Long Swim the Queen

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Sam Ubl
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Long Swim the Queen

Unread postby Sam Ubl » Thu Mar 11, 2010 9:19 am

Long Swim the Queen
Written By: Sam Ubl

It was a long drive for me coming from the Lake Country area of South East Wisconsin, but well worth it when I finally pulled into the launch at Big St. Germaine. It was early August of 2009, and I was back in the Northwoods, a place that’s always felt like a second home after spending every summer since I can remember there until I was 16. Big St. Germaine Lake holds a special place in my heart. It’s where I spent the first two weeks of June since I was a little boy with my grandparents at the ol’ resort, and it’s where I caught my first legal musky. After I turned 16, my summers were devoted to my friends and exploring as many different musky waters around the state as we could. Of all the times we visited the Northwoods, we never made it to where it had all started for me, Big Saint, until a day I’ll never forget, and I doubt my friends will either.

Back on September 18th, 2001, we were staying at good friend, Ryan Buth’s cabin just off of the Boom Lake Flowage. We had been unsuccessful on the river for the first day and done no better visiting some 200 acre puddles Ryan’s grandpa used to chase skis on, so I offered up the idea of going to Big Saint to revisit my old cabbage patches. With two boats and only one net, I was unfortunately in the boat without the net, but we did have radios so we figured we could call for the net if we really needed it. While the other two went off to explore, Ryan and I made our first drift along the deep edge of a cabbage bed that stretched for at least 150 yards. Playing the wind just right, we skirted the edge perfectly for not having a trolling motor and after a handful of casts we had our first follow, and then a second. In perfect agreement, we started the drift over, both of us casting bucktails of black and silver. What happened next still haunts me to this day.

While Ryan casted over the salad, I aimed over the break and made my retrieves at a slow and steady pace. Half-way through the drift I reared back into a hookset that to this day has never been so heavy. A five minute battle seemed like an eternity as we were helplessly dragged around by this massive fish that had not yet shown itself. An older gentleman working on his garden noticed the ensuing battle and walked to his pier where he watched the duration of the fight. While I helplessly held on, Ryan was loosing his temper on the radio as he pleaded against our friends bantering – they didn’t believe us. Whether it was from watching our boat move effortlessly around a 20 yard radius against the wind without the motor, or if it was from the new tone in Ryan’s voice that went from excited to horrifyingly scary, I never did ask them why they chose to believe us and come to our rescue, but they finally came.

The fish was tiring now and nearing the boat. What Ryan and I will never forget is what it looks like to see the head of a massive musky fully protruding on one side of a 12 foot john boat, and the entire tail on the other. This fish literally dwarfed the width of the boat with ease, and we knew right then that the fish exceeded 50 inches because the boat was only 48 inches wide. At this point, our friends were nearing our location and the fish was now parallel to the side of the boat. I made the decision to reach down and try to hand land the fish, or at least get a firm grasp on it as I could see only one hook amongst the treble stood between success and failure. With the rod in one hand and reaching with the other, I wrapped my hand around the tail and was immediately showered with lake water. Still hooked, I realized it would only be less then a minute before we could slide her into the net so I kept tension on the line and waited. As the net was handed over to Ryan, he swung it over his head as he turned to scoop the fish and it was at that very moment she dove with one last ditch effort to come free and as far as I dug my rod under the boat in the direction she went, it wasn’t enough because that weightless feeling never felt so heavy.

She was gone and there was nothing left to say except an extremely loud curse that I regrettably yelled out as I slammed my rod tip back in the water splashing my mangled bucktail down. It was silent after that, and the old man who had watched the event play out had turned and was making his way back to his garden nodding his head.

Eight years later, I exited my car and stretched from the drive as I looked over the lake that I have so much history with. Anxious to chase redemption, I wasted no more time and launched the boat. I was here for my week-long bachelor party my brother in-law had designated for me at the family cabin on Carpenter Lake in Eagle River, but I took an extra day from work to get up here a day earlier to spend a little solo time on the water. The guys would be on the road soon and were bombing my phone with texts of jealousy for standing where I stood before them, followed by a lot of “I know what your doing there early – Good luck” and “I hope your find her. . . I hope I find her, too!”

I slipped into the battlefield where David and Goliath had met eight years prior, and immediately began fanning the water with the same bucktail that had started the fight so long ago. I noticed that what was once dense cabbage was now choked out with milfoil, so I knew things may not be the same. Either way, I was drawn to this spot, I couldn’t leave. Mike Koepp would have told me to pull the anchor and move, but I fished that stretch for hours. In that time, I had raised three good fish over forty, but couldn’t get any takers. The water was very green, the effect of a bloom, and while my confidence was diminishing, I tried to over-ride the mindset by changing up tactics. I moved to the deep edge again and worked a jointed believer, a noisy bait that displaces a lot of water and can be worked slow – sometimes the trick when fishing cloudy water or in the darkness of night.

The sun was fading fast and I was centered over the spot on the spot where it had all gone down. At this point I switched to topwater and again, began fanning the area hoping my opponent would return home. I was in fact, so in tune with the plop-plop-plop of my lure on the glassy surface, I was startled when a voice from behind me broke the silence.

“How’s the luck today?” The old man asked.

“Nothin’ doin’ today, just a few follows.” I replied.

“Well, you’re in the right spot!” The man said with a chuckle.

“Oh yeah? A lot of fish caught here?? I responded.

That’s when I realized who I was talking to. He was the old man who had watched me on that day I swore I’d never forget.

“I wouldn’t say that, but there’s a big one who lives right near there. She eats the ducklings my wife feeds. In fact, I only know of one person that’s had the privilege to see her and that was a young man and his friend. They were fishing right where you are now, but it got away. I felt terrible for them.” Replied the old man.

“It was you! I mean, I was him – the young man. You were standing right there watching me!” I cried with a renewed energy.

“Well, isn’t that something. After all this time you’re still looking for her, are you?” The man asked.

“Yeah, not a year goes by without the story of that fish coming up at least a dozen times. You’re in every one of ‘em.” I explained, as I fired one last bomb cast as far as I could.

The conversation paused as I made the retrieve. I was focused – I knew it would be my last. I glanced to see the man watching intently, and reverted back to watching the silhouette of the lure and the wake in its tracks when from nearly five feet behind emerged a second wake. More than half-way in on my retrieve I felt my nerves send chills down my spine as I knew I was running out of room. I will sometimes submerge the lure on the eight with a tail bait, but this time I kept it up and rounded the first turn. The setting sun cast an orange glow on the water and I couldn’t make out the size of the fish as it followed the turn, but I knew from the wake, it was no shorty. With an enormous lunge, the fish made a swipe at the bait but missed, throwing the sleek water into a frenzied froth, and then she was gone. I’m not sure why, but my first reaction was to look up at the man watching, and I asked him, “Did you see that”. He was only 20 yards away at this point, so he was definitely in view, but for some reason, I just had to ask.

“I certainly did!” He said. “Do you think that was her?”

“I don’t know, but if it was, maybe she missed the bait on purpose. Maybe she was asking for a truce.” I responded.

We then shared in a little more small talk and parted ways, explaining it was nice to reunite, so to speak. He was there for the first time, and if that was her the second time, he was there for that, too. I wouldn’t say I went back to tell the new story disappointedly, rather, I told the story the way it felt to me – like closure.

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Hodag Hunter
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Re: Long Swim the Queen

Unread postby Hodag Hunter » Thu Mar 11, 2010 10:48 am

Good story Sam.....even tho I've read it a few times(other sites you post on) makes me smile every time.

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