Iowa Hawg Hunt 2015

All smiles in the beginning.
     For the last 6 years I have attended the Iowa Hawg Hunt.  It's not an actual "Hawg Hunt," it's a musky outing put on each year by the Capital City Musky Club of Madison, WI.  The event is held at the beautiful Pleasant Creek State Park in northeastern Iowa.  It makes for an early opportunity to get out and try your new fishing gear before the Wisconsin musky season opens.  It always has great anglers in attendance, and the fact that the lake is just down the road from my parents farm, I get to enjoy a low cost weekend away.  I have fished the event a number of different ways in the past.  From inside buddies boats, in a borrowed canoe, from the shoreline, and even chest deep in a pair of neoprene waders.  Despite the myriad of ways I've employed to catch muskies in this little man made lake, I had never caught a musky during the actual event.  This year though I knew the outcome would be different.  I was gonna spend this year chasing the top predator in the lake from my new Slayer Propel kayak.
2015 Native Watercraft Slayer Propel
     This year I had all the advantages of kayak angling on my side.  Also for the first time I had technology with me in the form of my new Garmin unit with side scan and down imaging.  In my mind I was unstoppable, at least until the weather changed as I arrived at the lake.  Yup, the weather went south in a hurry.  Rain, lightning, and heavy winds started to churn up the lake.  Soon it was a frothy white capped mess.  I wasn't horribly worried though since I had come to Iowa prepared for the worse.
Life jackets only work if you wear them.
     As I donned my dry suit and struggled to get the damned thing zipped shut, I thought of the last words my wife had told me as I pulled out of the driveway back in Wisconsin.  "The weather is supposed to be bad so maybe this isn't the best time to test out your new boat."  She was probably right, but I just had to try out the new kayak.  I decided I would just paddle out and try and stay close to shore.
     The wind was whipping the YakAttak flag violently back and forth as I zipped up my PFD.  Dragging the kayak down to the waters edge I started to hear that little voice.  You know the one that warns you when you're about to do something that years of evolution says you shouldn't.  I pushed off from shore and lowered the propel pedal drive into the water.  The waves were coming up over the deck so quickly that I had to pull my scupper plugs to keep the boat from filling with water.  Working my way across the lake I thought,  "This isn't really that bad."  In fact the kayak was fine, the issue was with the pack a day smoker in the cockpit.
Right before turning the corner and heading out across the main lake.
      I was getting tired fast, really fast.  I struggled to catch my breath as the waves worsened.  When my right leg cramped up I decided maybe it would just be better if I paddled since this was the first time I had used the pedal drive (new boat).  This made it easier to get across and soon I was casting at some stumps I only found because of the Garmin unit.  When my phone alarm went off, I turned around started to make my way back across the lake.  As I rounded the corner to make the main crossing I realized that the wind had really picked up.  I thought about calling it and just beaching the kayak.  "I could just call my parents and have them drive me back to my truck" I said to myself, of course I didn't do that, and soon found myself exhausted in the middle of the lake.  I was digging hard in an attempt to keep the kayak nosed into the waves.  In fact I was working so hard to keep the boat upright that I failed to notice the crowd gathering on the dock.  I found out later that day that they were about 2 seconds from sending out a boat to help me in.  It was easily the craziest weather conditions I have ever paddled in and after lunch I decided to load up the kayak and just fish from the shoreline.
St Croix makes some amazing fly rods.
     After loading the kayak and gear into my Silverado I noticed my St Croix fly rod in the back seat.  I had almost forgotten that I brought it with me.  While assembling the 9 weight one of the other participants said, "Are you gonna try and catch one on a fly rod in this wind?"  "Yup, good casting practice on days like this" I replied.  It's true, if you want to get better at casting flies in a nasty head wind you have to actually go outside and cast on those ridiculously windy days.  After the morning I had in the kayak I was wiped out as I wandered down the shoreline.  I fired off a short cast and as I was stripping in the line I noticed a shadow coming in low and slow behind fly.  It was a musky, not a big one, but it was interested.  My heart was pounding!  The fish must have decided he wasn't hungry, because he soon turned and headed off for deeper water.  "What are the odds?"  I thought, the fish were tucked up close to shore this whole time.  As the afternoon wore on I ended up with a total of 5 follows, easily my best outing so far (fishing wise).
     We all gathered at the shelter at 6pm to see who caught what, look at the pictures, and hand out some awards.  Geoff won the outing with a beautiful 40 incher and Shane came in a close second with a nice 38 inch fish.  The day ended with a lure raffle and musky sing along.  This event is an absolute must if your in the Midwest and live to fish for muskies.  Be sure you make plans to join us in 2016.  I am positive there will be some big fish, big laughs, and a few larger than life fishing stories.
Geoff in red took first, Shane was a close second.
     Tight Lines.

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