If you’re an outdoor person, you’re sure to have sensed it. The slight drop in temperatures, shorter days, a lessening of the sun’s power. If you love football, hunting or fishing, these slight, almost imperceptible alterations in summer’s weather stirs something deep inside your soul, a gathering anticipation of autumn and all of its glories.
It’s just a whisper now, but growing stronger and stronger.
Though the longed-for promises haven’t arrived yet, summer’s fading and soon dove season will be here and by October, archery. As the coming days continue to shorten and the weather and waters cool, all sorts of activities begin taking place as nature prepares for fall. The bucks are shedding the velvet off their antlers and the small, summer bachelor groups begin breaking up. Ducks are flocking together, the big chinooks are moving toward creek mouths and rainbows prepare to run up the big lakes’ tributaries. Geese will gather in larger and larger gaggles, the young now strong in wing for long flights. All nature is stirring in anticipation.
With so much available, what is the multi-interest sportsman to do, hunt or fish? It’s a terrible dilemma that pulls you ever so many directions; it’s impossible to do everything.
But, there is one pursuit that always calls to me the strongest in September and early October: muskellunge fishing. Wonderful experiences flood my memory, their size and unpredictability draw me like a magnet. Even now memories come flooding back.
A while back it had been a cool fall; Jane and I had been fishing hard and when the temperatures hover in the 30s, 40s and 50s, bouncing in a rocking boat and casting eight hours a day is exhausting.
This day, after a fruitless morning of fishing, we’d gone back to the cabin for lunch, homemade lasagna and then moist chocolate cake with nuts and Hersey morsels on top — followed by a short 30-minute cat nap. Heaven!
The 30 minutes seemed to fly by and when we arose and looked outside a dark line of ominous clouds loomed on the horizon. Great! A little rain could wake the muskies up.
We began pulling on our camo coveralls and I hopped on one foot, trying to get a boot through the leg opening. This brought me into close proximity with Jane who, pulling a sweater over her head, shot an arm down the sleeve and drilled me square in the face.
My glasses went flying and my nose burned. That smarted!
“Why’d you punch me in the face?” I shouted heatedly, checking for blood and searching for my glasses.
“Why were you in my back pocket?” she answered, torn between feeling sorry for me and anger for being blamed for something she had no control over.
I found my glasses, undamaged — my nose was bleeding a little, but all in all things could have been worse.
Jane was eyeing me warily. Oh, well, accidents happen.
“And I thought you loved me?” I said mournfully, wiping a tear or two from my eyes.
“Think again,” she retorted, but smiled when I laughed. “Well, maybe.”
I moved to a safer distance and we finished dressing without further incident, then walked down to the boat. I backed out and hit the throttle, the boat leaping forward and speeding us down the shallow bay, out around the point and into the main lake. With a coming storm it’s be wise to stay close to camp.
We both snapped on No. 5 Mepp’s black bucktails with silver blades — a go-to lure. The sky darkened and a few drops began to fall as we put on our raingear.
“Good luck, honey!” I said, and she wished me the same.
After only a few minutes of casting I saw a small patch of duckweed on the surface. I reeled the Mepps up to it, stopped, let it fall a second or two, twitched the rod tip, and began reeling again. The lure stopped dead. I reared back on my rod and knew immediately I was into a dandy.
The fish tore off to the side, boiled the surface and shot away. Then the big muskie came tamely to the boat, looked me over and, turning, shot directly away, my reel screaming, the rod bucking wildly in my hands. After a nerve-wracking battle Jane finally managed to net my muskie.
It was 46 inches and weighed 20 pounds. I was so excited, I was literally shaking all over.
As I admired the fish, Jane was busy casting away when, suddenly, the boat jerked. I looked up in time to see Jane reel down rapidly and set the hook a second time. Her rod bent alarmingly and a look of concern came over her face when she felt the muskie’s weight and power. Without warning the muskie jumped, twisting and shaking its head, before crashing back into the lake in a spray of white foam.
Holy cow! Another beauty.
Jane held on grimly, her face determined as the big fish powered around the boat, stripping drag and making her squeal from time to time just from the effort of holding onto her rod.
Finally, the fish tired and after thrashing the water wildly several times at the boat, I was able to net it. What a relief to get that fish in the boat for Janey!
We compared our muskies and laughed. They were identical. Hard to believe we caught two monsters so close together. We hugged and marveled at our good fortune. Muskies can be so hard to come by.
Grinning, I said; “Hey, if punching me in the face brings luck like this, you can hit me again tomorrow.”
Jane smiled — in fact, she seemed almost pleased. “If you insist!”
I couldn’t help but give her a kiss. I loved that girl.
(Wade Robertson is an award-winning outdoor writer whose articles have been published in Pennsylvania Outdoor News, Pennsylvania Game News, Fur, Fish & Game and other publications. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.)