Day 1: Saturday
Let’s be honest, the RiverBums aren’t perfect. Sure, we are fantastic anglers with striking good looks and people so desperately want to be us. But, we have our flaws. Dad is a cornucopia of useless trivia and AC can talk the ear off a red eye talk radio host. But they share one common flaw that ensues within all fishermen: Greed! Yes, that giant green vice that lines our hearts with every cast, catch, and confidence that there may be… No…there IS a fish. We like to lie to ourselves and pretend that this is more of a virtue than anything. A bright prospect, a bit of blue sky, high expectations, a prize in the cracker jack box. HOPE! That feeling of having to cast once more, just one more time. Cause you never know what you may be wading past, walking by, and missing! Well, that’s where our journey began this weekend. Let’s hope you will be just as blown away as we were…
Best Billboard in Milwaukee!
Driving past this bass at 5 in the morning was a sign (pun intended) that we were headed for a great weekend of smallie fishing. The weather was clear (or so the weather man predicted) and our hopes were high as always. Dad brought up the point that most lipsticks contain fish scales (useless, as always) and AC imitated just about everyone that drove past and how they each resembled their own car. It was a typical RiverBum road trip.
We arrived at the river around 8am and were casting by 8:30. In the past, we would be in the river by 6 am or earlier. However, we have learned that river smallies don’t start really hitting until 10:30 or so. Since smallies are warm-blooded fish, they require a decent amount of sunshine and heat until they start smacking the shit out of our lures or anything for that matter. Sure, you will get a few hits early on but why waste time. Our advice: Save the greed for a later time! Guessing the exact time the smallies start hitting like Evander Holyfield has become a classic RiverBum game. Do you watch Antiques Roadshow? Of course you do, it’s the best guessing game show on TV. That and trying to guess which chick on the View is a man… our bet is Sharon! In all seriousness, we take guessing smallie hits just as importantly as we do guessing the price of any roadshow pot or Picasso. And on this particular Saturday, with a peak of 86 degrees early on, 10:30 was the golden cast.
Smallie with a belly full of crawdads!
Stick with yellow twisty tails in this river and you will go far. With about 30 smallies under our wader belts in just 3 hours we were beyond satisfied…and yet…greedy for more. Average size was 4 pounds and rarely did we get a hit from anything less than 3 pounds. Each smallie was light colored brown with bronze and copper tips in the fins and tail, as most of the river we had waded up until that point was shallow with foot deep pools. River was at a DNR reported level of 7.83. The added inches increased the height within the pools and in turn increased the hits. Although we stuck to the pools, the shelves coming off the shores proved most effective as well. The clear blues skies turned into pillowy skies as the pure white clouds came rolling in. The winds picked up and we welcomed the cool breeze coming in from the Northwest. We waded on, unaware of what was coming…or more like unaccepting.
AC taking a break from the heat
The casting was non-stop, the fish were abundant and the greed was high. Dad noticed the clouds coming in and AC felt the winds squall harder. The temperature dropped drastically and a cool chill ran down the fastened backpacks of the RiverBums. Our hopes began to drop with our stomachs and our bumming looked doomed to become a bummer. But, not until Dad said, “One more pool” and we waded a bit further, ignoring the changing tides and the storm rolling in.
So, we began to fish this new pool, unchartered territory of the water, farther than we had gone on this part of the river. We were ready for lunkers. And just as our hope had begun to run out, AC landed four smallies in a row under 10 minutes. This enticed Dad to cast at the other end of the pool, where there was an eddy (Where fast water meets slow water to create a whirlpool like image) and his line was hooked. At first we thought he was stuck on a boulder, but soon our minds were changed and realized this was the lunker of the day. And quite possibly of the trip…
Dad’s 7 pound Smallie!!!
Yes, the photos above are proof that the greedy glutton of a fishermen is an asset that should not be tampered with. This was the largest smallie we have caught in this river and the largest of the summer! Dad took a good couple minutes to reel this baby in as it was pulling out drag and darting to the other side of the river. There is nothing better than a fight with a smallie in a river. They are fierce when the sun is high and most fun when they zig zag by boulders. We had hit the jackpot, the mother of all pools, the big kahuna. We caught close to 20 in just that one pool and waded there for a good hour in hopes of more. The Bongo (which means biggest) award went to Dad on this particular Saturday and it was well deserved. Yes, that day had turned into a great day, until of course it was too late.
Well my friends, take it from us, Greed can only pay off for so long. For just as our smorgasbord of ecstasy had begun, lightning struck, thunder was heard, and the hail began. Dad had realized it was too late, grabbed AC by the wader strap and there began our 2 mile wade (or shall we say sprint) back to safety. The sky turned black and we had to take our *** sunglasses off to see where we were going. The temperature dropped from 90 to 70 in less than than 10 seconds and the winds were blowing a steady 70 MPH. We kept our rods low and turned off the cell phone in hopes of fooling the lightning. Dad held on to AC like she was the biggest catch of the day. Dragging her back with the current, concerned of what was coming. Yes my friends, you would be scared too if you saw a Tornado heading your way…
It started hailing and the rain began to fall. In less than 5 minutes of trekking through the water we were soaked and quickly realized we were not going to make it back in time. Then a huge bolt of lightning struck behind us and we knew we had to enter the forest. We were worried. This area had been hit by many tornadoes in the past and the cover was quite lacking. So, we had to trek further down the river to find the proper access point into the forest. Dad grabbed AC’s (lightning) rod as we stuck close to the shore. Finally we found an opening and thank God cause that was when we heard the sounds of what seemed like a train engine and knew something behind us was on our trail.
