Nothing is better than a fall fishing trip

Published 6:02am Sunday, October 27, 2013

Column: Woods and Water, by Dick Herfindahl

Last weekend, I headed north to the cabin with my grandson Dylan to do some late fall fishing. He had visions dancing in his head of the great toothed one, musky, slamming his new lure, and I hoped to put him on one of the big fish. Unfortunately, the lake we chose to fish for that fish was more like the Dead Sea than a good musky lake. I guess I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s go back to the beginning.

Dylan and I headed north during the Education Minnesota Professional Conference break from school, leaving home at about 3:30 a.m. Once we arrived at the cabin, the temperature was about 45 degrees, so we lit a fire to toasty up the cabin. The weather forecast called for a mixture of rain and snow the next day, so we wanted plenty of dry firewood for the next few days.

That afternoon, we took my small boat and headed to a nearby lake that I knew held some nice northern. The lake didn’t disappoint us, because it wasn’t long before Dylan was reeling in a dandy pike. After we boated the fish, he said, “Now this is what I’ve been looking for,” and I could tell by his ear-to-ear smile that this trip was already a success. After taking numerous pictures, I worked the fish alongside the boat until he splashed my face with water and disappeared into the depths to fight another time. We caught four other fish in the short time we were on that little lake before we’d had enough of the cold and headed for the cabin.

That evening, as we enjoyed the warmth of the woodstove, Dylan reminded me that the fish I had caught that day were quite a bit smaller than the ones he’d caught — and that was just fine with me. The temperature dipped into the mid-20s as the night wore on, and there just seemed to be something magical about it. The full moon treated us to battery-free yard light. The moonlight that shined through the windows of the cabin as we slept gave me the feeling that all was right with the world at that particular moment. The next morning was a reality check for me. The wood stove was reduced to embers as we slept, and when I went to make breakfast, I found that the eggs had frozen. Improvising is the key to making things work when they go bad. I found two whole eggs that hadn’t cracked, put them in a pan of water and heated them up so as not to over-boil them. My plan had been to make my self-proclaimed awesome French toast for breakfast. I eventually made breakfast, and then it was off to hunt muskies. We waited for an hour or so for the rain to stop, and then we were off — sort of. First, we couldn’t get the boat on the hitch, because I couldn’t get my trailer jack to work. We eventually tested our back strength and were able to get the boat hooked up.

We were finally on the way to North Star Lake, which is a pretty good musky lake just south of Marcell. After we launched the boat, I went to pump the gas primer, and gas shot out everywhere through a large crack in the hose. I knew I needed to get the clamp off and reassert the hose on the fitting. This little task seemed almost impossible, because after I sawed through that thick, hard and brittle gas line, I couldn’t get the clamp loose. After about fifteen minutes that seemed like more than an hour, I finally had it off and installed the new line.

All systems were go; full speed ahead; Muskies, here we come!

Well, they must have seen us coming and were hiding in the shadows belly laughing, because after spending four hours beating the water without as much as a follow, all we had to show for that trip were some very cold fingers. At one time, it had gotten pretty dark and started to sprinkle. The sprinkles soon turned to corn snow, and it came down hard for a short time. Even though we caught no fish that day, and a lot of things didn’t go very smoothly, I don’t think I would have traded it for a warm sunny day.

There’s something about fall fishing that just feels good at times, even when you experience a few hiccups. On our last day there, we decided to fish a lake that I always thought I’d like to fish, but up until a year ago it had no public access. This particular day was the coldest one so far, and temperature never rose above the high 30s.

We both managed to catch fish that day, and when we left that lake, we knew we’d be coming back to try our luck again another time.

When we first decided to take this trip, I told Dylan that fall fishing can be feast or famine. If you can find the fish, it can be pretty good, but if you can’t, it can make for a long, cold day on the water. Even that to me is considered a good fishing day — especially when I get to spend time fishing with my grandson.

Over the years, I’ve acquired a lot of fond memories on fall fishing trips. When the memories are of good friends and family, they’re priceless.

Until next time, with pheasant and duck hunting now open, be sure to hunt safely and enjoy the time spent in our great Minnesota outdoors.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers, because they are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms we have today.

Dick Herfindahl’s column appears in the Tribune each Sunday.