I was a hundred yards south two nights ago, at a spot where I'd already caught two nice bass, a beautiful spot. I was hoping for more, maybe even a northren. That's when they arrived, four young men (young is a salient fact here), fully equipped, in a fishing boat, scouring the shoreline weeds right by the dock that belongs to our cabin, crank-baiters. I swear I saw one of them pull out a walleye, thirty feet off our dock. I haven't seen a walleye.
Ticked?--yes. I guess the sin, according to Moses's law, is covetousness, but in that long list of wish-I-hads he includes in his recitation doesn't include your neighbor's walleye so maybe the Lord will look the other way this time.
So this morning I thought I'd stay close to the dock myself, where my host says there's a great, dramatic dropoff that draws fish and fisherman. Nothing. No movement whatsoever, even though I'm really doing a poor man's thing and tossing worms out into the world beneath me. Not even a sunny. The bobber could have been sculpted.
Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, I see this guy--a beaver, an old one but not quite retired, old because whenever he'd emerge from the water he'd huff and puff and snort and wheeze as if just plodding along was draining him of every last bit of energy. On the water, I may be a rookie, but signs like that I know, believe me.
Beavers, I'm told, have a far more generous reputation than they deserve. If they're as dumb as some observers say, then this one appeared to have missed the cut whenever beaver brains were passed out because he seemed utterly at a loss for knowing what on earth he was doing in the bay. But there he was. At certain moments (which I didn't catch in the camera), he'd half emerge from the water, a huge stump of a thing which made me believe that Nessy, England's most famous faux-monster, had immigrated and decided that Leech Lake, Minnesota offered greater joy than Loch Ness.
But then, imagination does strange things. Just as surprisingly as he appeared, he left, surface dived into oblivion. I watched and watched, hoping he'd come up close to the dock for a more intimate portrait, but no go. He may well still be out there, trying to find his way home. But I didn't see him again.
I'm quite sure beavers are vegan, but meanwhile, along the shoreline quite a ways up, one vigilant mother duck kept just as watchful an eye on the open water, behind her, a whole flock of ducklings.
Even if I'm not catching fish, I'm blessed by knowing that there is, all around me, tons of worlds in full motion. This morning, a bald eagle set off from some tree north along the shoreline, right over that family of loons I've been watching, setting them roaring and hooting and making all kinds of noise, as only loons can on a lake like this. I have no idea if they were afraid or simply signaling their good wishes to eagle (who has a nest herself across the bay), but they raised a ruckus.
Another whole world.
I was drifting (now there's a metaphor), letting a jumbo leech pull me along that drop off, hoping for some action. Nothing. So I pulled in the line, heaved up the anchor, and tried to start the engine. Cough. Nothing.
There's no oar locks in this friendly old boat I'm using, but there is an oar, so I stroked my way back home (not terribly far), tied up the boat, and settled on putting in a line from the end of the dock, just to see if I could find those lunkers those young guys were after. Nothing.
The best way to fix things, if you're as mechanically-challenged as I am, is to let things be and try again later. So I did--the boat's motor, that is. Still nothing.
All the while--I swear it--at the end of my line dangled the very same jumbo leech I put on five minutes after drifting out. Nobody wanted it--nobody.
I tried the engine again. Nope. Then--a moment of sheer brilliance--I lifted the gas tank. Could have used it for a bobber. I needed gas.
I decided to reel the whole fishing morning in, and it wasn't even seven; but I should be working on a novel anyway. I told myself I could reheat the coffee I didn't drink, and little later, I run to the gas station.
So I'm thinking that jumbo leech deserves a medal for his stalwart service, but after an hour in the drink there's not much pride left in his chest. I wiggle him off the hook and drop him in the water--two feet deep, no more--and just like that a couple of sunfish eat him. Bang. Just like that, I swear. He couldn't have been in the water for thirty seconds.
I tell my wife it's wonderful to know that our livelihood does not depend on my fishing prowess or I'd be looking for a job in the woods with the CCC, which went out of business in the late 30s.
But then there's this--beavers and mother ducks, loon families and eagle hunting herself for provisions for an eaglet amid the sticks high up in a pine just across the bay. Not to mention the minnows, the sunfish, and the northerns--the whole food chain--somewhere beneath me in the world of water I can't see and still don't understand.
There are always other worlds.