Saturday, October 20, 2012

Duck Hunting?

"Look Deano, there are five of em up there."
"Where? I don't see anything."
"They're way up there, see? I don't think they are comming this way. They are way to high and their wings are flapping real fast, so I don't think they will land."
"Still can't see them."

Graydon and I were sitting on a finger of mud just west of Killarney Lake's outlet. The sun was out and the wind was blowing about 60 mph, we were duck hunting. 

I met Graydon at about 3 PM behind his place and we hitched up the boat, picked up Ollie and headed to the chain lakes for my first duck hunting experiance.

We launched the boat and loaded ourselves in, Graydon chugged the engine to life and we were off. The motor sputtered and died. Graydon calmly clamored about squeezing the gas bulb, shaking the fuel line and turning the starting key. I watched as we drifted away from the dock and closer to the levee. Finally the engine caught and we were off! Graydon looked at me and smiled then hit the throttle.

The boat jumped and we were immediately up on plane. Seconds later the engine revved up, water and mud flew, and we came to a slow halt.  It was like we were in a big mud bog contest but a bit louder!  We looked back and then to the sides, and found that we had run a ground.  Graydon stepped out of the boat and pulled us to deeper water. We looked around and started to laugh.  That was about how typical this hunt would be.

"Graydon, I don't have any waders. I mean I have waders, but I didn't wear them. How do I get to shore from the boat?"
"Here Deano, get on my back."
"No, it's OK, just get on my back and I'll carry you the few steps."

Once on shore Ollie and I fished while Graydon spread his duck decoys out around the shallows.  We had read the regulations and shooting was allowed up to 5:55 PM that day. The ducks were set and we were in our seats by 5:15 PM  forty minutes of quality hunting time was ahead of us so Graydon lit a cigar and offered me a drink of whiskey.  This is duck hunting!

"Ducks don't like the water to be smooth." Graydon waxed blowing a big puff of smoke. "They like the decoys to be moving. These waves are perfect to make the decs (decoys) do their thing and draw the ducks in."

I listened to Graydon explain duck hunting theory, all the while looking for a duck, any duck, to fly by.  The sky was blue with puffy clouds, but no ducks.  Graydon had said that an empty parking lot was not a good sign. No hunters probably meant no ducks, but this was the shake down trip and so far we had found out quite a bit.  First the boat motor's gas line needed to be replaced. Next the electric duck decoys would not flap their wings and they needed to be repaired.  I needed my waders.  Finally, we needed ducks.
At 6 PM Graydon started picking up the decoys and Ollie and I fished again.  With the boat loaded Graydon slogged over and offered me his back.  I refused knowing that somewhere some guys were watching and waiting to see this fat guy climb up on this tall slender guys back.  I dashed the several wet steps to the boat and we were off. Graydon used the electric motor to pull us back to the dock. We loaded the boat on the trailer and drove home. We laughed about our little excursion and I committed to giving duck hunting one more shot.  Graydon promised to repair all his equipment and find a spot where there are ducks.

"Deano, you have got to see a duck circling in low and setting its wings to glide in and land in your decoys.  There is nothing like it."

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Steelhead Experiment

 Grabbed my gear and took the camper down to the Salmon to fish on Monday,  Stayed till Thursday and fished every day.  As I drove down the road toward the Pine Bar boat launch I was a bit anxious. This was brought on by the fact that I left the house without a check book and if my usual "free" spot was taken then I would not have anything to pay for a spot in the campground.  I dropped the boat into the water and tied it to the bank.  I pulled the trailer forward to a spot out of the boaters way and dropped it off, then I quickly drove to a point where I could see the camp site. No one was there!  I dropped in and set up the camper.  Everything was complete, boat launched and camp set up in less than a half hour!

I walked up to the boat launch with my fishing gear and rowed the boat up river to the fishing spot, set my anchor and got my gear in the water.  For the next five hours I puttered in my tackle boxes sorting and cleaning.  I can say that I now have all my gear sorted and stowed according to color with no barbs on the hooks and no unneeded leader threads attached.

By sunset the fish had avoided my traps and it was getting dark so I rowed up river and ferried across to just below the camper.  I tied up the boat and mad sure the equipment was stowed safely away and then went up the my home on wheels for the evening.  Dinner was a delicious meal of Rice A Roni and a Kielbasa Hot Dog. The dog stayed with me most of the night and I will probably avoid indulging in the future.

Morning was cold and windy.  When I say windy, I mean blow you up stream windy! I fished the regular run all morning and Darren Upchurch arrived adding to the fishing power.  I rowed across the river, had lunch and then we were back over in the spot.  At about 3 PM Darren had a hit.  The fish struck his lure and immediately came out of the water in a spectacular splash.  It shook loose at the top of its' aerial and was gone.  Just enough excitement to keep us going.

