By Gary Traynor
It was a calm June morning in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. The lake on which I live has the same name as the town in which we reside. Our place is located on the northeast side of the lake called, Big Fish Bay, which may have gotten its name from the large muskies caught in the area.
I was planning on an exciting morning with my large guide dog, Reuben, a five-year-old solid black long haired German Shephard who absolutely loves to go fishing. Reuben has his own way of participating in this fun-filled activity. When I cast, he tends to do a front paw jump with an occasional bark of approval, feeling left out if he can’t lick every fish caught, followed by cleaning my hands of fish slime, so there is no cleaning rag needed. I guess you could say he likes the taste of fish.
My wife Sharon mentioned the night before that she had noticed the pan fish making their beds near our shoreline, also with some bass, northern and muskies which had cruised the fish beds looking for a little snack. This was very welcoming news to me since Reuben and I had waited for several months in anticipation of this news.
After my early morning caffeine fix of coffee and Reuben’s breakfast, Reuben became very excited and Sharon stated he had given me the tilt head when I asked him if he wanted to go to the dock and do a little fishing. German Sheppard’s tend to tilt their head when trying to understand different types of communication.
I packed a cooler with night crawlers and bottled water, grabbed my tackle box, a bowl for Reuben’s water and my ultra-light Ugly Stick fishing pole. Together, Reuben and I headed to the bench located on the end of the dock. After I used my tongue to tie a number six long shanked hook and hooked about half of a crawler–allowing the ends to provide lots of attraction to the hungry bed makers–we were ready for action.
After catching several sun fish and a couple bass, I was given quite a surprise. Upon another cast, I once again felt a tug, but this was followed by what I thought was the sound of a quack! Not thinking much of the sound, I once again pulled on my line but then heard a much louder quack followed by several other loud quacks. Do ducks like crawlers?
Reuben, who was at my side, I’m quite sure was looking with his tilt head as to what had just happened. I said to Reuben, “REALLY! I can’t believe it. I think I have Donald on the line!”
It seemed like the duck in its own communication was screaming to his buddies “BAD WORM – BAD WORM!” In my mind and with all the bird noise, it appeared that Donald’s buddies were trying to hold him back since my drag continued to release in an upward direction. This tug of war caused the dock to become an area of mass chaos! Reuben was barking at the ducks, the ducks were trying to help out Donald, and at the same time I had to get the darn bird in as close as possible since the line could create further injury to the duck if left with too much line connected to the hook. In not being able to see the darn surprising catch, I contemplated as to run, yell for assistance, or just try and reel the unwanted creature in. I chose the latter idea, hoping not to get pecked in the process. Even though Reuben has never shown signs of any kind of fear, he wasn’t stupid and paced a few feet behind me with anticipation as to what was going to happen next.
I did finally end up hand- lining Donald in, and broke the line hopefully only a couple feet away from the panicking bird. He flew off to what sounded like about 15 yards away. In my amazement, this time while quacking, Donald and friends swam around my dock toward my neighbors, no doubt seeking a more desirable meal further down the shoreline. I made a mental note to wear a bigger hat the next time I fished at the dock, so I could protect myself against any vengeful ducks flying overhead.