

If you ever get a chance to look at the flies that local fly tier Sandy Kienast ties or the fishing rods she has been turning out in her shop in the basement room just off the side of the stained glass studio you’d argue with the opening statement above.

There is more than just a knack to tying great looking flies and other baits that Sandy creates. Instead of using the word “knack” a better way to say it would be to say, “Fly tying and rod building is an art.”

My later father-in-law had a knack for creating flies from the time he was a young lad growing up in the house I now live in here at Oshaukuta. He created streamers with a hook, some tail hairs snipped off the tail of a gray or fox squirrel that he’d harvested. His creations were intended to imitate a small minnow darting and cruising through the waters of Rocky Run Creek or whatever stream he found himself wading through in search of dinner. The heads of those flies, many of which I still have in my collection appear that he may have used some sewing thread. According to his legendary stories they may not have looked the prettiest but they did catch fish.

Sandy’s flies and streamers also catch fish and they are works of art. Many of the streamers are bright, beautiful pieces of work and some are so great looking that I often think it would be a shame to even use one for fear of wrecking it.

Sandy has a huge assortment of trout flies, flies, poppers and other creations meant for panfish or bass. If you are interested in fishing for larger fish like pike and muskies she can create those as well. You’d just have to give her an idea of something you think big fish would go for. She has the tools, the materials and the expertise to get the job taken care of. Also, if you think you’d like your own custom made fly rod, spinning rod or casting rod she can handle that as well. 

A 1985 graduate of Poynette High School Sandy got interested in tying flies when the local chapter of Trout Unlimited offered a free class in the area. She doesn’t remember where the class was held but I’m pretty sure it was at the home of Clark Vangsnes in the mid-80s. Local Trout Unlimited National Executive staff member Tom Flesh lived just east of Sandy on Tomlinson road. He was instrumental in getting the class offered.Brothers Lowell and Bob Genrich of Madison were avid fly fishermen and helped teach the class. I too was in the class. I tied some flies and streamers for a time but Sandy, who also started fishing with her own creations while fishing with a certain friend kept on doing it and has never quit.

To learn more about the art of fly tying she spends time watching online videos and on YouTube where she gets new patterns, new ideas when it comes to materials. A year or so ago she gave me several of her creations including a small frog that she used a new material to make. It’s an awesome little frog that can be cast with a fly rod. She also watches podcasts to get more new ideas. 

A few months ago I saw Sandy at the Front Bench at the local BP station. I told her that I was planning on building myself a nice spinning rod that could be used for walleye fishing. She told me not to purchase equipment because she has a complete rod building set up. I visited her workshop and was amazed. I was even more amazed when she told me the story of how she acquired the set up. 

A number of years ago she took a rod building class. She purchased a wooden set up to wrap the rod guides and purchased other building materials such as epoxy, glue, colored threads and more. At the class she took, she built a 3 weight fly rod and caught trout and panfish with it. “It’s pretty neat to catch a fish on a rod that you have built and use a fly that you tied,” she said.

She continued to create more flies and had a pretty good selection of a wide variety. She asked for and got permission from a neighbor who lives along the stream to put up a small sign advertising for her flies. Soon thereafter a gentleman called her and visited her workshop. He bought a large supply of flies. During the conversation he learned that she was interested in getting more involved in rod building and cut a deal with her. He told her that he had purchased a complete rod building set up but had not had time to build a rod and probably would not find the time. He offered her the entire package of rod building equipment in return for a rod that she would build for him.

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Sandy’s rod building jig. Notice the two finished rods on the drying rack above the table.

She has now built an additional four rods and just recently called in an order for two more. She’s making rods for everyone in the family. She has added more equipment that fits the system that fly fisherman had used for barter. A new power winder, rod dryer and more. 

I asked her what her goals for all this stuff is. She said she was not sure but that she thinks she’d like to start teaching classes at the workshop in their basement. 

You can bet that I have called upon her for some assistance with the walleye rod build that I am about to start on. She offered me enough epoxy, some black and orange thread (imagine that) along with a reamer to make sure the cork handle fits snugly on the rod blank and some other small tools to make my job easier. She even loaned me her original rack to use to attach the rod guides to the blank. I will get started on it soon.

If you want to see her stuff or talk with her about fly tying or rod building just get in touch with the artist herself.

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One Lure, Two Lures, Three Lures and Two Nice Trout

The first cast sailed across the stream and got hung up in the marsh grass on that side.

Many times when on an outdoor adventure things don’t go as planned. I’ve been voluntarily putting myself in quarantine, not leaving home and also hardly even going outside. It’s not the COVID-19 virus keeping me inside though. Rather it’s been the colder weather.

Today was different however. After studying some more about this pandemic and doing some reading in a very interesting book, I chose to donn a pair of knee high boots, grab a spinning rod and a few trout lures and head upstream on Rocky Run Creek.

The creek courses back and forth for the entire length of our 140 acres here at Oshaukuta. It’s about a 30-35 yard hike to the stream bank in the yard. Today I skipped the first quarter mile of stream and hiked back to the water a bit farther upstream where the hiking was easier than ducking under and around lots of brush. On my way I met up with the neighbor fellas, Mike and Ryan Fountain. We chatted for about 15 minutes about COVID-19, schools closing, sports getting cancelled (his daughter Casey is our all state player of the year last season and our ace in the pitching circle. We talked about trout fishing, salmon fishing on Lake Michigan, packs of wolves, coyotes and a lot more in just a little bit of time.

After leaving the Fountain Men I headed up under the power line to the creek. There are some deep holes all the way up along the creek here at Oshaukuta. Many are 6 feet deep or perhaps deeper. Undercut banks, brush, sandy bottoms, muddy bends. “The Whole Nine Yards!” I crossed the drainage ditch, climbed the berm left behind when the neighbor used a drag line to ditch the marsh decades ago and headed for the first deep hole.

I attached a Mepps squirrel tail spinner and readied myself for the first cast into the creek in years. I ordinarily just live along the creek and hike up next to it. I am not much of a trout angler. Brush, ticks, skeets and tall grass pretty much keep me away from the creek most of the time. I tossed that little Mepps out over the creek and lost sight of it just long enough for it to land in the marsh grass on the opposite side. It was hung up there very tight. I tugged and pulled and after a time just gave up and pulled straight back and snapped the line. The Mepps is still in the marsh grass up the creek. Tomorrow I will hike up the other side and get it back.

I tied on another Mepps with a lighter colored squirrel tail and underhand tossed that one toward the deep hole. My “Serena Williams type cast” was off target and suddenly I had that one hung up in a choke-cherry tree that grows out from the bank up there. Two casts and two lost lures. The second one is lost forever for when I snapped off the line the lure let go of it’s hard grip on the tree and plopped down into the water. The last view I had of it was it twirling toward the bottom of the stream and into the sediment below.

I quickly said a few “Oh Wells” and tied on a different type of lure. This one was more like a Little Cleo in silver with red trim. I left that hole not willing to lose three lures there and headed farther upstream. There is a great hole on the west end of a small oak island and I thought that would be a great place for a huge trout to be lying in wait of a late-afternoon meal. This time it was an overhand cast upstream. Once again I was hung up in the marsh grass. This time, however I was able to coax the lure out of the grass and it splashed down into the stream. I started reeling so as to catch up to the lure as it quickly would have been wiggling back and forth downstream. When my line tightened up I gave it another turn and “Bingo”, a large fish struck it. I set the hook and a great battle between predator and prey ensued. At first I thought I had one of the ‘snakey”, hammer-handle northern pike that live up this way but the fish made a sideways run and I could see that it was a brown trout — and a nice one. The fish battled it’s best but was no match for my Pflueger President Combo and after a few moments I had the fish next to the stream-bank. I had no net with me and no fishing pliers. I got the fish off the hook, snapped a picture of it in the grass below me and slipped it back into the water. It swam off.

