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Notes From The Dockside: A change in plans

This trip had been planned for some time. There had been a number of e-mails back and forth and then some phone calls. William had a few days off work and said that we should go north and fish for smallmouth bass.

He said that we could stay at a cabin that his wife's family had.

So on a warm, sunny spring day I followed William to the northeast corner of Wisconsin. We had caught about a dozen smallies the first day, however, William said that the water was still just a bit too cold.

That night William, his wife Stacy and I grilled steaks and ate them on the porch watching the sun go down with the colors of the sinking sun reflected in the lake in front. After dark we sat inside and drank a little bourbon. William and I had once worked together a few years earlier and we caught up on the news about some of the people we both knew. We talked about our families and what had gone on since the last time we had been together and we talked about fishing.

The next morning after we had breakfast, Stacy gave us both a hug and wished us good luck as we left. The plan was to go fish for smallies again.

On our first lake we found that the water was low. We tried to launch William's boat and although we could do that, the problem would eventually be whether or not we could get the boat back out. It didn't look like we could. So we gave up without launching the boat and moved to another lake.

The second lake was not any better. We looked at it carefully and decided that although we could launch the boat we might not get it back out at the end of the day even with William's four wheel drive. It did not look good.

The third lake looked much better and we finally launched the boat. We worked several promising bays in the next hour and we each got one nice smallie but that was all.

Although the last couple of days had been warm and sunny it just wasn't enough to warm the water to those temperatures that would trigger any activity by the smallies. It had been a long, cold spring and we still were feeling the effects of it.

William apologized for the poor fishing. I told him to that there was nothing to apologize for. That is why we call it fishing instead of catching and besides we were having fun regardless if we caught fish. That is all that two fishing buddies could ask for.

But William was determined to find fish. He made some phone calls and finally announced that he knew of a lake that might have a bunch of crappies that were active. It wasn't smallies but we should catch some fish he said.

He had friend that had a boat on the lake already and William's father was going to meet us there. We stopped at a bait shop and picked up a bucket of crappie minnows.

Once we got to the other lake, William pulled out a couple of long ultralight spinning rods. William's father, Shep, met us on the dock as we were crawling into the boat. Not only do William and his dad look similar, they also share the same quick, sharp wit. Regardless if we caught fish or not, it had the makings for a fun afternoon.

We had pulled away from the dock, slowly working the shoreline with the trolling motor. William picked up the first crappie and a few minutes later I caught one. They were a little small so we released them. William said that since we were there he wanted to keep enough for a fish fry for his grandparents.

The crappies hit readily and often two and sometimes all three of us had strikes at the same time. The fish splashed to the surface and darted for deeper water. Ultralight rods were bent and the larger fish fought hard.

We started to put some crappies into the livewell and it looked like William's grandparents were going to be eating fresh fish that night.

The banter between Shep and William kept us laughing. I felt honored to be dragged into it as well. This little lake was tucked down between some high ground and stands of pine trees where the late spring winds could not get to us. The sun shone brightly and it was warm enough to be fishing in short-sleeved shirts.

We caught probably about fifty fish; mostly crappies, a few bluegills and an occasional small bass. We had kept about a dozen of the larger, slab sized crappies. Once we saw the long shape of a muskie cruise by just beneath the surface of the water. William did his best to get the muskie interested in a big plastic lizard but the big fish would have none of it.

It had been fine day of fishing. It might not have been exactly what we had planned when Stacy was waving at us as we pulled out of the driveway that morning. But we had caught fish. In fact we caught a bunch of fish. We had laughed and joked and told stories and had a lot of fun. What more can you ask for from a fishing trip.

Of course it is always nice when plans work out but when it doesn't a change in plans can be fun just the same.