My son landed his first muskie ever this summer on day 5 of our trip. Over the past 3 years we’ve been on two 5-day long trips to Western Ontario. 15 days of fishing, one muskie. And it was a good one.
That much time in pursuit of anything is a long time. The days weren’t back-to-back, but in muskie hunting the nights and the off-seasons are what haunt you. Being on the water is tough but at least you’re working actively towards your goal. 15 days includes a lot of “well maybe tomorrow” nights, a lot of “maybe today” mornings, and a lot of “let’s go back and swim” afternoons. And 3 years includes a lot of “maybe next year” days.
Jackson is not a die-hard fisherman like I was as a kid. I could spend hours fishing without a bite and not care. The next fish could come at any time and it may just be a monster. Jackson is not impatient, but he’s also not sold on fishing for the sake of fishing. He’s not quite gotten excited about fishing here at home. He'll have phases where he gets a hankering about some sort of fish, the last being catfish a few years ago.
He has, however, been bit solidly by the muskie bug. His muskie fever began our first trip to Canada in 2016. One afternoon we fished a weed bed with his mom, and he was thoroughly engaged - picking up follows not only on his retrieves, but on my wife’s casts too. He spotted several. And the sight of a muskie follow will shake many knees. But, with no bites, we headed in for dinner at the main lodge.
Jackson's first-ever muskie!
I can fish all day every day, but I have been careful not to let my passion interfere with his enjoyment of the great north outdoors. When he wants to go swim we swim, when he wants to eat we eat, when its time to go to bed early we settle in for the night instead of getting one more late evening run in. There is plenty more to enjoy at the Manitou Weather Station
than just muskie hunting. The hot tub, snorkeling, cliff jumping, and gold mines are calling all the time, and we make time for those.
But, that afternoon something clicked. The sight of these big fish slowly emerging from the depths is intoxicating. Especially when you’ve made hundreds of casts with nothing to show for it but a few small pike… mostly just coming up empty. Sitting at the dinner table as dessert was being served that evening, he said “we should go back to that spot in the morning.” Critical moment. I had to be careful. I didn’t want to burn him out. So I said yes, we should, and cautiously suggested that the fish we saw were pretty active and they’d likely eat tonight around sunset, the next significant change. He was intrigued, so we went back out after dinner.
An hour later we had a fish in the boat. The bad news (for him)? It was on my rod. When you’re muskie hunting you have to cover water and lots of it, so typically everyone on the boat is casting. I could’ve kept my line dry but was not convinced we’d find fish. As a team we produced a fish, he landed it for me in a cradle as if he’d done it a hundred times, and we celebrated. It’d be another 3 years before he had one of his own on the line.
Our first trip together in 2016 - oh so young. Now he is 6ft tall and driving!
We were back at the Weather Station this summer and guide Randy Kirk was free for a couple of days between clients so we went out on his boat to explore some new water with him. The period we were fishing this year (last week of June) was the same we’d fished before but was odd, as if we were two weeks earlier in the season – the water was high and cool, weeds barely making their way off the bottom. We ended up picking apart a lot of shallow water cover instead of casting our typical deeper structure. One tree on the inside of a point proved to be the answer to Jackson’s quest.
It was this 5th day of our trip Jackson hooked up solid on a fish and began to fight it. I took one glance and grabbed the net - I couldn’t clearly see it but I knew this was it. I just felt it.
Almost three full trips, around 15 days of fishing – that’s a lot of casting. We spent some of that time casting to pike and bass, but always with the inherent intent of catching muskie. Big rods, big baits, thousands of casts. That is a lot of physical drain for a full-grown man, let alone a young teenager. That is a lot of mental drain for anyone, let alone someone who is not terribly addicted to fishing. Coming up empty time and time again will take its toll on anyone. But this time the cast paid off.
Through his time on the water Jackson has become a terrific caster. The rods are like pool cues, the baits like brick pavers. It’s enough to ruin the rotator cuff of a strong man. Yet this entire trip he out-performed me in the casting department, dropping dimes into the tightest of nooks in shoreline branches from a long ways out. Over and over again. The cast he put in this time was 100% spot-on. Fish on.
Jackson’s first-ever was a nice fish. It was a bit beat up but came in at 40 inches and was pretty thick for that age fish. Jackson was shaking. I was shaking. We got a photo and released it quickly, still shaking. That moment will last forever.
Perseverance. It’s a lesson you cannot preach. It’s one that is only learned through your own personal experience with it. This fish was a good fish and a great moment, one that was earned through effort, and it will not be forgotten. But more importantly the event and the journey leading up to it reinforced the concept that if you want something bad enough just keep at it until it is realized. That is why this is so cool to me.
Jackson was a little guy not long ago. It seems like last week. He was two years old when I started to build the FishExplorer concept. Yesterday I took him to the DMV to get his first driver license. I’m not sure how you stop time or slow it down. I guess that memories like our Canadian fishing trips will live in my head forever and I can replay them any time I want… sort of like life-on-demand… and that is good enough. This is one memory that will be replayed often.
anglerwannabe, CO 10/22/2019 5:52:16 PM
awesome blog Matt
Goosehunter82, CO 10/22/2019 6:20:48 PM
Sweet catch there Matt!
Matt Snider (Matt), CO 10/23/2019 4:34:04 PM
Coyute, CO 10/24/2019 10:50:57 AM
Way to go Jackson!
SGM, CO 10/24/2019 3:19:55 PM
Very cool, congratulation to your son and to you.
panfishin, CO 10/24/2019 3:50:03 PM
that sounds like a great trip!
bron, CO 10/24/2019 6:34:47 PM
Very good read Matt! Congrats to your son!
HeavyC, CO 11/20/2019 9:09:04 PM
Salmon Slayer, CO 11/20/2019 10:35:54 PM
Terrific tale of perseverance!