I moved quite a ways upstream and tossed that third lure upstream again. I quickly reeled up the slack. About three or four reel turns into the retrieve something huge hit that Little Cleo. Its head shook a few times then he headed for the surface and instantly shed itself of that gray squirrel tail. It was a short battle won by the prey and not the predator. I reeled in and quickly sent a second cast upstream. Nothing hit but as I retrieved the lure a huge trout followed the lure as it made its way under me. That fish was a leviathan for a stream this size.

My father fished this stream every year when he lived a the Game Farm. Each year he would catch at least one monster Rocky Run trout that would measure 24 inches or longer. His longest was 28 inches. He returned them all. After he retired to northern Wisconsin he and my mother would stay in their little Shasta trailer parked on the stream bank here at my house. He would wander upstream from time to time and continued his yearly streak of catching at least one trout two feet long or longer.

I doubt if the fish I saw today was any of the fish he caught unless trout live to be 20 years old or more. Rocky Run is a special kind of stream. On our property it runs deep and cold. There is lots of cover and lots of feed for them.

To the best of my recollection the largest trout I have ever caught in a stream was 19” so the 18” beast I caught today probably ties for second place all-time. There is a lot of water to be fished here at Oshaukuta. I have self-quarantined myself here so you can be assured that I will be heading back to the stream a lot in the coming couple of weeks. For the past 40 years the Poynette softball program has limited my time on the water or in the water. Sometimes a fella just has to roll with the punches and take what life hands his way.

Four Sundays ago I had an outdoor adventure unlike any I had ever had before. I joined up with John Lamb of Reel Magic Fishing Adventures and my friend T-T-T-Teddy on a trip up the Wisconsin River where we fished right below the Kilbourn Dam. There were a lot of boats filled with fishermen that day. We double-anchored just offshore next to the restaurant there and wetted our lines for a couple of hours. It was a good trip but we didn’t catch many fish. I caught a 14 ⅞ inch sauger and Teddy caught one walleye that was too big but yet not big enough. There is a slot when fishing for walleye on that stretch of the Wisconsin River. To keep a walleye or sauger the fish must be a minimum of 15 inches and not longer than 20 inches.  All walleyes between 20 and 28 inches are in the slot and must be released. Fish 28 inches and larger have a one fish daily bag limit. Teddy’s walleye was 20 and half inches so he had to return it to the depths below us just like I did with my sauger that was an eighth of an inch shy of the legal limit. I’m not sure which is worse if one is looking for that day’s dinner.

The Reel Magic Fishing Adventures Guide however knew what he was doing. He got us positioned below that dam just a bit to the upstream side of where he knew the most fish would be lurking. There was another guide’s boat with a customer fishing in the “reel honey-hole” and our guide anchored us just a bit off to the upstream side of Fish Bones Guide Service. They were catching a lot of fish over there. Our guide was a sneaky guide on that day and probably thought that Teddy or I would not be able to figure out what he had done to me. After-all, Teddy and I were just friends in his boat and not paying customers. Instead of anchoring the stern of the boat on the power dam side of the hole he anchored his stern first then positioned the boat with the bow pointed upriver and told me “Now!” I dropped the the second anchor and that boat was positioned perfectly for the guide to be able to fish that honey hole while Teddy was just on the outer edge of it while I had to fish off the front of the boat where there were not any fish.

The guide probably knew that I could care less if I get skunked or catch fish. Catching fish is great. For me however, just being out there gives me a chance to sit in front of this computer monitor and watch all these letters form words so that you can read about my trips.

Until I get back up the creek – that’s it for this episode.
Have a great day and be safe and be healthy.
Take Care of yourself and everyone near you. Go catch some fish and don’t catch any viruses.
Bob

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Back Tracking Coyotes and Fooling Crows

As I stepped over limbs and branches of the fallen tree I noticed the route through the smeuse below me of cottontail rabbits going from their lair to the brambles below and beyond.

Last week after my hike and subsequent essay Along Rocky Run readers of these musings were invited to join me for an Oshaukuta Adventure. A former Poynette standout centerfielder’s father, Dave responded to the invitation. We texted back and forth a bit and chose Saturday as the day that we would get out together and add his name to the list of Oshaukuta Outdoors Group members.

Dave arrived at Oshaukuta at about 9:30 and by 9:40 we were headed east along the Rocky Run Creek drainage area. Dave toted a Remington 700 firearm complete with high-powered scope and chambered in .25-.250. It is a great varmint gun. As for me I carried a Springfield Model 87A loaded with 15 .22 caliber long rifle cartridges. The firearms were along in case we encountered one of the most adaptable mammals on the planet – a coyote.

We did not encounter any canines on our hike but we were able to back-track the route that a pair of coyotes used in search of their next meal. That pair of critters stayed right on the edge of the trout stream for most of their trek, venturing out onto some shelf ice in just one dead oxbow. It was easy for us to discern that the pair of canines were a male and female for we found two separate places where one of the animals emptied its bladder and a bit farther on the other one did. Both gender’s yellow stains in the freshly fallen snow were easily identifiable. Those tracks were the third and fourth canine tracks we encountered on the day. We crossed and followed the tracks of the neighbor’s dogs that were obviously following along as the Mike traversed the area in one of his four-wheeled machines. 

The marsh was filled with fresh tracks from the whitetails that unbeknownst to them live in a place we call Oshaukuta. Most of the whitetail sign laid down after the start of Friday’s snow was found in the higher areas of the hike we took. 

As we moved across the one-time stagecoach trail that coursed its way between what is now East Morse Road and Phillips Road we had to step over and around many fallen trees and their limbs. At one point I was in the lead with Dave following behind. I noticed a high number of squirrel tracks in the fluffy snow underfoot. The limbs, covered with snow were packed down as the result of squirrels using them in search of morsels buried beneath the leaves and litter of the forest floor back in late summer and early fall. As I stepped over a rather large fallen limb I heard the familiar chuckle of a squirrel above me. If course Dave heard it as well. That’s where Dave became a teacher and I became the learner.

Dave said he wished he had a couple of quarters with him and asked, “You know that trick right?”

My answer was “no”. I have never been much of a squirrel hunter. A squirrel shooter yes, hunter no. There is a difference. There are people like me that shoot squirrels when the opportunity presents itself and their are people like Dave apparently who actually hunt those critters. In his younger days Dave fit into the second category, thus the trick he taught me on the hike. Not only did he teach me the trick he proved to me that it works. 

I happened to have a pocket full of change ($1.95) in denominations of one nickel, two quarters and the rests in dimes. I handed Dave the quarters which were minted some time after the day when quarters were actually silver and had not rough edges. The rough edges, I learned are the key to the trick. Dave ground those rough edges together in an attempt to mimic a lucky squirrel that had found a buried nut. The sound resembles that sound of critter teeth chipping away at the hard shell that surrounds the morsel inside an acorn or other nut. Squirrels are inquisitive beasts. When one hears what sounds like another eating the former critter will peek out from around the trunk or limb of a tree to see the lucky one at work offering a head-shot to Dave or another astute human looking to put squirrel on the family table. 

