Watching the waves come in
Today was our last warm fall day for awhile. It was sunny, 76°, with a little bit of a cool wind, which actually felt nice.
After a tough day at work, I could feel my entire body tensing up, and a deep, deep craving come over me...I had to touch the grass, soil, rocks!
I wasn't sure where I was going to end up, I just knew that I had to get to the woods and water. I grabbed some Pad Thai to-go, for a picnic dinner, and refilled my thermos of herbal tea, then turned the truck due North.
Within a few minutes I reached one of our local, very small lakes. I decided at the last minute to head to one of the boat ramps because that would give me a good clear view of the water and the setting sun.
It wasn't crowded, but there were a few people there fishing. Normally, I would've turned around and looked for another spot. But today I stayed. I set up my camp chair, brought out my binoculars, thermos, and backpack filled with dinner, and found a tree near the bank.
For the next hour I sat, touching the tree next to me, feeling its vibration and connection to the deep earth below my feet, and watched the turkey buzzards soaring, dipping, riding the thermals. I then closed my eyes and listened to the sounds of the waves, slap, slapping rhythmically against the rocks on the shore.
I breathed in deeply the smell that can only mean lake life. That smell, the smell of lake water, fish, and a slight odor of gasoline from the outboard boat motors. It immediately took me back to one of my earliest memories. I must've been 3 or 4 years old, and my cousin and I were curled up, sleeping in the bow of our fathers' boat. The rocking, swaying, and the smells of the Great Lake that we were floating in the middle of, all came back to me. The boat was a beautiful wooden boat, maybe a chris-craft that our fathers had gotten a deal on, because it needed so much work. This would've been around 1970, before they stopped making these gorgeous wooden boats.
My father and my uncle both worked at the same steel plant. In those days they were working as crane operators, having moved up from the more dangerous work near the firey hot furnaces where a molten soup of deadly melted steel waited to be turned into rolls. Pickling, I think my Dad called it, when the steel would cure. What a strange term for such a dangerous process. But working the crane, although the cab was hot and very high up (no air conditioning!) meant more pay and less risk. No more coming home covered in a thick layer of black sweaty grime. So our fathers spent every day off they had from the steel mill, either working on some diy project, like restoring an old boat, or riding the waves of Lake Erie and throwing a line in.
I suppose our mothers had something do with the fact that my cousin and I were napping in the bow of a boat, riding the choppy waves, sleeping on a pile of worn workcoats that smelled of cigar smoke.
What a lovely memory to come to me as I looked out at that little lake, watching other father's boats make their way to the best fishing spots.
A few years after my early memory of the ride in the wooden boat, which was long gone by then, sold, I remember my cousin and I fishing from the bank of a different lake, an inland lake smaller than the Great Lakes, but still a good size. This was my Grandad's fishing spot on Lake Gogebic, in Michigan's U.P.
It was quite a challenge to get there from my grandparents small house in Ewen. My cousins, sister, and I had to ride in the back of the truck, along with the buckets of minnows for bait, fishing poles, gas cans, and old toolboxes clanking around. A very bumpy ride through endless rows of trees.
But....it was worth it just to be able to stay up late, poking at the campfire on the bank, telling ghost stories, making ourselves fearful to go out in the woods when "nature called", even if we had the flashlight with us! Oh, and we also fished, lol.
We were each given our own pole to watch, keeping our eye on the bobber. In order to be granted this "privilege" we of course had to bait our own hook. This was not my favorite thing. I'm pretty sure I found a way to get someone else to do it for me.
It was on one of the rare visits upnorth when all of us were visiting at the same time, when my cousin made up his own little fishing song. Why I remember it still, after 45 years or so, is a mystery. I know we all laughed over it, and thought it was clever.
So, I sang it to myself today, as I sat on the bank of that small lake, watching the boats, birds, and the sunset.
Here it goes, from memory, 45 years later,
"When the wind's outta the north, the fishin is the poorest,
When the wind's outta the east, the fish bite the least,
When the wind's outta the west, the fish bite the best,
But when the wind's outta the south, ya hook 'em in the mouth!"
😁 I'm not sure of the veracity of this little ditty, but, it makes me smile every time.
My cousin, just a bit younger than me, went through major heart surgery last winter. I'm thankful he pulled through okay, and recovered some of his strength.
He has a much bigger boat of his own these days, and I wonder if he still sings his little fishing song as he heads out on the Great Lakes for a day of fishing.
Here's to late afternoons spent sitting by the lakeshore, watching the turkey buzzards swoop, and losing yourself in the rhythmic song of the waves. And here's to those days when the wind's outta the South. May you each "hook 'em in the mouth", whatever kind of fish dream you're chasing!