End of the Line

One last chance before the hurricane. One more shot before back surgery. One more time to find solace in the wild. My son Liam pilots the Fishound the length of this wild lake where no cottage, cabin, or building adorns its 20 miles of shore line. We headed for the north end where bald eagles, loons, and small-mouth bass are plentiful. I’m incapable of a lot these days. Surgery for my back will be the day after tomorrow. A major storm is running up the coast and threatens to change the landscape in a major way either from floods or wind. This could be one final stab at my adventures on water this year and I aim at focusing on the day, the moment, rather than what lies ahead.

Liam is an able boat pilot these days. He is getting to know this complicated lake. There are spots where submerged rocks can take out the bottom of your boat and rip the motor off the transom. For that reason we travel slowly and I constantly remind him of areas to avoid or at least approach cautiously. With each reminder he glances over. Telling me without words that he knows what I tell him. Still I cannot help myself.

We motor up to the northeast end of a lake near an area of sandy shoreline that holds a lot of submerged coontail, one of the most prolific kinds of aquatic vegetation in the lake. I have a particular location in mind for the best fishing. Liam has another. Reluctantly he agrees to try mine first. Liam tosses the anchor while I temporarily man the helm. We lock into a submerged log with the anchor. It will hold us especially given there is little wind. The lake is uncharacteristically calm. This lake sits at about 2000 feet in elevation and typically holds northwest winds from dawn to dusk. Generally the hardest part of fishing here is balking the wind. Finding a place where the anchor can catch near good fishing grounds. The wind typically blows way to hard to drift but on this day there is only a slight breeze and it is from the south. The skies in that direction are cloudy and yellow; signs of things to come. We know we have about six hours before serious rain will envelope this area and so we take our fishing seriously.

On the second cast I raise a nice pound and a half small-mouth. And then on the nest cast I catch another. Liam smiles as my early luck exceeds his. He has other plans in mind. After those two fish the site goes sour; not a bite to be found. Liam works the bow of the Fishound while I struggle to find comfort. Neither sitting or standing in the stern of the boat feels good. I drink a glass of wine and then a second to relieve the pain. Liam will be commanding the boat on the return trip no doubt.

I want to leave to test another part of the shoreline but Liam tells me to settle down and be patient. He catches a very nice small mouth and we add this one to the creel. The waters quiet again and we move south to a point where we have had success in the past. Liam pulls the anchor and then jumps into the helm seat letting me know that I’m not piloting the boat today. We move several hundred yards and he tosses the anchor overboard. There is not enough wind to worry about the anchor not catching debris or rocks on the bottom.

Liam catches another nice bass at this location. We fish the area for more than an hour with no other results. I bite my tongue and decide that I will reward Liam for his patience and let him decide when we should move. I look to the bow and see him looking north. He says he has a hunch and we pick up anchor.

To my surprise he takes us almost exactly to the place where we started today minus about thirty yards. I roll my eyes but don’t say a thing. Liam leaves the pilots seat, sets anchor, and casts into a weedy area we can see below on the boat electronics. Immediately he hooks a nice bass. As he reels it in I set my hook in another. We like doubles although one of us must play our fish for a while the other pulls his over the side of the boat. I net my bass, a nice two pound specimen and place him on the deck of the boat. Liam pulls his fish along side and I net his as well; it is slightly larger than mine. As Liam adds our fish to the creel I cast back in and immediately get a hit. The pull is different this time; less fight and more erratic. As I get the fish along side I see that it is a very large yellow perch, perhaps 14 inches in length, and about a pound in weight. A keeper perch in anyone’s book.

There is no need to net the perch and Liam casts back into the dark water. Another bass strikes his bait and takes out line. At the end of the line is the largest fish of the day thus far and he aptly lets it tire and reels it in, nets it, and admires its girth. Liam casts a sideways glance in my direction. He can see my admiring his catch. This fish is close to three pounds and will likely be held as the best fish of the day.

The waters go quiet. The fish stop biting. We fish on without moving knowing the bite will come again without changing locations. During our idle time we talk about nearly everything; family, future plans, travel, and work. The conversation is easy and just slips out as time passes. My mind is far away from pain, surgery, and hurricanes. As we talk I drink some more wine. I look around. The sky is ominous to the south but somewhat brighter where we fish. Loons call. Kingfishers dive into the water. The tall forested mountains that cast their shadow’s on this lake stand quietly. In my own silly imagination I feel them readying for the storm. They stand solid and stout. The trees may be moved but the mountains will remain.

