When Hunters Collide
Apr 13th, 2009 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Apr 13th, 2009 at 12:00 AM
-When Hunters Collide-
Written by: Sam Ubl
Our stomachs were grumbling, yet we paid no attention as our minds told us it was merely a sound, not actual hunger. We had been on the water for several hours now and we were on a mission. The day had already treated us to a series of rarities, but the best was yet to come.
A solo loon had been following us for at least a hundred yards now as we slowly followed the contours of a well-defined break. An hour earlier, a fawn had danced playfully knee-deep along the shoreline, which was entertaining enough to draw my attention away from the exact moment a big ol’ girl decided to attack my Dawg. Yes, I missed her, but I didn’t care.
Had it not been the solitude of this summer evening, perhaps I would have let a few choice words steal my composure, but today I was floating in my element. The quiet loon that had been following us was becoming more of a friend now than merely an observation, and as I focused on the sound of my line cutting the glassy water on each sweep of the rod, he spoke. The sound flowed through me like a cold wind through a thin sweater, sending chills down my spine. As his voice broke the silence of this magical evening, it echoed against the tall pines and birch that rimmed the lake, the reverb bouncing off the calm water to an infinite distance. I turned and looked directly into his eyes as he followed not more than five feet from the edge of the boat, and as he met my stare, a powerful response to his call was delivered. His focus shifted now, and I understood what his motive was, he was lonely.
The submerging sun now cast an orange glare across the water, and the cirrus clouds above were intricately highlighted with brilliant pinks, purples and orange. James and I traded glances as he voiced his opinion on the fortune he imagined we would soon be graced with. We were silent after that, sunk back into a mode we call “blacking out”.
As James switched from his Rollie and Helen’s custom Dawg, the Wisconsin Walleye, to his longtime night capper, the “Cash” Weagle, I continued sweeping my now battle scarred pounder rhythmatically. As enamored as we had become throughout this evening, we had been jolted from our ecstasy several times from some seriously close encounters with big fish and now we were ready for anything.
For a moment I followed James’ Weagle as he walked it subtly with precision over the weed flat on the shallow side of the break. I followed the small wake it created and the intricate colors reflecting, again almost falling back into a trance before what started as two wakes became four. I gasped cowardly from the sight of it, and James murmured, “Here she comes”, in a calm and modest tone, like a man preparing for battle.
“Speed it up!” I countered.
So he did, and that’s when it happened. The beast erupted from beneath the surface, causing a disruption that can only be distinguished as glorious, and the fight was on.
After a quick photo and healthy release, we gave each other a wet high five and got back to business. It took a few minutes to slow back down and find my solitude, but I did and I worked that Bulldawg with grace. I envisioned my lure like a camera view from all angles as I counted it down and worked it in, sweep by sweep. It was my turn, I thought to myself, my turn to face the challenge we were after. I could feel my hooks splitting the tips of the sandgrass on each pull and knew I was in the strike zone. That’s when it happened – AGAIN!
“There! Did you see the boil?” Asked James.
I didn’t see it when it happened, but I saw the aftermath, so I quietly responded, “Yeah”.
James quickly tossed it back beyond the spot the fish had shown itself and started his retrieve, working the Weagle with finesse before ripping back into a hard strike. “Got ‘er!” He exhausted in angst.
As the fish broke the surface, it was apparent James had hooked a giant as it clearly dwarfed the Weagle. The violent headshakes, however, along with several powerful runs were no match against an angler who, like myself, lives for these moments. After sliding the big girl into the bag, the commotion came to an end as she rested calmly while James extracted the hooks. So calmly, it seemed as if saying, “Thanks for the challenge.”
I continued casting after James’ second trophy was released, but I couldn’t focus the way I had been before. I thought about the mutual respect that I just witnessed between the two hunters and I let out a quiet snicker.
“What?” Asked James.
“Nice fish!” Is all I could mutter.
What I really wanted to say is how passionate I feel about this sport. I wanted to start from scratch to finish replaying the details of what made this evening special, as if he weren’t there, but I didn’t. Instead I said, “Nice fish!” and continued to inherently glide my pounder with moderately elongated rips.
I never did hook up that evening. In fact, I hadn’t put one in the bag the day before either, but that wasn’t going to put a damper on my enthusiasm. Tonight was a success in my book. My best friend, James, who contributes to well over seventy-five percent of my experience on the water had put two beauties in the boat. That evening we were rewarded for our investments that every true musky hunter understands.
While I prefer to catch a fish every time I’m out, time and time again I’m reminded that it isn’t what makes for a successful trip on the water. It’s the silent camaraderie shared between you, your partner and your surroundings. It’s the one that got away that keep’s you talking for weeks, sometimes evolving into an annual reminiscent. It’s the mystery of what’s to happen next, and the feeling of when it occurs. To the serious angler, musky hunting is more than a hobby, it’s a genuine love for a passion.