Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Great Fishing Adventure - Part 6 Alas, All Good Things Must End

I'm combining the last few days into one. I enjoyed this picture because of the interesting cloud formations.

Here again, we have Jeremy and dad in the kitchen. I'm standing off to the side probably giving them the benefit of my vast knowledge or else complaining about the coffee. I liked this picture because it shows the impressive stubble on my chin that was getting more apparent by the end of the week. I've always wanted to grow a mustache and goatee, but Deanna is dead set against it. Since she has to look at me more often than anyone else, I feel she should have the last word when it comes to my appearance. But as I was going to be gone for a week, I figured, why not?

The last day was really hard for me. It was difficult for me to accept that we would be leaving the next morning back to civilization. It was quite a conflict. I desperately wanted to see my wife and kids again, not to mention a bathroom with indoor plumbing. That outhouse was really starting to get ripe by the week end. But I didn't want to leave. It really had been a fantastic week.

Here's some general pictures I haven't had the opportunity to use yet. One more shot of Gilligan.

Another of my more respectable catches. I expect the Outdoor Life Network will be contacting me to do an interview.

I almost didn't put this one in because it's so blurry. But I think it still shows how good a time we were having. I think my dad's comment when this picture was taken was something like, "just another day at the office."

We spotted a rainbow one day

The water was very calm in the mornings and evenings, so peaceful and serene.

A shot of the calm water at sunset. Very beautiful but apparently not good for fishing.

In order to catch fish, you had to have what my grandpa calls, "walleye chop". You need to have some waves to get the fish biting. I don't know why but grandpa is the expert.

Closing up shop for the day.

And there you have it. A chronicle of a truly amazing week. I will cherish the memories of this trip the rest of my life.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Great Fishing Adventure - Part 5 Time To Catch Some More Fish, Eh?

We came to fish, and fishing is what we did. The schedule was usually get up and fish, come in for breakfast as a group, fish some more, have lunch on your own whenever you wanted, and then come in for supper as a group, then fish more until the bugs drove you into the cabin for the night.

I'm a chronic "get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom" sort of person. Trying not to go into into too many details, it was interesting, getting up in pitch blackness, going outside to do the business while swatting mosquitoes and then trying to get back in bed without disturbing anyone else. During the middle of the week, someone got the bright idea to use an empty milk jug which was then emptied the next day. Worked great, but one night we almost had too many boys using the "facilities" and we just about overflowed the capacity. The last person to use it got a shock at how heavy it had gotten in the night and was scared it would overflow. Not being able to see what you were doing was sort of a disadvantage.

Here's a few pictures of our surroundings. It's a different landscape than what I'm used to. There is very little topsoil, everything was extremely rocky. You had just a little grass sprouting up amidst moss, lichens, and an abundance of trees. I still couldn't figure out how the trees grew so well. I have no idea where they would take root. I would imagine it wouldn't take much of a wind to knock them down.

The main building is our cabin, inside the door was a porch area, then another door took you into the combination living, dining and kitchen area, then a hallway led you to the bedrooms and shower room. The small building on the right was split down the middle into a storage area for nets and life jackets, and a fish cleaning area. You can see some of the solar panels for the lights on top of the fish cleaning building.

Here's our commode. This was located a considerable distance from the cabin so as not to be bothered by the odor. This was another reason why it was best to do your business before it got dark. You did not want to be stumbling around these woods without being able to see. This was one nice result of the cabin not having any guests for a week prior to our arrival. Combined with the 5 days of nonstop rain, it didn't smell too bad. At least at first. By the end of the week, I was very much looking forward to getting back to flush toilets.

This is one of the bedrooms. Not mine, I might add. I was rooming with uncle Rick and we are both neat freaks. Our beds were made every morning and clothing and towels hung up. The other tenants not so much.

Here's another shot showing some of the rocky terrain. You saw a similar view pretty much wherever you looked.

On this day we noticed a bald eagle following us around. It was there the whole week. We looked forward to looking up and seeing it perched in a tree or soaring around the lake. They are magnificent birds. We also saw some river otters one day. My absolute favorite animal. I had never had the opportunity to see one in the wild and I got to see two of them when I was there. They seem to be an animal that truly believes life is to be enjoyed. They always look like they are having so much fun whatever they are doing. Alas, we didn't get any pictures of them. I tried with my measly cell phone, but without a zoom, they were too small to even see in the picture.

