Mud in your 'eye.
"Oh, come on," my best friend, Jay, said. "There were no broken bones, and nobody got arrested."
"Then what would you consider a bad trip?" I asked.
"Getting skunked," he replied.
Jay is a super guy, but somehow he always puts me in situations I never want to repeat. Like on opening day twenty years ago.
Ever since we were old enough to hold a rod and crank a reel, we Iowa boys had had huge success on a number of Minnesota lakes, including the top walleye producers. But this time, Jay decided we'd try a road less traveled.
"Okay, Jay, where we headed?"
He thumbed a well-used map, tipped his head back a bit to get the full benefit of his bifocals, and pointed, "Here."
To this day I'm not exactly sure where "here" was. Sixty-two years and countless happy hours have deleted a number of my brain cells, but I recall the lake had an inedible California vegetable name. Possibly Brussels Sprouts. Or maybe Artichoke. But that would be a mighty strange name for a lake.
"Because it's a decent-sized chunk of water, and the latest DNR survey says it has a good population of fish."
Well before dawn on the day the season opened, we crossed the border on 1-35 and ran north toward Minneapolis for a while, then veered off to the west. At the exact moment the highway narrowed, rain began to fall in silvery sheets. Jay hit the wiper switch on his ancient El Camino, and the visibility became worse.
"When's the last time you changed your wiper blades?" I asked, gripping the door handle in case I'd have to bail out when he ran off the road.
"Can't recall," he said. "Maybe six, eight years."
Jay turned the wiper speed on high. The mangled rubber skipped in twin arcs across the glass, batting away a few of the drops, but that's it.
"I better pull over until the rain stops," Jay said. He slowed and gradually moved onto the shoulder. The tires sunk immediately into mud that slapped into the wheel wells like wet cement. When we slid to a stop, it felt like the tires settled another foot into the muck.
Over the sound of the rain hammering the roof, I yelled, "Better put on your flashers to warn anyone coming up behind us!"
Jay hit the emergency flasher button. "I don't see trailer lights!" I screamed. The rain sluiced down the windows like we were sinking toward the bottom of the Mariana Trench. "Did you check the lights?"
"Of course I did," Jay replied in a pained voice. How dare I accuse him of poor maintenance!
"When was that?"
"Last September when I put the boat away."
I ground my teeth until a crown came loose, then shouted, "Well, we can't stay here with no lights, parked barely off the highway."
Jay put the transmission in gear, gave it some gas, and a couple minutes later the spinning tires eventually hit something solid enough to get us back on the asphalt.
He smiled broadly and said one word: "Positraction."
We crawled along for another few miles, the mud continuing to fly off the tires. Thankfully, we didn't see another vehicle until we pulled into a place that sold two grades of gas and twenty-nine brands of beer.
I bought and installed wiper blades under the protection of the gas pump canopy while Jay connected a busted ground wire that fixed the trailer lights. He asked the clerk for directions to Rutabaga Lake, and twenty minutes later the boat was on the ramp, ready to launch. The rain had decreased to a steady mist, the sun was trying to break through a low ceiling, and our rainsuits were performing as advertised. We did a ceremonial high five in anticipation of our first walleyes of the open-water season.
I put my foot on the trailer fender, swung myself up and into the boat, and fell flat on my back in the bottom, ripping the crotch seam from my rain pants. What the--? I soon discovered the interior of Jay's sixteen-foot Lund was slimed with a quarter-inch of mud the consistency of cherry pie filling. It covered the seats, the tiller, the fish finder, and our tackle. If Jay heard my rant, he didn't let on, and I wiped enough goo from the starter rope handle to fire up the Merc, and back her off.
Jay parked the El Camino, walked down the short dock, and climbed aboard. I can only assume his glasses were fogged or rain spattered, because he blindly did the same thing I'd done, and ended up on his butt in the bottom of the boat.
"Probably mud from when I pulled off the road," Jay said.
"Ya think?" I replied, maybe a bit too sarcastically. After all, it seemed that what should have been a simple day of fishing with Jay, more times than not, turned into--for lack of a better word--mud.
But it was opening day, and we came to fish, so we did. We saw only three other boats on the lake, and a lot of nice fish were caught. Even though we both limited out, the discomfort of sitting for six hours in cold, wet pants took some of the pleasure out of it for me. Then a slight chill turned into borderline hypothermia, a visit to the doctor, ten days curled up in a blanket slurping chicken soup and watching Gunsmoke reruns, and wishing I owned Kleenex stock.
Sure, Jay and I caught fish. And, yes, I suffered no lasting damage. But, just the same, I swear I'll never do another walleye fishing trip with him again.
Until next time.
Illustrations by Peter Kohlsaat
By Greg Knowles *
* Greg Knowles is a longtime contributor to In-Fisherman publications.
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|Title Annotation:||Never Say Never; walleye fishing story|
|Date:||May 1, 2009|
|Previous Article:||Get more from your sonar.|