Wading the Wisconsin River, Chasing Smallies
It is really cold outside, like -13 degrees. I am stuck inside, hanging with my kiddos. As I wander through photos and memories, I am reminded of so many great times casting a line. Musky fishing, pike fishing, chasing summer catfish. Lots of stories for sure, but one stands out as my first real adventure.
It was mid summer and the heat and humidity was making everybody suffer. Hanging out at a little pond near my house my coworker said "We should drive to Portage and fish the river". He was so nonchalant about it that I almost ignored it. "My dad has a place right on the river" he said. "We could wade out by the island and catch some smallmouth bass". I thought this sounded great, I had never fished for smallmouth. He assured me that they fought like tanks. Tough stocky river fish, the kind of fishing I had seen on tv. So we loaded up the jeep and headed north.
Now I had never waded before so I must admit, I was a little nervous as we pulled in the driveway and drove down the trail to the river. My buddy recommended that we load our gear in backpacks so that our tackle trays and snacks would stay dry. We rigged up with some medium light rods, 8 pound test line, and some of the smallest tubes I had ever seen. In my mind I thought, "how could such a little lure catch the bronze monsters he talked about?" Well he was the expert, or at least he had done this before. As we headed down to the water he said, "All you have to do is wade out to the edge of the island and cast out to the current".
|A beautiful Wisconsin River Smallmouth|
The first few steps were a little nerve racking. The riverbed was all sand and silt and it shifted as you walked. As we got closer to the island I could see the current he was talking about. The water was slack all around us, but it was moving on the outside edge of the island. As I rounded the bend I watched as Matt made a long cast into the current. He paused to light a cigarette and boom, he hauled back and set the hook. The line started screaming off reel, and he let out a big old yell! He maneuvered that fish into the slack water and held it up. I had to try this for myself.
As I made my first cast I would love to be able to tell you that I pulled out a monster. I didn't, in fact I had to watch as Matt and his brother caught fish after fish. I just wasn't getting something right. Finally he said "You have to cast your line out as far as you can, up current." Ok, up current then. Well I made a few casts and then I felt a hit...missed it. Tricky little buggers, I thought to myself. Next cast same thing, missed it again. Then it happened, I hooked up! As I fought to get my drag set, I lost it. At least now I had a taste. I knew what to do and soon I was deep into a fight with what I was sure was a monster. Maybe the next state record!
|Not a record smallmouth|
Well it wasn't a record, almost wasn't a fish. Hahahaha, at least I caught one. I was on the board and having a blast. Only problem was that a storm was coming in. I was totally oblivious to the fact until Matt said "last cast". He was serious, the storm was right over us and we were swinging carbon fiber rods around. He told me that the river changes fast during a storm so we needed to get headed in. I waded out to the edge of the island and made my cast. I felt a slight knock on the line. Nothing major, but something was definitely there. I set the hook and it took off like a bullet. The fight felt it lasted forever. I am sure it was just a few minutes, but you know time is relative and what not. Each time the smallie got close enough to lip, he would take off again. These river fish really were stronger than the lake fish I was used to catching. Finally I landed it! I was proud of this fish. I had caught a decent smallmouth bass. As we walked up the shoreline the rain started. While we waited out the heavy stuff under the trees we talked about all the fun we had. Matt told some great stories about growing up on the river. Stories that made me wish I had grown up on this river.