How about some more fishing pictures? Here's John Allen, studying one that was destined to be cleaned and fried.

Of course, I have to include yours truly. Out of all the pictures from this trip, this one is my favorite. If a picture could capture the pure enjoyment I felt at being able to be in such a place with my family, this would be it. My whole week is wrapped up in that smile.

You would have to experience it to understand the adrenaline rush that occurs when you hook into one of these fish. They were by far the biggest I've ever caught in my life. By the weeks end I had probably landed about a dozen or so, on one day we were hitting them so often I lost count. Each time my heart would leap to my throat, and the rod tip would bend all the way to the water. I felt sure one of those times it would snap. Thankfully it never did.

This is the best shot I had of uncle Rick. According to him, he got the largest fish award in the group. However, I must add, he had no witnesses to this and his biggest fish just happened to be a mere half inch larger than mine which up until then was the record holder. It may be all in my head, but seems to me there was just something "fishy" about that. Ah well, I believe I did win the award for most fish caught.

Sorry John, somehow you managed to elude the camera this week. This is the only picture I got that didn't show you cleaning fish. I'm the one on the left in the boat with John, and then you have Rick and Gilligan, excuse me, Jeremy, in the 2nd boat. I had been fishing with dad that morning, but he had to go back and start breakfast, John was all by himself since John Allen was still sleeping so I hopped into his boat while my saintly father motored back to get the food going.

Have you ever seen a couple of more hard working guys? After breakfast more fishing was on the agenda. This is the epitome of relaxation. Feet up, half reclining, line in the water, shooting the breeze. There definitely needs to be more of these moments in my life. You don't get much better father-son time than sitting out on a lake in the middle of some very beautiful scenery.

After some more fishing it was time for supper. Man shall not live on fish alone. Tonight was steak night! Rick had ordered 8 10-oz strip steaks cut an inch thick. My oh my were they good. We grilled them outside and ate them with some more fried potatoes. Us cousins again brought up our disbelief at how good we were eating up there. Here we are enjoying this fine meal. Those steaks were amazing, tender and very delicious.

After supper, more fishing, with again lackluster success. So we called it another night. One more glorious day in a truly enjoyable vacation.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Great Fishing Adventure - Part 4 Time To Catch Some Fish, Eh?

We got up bright and early raring to go. As you can see, the sun was trying very hard to poke through all the clouds but it wasn't quite making it. It was still quite chilly. I wish I would have packed some warmer shirts or a heavier jacket. But we were concerned about weight so we were packing light. I had one sweatshirt, a couple T-shirts, and this very light-weight windbreaker designed to keep out wind and rain, but did absolutely nothing for the cold. It got better later in the day but the mornings were very chilly all week except for the last day we were there.

But we were there to fish and a little briskness in the air was not going to stop us. We loaded our gear into the boats and climbed aboard. The boats were the perfect size for two people each. Fathers and sons were paired up. As our dad had both his sons with, Jeremy and I agreed to take turns alternating days. Jeremy hadn't been fishing in a long time so he got the first day with dad and I climbed in with uncle Rick who unfortunately, didn't have his son on this trip.

Meaning no disrespect to Canadians, we couldn't resist putting an "eh" at the end of every sentence. As the boats left the dock, you could hear a constant stream of words like, "catch lots of fish, eh?" and "we're sure gonna try, eh?"

The dads were the veterans of Canada fishing so we looked to them for advice how to best coax the elusive fish into the boat. They had the best luck on previous trips trolling with crank baits. So we started with that. It allowed us to get an idea of the size and shape of the lake as well. So we started cruising.

And cruising, and cruising, and cruising, and cruising. Did I mention we were cruising? The fishing was really slow. I believe a few of us managed to snag some small fish but nothing of edible size. We attempted to work the radios to see if anyone else was having any luck. We had 2 pairs of radios so there was one in each boat. Each radio could talk to it's mate, but even though they were on the same frequency, one pair could only listen to anything sent from the other brand. Eventually, though, the message was routed around that no one was having much luck.