Dave also taught me that you can tap a coin of any denomination or any hard object on the gun stock and make it sound like a squirrel at work. Dave knows his squirrel hunting stuff. As he tapped and ground those quarter edges together I imagined him as a young lad in the woods with is dad Ed and his brother Ed. Dave kept at it for a couple of minutes and by golly he was able to coax one of those curious critters to stick its head out from that nest of oak leaves high in the crotch of that magnificent oak tree. It was there long enough where I were interested in squirrel stew I could have harvested the critter. I chose not to kill the furry critter. We chuckled and headed back into our nature hike.

Dave was also a learner on our trip. The wetlands at Oshaukuta are complete with plethora of fauna. Some of the fauna found here in this day and age was not here when I started frequenting this property once controlled by the Ho-Chunk. Now-a-days it is filled with choke-cherry bushes and trees the result of the defication of a myriad of fruit eating avian creatures. Poplars are out here as well and if not attacked by larger rodents with flat tails live to be about 30 years old. The marsh, once filled with red dogwood has always been covered in another plant I’ve written about in several previous essays. Lowland or poison sumac abounds in several general areas of Oshaukuta land. As we moved into the eastern end of our property and onto public property I was sure to point out that sumac to Dave. I didn’t want him to wake up Sunday or Monday with an unbelievable rash which he would not have any idea of  what its cause would be. 

I had packed my never-used Fox-Pro predator call in a small back-pack. We figured we could stop off at the neighbor’s observation shack in the field east of the house on our way back and try out the battery operated device. We had about half an hour to do that and didn’t really expect to call in a coyote at noon in just half an hour but we were having a great time on this first-ever adventure together and didn’t want to quit quite yet.

We unloaded the call and read the directions. I had some issues getting to know the unit but after a few minutes the call of a red headed woodpecker did start screaming out the window from that call. Novices both, we had no idea how often to call. Instead we just kept listening to other calls. We listened to a coon fight, a distressed coon, a mouse in distress, some other distressed bird calls and a lone wolf. We then listened to the coyote locator, a female coyote call, a male coyote howl and a few others. I told Dave that a week or so ago I did stick the call out the basement door and used the crow fight call. I told him that it only took about a minute and I had six or seven black birds looking for the fight. With that in mind we switched to the crow fight call. After about a minute a small flock of geese approached us from the north. It seemed that even Canadian geese were interested in watching a crow fight for they turned right toward us. As those honkers approached I watched closely as their necks craned from side to side to see the battle being waged below. As the flock disappeared from view above the shack Dave said, “Hey here comes to two crows.”

He was right. Two crows were frantically heading toward us on the same flight path as the geese had taken. Then Dave said, “Here comes two more.” 

We had four crows heading for us. They arrived and while flying in circles it was easy to see them stretching their necks to locate their fellow, angry birds. Then more came from the east to make it six. Now half a dozen birds were circling the shack and would have been marginally in range of a firearm loaded with fine shot in some magnum casings. A seventh bird joined them from the west and all seven were calling back to our call. Tired from battling the wind to arrive at the battle, six of those birds landed in trees 100-200 yards from the shack. We allowed the call to just keep on bellering out the “fake news.” There really was not a crow fight at all. After what seemed like a couple of minutes the six crows that had alighted in trees had heard enough of the fake battle and flew off in opposite directions. That lone, seventh crow however kept circling the area for a while before it too went off in a northwesterly direction. 

A good laugh was had by both Dave and I and we vowed to do this again only with my crow decoys and a fake great horned owl added to the mix. We aren’t looking to eat crow though. We will just be looking for another laugh and story as we tease those birds some more.

We packed up the electronic call along with our firearms and headed back for my house where we chatted a bit more, unloaded our firearms and said so long for the day’s adventure. Dave headed home but I had not had enough for the day. I’d noticed another rabbit run that passed through the smeuse behind the wiffle ball stadium and wanted to see where that cottontail’s hideout might be. I arrived at the break in the fence line and followed the rabbit path to a hole under some long-discarded metal back there. I’m sure the junk pile there is the home of at least one Oshaukuta cottontail. 

I left the grove of massive white pines that surround the first and third baselines at Legends Field and called it a day in the outdoors. 

Have a great day!

If you’d like to join up for an adventure just contact me. Dave did and said he enjoyed the hike.

Bob

Smeuse –if you were unable to surmise the meaning of the old english word smeuse here is a little help — it’s a break in a hedge, wall or fence line where small animals pass from one side to the other.

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A January Hike Along Rocky Run

Monday, January 6, 2020

The only thing that seemed like winter was the fact that the flooded marsh was frozen over. 

After gaining a few pounds over the holiday break after having lost 34-35 pounds after my bout with that herniated disc or whatever that back problem was from May through July I have been working hard to shed them. That fact along with having received a new Canon EOS Rebel T7 kit for Christmas resulted in me taking a January hike east of the house up and along Rocky Run.

On my drive to The Front Bench this morning I listened to today’s forecast on the radio. They were calling for a clear, sunny day. I figured those rays shining brightly on the snow that was out there, the ice and on the creek ought to produce a great hike and some great photos. With all that in mind while at the Front Bench I left, headed home, changed into some older habiliments and headed east.

The temperatures were in the high 30s with a slight breeze as I hiked under the powerline, down to the creek and then upstream. It was plain to see that someone had preceded me out here a few days before. I called Sean and learned that it was not he that had made those tracks I was looking at in the snow. It appeared that the wearer of the footwear that pressed the bottoms of the boots into the snow had a size 10-11 foot. The tread on the bottom was easily discernible with a snow-tire like appearance. Other tracks in the snow provided proof that there is a bountiful supply of white-tailed deer out here along with coyotes as well as a larger canine leaving footprints in the snow and ice. 

I crossed paths where smaller mammals had been crossing the path I was on. I recognized the tracks of rabbits, squirrels, opossum, a coon track here and there. On the bank of Rocky Run it was easy to pick out the otter slide just downstream from main human crossing we have out there. As I approached what we call the Locust Pole Lodge fresh beaver cuttings quickly told me that the family of huge rodents that can fell trees 18 inches in diameter in a night have been active. Those critters can change the flow of a trout stream such as Rocky Run in one breeding season. Where there was once about 150 yards of trout stream now is a straight run of about 70 yards. The flow of water in the old channel has been cut by about 90% while the real rush of water has changed that part of the stream forever.

If you were to view a map on Google Earth with me tomorrow I could show you where previous critters with flat tails that get slapped on the water’s surface when danger is near have altered the flow of water during the past 10 decades or more. Overhead pictures of the Rocky Run creek drainage from the 40s and 50s shows old stream beds in the marsh east of our property lines on what is now the Department of Natural Resources fish management property. In my freshman Maps and Landforms geography course I took at LaCrosse State University I learned about the life cycle of streams. High water, obstacles in the water such as fallen trees and logs and beaver have all have a part of that life cycle. If you are interested in a great nature hike with many examples of a stream’s life cycle give me shout out, grab a pair of hip boots or chest high waders and I can show you a myriad of places where all of the above factors have changed Rocky Run Creek. As a stream ages and is affected by those factors they tend to straighten out for a few decades while nature takes its time to find a fissure in the bank or a formerly used  bank beaver den and begins to erode that marshy, swampy soil. Any plumber will tell you that water and anything in its way gets carried downhill. As the bank erodes the water seeks the easiest route to the Wisconsin River in the case of Rocky Run Creek here. After even just a few years a new oxbow may be present. 

