My good buddy Matt Nevermann and myself had planned to chase big lake trout the following morning. Par for the course I was up almost all night organizing tackle and slept through my alarm going off. I was supposed to be at his house ready to rock and roll at 3:30 am. When I pulled up at 4:00am after a few "sorry dude I'm a dumbass" texts Matt was still in high spirits, and why wouldn't he be. Matt is an accomplished lake trout fisherman with hordes of great pictures of big fish both caught on the kayak and through the ice, but doesn't share them with others much. You know typical laker guy.
As we're loading our equipment onto the kayak trailer I immediately get tackle envy. Now I doubt Matt's wife will see this blog, but on the off hand chance she does I'll leave dollar value of Matt's lake trout equipment out of this. I will however say that he has more swimbaits that all the big box stores in the metro area combined, and his collection of custom swimbait rods ranges from a modest rod that is rated for 1-4 ounces to a rod that could easily throw a small dog across the lake. To say Matt was prepared for big lakers is an understatement. I brought a small collection of casting rods myself for jigging, a spinning rod for jerkbaits, and a custom swimbait rod. My swimbait collection has grown over the years, but the baits I brought with me could fit in one box. A couple of Hudd's, a savage gear glide, and a couple wake baits.
As always we laughed the entire drive up. I was juiced up on coffee and Matt doesn't seem to ever need a pick up as his a high strung dude naturally. As we pulled up to the entrance to this lake we ran into a ranger for the area. You guys should do good they just stocked it..... That took about half the wind out of our sails. On one hand if you time it just right with a body of water being stocked you can get into a feeding frenzy and fishing can be amazing for tanks. On the other hand if you're too late there's a good chance you'll here the classic line "you should have been here yesterday". As we pulled up to the lake and geared up it was noticeable there wasn't the usual electricity in the air that you feel fishing for big fish.
We were maybe 35 minutes into fishing when we both realized catching big lakers on swimbaits might not happen today. Matt having more faith than I did stuck with it a bit longer than I did, but before too long we were both jigging for eaters. The kicker is I left all of my heavy jig heads in the truck! So we were both fishing anywhere from 20-50 fow with tube jigs on 5/16 oz jig heads! Not so light that it's a few minutes until your jig reaches the bottom, but for two dudes that are used to jigging with jigging raps for walleye waiting for our tubes to hit the bottom was painfully slow.
Now Matt may have had a stable of custom swimbait rods, but he only brought one rod to jig with. A baitcasting combo spooled with mono. I was prepared with two baitcasting combos both spooled with braid and fluoro leaders. It wasn't long before we were both getting bites, but Matt was understandably getting frustrated. Between the lighter than usual jigs and the mono he was missing bite after bite and like any good friend should do I was laughing my ass off! Like any good fisherman should be able to do though he adapted to the situation and changed his timing and hook set a bit to start hammering fish in the 16-20 inch range. I couldn't tell you how many fish we caught, but it wouldn't surprise me if we both caught over 254 eater sized lakers. I kept a couple to fry up and Matt released all of his.
After we loaded up the kayaks and all of our gear onto the trailer it was time to head home. That lasted maybe 20 minutes until we decided to stop and fish some beaver ponds on the way out! The area we stopped at was just too good to pass up... the problem though is we had one spinning rod that was far from an ultra-light, but where there's a will there's a way. We tied on some lighter fluoro to the end of the braid and then tied on a smaller PK Flutterfish. I was getting popped every cast but couldn't seem to hook up. After missing a string of bites in a row I started getting frustrated and that came through in my casting precision. I lost 5 spoons in maybe 20 casts..... Like any good friend should Matt was laughing his ass off.
After I'd proven that I couldn't hit the broad side of a barn it was Matt's turn. His first cast he immediately hooks up and thankfully the fish came unbuttoned! Now I love it when my buddies catch fish, but I would have never heard the end of it if Matt caught one on his first cast! A few casts later Matt landed a small but brilliantly colored brookie. After that we took turns working pools and ended up catching a few brookies and browns a piece. We would have stayed longer but I was hell bent on decorating the beaver ponds with spoons so much so that I was running out! I hooked one last tree and we both decided it was time to head home.
A few things really stuck out during this short trip. First and foremost I'll never head up to the mountains again without an ultra-light spinning rod and a 3wt. You never know when you'll pass a beaver pond loaded with willing brookies. We had an absolute blast fishing the beaver ponds but the rod and reel we shared was far from ideal for the situation. I'd forgotten how much I absolutely adore brook trout. They're plentiful, fight hard for their size, their colors are breathtaking, and they tend to thrive in beautiful postcard worthy areas. As far as trout are concerned I'd much rather chase brookies than anything else. (yes I know they're a member of the char family)
On the way home I was overwhelmed with gratitude for living in such an amazing place... for about 32 seconds before I held onto the oh shit handles for dear life as Matt aka Cruella De Ville cut through the mountains in his Nissan Pick up like he was being chased. As always I had a blast and can't wait to do it again under one condition... next time I DRIVE!