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To me the river looked anything but fishy at first light Saturday as we launched my nephew Sam Patterson’s flat-bottomed boat in the high, swift and muddy Wapsipinicon.
Among my many misgivings were that the fish would not be able to see our lures in the murky water, that we would not be able to present them effectively in the rampaging current, that the predicted heat and humidity would reduce us to puddles on the floor of Sam’s boat — all, of course, if a lightning bolt did not kill us first.
But everything that could go wrong — in a nearly unprecedented reversal of Murphy’s Law — somehow did not.
At least 27 smallmouth bass, one northern pike and one channel cat saw our crayfish-imitating crankbaits well enough to get them in their mouths.
Sam’s skill at using his electric trolling motor to “slip the current” in a manner that enabled us to move downstream at a rate much slower than the river itself enabled us to make effective casts to the shore.
The overcast skies not only did not pour down upon us but actually helped the fish feel less wary than they would have in harsh sunlight.
And the angry orange and red blobs on the weather radar we summoned on our smartphones occasionally rumbled nearby but passed harmlessly (for us, at least) just to our north.
It took only a few moments to allay my fear that the fish would not bite, though it took considerably longer to assure myself that they would bite the lure on the end of my line.
Sam caught several before I finally broke the ice with an 18.5-incher that would have been hard enough to land without its taking deft advantage of the swift current to multiply its innate strength and stamina.
While Sam continued to catch two to my one, I found some consolation in having caught the day’s biggest fish — until Sam caught one bigger.
His lunker, a girthy 19-incher, practiced passive resistance until it spied the boat, which seemed to turn it into a monster.
Twice it fought off attempts to drag it into the landing net. “Here it comes,” Sam said, as he coaxed it back for a third try, and then, “There it goes,” as it again overcame the pressure exerted by his bowed rod.
After we finally netted it on the fourth try, Sam declared the swift Wapsipinicon was home to the fightingest fish he’d seen — an observation underscored by the several 16- and 17-inchers that refused to come aboard peaceably.
During the course of the fishing lesson Sam was administering, I asked the name of the lure that was so decisively out-fishing my Cotton Cordell Big O, both of which appeared to be about the same size and of the same orange and brown crayfish color. He said it was a Strike King KVD 1.0, named for bass fishing legend Kevin VanDam, and that, sorry, it was the only one he had.
Then, at the conclusion of our outing, in the recesses of his tackle box, he found two more, each in its original package, that he claimed not to know were there.
Had those words been spoken by anyone but my kind, generous and truthful nephew, I might have been skeptical.
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