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Submitted by-
Rob F. Sanderson
724 Edgewater,
Portage, WIS

Bass at Twilight
Rob F. Sanderson

           All day the two Bills had been working hard on a new V-bottom boat they were building, and all day I had been plugging my typewriter. It was warm and we had had enough.

           “Go fishing?” Bill snorted at my suggestion when I dropped around to see how the boat was coming. “Why, boy, when’ll I get this boat done?” Everyone is “boy” to Bill, who has been eyewitness to four score years.

           “We’ll have to leave before half hour,” Bill said impatiently, evidently eating his own words. “It’s four now.”

           “Sandy and I’ll load up the boat,” Volunteered Billy. “You get the tackle ready.”

           Billy and I hustled the trailer out, hitched up, and brought the boat up from the river where I keep it tied under a big cottonwood. “Billy” is a recent Big ten graduate, a typical team man who runs the scales up to two hundred before he lifts his foot off the ground.

           The sun was just riding down the rim of the Baraboo Bluffs as we slid the boat off the trailer into the shadowed waters of Rubin’s slough. Billy took a firm hold on the oars and we glided down the quiet mirror of still water.

           “Sure is a purty evening, boys,” Bill mused as he removed his unlighted pipe and looked back over the tree reflections toward a break in the thick-flanking foliage where a neat white farmhouse and a newly painted red barn showed through. The shore grass was dry and hid serenading crickets

           Bill was casting from the stern and I from the bow. “First man to get a fish takes the oars,” I suggested.

           “You mean I row all evening?” Billy bantered. “Be sure you leave those hooks on your plug!”

           Low branches dipped off the shore into the water. Our lures splashed at their edges with alternate plops. The water looked very bassy.

           We came to a widening of the slough where a chute from the river overflowed in high water. The place was filled with big rotten stumps, a few lazy turtles still on them. Bill and I scared the turtles off with our plugs as we passed.

           “Right around this bend is a hole where we used to catch sacks of pike,” Bill reminisced as we entered a narrows at the end of the stumpy widening. He held up his pipe and rod in either hand, looking fixed at the water as if to see some of those big pike he caught back in the 80’s when he and his buddies had the country almost to themselves.

           “You used to get a lot of fish here, didn’t you, Billy?” I said, priming the veteran outdoorsman for a story or two.

           “ Why I remember once in the early day we took a twenty-six bass on one trip up the slough and back,” he recalled. “Think of that, boy! Back in 1908.”

           The shore lowered to swamp grass. I had a light strike in a neat looking pocket but could not raise the fish again.

           Abruptly the slough shore changed to the high bank of an old meander soar. Rocks studded the water margin, and the bank rose abruptly. It was ideal for small south.

           Bill had the next strike. It took his plug lightly and shook off before he could set the hook properly. “Striking light,” he announced. “Sore mouths. They won’t hit right.”

           Billy oared easily on down the slough past a clearing and a forlorn cemetery whose small granite spires and sandstone slabs reached above the tall June-grass in a desperate effort to escape obscurity.

           Ahead was an overhanging elm; bare roots curving outward through the air and into the water. On the shore side of the bank was a freshly dug skunk den. I tossed my plug in close to shore, jerked in artfully without success and Bill did the same as he passed, staring back at it for a moment as if he were thinking about an early day when a place like that would have produced at least two bass

           At length we came to the end of the slough. Beyond was the swift current water of the river. We turned for the home trip

           As we passed the skunk-den elm I carefully placed my wiggler between the roots for another try. I had just retrieved and thrown into the next likely pocket when I heard a fish break water.

           Bill had his! His old favorite spotted slug had done the trick. Billy maneuvered the stern around just right, Bill brought the fish up. It splashed on the surface, went down again, and up to the side of the boat once more. Bill swung him in, a two and a half pound bronze-back.

           Near the pike hole I hooked a small bass. It was hardly a one pounder and I turned him back. Another light strike followed my lure for several feet along a submerged tree trunk.

           We rowed back almost to the slough head. We passed a group of swimming farmer boys, cooling off from a hot day in the fields. I saw tan arms and V-necks contrasted against their white bodies as they splashed and shouted.

          “How’s the water, boys?” Called Bill

           “Fine,” in unison.

           “Must be,” Declared Bill. “Fish won’t leave it.” The boys all laughed at this one, and returned to their splash fights.

           Maybe the fish did have sore mouths, as Bill claimed. At any rate, we didn’t hook any more.

© 2003 Chronicles of Bob