I was talking with Peg, boss of the Tobacco Garden spread. “I don’t know what it is about this place but it gets me every time. Maybe it’s the unexpected, the surprise. After miles of badlands country you arrive and are taken back a bit by the oasis at the end of the road. I like it here.”
7am The bell rings and round one begins with breakfast at Tobacco Gardens with Peg in center ring. Jesse gives the bacon and eggs a terrible bashing and Trapper is putting the hammer on what looks like Fruit Loops. He is none too happy with me for interrupting.
7:48 Radio is minutes away with Max from KEYZ Country am 660. We talk about get’n reservations for Labor Day before it’s too late. Tobacco Gardens is such an inviting place with shoreline right at your lawn.
8:15 KFYR am 550 on the PH Factor with Phil and Jason. These guys make me look good, which by the way can only be done on radio. We hit the ANS topic and remind everyone to take a walk around the boat and clean’r up. I mention I plan to start the day right at the ramp since that is where Doug released an 8.38 the day before. Listen in
8: 40 I have only one thing on my mind, straight to Hofflunds on the outside edge in 27-30 feet with leadcore. Yesterday I marked several fish, caught a couple of small walleyes and made a promise to myself to get back today and see if the fish were in a different mood. They weren’t, one White Bass.
9:15 Don, 31 year Tobacco Garden veteran resident and local fishing expert suggested we take’r in so we move inside the tree line straight north of our deep water venture. Down with Rip Shads, Jointed 5, and a couple of RS4’s in 10 feet. South wind blowing into shore, lightly stained water, perfect set up. You can almost feel the expectancy.
9:48 The feeling of expectancy passes and we move to a roadbed with a sharp drop on the outside edge. 18-20 feet down is two Reef Runners dressed in Mud Minnow and Firetiger. Their companions, the Bomber brothers are suited up in Firetiger and Wonderbread Black.
10: 40 Don informs us that Billings Bay is named after a guy who drowned here. Tuff price to pay for that dubious distinction. Years ago it was a great location for Indian artifacts. Knives, arrow heads, buffalo teeth and bones. We make a pull in shallow with Fireline and I slow it down to 2 mph thinking maybe I’m moving too fast.
11:20 Shallow shoreline is calling me as we fish past some broken scoria. Gotta be a fish in these rocks. We are just east of 3 Sisters, giant bluffs sliced in half by Sakakawea’s hungry waves. To my surprise I didn’t lose a single crank to the angry looking rocks. I didn’t catch a single fish either.
11:57 Don makes another suggestion and off we go to Sorenson Bay. Don and I think alike as waves are pushing in making a walleye perfect mud line in shallow. Rip Shads and RS5’s are in tow. Don informs us that a Mt Lion was shot a mile south of here last deer season.
12:20 I make a decision to go deeper and we get the lead out into 21-23 feet and fish our way to the Beacon. 120 feet back plus 10 feet of leader is a white Flicker Shad, our hope for this pull. It does connect but again, small Northern, not the Sauger I was hoping for.
12:55 Phil Parker from KFYR am 550 checks in and I give a summary of the morning. We end the broadcast with a pep talk. If this happens to you don’t give up. Change locations, change depths, change cranks, keep looking. Listen in
1:15 You don’t need leadcore to fish 15 but why not try something different. Lot of trees on the screen but we are able to slide through without a hook up. We are also able to slide through without a fish.
Intermission: Two days into a south wind at 10-15 mph. Blue sky, no sneaky thunderstorms, second day of high pressure. As to weather, perfect.
2:03 Don tells me we are into Moose country. You can almost see the black shape outlined deep in the cool shadows of the Ash coulees. Don got the lucky draw for a “once in a lifetime” moose license. He also got a onetime elk tag. I’m thinking with a guy this lucky fish can only hold out so long.
2:22 We are miles west of Tobacco and across the lake from Chris Cove. Fireline in 15 with some new lures. We have run the gamut of cranks today but I find some 400 series Reef Runners in the bottom of the compartment.
3:10 Talk leads us to fall, Don’s favorite time of year. Starting now fishing improves every day as fish migrate into this area from downstream. Don suggests white jigs and white tails. Typical of fall, expect big fish. Start the search in 15 to 20 but be willing to move. Plan your time around mid Sept and fish till freeze up.
3:40 All that fall talk has us downshifting into low. Out comes the white jigs and tails and down into 30+ feet. Up comes first a northern by Jesse followed by Mr. Croaker. The only thing consistent today is size and numbers. Small, very small.
4:20 Don passes on more good info, particularly for the upcoming fall bite. The Guard Camp is one hot area that needs to be checked. So good in fact I asked permission to pass it on. Thanks Don. N-48-08-54-9 W-103-09-41-3
4:30 I raise the white flag, toss in the towel, slap the matt. I give, Uncle, no more please. If you’re gonna have a bad day have it at work, not when you’re fishing.
4:45 Todd from am 550 calls and we go over the day and talk of things to come. I’m so looking forward to the fall bite. Listen in
Confessions of a Fishing Guide anonymous
I have had 3 times in my years of guiding for walleyes that the day was totally unproductive. Unproductive is code for—shush—read this quietly. (no fish). Clients realizing that it’s still fishing even with a guide, and also realizing it’s a long swim back have always been cordial. In fact they have always sincerely stated, “We know it’s fishing. We will still hire you again; not your fault the fish won’t bite.”
But they never have!
Fishing is a learned sport. More you practice, better you get, so better get fishing.
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