So our thoughts turned to breakfast. One by one the boats headed back in for some food. For some reason, my dad and Jeremy assumed the majority of the cooking. They are both phenomenal cooks but I felt bad it seemed like they were always in the kitchen. Here my memory fails me just a bit. Our breakfasts alternated between bacon and eggs, bacon and pancakes, and my dad's world renowned biscuits and sausage gravy. He always gets cajoled into making this any time the family gets together. He mixes a combination of spicy and regular sausage in a country gravy and you ladle it over hot biscuits and you have a delicious meal that sticks to the ribs and really warms you up.

I remember every meal I ate up there but can't remember the breakfasts. I believe we started out with biscuits and gravy. That's what it looks like dad is making in the photo also. Rick and dad also brought 2 bottles of Arizona Gunslinger hot sauce. Dad had the red pepper sauce and Rick brought the green pepper sauce. If you like things like Tabasco and Frank's Red Hot, you will LOVE Arizona Gunslinger. It's got the perfect combination of jalapenos, garlic, and other spices to take it over the top. So we kicked up the biscuits and gravy a few notches with the gunslinger. I told them I'd love a few bottles the next time we get together.

I don't think I mentioned in the last post that our cabin was filthy when we arrived. The previous guests are expected to leave the cabin clean for the next group, but this had not been done, neither had the owners been in to check or clean anything. We also had leftover food still in the refrigerator in various states of decomposition. There was quite a bit of cleaning necessary to make it fit for human habitation. One thing, however, we were very happy to have been left were several containers of salted minnows.

I remember reading some of the literature on our lake and it had said something about people having the best luck with salted minnows. It would turn out that was pretty much the only thing that would allow us to catch some fish.

So we took some out and started jigging with the minnows. They were kind of stinky and in various states of decomposition. They were also very soft, so if you got a nibble without hooking a fish, that meant you could probably say goodbye to your minnow.

But we did finally hook into some fish. I still think my brother looks like Gilligan, even with the cool shades. Here's Jeremy with one of his fine catches.

And, of course, my dad. The dads were a huge reason any of us sons got to go on this trip. These memories are priceless. My meager words cannot begin to describe how thankful and blessed I am to have the family I do. Thanks Dad. It looks like his finger was little bloody. Sometimes you got caught by those teeth.

Here is a shot of my uncle Dave sporting a nice catch. It appears we will not be going hungry this evening.

This is my cousin Eric, Dave's son. A nicer young man you will never meet. And, by the way, a very eligible bachelor for any single females out there. I felt sorry for him because he got more than a few suggestions about prospective females he should settle down with. He was very polite and took it all in stride, but I got the feeling he wasn't actively seeking marital commitment at the time. Sorry Eric, that was probably more information than you wanted me divulge. Time to move on with the adventure.

We stopped briefly at the cabin for a quick sandwich and got back on the lake. This really is the life to just eat when you want, fish when you want, do whatever else you want. My schedule is mostly decided for me when I'm at home or work so discretionary leisure time is a cherished treasure.

Eventually it got to be supper time and we had caught enough for the evening meal. Tonight was fish fry night.

One of the goals I had for this trip was to learn how to clean fish. I've gone fishing a number of times in my life but someone else had always done this. I'd never had the opportunity to learn. I was determined to acquire this skill on the trip. My uncle John got fish cleaning duty pretty much the whole week. His son John Allen is standing behind him and I'm the one leaning up against the doorway with my arms folded. Don't you just love the shot of my nose in the corner? I was studying how to do this and eventually took my turn at the knife. I got better as the week wore on but still need more practice. I'm really slow and leave more meat on the fish bones than someone with more expert skill, but for the most part I accomplished that particular goal.

Jeremy and dad were the chefs again. The menu was fried fish, fried potatoes, and some kind of vegetable. I think we had corn and green beans but I can't remember which one we used for this meal.

I must recommend an excellent coating if you enjoy fried fish. Dakota Lakes Products, Inc. makes a truly wonderful breading. It is a North Dakota product made in the Jamestown area. You can order some online and is available at certain grocery stores in ND. It is delicious with fish.

After a truly wonderful meal, we did go back out and try to catch some more but didn't have much luck. The mosquitoes turn vicious when the sun goes down so you really needed to get back in the cabin before it got too dark.

And so ends another extremely enjoyable day.