Labor Day weekend was supposed to be a total washout…that being the case I didn’t plan a lot of fishing. Long about Sunday afternoon the rain started to dwindle at my house and a quick check of the radar signaled the end to my afternoon napping, watching golfers wiggle their way around the TPC of Boston. My thoughts turned to several places that I could go and fish for a few hours and not have to drive a long distance. The local creeks would all be up and flowing with dirty water…then it hit me. One of my former great golfers, Grant Minnemeyer, had just purchased a new property not far away that had a nice pond/lake on it and that gave me more reason to get up and get moving, within a few minutes I pulled in to find his new bride Colleen and their 2 pooches spending some down time around the property. Grant, who was not just a great golfer but one of our own Edgewood valedictorians, had settled within the community as a veterinarian after spending a few years up in northern Indiana at that ‘other’ college; an emergency had called him away and thus I drove down by the lake, unloaded my float tube and proceeded to hop right on in.
I’ve said it before…but I love fishing new water, no matter how big or small. My second cast with a small crayfish imitation found me hooked up with a nice 9 inch bluegill….what a great start! The next 5 to 10 minutes was more of the same with bluegill and bass grabbing my fly and leaving me wondering how good this water might just be? I spied a stump protruding out of the water and made a crisp cast under the overhanging tree limbs, placing my fly a few inches from the stump. Before I could even make one quick strip I felt tension on the other end of my peach colored 3 weight fly line and made a quick strip set with my left hand…it was then that I honestly figured I had snagged an un-seen limb…then the limb began to move!
It was then that I knew I was in for a real fight for I didn’t know what I had caught but I knew it was large and I was using my small, 3 weight fly rod, certainly not meant for hoisting large fish while fishing from a float tube. The first five minutes was more of me being towed around than me actually applying pressure to the fish? I knew that if I were to be successful that I would have to be very patient and give the big fish time to tire. I still didn’t know what I had on the other end but through experience I started to eliminate certain fish and came to the conclusion that I had probably hooked a big catfish…but for now I was still at the mercy of a very powerful fish.
If you have never fished from a float tube … then first off you are really missing a truly exciting experience. My mind went back to the summer of 2011 and my tussle with a big brown trout in Arkansas that also towed me for quite a few minutes before I slipped my net in under him. Today would be different as I didn’t have a dip net on my tube and landing a big catfish is a tricky proposition when you don’t have any solid footing.
Patience was the key and a few minutes later I had worked the fish up to the end of my leader and could see that in fact I had hooked a large channel cat…each time I was able to get him close to the surface he made a run straight down and pulled out several feet of fly line. The third time I raised the cat I could see that he was tired, I placed my rod beside me in my tube and carefully grabbed the leader; now grabbing the leader is a cardinal sin of fly fishing, but this time I had to do what I thought would give me a chance to grasp and haul in the fish. My hand was just big enough to grab around the back as I put my right thumb into the fish’s mouth and finally lifted it onto my lap within the float tube. I quickly stringered the fish by pushing the tip of the metal stringer through his bottom jaw and there hooked to my float tube was a 5 ¼ pound channel cat.
The next few minutes were interesting as the big cat had enough strength to pull me ever so slightly when I stopped kicking with my fins. I had just stripped out line to continue fishing when I heard a vehicle top the hill and it was Grant…who quickly made his way down to the lake. We took a few photos of the fish and then watched as I released it back into the depths of the lake. Grant had wondered if there were actually catfish in the lake…and now we both knew the answer!
What had started as a sleepy Sunday turned into one exciting afternoon; over the next couple hours Grant joined me with his own fly rod and we caught fish, reminisced and caught up on hunting, fishing, volleyball, parents and life in general. During the four years that Grant played golf for me I was always impressed with his demeanor, personality and character…some things just don’t change; he had grown into a man that was just as caring…and someone that I could tell truly knew how to Enjoy the Great Outdoors.