Lake Ossawinnamakee, Minn. On the third cast of the first morning of our annual trek to the north woods, my wife, Pat, caught and released a 2112-inch smallmouth bass.
That is definitely a grand specimen of the finest species that swims in these northern lakes.
This smallmouth looked to be the same brute she caught and released several summers ago on the last cast of the last day of our sojourn.
If it wasn't the same fish, it was its twin. She caught it at the same spot and on the same Storm Chug Bug. According to local anglers, those are the two biggest smallmouth bass ever caught at this lake.
Across the years, Pat has become quiet deft at manipulating this Chug Bug across the surface of these crystalline waters. After she released that prize, she commenced to entice a plethora of largemouth bass to engulf her top-water offerings.
On the next morning, our two-year-old granddaughter, Natalie Myers of Lawrence, traipsed to the lake's edge for the first time, perpetuating a family tradition that stretches back into the 1930s, when her great-great grandfather Garstang made his first journey to the lakes in these big woods.
After she played at the water's edge for a spell, Natalie walked out to the end of the boat dock with her father and mother, Mike and Nancy Myers.
Then within 24 hours, she caught her first fish using an artificial lure under the tender tutelage of grandmother Pat. Natalie's admiring elders treated her catch as a sweet and treasured event, taking photograph after photograph.
After the significant successes of Natalie and her grandmother, the rest of the family went fishing. We caught bass aplenty on Chug Bugs, Norman Deep Ns and three-inch black Berkley Power Grubs affixed to a 38-ounce Gopher jighead.
When the bass turned tetchy after the passage of a cold front and thunderstorm, we employed drop-shot rigs, sporting a four-inch Zoom finesse worm, and enticed some smallmouth and largemouth bass in 15 to 25 feet of water.
Then there were times when the bass preferred a split-shot rig festooned with a red-shad Berkley Power Worm.
Fishing is the denominator that bonds us to this place.
Yet there are other wonders in these woods and waters that catch our eyes and ears. Eagles and osprey soar overhead. Loons send their wild cries far and wide. Deer, porcupines, squirrels, skunks and chipmunks scurry among the trees and wild flowers.
Mallards and geese patrol the reeds and beds of lily pads. And at first light, scads of songbirds serenade the new day. These sights and sounds have soothed our souls for summers on end.
For years, this lake and woods stayed virtually unchanged. There were several modest resorts, catering to anglers and their families, and an occasional private but unpretentious cabin tucked among the trees.
But as roads were constructed and paved, affluent city and suburban folks imported their extravagant and plunderous ways. They bulldozed the old cabins and resorts, taking scores of trees to boot, and built monstrous houses with yards that look like miniature golf courses.
Within days the humble cabin that gave us shelter and joy for scores of summers will disappear. By this time next year a dozen $300,000 condominiums will sit here, catering to the taste of recreational boaters and golfers.
Consequently, we will be moving two hours north, hoping to find shelter from the mad dog of modernity.