This is Ken. If you have a hairy mole in the middle of your forehead, Ken will ask, “You just ugly, or do you want me to remove that there hairy mole with my fillet knife?” And he’ll pronounce the “t.” At lunch time, he’s generous with his home grown “maters” – round, red, and plump on your BLT. He can virtually channel Bill Clinton and Sarah Palin from the seat of his canoe. If you’re fishing with Ken, he will catch 10 fish to your one and take every opportunity to rub it in. When you snag your $8 Shad Rap #7 on a stump, he’ll gladly come to your rescue with his home made “lure dog.” And if there are four Muskies sighted in a three day fishing trip, Ken will land one and make it look easy. (Note: if you thought Ken was the fish up until now, that’s not surprising.)
Of the other three muskies, I had one on the line. I’m sure it was 43 inches to Ken’s 42 shown here, but we’ll never know, now, will we, because I couldn’t land her.
It went like this. It was the morning of our second day on the Little Fork. Upon breaking camp, we’d fished a long, slow hole adjacent to our campsite, and this is where Ken landed Wilma. It was a grand battle, and we all beached to assist. Ned Dagler is shown here gingerly handling her in Ken’s home made “muskie cradle.” She was released unharmed to attack again. Say “muskie cradle” in hushed, reverent tones.
With renewed hope in out hearts, we drifted through some rapids into the next hole, a much smaller, cozier one. i was casting with an ancient 3 treble crank bait that I’d inherited from the famed Illinois and New Mexico fisherman, Verlin Biggs (crappie king of Lake McFee, but that’s maybe another story). Anyway, since it wasn’t the recommended #7 Shad Rap, I really wasn’t ‘spectin much in the way of muskage, but suddenly there she was.
There was no mistaking her, really. It was like snagging a stump, only not like snagging a stump at all, and I didn’t want to believe it for the first two seconds, but as I cranked slowly, I watched her swim down stream at us, pass the canoe, then turn and head straight under. Scott in the front of the canoe calmly announced, “Fish on.”
She didn’t seem to notice me for those first 30 seconds, and I knew my job was just to tire her out and give her line, but it just seemed like she was going to let me reel her in. That changed in a hurry.
Suddenly she headed back upstream and was pulling line out of my real at an alarming rate. I should have relaxed the drag to give her whatever she wanted, especially considering the light tackle I was using and the age of my line, but all I could do was hold on. Too late. My line went slack. She’s down there somewhere, Verlin’s lure dangling from her jaw. She’ll shake it off.
I can replay it, and I know what I’ll do next time, but that doesn’t take the edge off my disappointment; however, I have fond memories of that 60 seconds she and I were connected by a nearly invisible strand of monofilament. If I’d landed her, I’d have let her go, anyway. One could argue that the only real difference between Ken’s success and mine is that I elected to bypass the muskie cradle. Err…I’m not buyin’ that either.
Carolina Chad had close encounters with two more. One chomped a small mouth bass on his stringer in half, and later another followed his monster lure up to the boat. It would have been nice for he or Wylie Bracie to land one, since they’d come all the say from Myrtle Beach. Above is the whole crew. Left to right: Dagler, Ken, Scott, Chad, and Wylie. You won’t see a better line up at the Koochaching county jail.
Of course, a true wilderness experience is never complete without wildlife (I’m sparing you the image of the bull simlutaneously drinking and urinating).
And hot pursuit.
And just general peacefulness.
There’s more to tell, mostly about expressing oneself, but in general, most things that happen on the Dagler Stretch stay on the Dagler Stretch.