Every summer we spend a week with my wife’s extended family in Wisconsin. It is a week of fishing, family, and relaxation. The past couple of summers we have been staying at a place near Hayward, Wisconsin, on Big Chief, part of the Chippewa Flowage.
Those who know their fishing records know that the Chippewa Flowage is prime muskie country. Since we have kids running ages 4 to 18 (this year’s ages) we do not fish for muskie – primarily crappies and blue gills. But the muskies are there, and so are big northerns.
This year my daughter Dylan and I talked grandpa Dan into driving the boat for us while we fished weed lines for our favorite prey, bass. Dylan inherited her mother’s good looks but she inherited my restless preference for casting and moving while I fish. (Her mother and sister prefer the more sedate and patience-requiring “bobber” fishing.) Since Dan likes his family and likes to be out on a boat on sunny, warm days… it was not a hard sell.
It was a picture perfect afternoon for casting, watching herons fish, and for getting sunburned… it was not, however, a good afternoon for catching fish. Dan was game though and Dylan was patient, and so we soldiered on. Over the afternoon we transitioned away from weed lines and bass to whatever came our way: a perch here, a blue gill there.
When it was time to head back-in for dinner and something colder to drink, Dylan tried one last cast to a spot I had already tried a few times myself, a small, sandy patch between a weed line and an old tree that had been in the water for a few seasons at least.
I was in back of the boat putting gear away with Dan, when we heard her excited scream, I turned toward her in time to see the rod bend quickly and hard. This was not just another sunny.
By the time I wrestled the net back out of the hold where I had just put it, she had the big fish up next to the boat. By the time I got up to the front of the boat, the Northern was just breaking the water, shaking its big head and teeth. She screamed again and the line broke.
For a few seconds she sat looking into the water where the fish had disappeared. Then she looked at me and said, “my hands are shaking.” Dan and I laughed. The northern may have got away, but I will remember that moment and that afternoon for the rest of my life.