Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I kicked off my shoes, pulled up my thermal socks, and stepped into my waders. Tucking my jacket in all around me, I fastened up the suspenders, and gathered all my gear. The check list in my mind, one by one I made sure all that I would need, was at hand. Two Rapalas still in the boxes, an old plastic film container filled with jig heads of every color, my favorite river spinner, neoprene gloves, and a stringer just in case. I tied my minnow bucket around my waist, picked up my 6 ft spinning rod and reel, and knotted a new silver/shad hair jig to the end of my 6lb test line. I locked the car, tucked away the keys in my pocket, adjusted my sunglasses and hat, and made my first steps of the year into the Fox river.
The water was cool to the touch but I knew I would be alright, dressed like Nanook of the North, I was prepared for it. Walking out into the river to a waist high depth, I positioned myself right on the edge of the current break. Grabbing a minnow from the bucket, and tipping my jig, I made my first cast into the chilly water. Bouncing the jig head along the bottom of the river, I could feel the gravel and rocks beneath with every lift of the rod. The clouds were blocking the sun, but I could still see the faint image of a bright circle through the gray skies. This was walleye weather. Cast after cast I waited for that first tap on the end of my line.
An hour passed and still I had felt nothing. Moving around the break from fast current to slack water and then back again. Changing jig colors and sizes, adding fresh minnows and sharpening hooks along the way. Still nothing.
I listened to the ducks and geese as they swam about the area, then flying back and forth from land to water and water to land. Two ducks decided to hitch a ride on a rather large log that had been floating down the river. They looked like they were two hobos waiting for a flatbed railroad car to come by. They hopped on board. Riding along and pecking on the wood to dislodge a meal from the bark, until the log hit the swifter current an they decided to abandon ship. I laughed to myself at the oddity of it all.
Two hours had now passed and I was nowhere closer to getting my first bite then I was when I first arrived. Two fisherman had been fishing from the shore and I asked them if they had figured out any answers to my walleye problem. Their response to me included "Is the water cold?" I said; "Yes it is and I'm not about to stay in it much longer" We all laughed, and the next words I heard were "I'm surprised you lasted this long" By this time I had made up my mind that a hot cup of coffee would taste pretty good right about now and I slowly started heading for the riverbank.
My legs were quite stiff, and it was hard to walk and I was glad that I had optioned to hang it up for the day.
I removed my waders, packed up my tackle, and turned on the car. I adjusted the heat to the hottest setting and sat there for a while longer warming my legs and feet. For the last two hours I had stood waist high in 43 degree water for a chance to catch a nice walleye. There were no guarantees that I was going to catch one, or for that matter even get a bite. I knew it was going to be cold, and eventually it would be to much to take, but I didn't care. I was where I wanted to be. I was out fishing in the river that I love, doing something that I have had a passion for since I was too young to remember. It's days like today that help me appreciate all that the outdoors and fishing has to offer. Just being out there is better than being most anywhere else, and I know that many of you who read my stories understand this.
On the way home I stopped for that cup of coffee and headed over to the bait shop to sit for a while with the owner, Don. We had some good conversations about Cast Across America. The two of us sat with one of his customers ( an old river rat ) and talked about, you guessed it already, fishing. I never get tired of listening to fishing stories from local fisherman with years of river experience. Sure there is a bunch of hot air, and I could fill balloons with some of the stuff that I have heard, but if you sit back and really listen there is more than meets the ear. I hope that these blog posts continue to do the same for you that an old river rat does for me. Give you a little something extra on a cool and cloudy day, and a little boost to help you take your first steps into your favorite river.