There are many high-tech ways to fish these days. But Ron Weber prefers to fish the simple way his grandfather taught him as a kid.
A bald eagle stared at me from a towering white pine as I slid the boat out of my truck. Pulling the row boat to the water’s edge brought a series of chirps from the eagle. He wasn’t happy about sharing the lake on this June evening. I hoped the eagle wouldn’t hold it against me for trying to catch a few largemouth bass from the numerous blow downs that lay in the dark stained waters.
A few strokes of the oars brought me to where the top half of a balsam fir had fallen into the lake. As my bait raced across the surface a second time, a 12 inch bass found it too tempting. After a brief tussle, the fish was unhooked and released to its watery playground a little more wise for the wear. It was a good start to an evening that was alive with all the fragrance and possibility befitting an early summer’s eve.
Working the shoreline, I tried several more spots with few takers. A great blue heron spooked from a hunt along the shoreline and as it silently winged away with graceful strokes, I took pause. I pictured hundreds of other lakes where a different scene was playing out on this same evening. Large boats with large motors noisily raced from one spot to the next. Electronic fish finders removed much of the mystery as to what lied below. Fishing, like soda, comes in many different flavors to satisfy many tastes. As my eyes navigated me to the next spot I remembered how I acquired my taste.
My grandpa introduced me to the sport of fishing when I was seven. Each summer I looked forward to the week long vacation in the Minoqua area. Often we’d take grandpa’s 14 foot boat with a nine horsepower motor. My favorite trips, however, were when we’d load the row boat in the back of the truck and try our luck at some backwoods lake. My grandpa would work us from one spot to the next, the squeaking of the oars always a part of the background. As we glided along I would stare into the water wondering what mysteries were hidden just beyond my sight. It seemed like such a peaceful, perfectly natural way to fish.
I continued working my way around the lake anxious to see what waited around the next corner. As often as not, spots that looked like sure things produced nothing while more subtle covers produced action.
A whip-poor-will broke out in its frantic song reminding me that it’s often the things we don’t see but are made aware of only by sounds or tracks that make our adventures ever more fulfilling.
As I worked my bait back towards the boat the twilight peace was again shattered as the water exploded. After several frenzied runs, a thirty inch northern pike came into the boat, the hula popper it mistook for a real frog dangling from its upper jaw. I set the fish back in the water where it disappeared with the splash of its tail. That seemed like a perfect way to end a memorable evening of fishing.
As I guided my boat towards the shore I couldn’t help but think how at that moment little had seemed to change since my grandpa rowed us around some other lake long ago. That explains my taste for simply fishing. The oars, squeaking and in need of oil, would probably annoy many people, but they made music to my ears. I think grandpa would want me to leave them just the way they are.