As an outdoor person one must be cognizant of the facts I just covered. A hiker on a January jaunt in the marsh must be vigil if hiking along a strange stream. If the hiker is not wary of the dangers that lurk along a stream such as Rocky Run he/she may find themselves in cold water when they least expect it. Places that were stream beds  decades ago seldom provide solid footing for an absent-minded hiker, fisherman, waterfowl hunter or even deer and turkey hunters. Stepping into an old stream bed could result in the unwary outdoors person in muck up to their nipples or even higher. Take it from a person who learned Rocky Run and the marsh that it flows through at Oshaukuta the cold, muddy, hard way. I’ve been into my nipples no less than twice as a much younger lad. My first trip in 1966 found me stuck in the muck up above those two body parts. Clad in just hip boots that day I found myself in a predicament I was fortunate to get out of purely by happen-stance. I went into Robson’s ditch that day right next to an overhanging tag alder bush jutting out from the bank on the opposite side of that ditch. After tossing my spinning rod and trout net I grabbed a branch and luckily pulled myself free. I have never fallen in that ditch again and always warn people who hunt here about that ditch with the story I just told you. The day I went in was in July. The sun was out like today but the water temperature was 30 degrees warmer than today and the air temperature was about 50 degrees warmer. 

I learned from the Western Apaches that wisdom is all about smoothness of mind, steadiness of mind and resilience of mind. Those Apaches also know that the level of wisdom from one Apache to another is always different. There are Apaches who are prescient thinkers and those that are not. People do not have to have Apache DNA flowing through their veins to be a prescient thinker. You just have to be on your A game all the time, especially when danger is right around the next bend or curve. 

The hike today was a great one. It allowed me to get in touch with nature and my thoughts. It allowed me to clear my mind and figure out what the rest of the day might turn out to be as well as stay dry. I just had to stay on top of my game to keep from falling on the ice.

Have a great day. If you’d like to join me for a hike Up Along Rocky Run just get in touch with me. Afterall, all it takes to become a member of the Oshaukuta Outdoors Group is to spend just a little time with me in the outdoors. It’s a lifetime membership with no dues, no fund-raising requirements, no getting nominated for an officer’s position in the group. You don’t even need hip boots this time of the year. 

Bob

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Getting An Ear Full In More Ways Than One

Tales of the Front Bench Regulars
Written on January 3, 2020 by The Front Bench Scribe – RCT
Getting an Ear Full in More Ways Than One

Author’s Note: The following story is not actually an outdoor adventure story but is worth posting as the main character in the story is a member of the Oshaukuta Outdoors Group. 

It was the first day of a new year as well as the first day of a new decade.

It was New Year’s Day and the gathering at the Front Bench was a large one. Members filter in on a daily basis at varying times. For the most part, however, longtime “Regulars” can set their watches to within minutes of the exact time based upon the arrival of other “Regulars.”

This story, true as told and written herein surrounds one of the most recent additions to the Front Bench Regulars — The Third Bob.

There are three Bobs that regularly frequent the Front Bench. They are known in these stories based upon the order in which they fished below the Castle Rock dam in January, 2018. The First Bob is the head softball coach at the high school while the Second Bob is a former Industrial Arts Teacher/football/track coach at the high school who later moved on to work at Del Monte in Arlington while the Third Bob runs a Mission Foods operation and is partners with his wife at the Arlington Bent & Dent grocery store.

The Third Bob is also one of the most knowledgeable people this writer has ever met when it comes to being able to fix things or create new gizmos to repair broken things or even to create things for new ideas. But don’t get me wrong. I did not write that he is “The Most Knowledgeable.” There are other Regulars who are experts in many, many ways. There have been stories in the past written about them and there will continue to be in the future now that “The Scribe” is back on board.

The story gets its title from what took place in The Third Bob’s left ear. 

One of Bob’s delivery vans wound up out on the delivery route with a malfunctioning starter. In reality the starter had done its job for longer than it was willing to do and simply quit, leaving the driver stranded and thus a call to the boss — The Third Bob. The boss packed up his tool kit and headed for the van with the crapped out starter. He purchased a replacement starter and, in the parking lot of the parts store crawled under the vehicle and got after the task at hand. Somewhere in the midst of removing the bad starter and installing the latest one a soon to be problem got started.

While lying on the cold, hard parking lot in front of that parts store Bob was pulling, turning and working diligently to get the starter replaced. If you have ever worked underneath a vehicle at all you well understand how important it is to donn a set of safety glasses or glasses of some kind. Rusted ferrous metal, grains of sand, dirt and other materials all cling to the undercarriage of all vehicles. In northern climates such as we have in Wisconsin rust naturally accumulates and eventually ruins all vehicles on one way or another. Road salt both granular and now in liquid form causes ferrous metal to deteriorate and rust. So imagine if you will the problems a Mr. Fixit might encounter even if he/she does wear protective eyewear and other important items.

On the day of the starter repair, the Third Bob did not wear protective eyewear and did not stick a set of earplugs in his auditory canals. Actually, when you think about it – who do you know that ever plugs those canals with cotton, foam, rubber or other earplug material. I never have! I will from now on though. See, Bob had his head tipped to the right at one point in the replacement ordeal and at least one chunk of rusty metal, small enough to get deep into his left auditory canal did just that. According to the way Bob told the story, he tried to dig the rusty material out of his ear but didn’t get it all out if any came out. He finished the job and headed home. 

During the night his ear was bothering him and he told us that he could hear those pieces of rusty, ferrous metal rattling inside his ear canal. He was then asked by me if he had at some time in his life had metal tubes stuck in his ears to combat ear infections. I figured that in order to hear that metal rattling around inside his auditory canal it would have had to be metal against metal. That produced some laughter.

Bob tried to shake the metal loose inside his ear by tipping his head to the right and pound on that side of his head and shake like a dog shaking off water after a swim. He said a couple of tiny pieces of that rusty stuff fell out in his pillow. However, his ear was still giving him trouble. He wished he had one of those gizmos the medical people use to look in a person’s ear. That is when Davy T. told us that those things are called an otoscope. Bob looked them up on Amazon. He could buy one for about 14 bucks but it would be two days before it would arrive. I told him, “It’s too bad that today is a holiday or we could walk over to the Veterinarian clinic right there and have one of those vets look inside your ear and see what they see.” 

That brought some laughter but I was being serious. Later in the day, which was New Year’s Day, a group of us assembled at Bob and Bonnie’s home for a Rose Bowl Party. By that time Bob had attempted lots of things to get his ear feeling better. He tried washing it out with water and also alcohol. He even tried a magnet, more liquid followed by sticking a vacuum cleaner against his ear and more interesting attempts too many to mention. While at the party he had me gaze into his auditory canal again. On that attempt I noted that the walls of his left ear canal was bright red whereas on his right side it was not. I told him I figured he had inflamed the ear with the rust and it probably didn’t help to dig in there and try to suck his brain out through that narrow canal either using his his shop vac.

On the morning of January 2nd I walked Bob over to the vet clinic. I told him that I really should have brought a dog collar and leash to walk him with so they’d giggle and yet look in his ear. We walked in normal-like and told the receptionist Bob’s story. She said they would not be able to do that. I told her that we were not looking for the vet to dig anything out of the ear. We just wanted to save Bob a trip to the human clinic if he didn’t really need to go. I figured the vet staff would find a bit of humor in our request. Who wouldn’t want to go home from a busy and perhaps stressful day at at vet clinic and not be able to tell a great, humorous story about two guys coming in to have one auditory canal checked out?

So in the end Bob had to make a trip to the human clinic (his wife Bonnie insisted). He learned that his auditory canal was the cleanest one the lady doctor had ever peered into. However, his eardrum was inflamed and very red and that he might need and antibiotic. She forwarded a prescription to the pharmacy that he could get filled if need be.