The fishing is easy. Bass continue to bite in spurts and spits. We land over thirty and keep our legal creel of five each. We also keep four very large yellow perch that help to sweeten the pot. After a while of catching and releasing bass Liam looks south. You can see the rain coming down from the clouds and it is headed our way. The wind is now picking up. He pulls anchor and we start south without much being said. The rains begin in earnest just before we pull up to the boat ramp. Liam jumps out on shore and I wait in the boat until the trailer is in the water. This gravel boat ramp is exceeding difficult but Liam backs the truck down artfully. I pull the boat up near the trailer and Liam does the rest. He hooks the cable onto the bow, cranks the boat onto the trailer by hand with the winch, and pulls the truck and trailer up the ramp while I am still in the boat. While I’m not surprised at his skills I am impressed that he works everything so easily.

We secure the boat on the trailer with ratchet straps, a safety chain on the bow, and tow chains on the trailer and then head south on the eleven mile dirt road that leads to Route 9. The road is empty and quiet. The rain is formidable. As the wipers clean the torrents of water from the windshield I try looking through the rain into the forest that slides by as we travel down the road. I see hazy images of wet woods, torrents of water running along the drainage ditches, and the light underside of leaves as branches sway in the wind. There is no clear vision of the present. There is no clear view of the future. But I am in good hands and I feel confident that the road ahead will be handled with grace and skill. It is a road that I hope to travel again.

Written for www.wildramblings.com in September of 2011.

  • brendan

    Wish I was fishing that day! However, looking forward to striper fishing next month!

  • Wendysarno

    Blessings with the surgery, Bill. Praying for “grace and skill” all around you.

  • Wendysarno

    Blessings with the surgery, Bill. Praying for “grace and skill” all around you.

  • http://www.landingoncloudywater.blogspot.com Emily

    Good luck with the surgery, Bill. Sending positivity your way. This line–”The trees may be moved but the mountains will remain”–speaks to me of perservance and weathering the storm. I know you have one and will surely experience the other. You’ll be up on your walks and adventures in no time!

  • http://montucky.wordpress.com/ Montucky

    I hope your surgery goes very well, Bill. My thoughts will be with you.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    The surgery is over and I think successful.  I’m on my feet and even taking short walks.  About 10-11 more weeks of recovery.  Thanks for the good wishes.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    I’m on my feet.  Surgery is done.  Now I have to let the back heal and we’ll know how good it turned out but I’m feeling very positive. Thanks for the good thoughts!

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    It’s over with Montucky.  Now time will tell but given I’m already walking with less pain than before my hopes are high. 

  • http://fourwindshaiga.wordpress.com/ Mainesandra

    It is always a pleasure to read about one of your outings. Glad to hear that you are feeling better.

  • http://liveandlearngrammy.blogspot.com Barb

    Glad your surgery went well, Bill, and you’re up and about. I enjoyed your fishing trip – seems you had an expert guide. 

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Thanks Sandy.  The healing will take a long time but will be worth the wait.  And yes, I had an expert guide.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Hi Barb,
    Yes, I had an expert guide, and someone I really trust.  It’ll take a while but before I know it I’ll be back in the swing of things.  My plans for this autumn is to take short walks into the forest and to sit for a couple of hours in hopes I can see something and/or I have a brainstorm for some good writing.

  • http://www.WanderingThought.com/ WanderingThought

    I’m glad the surgery went well and you’re on your way of healing. Your fishing trip with your son is beautifully described, and I can vividly imagine the two of you in each moment.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Thank you. Although this may be the last fishing excursion of the year I’ll put in my memory to hold on to until the next season arises. 

  • http://alsphotographyblog.blogspot.com/ Al

    It sounds like a great day, and I’m glad that your surgery went well. I love a day in the wilderness.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    I surely do love a day in the wild as well.  Its what keeps me going. I breath, live and think for the next adventure-no matter how small or insignificant.  Every moment in the wild is the best moment.

  • Wendysarno

    Good news, Wild Bill. What a lovely season to find oneself in an enforced rest. Wishing you gentle wanders and contemplations as you recover.

  • http://craftygreenpoet.blogspot.com craftygreenpoet

    Glad your surgery went well.
    This sounds like a wonderful trip. I love being on a boat on a lake…

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    On a lake, completely surrounded by wilderness, has no rival.  Thank you for reading.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Wish you were there too! 

  • http://outwalkingthedog.wordpress.com/ Out Walking the Dog

    Sorry I haven’t been following your rambles this summer – back on track now with this lovely post. So glad you got your day of wilderness before surgery, as well as time with your son. Hoping you mend swiftly. My husband is still recovering from back surgery earlier this summer. My unsolicited advice: TAKE IT SLOW!!!  This will be good to remember: “I want to leave to test another part of the shoreline but Liam tells me to settle down and be patient.”