We stowed our rods by a tree close to the river and trekked on ahead deep into the forest, making sure we could still see a bit of the river. Here’s a tip: if you have to head into the forest, stay close to the river or else you will be shacking up in that lovely place for quite a while. Hope you bring trail mix! Cause we sure didn’t. Which brings us to the next game: How We Want To Die. In this corner: Avoid lightning by crouching under a tree that might fall on us. And in this corner: Avoid a tree falling on us by sitting closer to the river and get struck by lightning. Decisions, Decisions. We went with door number 1 and hid under a dead tree as lightning began striking all over. There we were, crouched down shivering in the forest, soaking, covered in spiders, and dodging bolts. The wind was blowing trees in every direction and we watched in horror as the black sky swirled and spun.
Dad and AC fell silent and listened to the storm, praying and hoping for survival. Would this be the end of the RiverBums? Or worse, would a tree fall and crush their rods? The horror, oh the horror!
Alas, not even a tornado could destroy the RiverBums or their rods. An hour passed and the storm finally cleared. We emerged from the forest, wet, a bit shaken, but greedy none the less. Although there remained a steady rain, we fished our way back, catching 6 more before safely returning to our car. We guess the lessons learned here are… weather men get paid too much to lie, spiders bite, and greed is good. Oh so good!
Dad landing fish in the rain.
Day 2- Sunday
The camp sites were too wet and buggy to bare, so we shacked up Saturday night in a hotel. It was quite a sight for the hotel management staff to see us galavanting in our wet clothes carrying our just as soaked packs, waders, and boots through the lobby. “Could we get some towels, please?” was the first thing out of Dad’s mouth as AC went to check the weather for Sunday on the public computer. We had found out that night that a tornado did hit just a mile north of us and that it was a miracle we survived. As Yoda would say, Survived we did, dry we must, and sleep we should for fishing is to be done there is tomorrow.
Packs drying in Hotel closet- Thank you Best Western!
Waders Freshening in the Shower!
Sunday we woke up to hear the good news of clear skies and dry weather. Of course, how long would that last? So we grabbed our gear and headed for the local catholic church for the only mass. Sitting in church, we were sure to thank God for watching over us and our rods throughout the storm. As AC was bowing her head, she looked to her left and discovered yet another sign… and this one was clearly from God…
Stain Glass Sign (from God) in Church
Yes my friends, the almighty man doesn’t get any clearer than that. So we finished up our hail marys and rushed to the river on God’s orders. The great thing about the ********** river (Sorry, would have to kill ya) is that there are many access points. However, this can also mean more people and as you know, people are one of our greatest fears. So, we quickly dressed and made our way down to the river. Now, this particular stretch has more rapids than we usually encounter. In between sets of rapids were deep, wide pools but only giving off a few smallies at a time. We discovered that the smaller smallies stuck to the rapids as their bodies took less amount of energy to heat up. However, the lunkers were found deep in the pools as their massive size cannot take the energy-sucker of the rapids which therefore would force them to eat twice as much.
The first pool we encountered was quite dull, but AC was able to land this baby on her 20th cast…
We found a path that ran along the river which allowed us to avoid the difficult wade up river through the rapids. As much as we enjoy riverbumming, our waders cannot take all of the bump and grinding against logs and boulders. So, we trekked on hard earth for a while and encountered some stormy aftermath…
(Glad we didn’t hide under this one!)
As we continued farther and farther up river, we discovered more and more rapids and less and less fish. Not to mention the brutal mosquitoes that were summoned in after the big rain. We started to fish this tiny pool that was pretty deep. Dad decided that we should head back and discover a new part of the river. As he started back, AC felt a hit and as she reeled in she noticed the tale of her lure gone. This was a good sign because it meant a huge fish was nibbling at the end of her lure…and winning. So she casted again to the same spot…the pool between a giant boulder and the bank of the shore (perfect spot for a hiding giant). “Let’s go girl, try a new spot” Dad says as he walks by. But AC feels another hit and reels in another half eaten lure. She couldn’t leave now, not with the score– Fish: 2 AC: 0. “Oh please Dad, just one more cast,” AC whines as she casts one last time. “Ok, but it’s a waste of time, let’s move on.” And then, just like that the giant fish bites, AC sets the hook and BAM! She has him hooked and exclaims, “Got em, aha!” Dad runs back to see and is not only impressed with the perseverance but the size of this thing. Dark green, huge, and full of yellow twisty tails…game over! That’s the last time Dad says “let’s move on” when the amazing AC is in a duel with a smallie…
AC with the Twisty Tail Bandit!
Despite the less amount of fish caught compared to Saturday, the day stayed dry and clear, 15 fish were caught, and we found a beautiful part of the river. This weekend was a kick-ass riverbumming experience full of near death experiences, close encounters with the scaly kind, and scenery that those stuck in the office all day would pay for…
Until next time…we’ll see ya on the other side of the river!
AC & Dad