By Saturday morning at the daily gathering of The Front Bench Regulars Bob arrived with a hearing device in his right ear. When asked about that, he answered was that he can’t hear very well out of that cleanest ear his doctor had ever seen so he was wearing a hearing device in his good ear. 

Have a great day!

The Scribe –  AKA – The First Bob

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Two Trips Into Frigid Waters

The past couple of years have been way out of the ordinary for me.

In January, 2018 I found myself in a boat catching walleyes, sturgeon and buffalo below the dam at Castle Rock on the Wisconsin. Fishing on open water in January was something I had never done through the first 67 years of life. Later that January I returned several times and added a couple of trips back there in February, also a month I had never fished from a boat.

On Sunday, December 8th I found myself standing in frigid waters wearing a pair of knee high LaCrosse 1600 boots while trying to catch northern pike in the Wisconsin River below the dam at Prairie du Sac. The trip had been planned by The Second Bob and our friend Brian Budde of Lodi who works at the Cabella’s outdoor store in Sun Prairie.

Brian has started tying large streamers that he uses at the end of a fly rod line. He was looking to catch some leviathans on his fly rod. Bob and I were just looking for a good time and perhaps even catch a fish or two.

On the morning of the 8th we were joined by Bob’s son Spud. We drove to the dam and met Brian there. We all knew that one of the perils of fishing below any of those dams is getting repeatedly snagged on rocks and submerged trees and branches. To combat that anticipated issue Brian had agreed to donn a pair of chest waders so as to get out into the river far enough to cast a line with his streamers attached and also to retrieve snagged lures for the Two Bobs. When Spud joined up in his waders it gave us two adventurers to retrieve our snagged up lures.

If you have read a few of the previous adventure stories you well understand that The Second Bob poses some interesting issues while spending time with him. No sooner had we arrived at the water line I looked to my left to see Bob heading up river where I knew there would be even more snags than there were where we had gotten onto the beach area. Bob, wearing a pair of knee high boots waded out about halfway up to the top of those boots and quickly was snagged up. Brian, Spud and I were down-river from him. I looked up after a cast to see Bob waving his arm and screaming at Brian in an attempt to get him to hike up there and get his lure un-snagged.

Brian did go up there and did get that lure out of the water but not until he had been up to the top of those chest waders and had his entire arm under the surface to get the job accomplished. Needless to say, Brian was the first of the four to get wet but certainly not the last.

 

The past couple of years have been way out of the ordinary for me.

In January, 2018 I found myself in a boat catching walleyes, sturgeon and buffalo below the dam at Castle Rock on the Wisconsin. Fishing on open water in January was something I had never done through the first 67 years of life. Later that January I returned several times and added a couple of trips back there in February, also a month I had never fished from a boat.

On Sunday, December 8th I found myself standing in frigid waters wearing a pair of knee high LaCrosse 1600 boots while trying to catch northern pike in the Wisconsin River below the dam at Prairie du Sac. The trip had been planned by The Second Bob and our friend Brian Budde of Lodi who works at the Cabella’s outdoor store in Sun Prairie.

Brian has started tying large streamers that he uses at the end of a fly rod line. He was looking to catch some leviathans on his fly rod. Bob and I were just looking for a good time and perhaps even catch a fish or two.

On the morning of the 8th we were joined by Bob’s son Spud. We drove to the dam and met Brian there. We all knew that one of the perils of fishing below any of those dams is getting repeatedly snagged on rocks and submerged trees and branches. To combat that anticipated issue Brian had agreed to donn a pair of chest waders so as to get out into the river far enough to cast a line with his streamers attached and also to retrieve snagged lures for the Two Bobs. When Spud joined up in his waders it gave us two adventurers to retrieve our snagged up lures.

If you have read a few of the previous adventure stories you well understand that The Second Bob poses some interesting issues while spending time with him. No sooner had we arrived at the water line I looked to my left to see Bob heading up river where I knew there would be even more snags than there were where we had gotten onto the beach area. Bob, wearing a pair of knee high boots waded out about halfway up to the top of those boots and quickly was snagged up. Brian, Spud and I were down-river from him. I looked up after a cast to see Bob waving his arm and screaming at Brian in an attempt to get him to hike up there and get his lure un-snagged.

Brian did go up there and did get that lure out of the water but not until he had been up to the top of those chest waders and had his entire arm under the surface to get the job accomplished. Needless to say, Brian was the first of the four to get wet but certainly not the last.

BrianBudde

Brian Budde wades back to shore after getting the Second Bob’s lure off a snag.

As I waded out into the water I quickly learned that my left boot has a leak about four inches above my ankle. The water was really cold and forced be to back up a distance far enough to get that leaky spot above the surface. Bob quickly learned that one of his boots also had a worn out spot just under his knee cap and his leg was getting soaked by that frigid water.

Casting far enough from shore requires equipment heavy enough to launch a lure out into the fast water. I for one, did not have that kind of stuff along and found myself coming up dreadfully short of the targets I was trying to reach.

Before we all gave up “skunked” Spud had been forced to get Bob’s lures unsnagged several times and Brian had to get his own stuff loose as well as several more trips into deeper water for Bob. I was snagged up one time but was able to get it loose on my own by wading upstream a bit. One incident that caused three of us to call off the adventure took place when Bob headed downstream farther than any of us, casted out and got hung up. Spud had to wade out in his chest waders to save the lure. In the process the side plate of Bob’s reel fell off meaning he was done.

My foot was freezing from getting wet. Bob’s feet were both wet and cold and Spud learned that the crotch area of his chest waders were not waterproof either.  We told Brian we were finished and heading home. Brian was going to stick around but chose to call it off as well. When we took off our supposed waterproof gear three of us were wet. The Two Bobs both had wet, cold feet and Spud was wet from his crotch to his knees. Brian never got wet inside his chest waders but his sleeve had not dried out either.

On Thursday, 19th Bob and I set out on another adventure. This time we were heading out into the river bottoms to see if we could located Two Bobs Slough we had found while out on the river in September. By using Google Maps we could see that the hike would be a relatively short one if we parked along U.S. Highway 51 and walked back through the river bottoms to the slough. We figured that Two Bobs Slough would be teaming with crappies, bluegills as well as northern pike.

I thought we’d just take along a machete, an axe and a pike pole to check the safeness of the ice out there. Bob figured on taking along some ice fishing equipment. I had to agree with him that if we were going to take the time to hike out there we might just as well fish for a while as well.  We donned some footwear, grabbed my machete, my four inch ice auger, a bag of ice fishing rods along with a very sharp Estwing axe.

We headed for the river bottoms north of here, parked along the base of the levee and headed out. We were hiking on what was once Learmouth Road but is now just part of the river bottom after the new levee system was added about two decades ago. It was clear that the bottoms were covered with water. The entire area was covered in several layers of ice. The river has been rising and receding so many times that those various layer are the result.  I realized instantly that this trip should have included ice cleats. We however, had not  taken any along.

As we neared the curve on Learmouth road I heard running water. It was the kind of running water sound one is accustomed to after they have been in, on and around beaver dams. I told Bob that a beaver dam was up ahead and I was correct. We reached that rodent family’s project and could easily tell that our low level footwear were not tall enough to wade across.  Bob stepped off the roadbed and onto the white ice that presented itself. When he put his weight down the ice cracked in both directions for a good 20-25 yards. I was still standing on the roadbed and Bob had walked out onto some pretty sturdy ice. I stepped onto the white but cracked ice and broke through instantly. The water under that ice was not very deep thank goodness. My boots were just tall enough to keep my feet dry. While standing there with my feet below the ice and in water I looked again out into the river bottoms in front of us and knew we should just head back to the truck. We didn’t!

