Wolf River Smallmouth Part 1

     Rolling down the highway I was really fired up to get out on the water.  Fishing in northern Wisconsin is not something I get to do on a regular basis.  Add to it the fact that we would be fishing the iconic Wolf River and I was in high heaven.  Even though I can count all of my river fishing experiences on one hand my sponsor Rutabaga Paddlesports was nice enough to loan me a rental kayak (Ultimate FX12).  I had it all rigged up and ready for a relaxing day on the water.  I was head to the Appleton area first though so I could join up with my buddy Spencer.  He was the mastermind behind this particular adventure and found us lodging, worked out the shuttles, and provided the food, all I had to do was fish!  Arriving at his house I sat down for dinner and was immediately asked this question.

"You're okay with Class 1 and 2 rapids right?"

     I wasn't of course, but I quickly replied "yes."  Again I have almost zero experience fishing on rivers.  I've drank beer in a kayak on the river while floating with my family, but I don't think that counts.  Besides they were Iowa rivers so they weren't real rivers.  Why would I spend anytime fishing rivers anyway?  I live in a town with 5 lakes.  Still I was sure it wouldn't be a big deal, people float the Wolf all time right?
     By the time we made it to his in-laws cabin it was getting pretty dark.  After getting a quick tour we got the rods rigged up and our gear sorted out to save time in the morning.  It was a beautiful place to be staying and I could barely contain my excitement about finally getting my north woods experience.  We settled in for the night and it was all I could do to force myself asleep.  I don't know about all of you, but I almost never sleep well the night before a fishing trip.
     The morning finally came and I was treated to an amazing home cooked breakfast.  If you ever get a chance to do an overnight trip with Spencer insist he cooks the meals.  Believe me he's the best!  We piled into the Prius and drove to the launch.  It was a bit of a hike with a heavy kayak to get to the water.  It probably wouldn't be so bad if I wasn't an overweight pack a day smoker, but after a lot of whining and bitching I made it.  Spencer of course is a fitness coach so he trotted down the trail ahead of me like a freaking antelope and was already casting by the time I arrived.  "I wonder if there's any fish?" he said making a cast.  "Probably were under a bridge" I replied.  As I finished catching my breath his rod loaded up and soon he had the first fish of the trip.  He was smiling ear to ear already and I hadn't even put my boat in the water.
First smallmouth of the trip on a Manley rod.
     It sucked that he caught the first fish, but I was happy for him.  I get really fired up when other people get hooked up, maybe it's the guide in me, not sure.  We were stoked to say the least and we quickly dropped our boats in the current and headed off down river.  We worked our way along bouncing from eddy to eddy picking off smallmouth bass as we went.  They were holding in all the likely areas.  We found them in ripples, seams, behind boulders, even along the pockets of reed grass.  It was a great time and I didn't have a care in the world.
Big thanks to Rutabaga for the kayak.  Sorry it came back in such rough shape.
     Then while standing knee deep at the end of pool I heard nervous laughter.  It wasn't Spencer, he was fighting a fish.  That's when it came around the corner, a raft, with 6 people, wearing helmets.  Seriously, they were wearing freckin' helmets!  They all looked terrified and as I watched them float by I started to feel a hollow pit in my stomach.  "Class 1 and 2 rapids require helmets?" I wondered.  "I'm in a fishing kayak with $600 dollars worth of gear, none of which was a helmet."  Spencer hollered over sensing my unrest, "I'm sure they're overreacting."  "It can't be that bad" was the final words he said. At that we jumped back into our kayaks and paddled around the corner.
     Well lets just say I could hear the rapids before I saw them, way before I saw them.  The water was dead calm leading up to the first set.  Pulling over to the side of the river we hopped out of the plastic boats and nervously peered over the side of the rocks.  "Looks doable" said Spencer, "Probably just need to stay in the center of the run."  All I saw was boulders and whitewater.  This center he spoke of was nonexistent.  Wandering back to the kayaks it suddenly occurred to me that my borrowed kayak was a sit inside.  No scupper plugs, no drainage, no saving it if it fills with water.  I was screwed if anything went wrong on my attempt.  I was slightly terrified, Spencer was excited.  Slowly we pushed off from the shoreline and made our descent towards the roaring water.

To Be Continued...


  1. That gives me bad anxiety just reading it, can't wait for part two!


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