I was born and have lived in urban surroundings almost all of my life, and though I absolutely love to leave the cityscape behind me to venture into more natural surroundings, I prefer knowing that I'll be reasonably comfortable, warm and dry. I enjoy camping, but these days, given the choice, I'd rather have the comfort of a cabin. Boats? A lot of fun as long as the motor is in working condition. And fishing sounds like a good idea if I don't have to hook my own worms.
So when I had the opportunity to stay up at a cottage for a sunny, record-warm September weekend, it was a no-brainer. I'd be warm and dry, the boat there was almost brand-new, and I'd never been asked to even touch a worm, much less hook one. Country life, here I come!
We arrived late in the afternoon. The lake greeted us with the reds, oranges and yellows of the foliage that it mirrored - considerably advanced compared to the moderate changes back home. The late-day sun reflected off of the water and into our eyes as it lapped gently at the dock, enticing us to take a quick tour of the lake. I expected the true autumn air to hitch a ride with us, but even the steady wind out on the boat felt warm and wonderful.
Over the course of the next few days, we greeted sunrises, hiked a bit, explored a nearby town, ate dinner on the dock and lit evening fires. We even played some Pitch'n'Putt one day, which I approached as I do any other sport - with the agility of a hippo on crack.
And we fished.
Armed with rods and bait, life jackets, bug spray, sunglasses and a few munchies, we headed out to some of the hot fishing spots, which kept our reels humming. My first catch was modest. Scarcely the size of my hand, it was a breeze to reel in. A small piece of driftwood.
My second attempt brought in something larger - at least twice the size of the first. Alas, it was another piece of driftwood, but this one put up a bit of a struggle.
Determined to try again, I plopped my line into the water and waited till I felt the now-familiar tug. I set the hook. This one felt huge! I reeled and yanked and looked to my left for help. To my great relief, more experienced hands took over the rod and I watched as my catch of the day was landed. A beautiful 8-pounder! Yes, another piece of driftwood.
Eventually the lake gods took pity on me and allowed me to catch a few real fish. We were looking for walleye, but it seems that the sunfish were looking for us, since that's all I caught - over and over again. I was beginning to believe that I was nabbing the same little guy every time. I wouldn't have known one from the other because I never really got all that up close and personal with them. As I said before, I wasn't unhooking them. That's when the foot came down.
"I think it's time you started unhooking your own fish now."
"Are you serious? Now? You want me to touch the fish?"
I was shown how to grasp the fish in such a way that its spiky fin wouldn't jab me (in theory) and how to manoeuvre the hook out of its mouth. With nimble fingers (remember that hippo on crack?), I managed to remove the sharp weapon from its mouth, and tossed the wriggly critter back into the lake. After a few imperceptible shudders (which scarcely rocked the boat), I rinsed my hands in lake water and attempted another cast into the population of hungry miniature fish. Unfortunately, that last one successfully ate the worm. That's when the other foot came down.
"How about a double-header? I think it's time you learned how to bait your own hook."
"Oh, come on now! You've got to be kidding me"
This time I began to shudder before I even touched the worm - or half-worm as it was. I watched a demonstration of a worm body-piercing, and I was on my own. I wasn't prepared for the strength of its tiny body, or for its determination to ease its way out from my tentative grip. Somewhere between a chorus of ewws, ughs and pathetic whimpers, I managed to jab it once, and loop the rest of its body around for a secure, second impalement. After a longer rinse in the lake, I was ready for the next peckish sunfish, which promptly ate the worm.
Despite the unpleasant tasks of baiting and unhooking, that afternoon stands out to me as one of the highlights of the weekend. We never did catch any walleye, but being out there basking in the sun and fresh air, enjoying great company, savouring the beautiful scenery, overcoming much of my apprehension and catching the best damned piece of driftwood of my life made it a wonderfully, memorable afternoon - and weekend.
Now, there's a little bit of country that you'd be hard-pressed to take out of this girl.
Enjoy the photos. There will be more in a few days.
The brilliant shades of autumn greet the morning shortly after sunrise.
Early morning, a neighbour's iron angler watches attentively while waiting for the the big bite.
I didn't catch this pike, so I didn't have to unhook him, which is good because he looks intimidating to me.
Of lesser concern, this sunfish was one of the first of many to be caught that day.
Just outside the cottage back door, this lure tree sits collecting colourful lures, hooks and other lost fishing-related items reeled in by chance.
After a bit of exploring at a nearby bay, we brought back this fish-shaped piece of driftwood and decided that it would be the new lure tree. It now adorns the side of the cottage.
Just a boat, a bumper and a rope, but I liked the way it looked.
Fishing off of the dock in the late afternoon was a pretty typical activity while watching the sunset come to life.
And sometimes all you need is that sunset.
I'll be posting some more photos in a few days. In the meantime you can find some great cottage-life photos over at Frank's blog.