Bob took off periodically checking the ice thickness with the axe. Three or four solid swings with the sharp axe showed us that there was 3-4 inches of ice. That’s plenty to hold up a couple of people walking so we kept moving farther away from the old roadbed. I told Bob I was going to stay about 15 yards away from him in an attempt to add to our safety on the trip.

Bob had just chopped out another hole in the ice before proceeding on toward a tree in front of him. That’s where he made a mistake. That ice around that tree was the same color as the ice I had broken through back by the roadbed. Bob stepped onto that ice and instantly broke through.

He was wearing a pair of snowmobile boots. The tops of those boots were about a foot or so above the surface. The water below the surface of the ice was deep enough to put Bob in ice cold water about two or three inches above his knees and well over the tops of those snowmobile boots.

He looked at me but didn’t say a word right away, a rare thing for him. There was no cussing, no screaming but instead a Bob standing there staring at me with his wide open as they could possible get. It didn’t laugh.

He stepped back onto the solid ice and quickly took his boots off then emptied them out. Water poured out of them so fast it would make a person’s head spin. There he stood in his wet socks. It had to be cold. He put the boots back on and we headed for the roadbed. It was about a 25 yard hike to that point. When we got there he took the boots off again because his feet felt like they were on fire. Cold water does that to a person. He tore off the boots, dumped them out again and decided his only choice was to walk back to the truck in his wet socks.

We made it back there in pretty good time, He got the socks off and put his winter time footwear on – his flip flops.

We headed out of there and called it an adventure. If we were going to fall through it was better to crash through that ice close to the truck rather than way out in the river bottoms. I would not have been able to carry him out of there safely.

Have a great day. Be careful on ice. It’s slippery and often times unsafe.

Bob

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That line was wound as tight as it could get — Not Once But Twice!

For most of my adult life I’ve tried to live by a simple plan that includes rolling with the punches and figuring out how to handle the most recent dragon that occupies my time. That premise was put to the test on a recent trip to the Northwoods.

Two weeks ago this coming Saturday, my wife Karol and I decided to head north to Washburn County where we have a retreat so to speak west of Minong. Actually I guess I decided that we’d drive up there to check on the place, set out mouse poison, rake up a couple of years worth of fallen white pine needles and do any other tasks that we’d encounter. 

We headed out mid-morning and arrived mid-afternoon. Once there I quickly tackled the pine needle issues. We have a storage shed right under a huge white pine. My teachers and probably yours taught us that conifers as opposed to deciduous trees do not drop their leaves in the fall. They were telling us the truth as they taught us that stuff. Conifers do not drop their leaves. That is because they do not have leaves. They have needles and they do drop them each year sometime between June and September depending on the latitude they grow in. Our storage shed and trailer/cabin roofs were covered with three years of pine needles that needed removing. While raking off the gambrel shaped storage shed I discovered that the north side of the roof had a hole punched through it caused by a limb that had blown off an oak tree close to it. It would need new roof boards and shingles. 

After completing the other winterizing chores we chose to drive back home that day. Afterall, we were finished with those chores by 4:30. It was a 519 mile round trip. On the return trip we chatted about how soon we needed to get the roof fixed in order to incur more damage. 

I have a good friend who is a handy man. He has been to our retreat on a previous fishing trip I invited him to take with me. I contacted him to see if he was up for a bit of work and perhaps some outdoor adventure. Of course he was “all in.”

Steve and I departed on Thursday evening with a load of carpentry gear, a chain saw and accessories along with fishing gear stowed away inside my now canvas-covered Grumman fishing boat. We were hoping to get a bit of fishing in at the end of the first day of work and before the second day’s work detail would begin if we hadn’t finished the roof on day one.

On Friday morning we awoke early, had breakfast at Wendy’s Restaurant in Minong and headed for the work site. We unloaded the truck and got after it. That’s when Steve told me we were going to encounter some major issues soon after getting started with the project. I knew the old shingles had to come off as they are older than most shingles last and there was a hole through them. What I did not realize is that we would not be able to reach the upper part of the four foot section on the bottom because we did not have scaffolding or roof cleats to hold us in place. That meant that entire project would involve some ingenuity, albeit unsafe. When we reached the stage of unreachability we created a questionably unsafe scaffolding using my two plastic saw horses, my Little Giant ladder and the ramps that allow me to get my riding lawn mower out of the shed and easily back in. Those items became our makeshift scaffolding upon unlevel ground. My job was to steady the outfit and later hold the wooden box that Steve would stand on in order to reach toward the top of the shed. I had promised Karol I would not turn this trip into a negative adventure. “This predicament is turning dangerous,” I told myself.

With about an hour and a half of daylight left on Friday we headed for Matthews lake six miles south of our place to get in some fishing. It was cold and windy. We were the only boat on the lake. We moved from place to place while we tried to stay on the windward side of the lake. That’s when the first outdoor adventure took place. 

I have fished Matthews Lake since 1973 and know the underwater topography pretty darn well. I can fish it without a lake map. Of course I am now aided by a Terrova trolling motor controlled by a remote hanging around my neck as well as a Garmin 93 SV locator. We fished hard within a small window and two situations took place to make it an adventure worth writing about. 

I’ve always been able to laugh at my own goof ups. I’ve also been able to live with the loss of items that will undoubtedly cost me money to replace. I seldom yell and scream and cuss when things are not going very well. My outdoor adventure friends will attest to that. 

After fishing around in the windy, cold conditions our hands got somewhat cold and numb but we kept right on fishing. Steve was learning how to handle a baitcast reel and getting better and better. He did, early on, forget to push the clutch button to enable the reel to free-spool. It didn’t take long for him to get it. Soon I too forgot to push the small, silver button to release the spool. When I wound up and started a long cast the weight of a heavy, rubber Medussa Ghost Walleye tugged hard against my outfit. My hands were wet which caused me to lose my grip on my rod not just with one hand but both. The rod hit the water with me screaming, “Oh No!.” I reached to grab the very expensive outfit before it sank to the depths below knowing that I stood no chance of grabbing that heavy outfit. To my amazement that Cabela’s 9’ Musky Predator rod equipped with an Ambassadeur 6500-C3 reel and $25 lure was floating boatside.  I instinctively reached over the gunwale and grabbed it then realized what a miracle that had been. Instead of feeling depressed about losing a great outfit it was back in my hands — saved by the hollow blank the rod is made from. “Whew! That was close and I am amazed that that thing floats,” is what I said to Steve who was laughing at me. 

A few minutes and just before dark we were about to wrap up our adventure when Steve set the hook on a fish. Soon thereafter his rod was bending a lot and it appeared that he had a leviathan (huge underwater creature) on. As he battled whatever had taken his lure I moved quickly to get the landing net that was draped over the outboard engine. I set my rod down before heading to the back of the boat to get the net. Before I could get back there I saw my rod heading for the front of the boat. I quickly realized that my line had gotten caught in the spinning propeller of the trolling motor. My expensive rig was now heading for disaster again. I quickly reached for the trolling motor’s remote control hanging around my neck, quickly hit the propeller button to turn it off then headed for the net.

In the meantime Steve was winning the battle with the heavy monster at the end of his line. He reeled frantically all the while raising his rod then taking up the slack by reeling quickly. Soon the fish and about ten pounds of lake weeds came past me at the side of the boat. What started out as a cute, colorful 16” northern pike wound up being the fish and more than ten pounds of weeds. 

