The start of winter cold brings back warm summer memories
December 4, 2015
Snow is finally here, falling to the ground in giant, fluffy dots that resemble the heads of Q-tips more than the individual, beautiful flakes I’ve always been told they should look like. Not that I’m complaining of course; I love winter and every below-freezing day and snow fall that I am lucky enough to experience, but remember when it was warm? And the last semester of school was out, and it was summer?
This past June I went on a trip that was the highlight of my first summer after starting college; in fact it was one of the best trips of my life. On June 4 my dad and I loaded up the green truck with a sturdy, albeit quite dented, Grumman canoe and left for the Boundary Waters. Deserted expanses of faded highway stretched before us, dotted here and there with the occasional rusty car sporting offensive bumper stickers and signs about watching for moose. Bob Dylan, Lady Gaga and Adele crooned at us as we sipped on now tepid water and ripped through bags of beef jerky. On the first day we drove and napped, and on the the second day we fished. The huge brim of my egg yolk yellow sunhat hid my face in shadow as Dad and I made double tornadoes with our paddles as we canoed around the lake, the smoke from my dad’s cigar lazily swirling around our heads.
Our poles clanked against the side of our metal canoe as I leaned this way and that, trying to tell myself that I had a life jacket on and that it didn’t really matter how deep the lake was. Our lures flashed silver in the sun as they were cast out into pockets of structure along the shore with great whirs and swooshes of sound and flicks of deft wrists. When we weren’t casting our poles, we canoed. I was coached by the master himself on proper technique that made my shoulders burn, that kept my paddling arm ramrod straight and made me sit still and seated firmly in the very center of my seat. Proper paddling technique is an essential skill if you don’t wish to capsize. Dad, of course, caught the first fish. I attribute this to his silence on the lake. I have a tendency to sing “On Top of Spaghetti” off key and rather loudly whenever I am out fishing, which is a bad habit that seems to deter fish biting at my lures. That night we ate fresh fish and occasionally tiny bones that we would line up around the edge of our sloped camp plates. On the third day, it rained. Giant droplets of rainwater splattered the ground and tore up the glassy surface of the lake, a good day for fish and a bad day for someone whose only pair of shoes were keens. On the fourth day, we tried another lake, ironically named Windy Lake, whose water was practically see through and whose surface was as perfect as glass. This lake would turn out to be lucky for me as after three days and approximately a million casts, I finally caught a fish.
My teal fishing line sang out of my rod and danced across the surface of the lake before sinking down into the water with a perfect arch, sending ripples across the surface of the lake. I gently tugged my pole, then reeled in, in a very practiced maneuver to entice the fish to bite at my lure. My pole caught, and it dawned on my that this time, it wasn’t a rock or a tree branch. This was the real thing. I threw the tip of my pole into the air and began reeling in, my knuckles white against the handle of my reel. Dad leaned forward and scooped up my wriggling 24-inch Northern in the net and dumped him into the bottom of the canoe, sending fish blood and lake water flying. The rest of the afternoon proved uneventful, but it only took one glance in the bottom of the canoe to remember that today had been a huge success and that the smell of fish and fish blood wasn’t really so bad. On the way back we rolled down the windows and let the twang of Willie Nelson mingle with the cool air as we celebrated with pieces of organic dark chocolate while we slowly rolled on through the deserted woods.
Lauren Simenson is a student at UW-River Falls.