Catching fish certainly not as easy as it looks

It seems that nearly everyone born in Rainy River District has the “outdoorsy” gene wedged into their DNA.
Be it hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, or snowshoeing, I always was hearing about how everyone around town was able to take advantage of the prime location for all of those activities right here.
I’ll always welcome enthusiasm, but I could only relate to it in a “You’re into that. That’s really cool and I’m glad [fishing/hunting/snowmobiling] season is in. Enjoy!’ kind of way.
Growing up in Winnipeg, the big city, I didn’t really get many chances to get out and do those kinds of things.
In high school, some of the kids whose parents owned summer homes would talk about going out fishing, and it’s not something I’d get jealous about. The massive cabin parties that I wasn’t invited to was another story, but that’s a different tale for a different day.
At any rate, since Fort Frances and the surrounding area is a bit of a sportsman’s paradise, it was about time I get out and start to experience some of those sports for myself.
First up, fishing Rainy Lake with Times’ publisher Jim Cumming and summer reporter Bryce Forbes this past Sunday.
The day got off to a bit of a rough start as Bryce and I whizzed past Hoffman’s Landing—and had even passed Highway 502 to Dryden before we realized the gaffe we’d made.
Showing up nearly half-an-hour late when we could have easily been 15 minutes early isn’t a good feeling, but we eventually made it in one piece and were ready for some true fishing action.
We loaded up Jim’s boat and motored across Rainy Lake to set up shop. Having never been out on the lake before, I was totally directionally challenged, but we got to prime fishing spot no. 1.
Since Bryce was the least clueless one of the two of us, he got set up first and right away he was casting like a champ. At the complete opposite end of the spectrum, I was a disaster from the second the rod was placed into my hand.
Jim had cast out the line, gotten a bite, and then handed me the rod. I don’t think I’d so much as held a fishing rod before, let alone tried to pull in a fair-sized fish with one, so I was pretty disastrous (I didn’t even know which way to turn the crank!)
Somehow, I even was able to detach the reel from the rod, which Jim said was something he’d never seen in his numerous decades of fishing.
“Further confirmation,” I thought, “that I can’t have nice things. Or touch other people’s nice things.”
Naturally, the fish fled, and Jim hooked me up with another rod while he fixed my initial one.
My cast was useless, as I was gripping the handle too low, but mainly because I was trying to cast it without, well, releasing the line.
And then, immediately after I was told how to release the line, I was having trouble reeling in because, of course, I was letting the line go and go without cutting it off.
Delightful.
Once I got the basic mechanics worked out, I encountered a new obstacle: the bottom. It made me feel like Charlie Brown on Hallowe’en, especially once Jim and Bryce started catching some fish.
Jim: I got a smallmouth bass!
Bryce: I got a trophy walleye!
Me: I got a rock.
Cue an explanation of how to properly entice a fish to bite and, well, not get the hook stuck to the lake floor.
Light bulb! Makes sense.
After a couple more shifts to various spots around the lake, I’m starting to get a hang of the whole casting and jigging deal. And then, some give at the other end of the rod.
“Do you have something?” Jim asked.
“I’m . . . not . . . sure,” I replied, slowly and (naturally) unassuredly, thinking I just had the bottom again.
But foolishly (working under the assumption it was caught on some rocks), I kept reeling and there was some give.
“Holy [expletive]! I do have something!”
And sure enough, I had a northern pike on the end of the line. We were able to get it into the net and onto the boat.
It wasn’t a majestic size or anything but, hey, it’s a first fish. Like goals in hockey, they all count, so you’ll take them however you can get them.
I got my grinning glory photo taken and then released the fish.
It took a little bit for catch no. 2 to come along, but that was a pretty substantial walleye, also photo-worthy. Thankfully, it only took me a millisecond to realize that sticking my thumb into its mouth full of sharp teeth wasn’t exactly advisable.
My third and final fish of the day was a throwaway northern pike that was dwarfed by the original one (no monster itself).
There almost was a fourth, but I reeled in a little too far and let the fish (ahem) off the hook. It looked to be a pretty decent one, but every angler has the story of the fish that got away.
I guess I’m in the club since I now can cross that off my list of entrance requirements.
Once I felt I’d gotten over the rookie hump, though, the cliché back-to-earth moment came about. I was carrying some rods to Jim’s truck, and I was sliding my hands down to stand them up against the back of the vehicle.
Ouch!
In doing so, I caught the front of my left index finger on a hook. I struggled for a minute, and then got my right hand in to try to extricate my finger.
Ouch!
I impaled my right index finger, but the print side, as well. It was a three-way hook. Lovely.
I went back to help unpack the boat realizing I’m still an angling rookie—lacking even general common sense that there would be sharp hooks somewhere on the rods.
Oh well, little harm, no foul.
At the start of the day, I didn’t know a walleye from a wallflower, a smallmouth bass from an upright bass, or a northern pike from the New Jersey Turnpike.
Now, I can know the differences between those.
I still can’t tell the fish apart, but I’m sure that’ll come with time.
Kidding aside, next stop the podium at the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship?

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