Steve with his cute, colorful young Matthew’s Lake Northern Pike. This is the fish that caused my line to get wound around the shaft of the trolling motor

We got the fish into the boat, rid the fish of all those weeds and quickly got the hooks out , snapped a quick picture and released it. I then checked out my rod and reel situation. I tried to unwind the expensive, braided line from the shaft of the propeller but could not. It would have to wait until the next morning to get taken care of. We laughed some more and headed for the cabin and dinner at the Longbranch in Minong.

After working for hours on that small roof on Saturday our backs were getting tired out and Steve’s feet were really bothering him due to is life with diabetes. We had to knock off and stay another night. During the day while we took a lunch break, I took the propeller off the trolling motor and removed 18 yards of braided line wrapped tightly around the shaft. I reattached the expensive flourocarbon leader so as to be ready to fish with it when we hit the water. I placed the rod on top of the rod bin and tightened down the Velcro strap to hold it in place for the bumpy ride to the lake.

We headed for the lake. Once at the lake I backed the rig up close to the water’s edge so as to unhook the tie-down units and the bow’s nylon strap. As I walked past the driver’s side of the boat trailer a mess of fishing line caught my eye. Somebody’s fishing line had gotten wound around the bearing buddy on the end of the hub. My first reaction was one of wondering how somebody’s line could get caught around my hub. Upon a closer look I realized that I was that somebody.

In my haste of getting the line out of the trolling motor earlier in the day I obviously had failed to crank the handle far enough to engage the clutch on the spool. Add to that mistake is the fact that I also failed to secure the snap of the expensive leader to the little clip on the rod that can hold a lure or leader in place. While driving the six miles to the landing the wind must have caused the line to blow off the side of the boat where it got wound around the hub. I looked at the reel and discovered that every inch of line was gone.

That was another $25 mistake. Getting a couple hundred yards of that line off that hub was not easy. My knife would not cut the braid and my scissors had all they could do to help me out. I now have to get more braided line on that reel. 

Before our short fishing adventure ended the largest, tightest most frustrating backlash took place in my other reel. I messed with that thing for half an hour before giving up. The “three strikes and you’re out” rule was enforced. We put our stuff away and headed back to the cabin.

Through everything that happened on the weekend I just kept thinking — “Here I am. What’s next? How do I cope with the latest dragon?”

Have a great day! Enjoy the snow while it lasts.

Bob

 

Note: I had no intention of writing this adventure up but after telling the story at the Front Bench Ray P. while laughing loudly, told me to go home and write. 

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Turning A Black Day Red

The morning was dark when I arose, collected the papers and headed for The Front Bench.

The moon was beautiful, a waxing gibbous. It marked the final black day on Joe Bucher’s Moon Secrets prior to the upcoming New Moon Cycle. The Solunar Time Forecast App on my Android told me that on 9% of the days like today success could be expected. It also told me the best time to fish would be at 9 PM tonight.

I’d looked at that calendar as well as the App the night before, then watched and listened to the weather forecast. The experts were showing and saying that the morning would be sunny with temperatures in the 30s early and moving up into the 40s as the morning wore on. They predicted rain about noon.

Since I am a fair-weather fisherman when it comes to going on the water in my boat, the forecast sounded like a great time to get out there and have some fun. The app showed a major activity period taking place between 7:22 am and 10:22 am. If you follow and read these stories you know that catching fish is just a highlight of a great trip whether or not I catch anything. I am not ashamed to get skunked on any day. I’ve never claimed to be a better fisherman than anyone else. As a matter of fact I hang around with greater fisherman than me.

I made my plan last night after getting the forecast and announced it in the morning to all the Front Bench Regulars. When the Third Bob (Latour) showed up I told him I was going and he was welcome to join me. “That way we will have a net man,” I told him.

We chatted for a while with the regulars and about the time the Only Steve arrived we were heading out. I chatted with Steve for a bit and invited him to go along but he gave me that special Steve Chuckle and shook his head sideways a couple of times  and included two no’s. 

I got home and made sure the timing was right to go fishing and when the answer from home was, “I don’t care just don’t ask me to go along” I texted the Third Bob with the news that I was leaving in 15 minutes and that I was taking my boat. He answered immediately that he’d be there on time. And he was.

We loaded his equipment into my boat and headed out. I told him that he was fishing in the back of the boat this morning as my idea of a good trip was to ride up front with my Minnkota Terrova trolling motor remote control and learn more and more about that complicated thing. Bob said he didn’t care where he fished but he would not operate my motor (that changed on our return trip though).

My plan was to fish Davis’ Slough and if nothing was happening I’d head for Grandma’s Slough. On the way up-river however I chose to do just the opposite. I wanted to get back and attack that huge musky that got off my outfit on Sunday evening. Bob was OK with wherever I took him.

We eased into Grandma’s Slough and Bob got after it immediately. Meanwhile he had to change positions with me in the lead and he bringing up the rear. While I lowered the Minnkota into the water and got myself rigged up he was tossing his lure of choice for the day cast after cast, trying valiantly to catch a leviathan before I even made my first cast.

Bob's Spinnerbait

Here is Bob’s Lure of Choice on this day

The river was higher than it was on Sunday so the trolling motor had to be run at 2.5 to 3 (out of 10) until I got us away from the mouth of the slough. I set the course I wanted to attack by lining up the head of the electric motor and hit the N which means the onboard GPS took over. We slowly worked our way around the shoreline. I was casting away from the shoreline out into the center of the slough allowing Bob to work his huge spinner bait into the shoreline and into the wood therein. When we got close to the spot where I had hooked into the monster Sunday evening I told Bob that I was going to hit spot lock and make about ten casts into that area then he could take over. In ten casts I had no action so he took over and had the same results. 

We moved on and a few minutes later we were out in the deeper part of the area. I held the thought about the major activity time span in my thoughts. I tossed to the port side and started reeling in the Rapala jointed X-Rap silver when I felt a light tap. I smoked the rod top high toward the blue sky but missed a hook set. I quickly told Bob to toss in there and cover for me. I watched him toss and retrieve with no success for his first cast and went about locating a spot to toss the silver minnow-like lure. My lure hit the water and suddenly I heard Bob yell, “Here we go!” 

He had covered me indeed. A battle ensued while I frantically got my lure out of the water and worked my way past him to get the handle of the net. Before I got to that net he said. “I do not have this one hooked very well so I think we will only have one shot at getting it into the net.”  I looked at my wrist watch. It said 10:17 am. It was just five minutes before the end of the major period. That fish struck at the end of the major period predicted. (free app at Solunar Time Forecast on the Playstore for Android but also available for I-Phones).

I was quickly at Bob’s right side with the net as he battled a nice musky. It was really fighting frantically to rid itself of whatever had surprised it when it thought it was getting breakfast. Bob worked the fish to the surface and tugged to get it boatside. It was not having anything to do with that idea and headed behind the boat. “He’s going behind the motor,” Bob screamed. So I moved to the other side just in time to see the fish go back to the port side (left). Bob was doing a professional job of handling that brute. He got it lined up next to the boat and pulled it toward me. My net is not a real big one but big enough to handle a fish that size if everything goes right. We could see that the fish was hooked on its left side midway between its jaw tip and the gills. There is only one large hook on that spinner bait and Bob had it hooked. As the fish moved above the net I swooped in but it wriggled and writhed. I got half of the fish in the net when it got out. Bob worked it back to me and on the second try I got the entire fish in and lifted. As I lifted, the fish shook and the bait let go. A fish in the net like such at boatside is a caught fish in our world and in most musky expert’s world according the all the You Tube musky adventure videos I watch. I got my gloved hand into the correct spot and lifted it so it was above the center of my boat and Bob took over. We got a quick picture, measured it at 40 ¼ inches estimated its weight to be about 13-15 pounds and got it back into the water.

