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A Moonlit Morning

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Saturday morning was one of my last trips of the season to western Wisconsin. I had suited up in my garage shortly after 4:00 am and my head hurt from lack of sleep. I hoped my diet lime Coke would help out but I was clearly in need of some more deep sleep. It was a full moon out with no wind, and plenty of fog in the valley. I turned off my lights, only the hazards remaining as I did not want to wake the landowners. Their dog Roxy sometimes sleeps in the garage and starts barking if she hears me. I quietly slip down the hill through the tall wet grass to the landowners trail along the river. Crossing the stream the water feels ice cold. A few steps closer to on of my favorite pools, my heart raced with anticipation.

There was no path to the pool. I was likely the last to fish this back in June. The grass was six feet tall and there were various potholes that kept me stumbling in the darkness, empty on sleep. It was the kind of sleep deprivation that makes you feel sick to your stomach. I wondered if I was catching a cold from the change in weather. Here I was wearing my wool fingerless gloves yet still folding my fingers in a fist, cupping my hands and blowing them to keep warm. Welcome September. I'm glad I brought my gloves!

With no clouds in the sky and the moon behind my back high above, I actually have to worry about my moonlit shadow casting into the pool as I walk forward. From the angle of the moon my shadow makes me look like a giant. High above flying over the bright night sky, a great blue heron swoops by ready to land in this pool until he sees me, makes that eerie cracking squawk sound and flies off, upstream to the next pool, likely for a breakfast of brook trout. I'm sitting on a giant downed tree at the end of the pool completely motionless when next a decent sized beaver slowly swims by three feet in front of me. I stay frozen, not wanting the beaver to be spooked and slap his tail startling the fish in the pool. I go undetected by the beaver that makes his way upstream of the head of the pool.

Walking slowly in the water and crouching down to minimize my moonlit shadow, I take half of a night crawler, hook onto my #8 short shank hook along with a split and fling into the tail end of the circular pool and count down for five until I pull up the slack and instantly feel "tap tap tap." I let the fish take some line and set the hook. A beautiful 14" brown. Deep hooked, I toss him in my zip lock bag and bonk him on the head to keep him from making so much noise. Back out there with another half of a crawler. BAM! Another brown, this one about the same size. One more for the freezer. Two casts, two fish and it's not even six am yet. Not bad. Third cast I catch a 12" brook trout. Lip hooked, I let him go. Not big enough for the frying pan.

Next cast up was towards the beginning of the pool. I drag the line forward a bit and wait for my crawler to drop. The landowners tell me this pool is 15' deep in the center. I believe it too because if you walk even five feet out from shore I am at the top of my chest waders. I open my bail and let plenty of line out to get my worm to the bottom. The tail end of my braided line is floating on the top of this mirrored pool. A few seconds later I see the line start to slip fast across the surface. I reel up the slack and set the hook lightly to the side. The fish was running at me and it was hard to tell how big she was. A couple of loops around the pool I realized this fish was a keeper and played her even lighter. I did not want to lose her. Half into the fight the fish even make several tall leaps out of the center of the pool, doing her best to shake the hook.

Versus fumbling for my net, I softly beached her in the sand and tossed her up the bank. She was not getting away. Beautiful chunky brown, likely getting ready to spawn in a couple of months. Hard to believe it is not even 7:00 am. Check out the moon in the background.



A few more pools ahead I catch more brook trout. On one of the deeper pools by the landowners fire pit I was startled by a large splash and then a duck flying off. A giant trout had smashed at either the bird itself or another fish, the bird squawks off flying upstream. Whatever this fish is, it looks big. I tried for about twenty minutes to get the fish to bite with crawler and spinner with no luck. I did however manage to land a 12" brookie, yet could not keep because I'd be over my limit.

Back at my car I pack up and briefly meet the owner for the first time. Apparently I'm the only guy who has been fishing this stretch all summer. The owner has been busy with a landscaping project, as his son is starting his senior year and already preparing for his graduation party next summer. I learned the next door neighbors who has the circular pool of heaven out front do not even fish. I feel privileged to fish this private land and thank the owner again for allowing me to access the river. I hope to come back next year.

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Nice report, well done. Looks like one more decent-sized fish before the fat lady sang on the 2009 season.

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