Summer was winding down, Molly’s work schedule was insane, and I was about to begin a second bachelor’s degree. A perfect time for a getaway to the Northwoods of Wisconsin. The Turtle Flambeau Flowage had been a favorite place of mine as a kid and tales of relaxation on pebble-strewn beaches, fishing, and island camping under huge pines were enough to convince Molly to go.
We decided to make a three day weekend out of it and crashed Thursday night at my family’s lake house near Delavan, WI so we could load up the canoe and get a head start on Friday’s drive. After an easy journey north and a supply stock-up at Gander Mountain, we arrived at the Springstead Boat Landing. Much to our surprise and delight, the parking lot was nearly empty so we quickly loaded up and shoved off.
Maybe it was canoeing the Boundary Waters earlier in the summer, or maybe I was just older, but the Flowage seemed a lot smaller than I remembered. After what seemed like a blink of an eye, but was actually 45 minutes to an hour, we arrived at my old favorite campsites near Long Island. At the launch, a Forest Service employee told me there had been a tornado on the Flowage back in 2010 which snapped or uprooted many of the grandiose pines I remembered shading the campsites. I found this to be extremely accurate as we cruised through the smaller islands looking at what remained of my former haunts.
Finding some sites gone, some full, and some with very little shade due to the downed trees, we opted to check out the sites on Long Island itself. Initially, I was bummed about not being able to stay in the same places I had as a kid, but ended up stumbling upon one of the best locations we had seen on our paddle and wasted no time making ourselves comfortable. There was a nice pebble beach for swimming, an elevated camp area which caught a nice breeze, and was west-facing for sunsets.
The rest of the afternoon and evening we spent fishing, relaxing, and cooking on and around our island base.
Saturday morning we awoke to the sound of light rain. I immediately wished I had brought musky gear since overcast, rainy days can produce big fish. Oh well, it was time to get up, set up a cooking tarp and make breakfast. After a three course feast, we donned our rain gear and headed out to find some fish for lunch.
We had not gotten too far when I noticed a log sticking up in the middle of the lake and decided to check it out. Seeing some weeds near it, I figured it was a mid-lake hump, and a great spot to look for some bass or walleye. I told Molly to cast out to the right of the stump, and before I could even get my lure in the water, Molly’s reel started screaming as line poured off it at an alarming rate. She fought the monster at the end of her line like a champ and only once offered me the rod; I thought about it for a split second, and then remembered that someone would have to net this behemoth without tipping the canoe! The fish surfaced again and again to look at us, then would tear downward into the abyss taking volumes of line with it. After the longest battle on rod and reel that I have ever witnessed, Molly finally got it close enough to the boat to get it into the landing net. This fish was no joke! It bent the net badly as I hauled it out of the water, but Molly had just caught her first musky… a 44 inch musky no less!
There was no way Molly was not going to hold this fish, so we paddled to shore for more pictures.
The monster was a bit tired after the battle, so we took our time releasing it, and only when it was revived did I let it go to fin away back into the lake. We continued to fish until lunchtime, still in a state of disbelief over what we had just accomplished. The sun burned away the clouds after lunch and we swam and fished the rest of the day away.
Time to go already? Vacation Sundays are always the worst! Unfortunately, it was, and we somberly packed up camp and loaded the canoe. It was a picture-perfect day and we took our time paddling out, fishing and sightseeing as we went. The Flowage was as fun, if not more fun than I had remembered it, and I was thankful to have shared such a place, and such a fish, with my best gal.