Slow day of fishing on the Brule
By: By Darrell Pendergrass, For The Telegram, Superior Telegram
Two weeks ago, as we were getting things together Sunday morning for our steelhead trip to the Brule River, the old landing net I’ve used for years had noticeably seen better days.
“Use my net,” my son Jack said as we looked around the garage for a replacement. “It’s right here on this nail.”
Perfect; I had a new net, and at no cost. This net just needed a little duct-tape to fix the doo-hickey that connects it to my fishing vest and it will be fine. We’ll get some tape at Dangerous Dan’s house when we pick him up and I’ll be set.
At Dan’s house the old dogs greeted us with wagging tails and gray smiles as we piled our gear into his truck. “Hey, that’s my net,” Dan said excitedly, standing in his yard, looking at MY new net. “You found my net. I’ve been looking everywhere for that net.” He reached for it.
“This isn’t your net,” I said, pulling it close to my chest. “Jack won this net at some fishing banquet. It’s been in our garage for a year or two.”
“It looks exactly like the net I lost in the swamp last year. Where did you find it,” Dan said, looking squinty eyed at the net.
“It’s not your net,” I said, making sure Dan didn’t get his hands on it. “It’s mine.”
At the Brule River there were plenty of trucks and cars at every putting-in spot. Fishermen milled around in their waders stringing up their expensive rods in the parking lots. The tired anglers who had already been in the water said the fishing was extremely slow; early ice out and warm temperatures had evidently led to an early steelhead run.
“We’re about three weeks too late,” one dejected angler said, his felt hat drooping sadly atop his head. “We caught two fish early, but they were pretty dark and beat up; I’m sure they wintered over.”
Of course, none of that mattered; we were going fishing. Historically the three of us don’t do very well in chasing steelhead on the Brule during opening weekend. Dan and I go because we love angling; we enjoy the feeling of being out; the smell of the river and the beauty of the cedars calling to us. Jack goes because we always stop somewhere fun for lunch.
Anyhow, we trudged upstream from where we parked, walking along a lengthy gravel driveway before cutting through the pines and stumbling down to the river. The water was lower than normal for April, but its beauty was filled to the brim. There’s nothing like standing on the Brule River in early spring, the coolness of the woods offering a familiar embrace, the calls of the white-throated sparrow welcoming friends home. It’s simply inspiring.
Along the river we spaced out along a bend we know well. Because the water wasn’t what it usually is we inched out away from shore more than normal. Quietly we began casting, alone with our individual thoughts and lost together in nature. There is nowhere we’d rather be.
Quietly Dangerous Dan lifted his rod and the tell-tale bend of a heavy fish on the other end was quickly evident. Dan held the rod high and the tip began bouncing wildly as a steelhead started boiling through the depths of the hole. Suddenly the fish leapt with the power and grace God had bestowed upon it, an olive and red angel suspended above the river as if ascending to heaven — once, then twice, and no more.
Dan played the rainbow out, its final dashes spent between the riffles below and the calm waters up above. I landed the fish and smiled at Dan. A 21-inch steelhead is not the biggest of its species, they do get much larger. But this steelhead — any steelhead for that matter — is worthy of rejoicing. Dan seemed nonchalant about it all.
“You landed that fish with my net, you know,” he said, again eyeing up MY net.
I made sure all of our gear got put away when we got home that afternoon. And I hid the net somewhere other than back on the nail.
Dan couldn’t find his net, and he isn’t going to find mine, either.
Darrell Pendergrass, of Grand View, is a Wisconsin Newspaper Association outdoor writing award winner. Read more of his work at outtherewithdarrell.blogspot.com.