Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For April 9th, 2010 Edition.
April, like each and every month in the Northwoods, is unique and presents certain expectations for those who spend much of their time out-of-doors. Romantics suggest, among other things, "April showers bring May flowers" and "Love, like flowers, blossoms in April." Non-romantics, such as anglers, have other thoughts.
But due to Northern Wisconsin's geographical location, sandwiched between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, April often becomes a classic example of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. April can be sweet and spring like one day and smack you in the mouth with a fist full of Old Man Winter the next. April is generally a teeter-totter of weather patterns that frequently drive weather forecasters and outdoorsmen to drink.
A classic example of April's frequent mood swings took place just last year. After a week or more of spring like weather our area was blessed with two days of wet, heavy snow on the 20th and 21st.. Had the ground not been thawed over a foot of snow would have accumulated. I vividly recall the event, as I was scheduled to head south to Richland County for my annual spring turkey hunt and drove with snow pelting my windshield all the way to Merrill!
But on the plus side, no matter what the weatherman tosses in our direction, April is the month dyed in the wool anglers use as spring training for the long, upcoming open water fishing season. April allows us to dust off the tackle box, spool our reels with new line, clean the boat, patch leaky waders, and dream of the lunkers that await our upcoming presentations!
My earliest recollections concerning April fishing trips are those I accumulated in the mid and late 1940s. Dad, having been born and raised on the banks of the fabled Oconto River near Mountain, Wisconsin, was infected with a severe case of trout fishing fever at a very early age. He continued to suffer from the affliction throughout his life, and the bug he carried was transmitted to his son at a very early age!
Years ago Michigan opened its trout fishing season much earlier than did Wisconsin. This allowed trout fishing addicts in Wisconsin to do a bit of spring training in Da U.P. prior to the trout opening in Wisconsin. Dad and I would load all our gear into the cargo bed of his '41 Chevy pickup truck the evening prior to the long awaited event and spend a fitful night tossing and turning waiting for the alarm clock to ding-a-ling at 4:30.
The journey north to the trout streams near Watersmeet was in itself an adventure. One vivid memory that is still crystal clear in my mind was a sight we witnessed just south of Sayner as dawn was nicely breaking over Freestone's pasture. Dad stopped his truck and we counted over 100 deer peacefully feeding on fresh spring grass among Dan Freestone's sheep.
Today the pasture is no longer there, as a fairly mature forest has replaced the twenty-acre pasture. Also, even if the pasture did still exist, presently the deer herd could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Once we crossed into Michigan at Land O' Lakes U.S. 45 became a gravel road. Rarely did we encounter another vehicle along the narrow, twisting so-called highway. We generally fished Duck Creek for a couple of hours, then drove further north to tempt brook trout in Bluff, Sucker and Two-Mile creeks. And always, at days end - there would be fresh brook trout for supper, baked potatoes and mom's warm, fresh, homemade bread!
As Father Time rapidly peeled off the pages of the calendar my April fishing excursions took on new and expanded proportions. Fellow fishing addict and friend, Hank Maines and I experienced numerous April trout and salmon fishing adventures - most of which fell into the "wild goose chase" category.
One wonderful memory involved trudging three miles over slippery, wet clay trails, downward ever downward, to reach the mouth of the Little Carp River in the wild and scenic Porcupine Mountains of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Fortunately, we caught no fish and avoided the added pain of carrying them back UP those slippery clay trails!
Another time Hank and I had to risk life and limb by picking our way over ice-covered boulders along the breakwater that protects the harbor at the mouth of the Black River north of Bessmer, Michigan. The two fish we caught hardly was enough to feed a good-sized cat.
And who could ever forget the time we fished from Hank's 14-foot canoe in Chequamegon Bay near Ashland? By what was no doubt Divine Intervention we did land nine chunky Coho salmon, but risked drowning by staying on the water fishing in waves much too large for a canoe, let along a normal Great Lakes craft, attempting to catch number ten and "limit out!"
When we finally gave up and came ashore where our vehicle waited at the mouth of the Onion River, a small group of onlookers inquired, "Are you guys nuts?" We had to be honest and admit we were!
Beside Hank Maines, I also corrupted another of my pals by dragging him along on various April fishing expeditions. JR DeWitt has also felt the wrath of April fishing trips!
Before heading toChequammegon Bay for one last early April ice fishing trip I called the good folks at Angler's All Sport Shop in Ashland to inquire if the ice was still safe enough to venture out on the bay. Oh yes, I was told, lots of diehards were still pulling trout and salmon out of the ice holes near the mouth of the Onion and Sioux Rivers!
I slowed my truck to 35 mph as we coasted into the outskirts of Ashland and JR looked out the passenger door window and remarked, "Gee, that ice looks funny! It almost looks like waves on open water." It was! We made the 200 mile round trip into an April sight seeing tour.
Another time I talked JR into hiking to the mouth of the Presque Isle River at the western end of the Porcupine Mountains (through numerous snow drifts) in order to fill our creels with huge rainbow trout. The one sucker we caught was released.
Well, as you well know, I could go on and on, but time and space saves you from reading about numerous other April wild goose chases.
Presently, my April spring training session has pretty much degenerated into an annual three-day fishing trip to the Fox River where JR and I, plus our host and friend, Catfish John, fish for catfish and whatever else bites as we relax in lawn chairs on the river bank. And you know what, we don't even care if we catch fish - but then again, we hardly ever did before either!
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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