The fishing boats have been out with a fury on the Missouri River near Chamberlain in recent days, drifting over the fast-moving water like fall is drifting toward winter.
From my vantage point on the river bank, I imagine an almost frantic pace to their fishing, as if the occupants of the sleek boats are desperate to gather all the time they possibly can on the water before winter socks us in and ice shacks begin to dot the coves and shallows.
I compare the imagined hectic pace of the anglers with the way the squirrels around my property are dashing madly about, storing up food to get them through the snow and cold ahead. I imagine the ants have done the same. I haven’t seen or heard any crickets or grasshoppers for a while. If the old children’s fable is true, those creatures likely are still singing and fiddling away the days, giving nary a thought to the notion of setting aside winter provisions.
Well, the boats are out there. I have a grand view of this stretch of the river, and rare has been the day that I haven’t seen 10 or a dozen fishing boats, sometimes on rougher water than I’d care to ride, but then, I don’t fish.
The fact is, I don’t know what it’s like to fish from a boat. When I used to fish, it was from the bank of a stock pond, usually with a cane pole, a thick length of fishing line, a red-and-white plastic bobber and an oversized hook totally inappropriate for the bullheads I was hoping to haul in. Down on the south place we did have one pond my dad called the “bass dam,’’ but I never saw anyone hook a bass there.
The few times my dad took me over to the Reliance Dam with the goal of catching bluegills or sunfish, I used the rod and reel he handed me and spent the evening untangling what the angling world refers to as backlashes. My dad showed me the proper technique to avoid having the line in a reel wind up looking like a sparrow’s nest, but I never mastered it. Generally I would give up in short order and turn to whatever book I had brought along to pass the time while my dad actually cast and retrieved the way the champs do on the fishing shows on television.
One day earlier this past week, I picked up piles of leaves while as many as 15 or 20 boats plied the nearby water. The breeze was light, the sun was warm and I could see the attraction of an afternoon on the water that day. A couple of days earlier, the wind had whipped the river into a real chop, and pellets of cold rain fell. Even so, a couple of boats, each with a single, heavily bundled occupant, bucked and tossed on the water. From my perspective, it didn’t look the least bit enjoyable. I could see why each boat had only one occupant.
“Hey, Hank, want to go fishing with me this morning?’’
“I might meet you at the dock. If I’m not there, you go ahead.’’
Although I’ve never fished from a boat, I once tagged along with a guy who went after salmon in the deep water above Oahe Dam. It seemed like my host was in motion the whole time, cranking big weights he called cannonballs up and down, steering clear of other boats and so on. It wore me out just watching.
I have a friend who would have enjoyed that kind of fishing. He considers relaxing to be sinful. When we kayak on the river below Oahe Dam, he paddles non-stop, even with a favorable current running strong and a following breeze pushing us along. I figure he needs to make this recreation into work and not idle time, because the devil finds work for idle hands. He could get into down-rigger salmon fishing.
I prefer to drift when I kayak and read books when I fish. I can’t imagine fishing in high seas or cold rain, but I admire the commitment of people who consider it fun.