Bob's 40+ incher

Here is the one we boated today

Bob caressed it for a couple of minutes and soon the fish gave a swift twist and took off for the the depths of Grandma’s Slough. 

When I was about 6 or 7 years old my Grandma Tomlinson caught a huge northern on a cane pole out of my grandparents old, heavy wood-strip boat. Since that time I have referred to the place as her slough. Now, in my Grumman shallow V boat I have landed a fish larger than the northern she caught by two or three inches. 

After the excitement we chuckled about the success we’ve had this season. We are not experts by any stretch of the imagination but we are getting better. Most experts tell us to put our bucktails and spinner baits away this time of the year and start throwing Suicks, Bobbie Baits, and Glide Raiders etc. Bob caught that 40 incher on a large, eight dollar spinner bait with rubber tassles. He used a $40 ABU Garcia Black Max that he paid $19.95 for at the 60% close out sale at the Baraboo Gander Outdoors using a $7.95 Zebco Rhino Tough rod with a Jamie Kimberley flourocarbon leader. He  was not using a $700 muskie outfit and neither was he with the first four muskies he has caught in the past 12 days.

Releasing the musky

Here is bob caressing that fish before it ultimately swam off

We fished on happy to have landed the largest Musky of Bob’s fishing adventures and feeling good about ourselves for having gotten a fish on a black fishing day.
Before the morning adventure had ended I had several more strikes. After one of those I told Bob to get that crazy spinner bait into the area. Suddenly he yelled, “Here we go again! I grabbed the net and about the time I had it ready that fish shook off. Afterall, there is just one huge hook on that lure. We fished on with both of us getting a couple more bumps but no hard-fought action. 

It was a great adventure. Perhaps it’s now Grandma and Grandson’s Slough?

As I write more stories down the road about my adventures I hope to meet that even bigger musky that got away from me three days prior. However, even if I don’t, the way the morning went it was perfect. Bob had never caught a musky until 12 days ago (October 12th). Now  he has caught five muskies in the past 12 days. 

As for me, my plan back in the late winter and early spring was to fish and fish some more. My ailing back issues that started on May 5th and lasted until the first of August put a crimp in that plan but I’ve been trying valiantly to just “Get Out There” since. 

The results of just “Being In” have proven to be great. The color of the date on the calendar does not really matter. I am averaging four fishing days per week. 

Tomorrow, according to Joe Bucher is the first of 7 red days. The Moon Secrets have been very good for me since the middle of September but I’ve actually had the best action on the darker days. If you see Joe Bucker tell him I’ll still keep reading his stuff, watching his You Tube videos and buying his lures but I will fish just as hard on the black days as I do the red ones just as he does.

Want to come along? You are always welcome. 

Have a great day and a better tomorrow!

A bit of a River Man — Bob

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Air and Water Show in Grandma’s Slough

The sun was bright. The temperature on my dashboard thermometer said 63 degrees.

 It was a great time to head for the river. I’d just returned from Stock & Field, the new store in Portage where K-Mart was originally located. I had been there a few days before and noticed that they had one Rapala X-Rap Silver left hanging on the hook in the lure display rack. It looked a lot like one of the lures my new friend Derek from Ohio had used to catch a nice 48 inch musky in the river a week ago. Today I had to make a trip to Portage to pick up some bolts and nuts for a new transom board on our Front Bench 12 foot john boat and get a Butter Pecan ice cream cone at the Popcorn Corner. While in Portage I talked Karol into letting me go get that lure.

With the weather the way it was today and the forecast for what is to be on its way it was easy to talk her into allowing me to go fishing for about an hour and a half. I hustled around when we returned home and by 4:30 was on my way down to the Dekorra landing. Again I wore hip boots and it was another great decision because the river was higher than it was two days ago. 

I slid the boat out into the river. My plan was to motor up into Davis’ Slough which was named after the Davis Family that lived on the curver where Country Road J goes south and County Road V heads for the Dekorra landing and downriver from there. Once I got going I decided to get in touch with my Grandma Tomlinson and fish what I have always called her slough. I was thinking that perhaps she’d help me out and we could produce a big fish of some kind and preferably a musky.

The current was strong in the river and there was current in the slough itself. I eased off the throttle of the Yamaha 25 powering my craft upstream and settled in to see if there were any decoys floating out in that slough. I did not want to interrupt any duck hunters by entering. I’d simply head back down to Davis’ Slough if there were. As I peered up into the slough I say what at first I surmised to be a set of decoys. Upon further observation it was clear that if they were decoys they were illegal ones as the birds I was looking at were swimming around. An even closer look revealed about 30 cormorants. The cormants or shags as they are sometimes referred to are from the Phalacrocoracidae family which includes about 40 separate species. The ones I was looking at  are medium to large sized birds with dark feathers and an orange colored bill. They have dark feathers and a hooked bill to better catch fish as they are a diving bird that can catch fish much like a loon does. They are somewhat nervous birds at first so my presence at the mouth of the slough had startled them into taking off which involves a loon-like run across the surface of the water with wing tips slapping the water before getting airborne. They would stick around the area during my entire adventure. They put on a great air show to keep me interested. Some would land in the tree tops and watch me fish and the rest of their friends perform various flying tricks.

cormorant

A Cormarant like the ones that provided an air show for me

I eased on in and got the Minnkota Terrova going. I’m still in the neophyte stage with that piece of fishing equipment but through trial, failure and error I am getting better with it and the remote control. I fished the edge and after a bit was in front of one of dozens of fallen trees that stick out into the slough. I was throwing that new X-Rap Silver of course. As I approached one specific tree I made a tremendous cast right to the edge of the branches. I know Ron would have shouted, “Nine!” for my grade on that one. The cast became a ten after about five or six revolutions of the power handle on my Ambassador 6500 C3. It was then that it felt to me as if my new bait had run into a twig or branch down there so I took it easy as I did not want to lose my new 13 dollar lure. About the time I took it easy the fish on the other end was swimming right at me. I reeled as quickly as the reel would allow and the fish hit the surface. The bronze side of an enormous fish presented itself to me. I got a bit excited as I knew my weak hookset on what I thought was a snag was going to prove troublesome in this current battle being waged. The fish went down again and my rod tightened. I tried another hard hookset and reach for my landing net about the same time. I stumbled a bit trying to get the darn net and the fish gained enough slack to toss that bait away. It had been a short, but exciting battle. 

Some people say to win at anything you have to be in. In a raffle you can’t win anything if you don’t get in. When it comes to anything that goes in the outdoors you can’t win if you don’t get in. Meaning of course that if you want to experience the great outdoors you have to get out there. You have to get in the outdoors. 

If you are a follower of these stories I post you understand for me the “being in” is my success. For me it’s not about “the catching” as much as it is the trying to find something that is willing to strike and give me a chance to catch. I had had my chance but failed to land that fish. I was a bit disheartened but only for a moment. Sure it would have been great to land that monster and get another picture for this essay and my album but not catching it does make my trip any less great. My expectations had been to get out there, up the river and see if I could coax a big fish like my grandmother did from that old slough. 

By golly it was a successful trip after all. 

Have a great day and better tomorrow. 

Bob

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