Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For June 19th, 2009 Edition.
For someone like myself, who if often afflicted with forgetfulness and frequent "Senior Moments", I find it remarkable that certain dates conger up memories from long, long ago. Today, June 19th, is one of these dates.
The year was 1947 and I was a still "wet behind the ears" ten-year old. Dad was in his prime, guiding anglers almost daily throughout the summer tourist season. Back then bass season officially opened on June 20th, regardless of what day of the week it fell on.
On June 19th of that year Dad was booked with two of his regular clients for a day of musky fishing on Big St. Germian Lake. It was on that day Dad hooked and landed the largest small-mouth bass of his career - on a full sized black bucktail yet! The fish measured 23 inches in length and was estimated to exceed seven pounds. A genuine "wall-hanger!" Dad's clients suggested he put the fish on a stringer and tie it to a vacant dock, then return the next day and claim the prize on what would have been the opening day of bass season. Dad never considered the option and tossed the monster back in the lake, a right fine piece of ethics and sportsmanship!
Another June 19th memory was filed in my brain just a year later. Dad's client invited me to occupy the middle seat in dad's Thompson Guide Model for a day of musky fishing. As for myself, the only fishing pole I owned was a "cane pole" I used for harvesting perch and sunfish off the dock at our resort. So, dad allowed me to use his sacred Heddon Pal musky rod and Shakespeare President casting reel, which I backlashed on every other cast.
Dad snapped a huge pikie minnow on the end of my leader and I began my apprenticeship as a musky fisherman. About mid-morning I felt a jarring strike and saw the water swirl as the fish that had attacked my wooden plug felt the hooks! But alas, it wasn't a musky. A 21-inch large-mouth bass had grabbed the fake bait!
At the time that bass was by far the largest fish I had ever caught and I was thrilled at the prospect of taking it home to show mom and the guests at our resort, plus having my picture snapped while holding the brute! My joyful moment was soon shattered when dad informed me the season had not yet opened for bass and the fish was heading back into Davy Jones Locker! At first I thought dad was joking, but that thought evaporated in an instant as I watched my prize zoom off upon being released.
I bawled for a few seconds but stopped after dad threatened to do to me what he had just done with my big bass! I guess one could say that event was another great lesson in ethics and sportsmanship!
Speaking of sportsmanship, our son, Chris, and I recently attended an event that, among other things, revels in sportsmanship. I speak of an annual event known as "The Bob Ellis Row Trolling Musky Classic." I've used memories I've stored from this event in past columns, but for any new readers please allow me to introduce you to this classy classic event.
Bob Ellis was a dyed in the wool row-troller who lost his life in 1989 while fishing for musky on Papoose Lake when he was struck by a speeding boat. Six years ago Patricia Strutz, well known row-trolling guide from Eagle River, decided to boost interest in the ancient sport by organizing a catch and release, lures only, no money, row-trolling tournament. Her reward has been a remarkable resurgence in rowtrolling and the Bob Ellis Classic has grown from a handful of participants to half a hundred.
Skyview Supper Club in Presque Isle hosts the annual event with coffee and sweet stuff during the morning "rules" meeting, then provides cocktails and dinner after seven hours of fishing. Small donated prizes are awarded the angler who lands the largest musky and has their name added to a traveling trophy.
It's worth the effort to enter the event, if only to view the flotilla of old and new row trolling vessels that fill the huge parking lots at Skyview. One will find every type of small craft from early 1900s winestem transom lap-strap construction to new fiberglass imitations of the real McCoy.
This year Chris and I were highly honored and privileged to fish from a boat that is a true historic legend in these here parts. We fished from and rowed Porter Dean's eighteen-foot guide model that the hall of famer used during the many, many seasons he guided in and around the Boulder Junction area. Porter referred to his baby as "The Ship."
After Porter passed away in 1980, after spending "50 years between the oars", his boat became the property of Jim McGregor, owner and operator of Blink Bonnie Supper Club in St. Germain. Jim spent much time and money restoring the ancient craft to near perfect condition and freely admits, "It's my most cherished possession!"
Jim generously loaned the boat to Chris and I to use for the June 6th classic. We took turns rowing, each of us putting in three and a half hours pulling on the seven and a half foot white spruce oars and marveled at how easily the sleek craft glided through the waters of Crab Lake. Not having rowed a wine stem model for many years I had forgotten how wonderful they are to row and fish from. As I towed the beautiful boat through Boulder Junction and passed the former site of Porter's home, I wondered if the old boat may have quivered a bit.
Four legal muskies were captured and released during the one-day tournament, and the successful trollers were rewarded with lures and gift certificates from Rollie and Helen's Musky Shop in Hazelhurst. My attempts to secure a prize for the ten-inch rock bass I caught fell on deaf ears amidst waves of laughter and giggling.
Prior to a delightful dinner of tender, succulent broasted chicken, Geoff, original songwriter and entertainer, strummed his guitar and sang one of his songs that pretty much sums up the reason why sportsmen and sportswomen live to fish musky. The text of the song follows to the tune of Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
To the big waters known as "Chip" Flowage.
And if you must go - then this you should know,
Troll stout rods and tether your stowage
This might be the day -that you best Louie Spray
Rumor has it The Big One is lurkin'
Fish if you might -by the dawn's early light
Get a Hooker(lure) and summon your courage.
Even though it is clear-that the muskies are near
.Ole' Esox must never be hurried
'Cause once in the boat -it may go for your throat
And the battle is only beginning.
Best be quick on your feet-or your hands'll be mincemeat
Don't assume that you are a winning.
And when the trollin's been rough and fishin' is tough
Your finest St. Croix may lay shattered.
But by end of the day and your gear's put away
Isn't the HUNT really ALL that does matter?
Mr. Leon "Buckshot" Anderson is one of the few old time hunting and fishing guides left in Northern Wisconsin. Buckshot is a personal friend of the family and has known and worked with my grandfather, Howard "Pop" Dean, both of whom are members of the fresh water fishing hall of fame, Legendary Guide. Buckshot has authored 7 books on the great outdoors. All of his books can be purchased directly from him, at a discount, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to: 2220 Deadman's Gulch Road, St. Germain, WI 54558.
Books by Leon "Buckshot" Anderson Click Here
Yes; Deadman's Gulch is the correct name, I have been on that road many times. Sincerely David D. Cruger
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