Not long after the first hit Darren again got a take.  This time he fought it for quite a while.  We got a couple looks at it but could not see if it was a keeper or not.  It took a huge run and was gone.  That's steelhead fishing for you! That's probably why I love it so much.  Most of the time the fish wins and so the hunt continues.

The wind died a bit and we fished till dark and pulled the gear in returned to the camper for the evening.  We ate some pre-made Costco beef stroganoff meal that wasn't bad but I probably would not serve it again. After cleaning up we took the table down and made Darren a bed and then went off to sleep.

Next morning I fixed breakfast and we went back onto the water.  You get a lot of time to sit and look around.  This day was beautiful and the river setting could not be beat.  At exactly noon, I hooked up on a good one.  My lessons in the past made me very aware of my reel and the line drag.  I played the fish and she ran about five times.  Each time I controlled my drag and let her run.  When she tired I eased her close to the boat and noted that she was a keeper.  The keepers are missing their adipose fin which was removed at the hatchery. Wild steelhead have the fins and you can usually see them when the get close to the boat.  

I reeled her in close and got my net ready, she ran when she saw me but I got her back and she was tired.  I place the net under the water and guided her near. Just as I pulled her over the net she mas a final valiant kick and the lure came flying out of her mouth at me.  I rolled the net up and she was caught.  It was so close all Darren and I could do was laugh.

The excitement of the catch kept us going on into the evening and we called her quits just before dark. We had smoked beef tacos for dinner, then cleaned up and went to bed.  We both read for a while but it was lights outwith in the hour.

We woke up at the usual time and had a quick breakfast. We could see that Mike Wassmuth was already anchored over in the run.  We floated over and tried to get set up next to Mike.  Our anchor would not hold and we floated down river and pulled into shore.  We used our side winders off the bank and fished until about 11 AM.  We floated down to the takeout, then walked up and got the truck and camper.  Loading the boat was easy so we were headed home by about 12:30 PM.  The drive home was uneventful but I had a fish in the cooler and that was all that mattered.

Mike Wassmuth on Thursday.
Which one will be the one that works?
She was a 26" beauty!
Got her home and she was a true 26 incher.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Shadowy St. Joe

This morning when I got up I had no clue what I wanted to do, so I thought about how nice the day was going to be and decided to do something about it.  One of the things I have always wanted to do was to take the boat and motor down Lake Coeur d'Alene and then go up the St. Joe River to St. Maries.

I filled the Jeep with some food and water, the tablet, and the two containers of gas and drove down to the boat.  By 8:30 AM I was on my way. The boat buzzed along at 28 mph on a glass smooth lake.  I whipped past Harrison and spotted the old railroad bridge that is now part of the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes.  Idling forward and under the bride I entered the St. Joe River.  The channel is well marked and before long I was back up to speed.

What a rush! The water was so smooth. The boat moved like a bird skimming the water.  I stood and let the wind chill my skin.  I had my coat on and my hoodie up hoping to dampen the wind chill.  I still got very cold.

When I reached St. Maries I pulled into a city dock, sat in the sun and ate my brunch. What a wonderful day I was having.

I loaded up, turned around and headed out.  Everything was going great!

I followed the river down slowed the engine and idled back under the bridge.  Once free of the final no wake zone I hit the gas and got back up to speed.  Suddenly I heard an alarm.  At first I thought it was my Lowrance so I turned the power off on it.  The alarm sounded again. I cut speed and dropped my rpms down and the alarm stopped.  The outboard was running well, but I could not get the rpms up above 3000 without the alarm. I checked the cooling intake and it was not clogged. I was baffled.

I chugged into Harrison and docked at the public dock.  At this point I checked the oil and it was exactly where it should be. I raised the motor and checked the cooling intakes again. No luck.

I idled back onto the lake and bumped my speed up until the alarm sounded and then backed off a bit.  I was able to travel at about 6.7 mph so that is what I did. It was slow but I was able to head home.  While I traveled I posted progress reports to Linda and Alex Harris so that folks would know how I was doing.  The morning was so fast and exciting, and the afternoon was slow and boring.  The positive side was that I was running on glass water and the sun was so warm I had to strip down to my T-shirt.

I arrived home at about 4:30 PM.  It felt good to be back and I could relax knowing that I made it.

After putting the boat away I drove home smiling all the way.  It was just another adventure that worked out and I can check "boat the shadowy St. Joe" off my bucket list.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Two Wild Ones

Me and the camper in the background.
Took a drive in the camper down to Pine Bar area and fished for a couple days. I hooked three Steelhead landed two wild fish and got busted off on the third.  It is hard to release the wild ones, but there is still a huge adrenalin rush catching those fish.
I'm going to get back down to that area as soon as I can.  Look out fish!

This wild one was about 30 inches.