  • http://crazymountainman.blogspot.com Out on the prairie

    It was interesting thinking about you today and wanting to share a few fish stories. You started it an it sounds real fun. I have went through a lot of bait, they know me by first name at the bait shop.I have been pounding largemouth and striped bass(I have shown a few on my blog), and have a hard time staying off the water.We are tagging monarch today or I would be there. My tent has been up at the lake since the 2nd week of July. I wondered where you were at, near home or RI. Hope all goes well in your life.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    If I didn’t just have back surgery and every road wasn’t washed out going to the nearest lake I’d be fishing too!  Sounds like you are having the perfect summer.  Tagging monarchs?  Must be some pretty light weight tags.  Are you tracking their progress or routes?  Doubtful I’ll get out fishing again because of surgery unless one of my boys wants to use my boat and let me tag along in about a month or a little later.

  • Barbara

    You’ve been on my mind Bill, wondering about the surgery – so glad to hear that it’s past and you are on your feet already. This is such great news.

    Wonderful story about you, Liam and a creel-ful of Bass with some yellow perch (yum) thrown in for good measure. 

    Saying prayers for your continued healing – and some much needed and deserved down time enjoying your beautiful bush, the sun and the fall. 

    Be well my friend. So glad you’re on the mend.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    I love the support that I have gotten from everyone with regards to my recent surgery.  I’m going to take some time while I can’t do anything physically challenging to bone up on all of the new scientific plant names that have come about in the last couple of years.  I will be able to learn a few new plants as well.  It’ll get me outside and keep my mind busy.  Should be reasonably productive.

    Thank you so much for all of your support, not only for my writing but for my recovery.  That you would pray for my healing means a lot to me. 

  • http://shoreacres.wordpress.com shoreacres

    I’m so happy to know that your surgery went well, and to see you here already. Your sketches of the fishing trip are intriguing – there are similarities between your lake and my bays, but differences, too, some of which lie just under the surface of consciousness.  They’re interesting to think about.

    I’ve only just read your bio. Interesting – wetlands conservation has become one of my own concerns, particularly as regards the Louisiana coast. If you don’t know the work of Quinta Scott, her blog would be a nice introduction. She’s a wonderful photographer – her “Visual Biography of the Mississippi” is an extraordinary study of those wetlands – and she knows the river.

    Do you know, I’ve never seen a loon. I’ll be in Minnesota in mid-October, and on a lake. Perhaps that will be my chance.

  • http://shoreacres.wordpress.com shoreacres

    You surely know this – but I’ll post it anyway, for anyone who might not. If I had to live out my life with just one song, this might be it.

    End of the Line

  • Anonymous

    Thank goodness for your imagination, Bill. Albeit silly – hooray for silly.
    The tale was relished, thanks for making it easy to picture.
    The photo here of the edges of the leaves gives a good hint at the wetness and density of your forest.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Not much imagination in this story CC.  All true.  Still I like to think about alternative stories when composing.  And sometimes that is the one I write.  Thanks for reading and stopping by!

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    I will be sure to check out Quinta Scott’s blog.  I would love to learn all I can about this nation’s mightiest river.  So much to learn, so many stories to hear. 

    If you are going to Minnesota on a remote lake your chance of encountering a loon are very good.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill


  • Anonymous

    Oops – let me clarify – was specifically referring to this line in your piece: “The tall forested mountains that cast their shadow’s on this lake stand
    quietly. In my own silly imagination I feel them readying for the
    storm. They stand solid and stout. The trees may be moved but the
    mountains will remain.” I am glad for imaginations such as yours.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Oh, that makes sense!  Gave me a good laugh.  Thanks very much!

  • Annie

    Just back from a week in the Sierra with no phone or internet, just the beauty of nature and the company of family. The perfect ending to my summer. Catching up on my reading I and was so glad to see that your surgery was a success. Your plan to “bone up” on all of the new scientific plant names sounds like an excellent way to keep busy while your body heals. Embrace this time and it’s lessons. They will serve you well. Take care, eleven weeks is a very small amount of time in the overall scope of things.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Isn’t it wonderful to be away from technology.  Life seems, somehow, more pure and simple.  Sounds like you really enjoyed this and it helped you to relax.  Yep, eleven weeks looks like a million years within the area of my brain labeled “Motivation” but it is truly just a few moments in the grand scheme of things.  I will try to find ways to make it more friendly and enjoyable ie: learning new plant names, id some new plants in my immediate and accessible vicinity, and soaking up the quiet of the world.  I’m so lucky as to live in a place that I can do this.

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