Thursday, July 2, 2015

Reflections from my trail - Musky heritage

By Charlie Pottenger

The object of these articles has been to reflect on memories which might interest readers; however, I’ve found that the tales relight dreams associated with memories and sometimes even spur actions. This is one of those.

Some time ago I wrote about Musky fishing with my dad back in the sixties. That story caused me to go through heaps of accumulated stuff and find the old Musky tackle Dad and I used for hundreds of hours casting lakes in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania for one of the greatest game fish in America. I spent hundreds of hours together with a great dad, doing what he loved and I came to love, too.

Dad would often encourage me by saying that the Musky is the fish of 10,000 casts, inferring that one must make at least that many casts to catch one. After writing a short story of one of our escapades I realized I hadn’t ever offered my sons an opportunity to experience the joys of Musky fishing—hours of boredom punctuated by a moment of adrenalin pumping savagery when the great fish strikes.

This year, I challenged my sons to pick a date and we would meet at Pineview Reservoir in northwestern Utah to seek a mighty Musky. The youngest, Andy, couldn’t consider the trip as he has just launched a new business, and he and his wife are expecting their first child in August. My other son, Matt, lives in Utah and agreed to meet me there on June 18.

We had sought an opportunity to rent a fishing boat there, but none were available and the rentable boats, ski-type, cost $180 per day. Resourceful Matt found a 1950’s vintage steel boat, motor, and trailer for sale for $350. He bought it and overhauled the carburetor, and we were set for four days of adventure. (Matt and Charlie Pottenger - holding Jerry the dachshund - before they set out to Musky fish.)

Matt and I decided to christen the new boat “Andy,” so that we could always say that on our first Musky fishing experience Matt, Charlie, Jerry (the dachshund) and “Andy” all participated!

The first afternoon we cast huge lures for about four hours, saw no fish action, sweltered in 95 degree heat, and learned that Jerry just loved barking at and chasing those hooky lures. Taking Jerry anywhere is always an adventure in and of itself.

The next morning we went earlier and arrived at the lake about 8 a.m. As we launched “Andy,” we met a young fisherwoman holding a boat while her partner went for their truck. I asked if they had been fishing and if they had any luck. She said they had caught two Muskies!

Knowing how hard it is to bag a Musky, I boldly asked if they had taken pictures, as Musky fishing in Utah is catch and release only. She said she had caught a 41 incher and he had gotten a little 34 incher, of which she had a picture. The bigger fish had been hooked badly and they had trouble unhooking it.

I saw the “little ones” picture and asked if they could point us to some “hot spots.” They pointed us to both locations where they had caught their fish and were really helpful in getting to know where these giants hang out in Pineview.

That day we had about 10 muskies follow the lures like torpedoes in the crystal clear water all the way to the boat, but got no actual strikes. Musky anglers consider a follow a major event, and a strike is spectacular and a catch is Heaven!

We caught none, mostly because first you have to have a strike. However we discovered Jerry would commit suicide in his desire to grab one of the lures. He would launch himself out into the lake trying to grab a hook, and his lemon-colored life vest with a handle proved valuable over and over! (Jerry is pictured, left, ready to jump!)

The last day we continued to pound the water and I actually had two good strikes but was unable to hook the cooperating Muskies. I began to tire, as I am no longer a kid and my hand was sore after four days of endless casting.

Matt, however, wasn’t ready to quit because, I’d had strikes, while he had not. So he told me it was about time I learned to cast left-handed, which I tried. After about another agonizing hour, Matt made a long cast right up near the shore and reeled in about a foot of line, starting his underwater lure spinning.

I thought someone had dropped a refrigerator near his lure as a giant Musky snatched the lure and nearly tore the rod from his hands. The fish rushed right, stripping off 15 or 20 yards, and then the line went slack. Matt said something like, “Shucks, Dad, he got away!” I told him to reel fast, and sure enough the mighty fish was rushing the boat.

As the line tightened, the fish again wheeled away and stripped line again, ending in a mighty leap about four feet above the water, and splashed back, starting another powerful run. Then the line went permanently slack and his trophy was gone!

We had lived my dream even though Matt hadn’t caught he huge Musky. Matt had tightened his drag during the fight and the 30 pound test line snapped.

The epilogue is that earlier that last day we had fished where the couple said they had caught the 41 inch Musky, and found one freshly deceased on a beach. We looked it over and took pictures. It might have been their fish, as it measured 41 inches! (Matt Pottenger is pictured with the deceased Musky.)

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