"The Zieman Addendum....."
THE REAL STORY
NOT BAD !!!
Not bad for a proliferator of prose and master of fabrication. As for what Juris says about me, I take nothing to heart. I'm thankful that many years ago he and the others invited me to be part of their merry band of fisherman. Over the years the tales, stories and names have gone both ways.
A little bit of jealousy does some out in the story that Juris tells. The part about me telling everyone the story as they come into the room is true. But only a real Muskie fisherman can enjoy a story like this, or even relate to the 10,000 casts it takes to catch a Muskie.
I never claimed to be a great fisherman or even a mediocre one. Persistent and very fortunate may be the words I would use. When you only fish 2 to 3 times a year you really don't get good at it. But I truly enjoy the times I get to spend with the guys (Kelly, Peters, Ozols, Boettcher and occasionally a newcomer).
This last Leech Lake thing turned out to be a great trip for many reasons. For one, it was the first time that all of us actually entered into the Muskie Tournament. We paid our $45 and got our cheap white hat that everyone wears so you can distinguish the fool–hearted Muskie people from the locals fishing for Walleye and Perch. We also stopped at the big sporting goods store in Walker and saw the 20 foot boat, motor, and trailer that some lucky Muskie catcher would win. Impressive prize, but not a chance I would see this in my yard. First of all it would not fit and second you had to catch a 40–inch Muskie during the tournament (and not the day after).
Back to the story.
When you fish for Muskies the days are long and the rewards are very few and far between. Because of this you hear Muskie fisherman talk about muskie follows as a major event. Just seeing the body of a muskie (sometimes a log) close to the boat is exciting.
Leech Lake is the biggest lake I have ever fished, with waves that can easily be 3–5 feet. And when you are sitting in the front of a 14–foot Lund boat with tiller motor the waves feel very big.
I could go on about the three days of warm to hot weather and the fact that we fished 8–9 hours a day. It's like an obsession for some of us. My boat partner will argue that I never let him stop to pee. The truth is I spent more time with Pat in the boat in three days than with my spouse in the last 2 weeks.
I'm not going to start this story from the beginning, as many novels start. Also, I am not going to go directly to the story that Juris so badly misrepresented. But, I have to go to Saturday when Pat and I were out on Cedar Point with 2–3 foot waves coming out of the North. We had drifted through the area once and were just about to complete a second 10 minute drift. Pat looked at the depth finder, put down his rod, sat down and said "Richard, there's nothing here."
Not one to give up too soon in the hunt for muskie, I cast out one more time. Just as Pat finished his words a Muskie (not the one Juris saw) hit my Jackpot lure hard. He came from the side through the top of a wave and I never saw it coming. I pulled back on the rod and felt the drag go out a little. I thought I had set the hook because the Muskie came out of the water doing a tail walk - a great sight for those who hook one.
Pat saw it come out of the water the second time. It tail walked again and the Lure came flying back at me. The muskie just opened his mouth and let it go. "SHIT!" or something profound came blurting out.. Then the "IF I WOULD have, I SHOULD have," Etc. – all those things you think of after it happens.
The One That Got Away...
I now have one of those stories. From what Pat saw of the fish he contends that it was a bigger one than the one I actually did land.
But on to the real story of that one that didn't get away. Realize that we were now on our fifth day of the fishing trip. We had been throwing a multitude of fabricated artificial lures infested with triple hooks at the water for all of those five days. I estimate we must have made thousands of casts among the six of us.
So now to take a break, and to fill out our needs for a shore lunch we decided to try our luck at walleye fishing. We headed out to the Flats off Goose Island. We were out there the evening before and saw a launch catching some fish. We found a spot with a little structure and about 10 feet of water. Juris and Jim, off in the distance, were fishing Muskie because they were standing up and we could see an occasional lure fly through the air.
After about fifteen minutes of dragging the bottom with a Lindy rig and no action, I looked down and saw that we had floated into a green bed of cabbage type weeds. The water was about 8–feet deep and clear enough to see all the detail of the weeds the weeds which stretched to within about 3–feet of the surface. Not to give up on Muskie fishing too soon, I dropped my walleye rig, picked up the muskie rod, and put on a green and black Believer. The first cast nothing happened. But on the second cast as the lure got to about 10–feet from the boat I saw a dark shadow go quickly past my lure. Of course I did not do the patented figure eight as a seasoned muskie fisherman would have. I was too excited and forgot all about it.
Within seconds Pat and Jerry (the walleye fishing guys) dropped their poles and thrashed around putting on their favorite lures. Feverishly we started casting in all directions. There were lures, lines and hooks going "whoosh, whiz and splash" in all directions. I don't know how we managed to miss each other. (Well, there was that one time about 2 years ago that I hit Pat on the head with a one pound Grandma lure with 3 big treble hooks. I know it had to hurt and he didn't even throw me out of the boat. Yeah. But that's another story and I hope Pat has forgotten it.) Now back to the whoosh and whiz stuff.
Pat was casting out a Believer and Jerry a bucktail, I think. Suddenly Pat had a follow and the muskie came right up to the boat. Pat did a perfect figure eight in the water, but the muskie was gone. We kept drifting around and casting in all directions. A lot more Whooshes and Whizzes took place. Then Pat had another follow. This time the muskie came slowly up to the boat and sat right below Pat's Lure. Pat did a great figure eight, not once but several times, almost hitting the muskie in the head. The muskie just sauntered away, not even interested.
Jerry said "Zieman, put on your Jackpot," as he himself switched to a nice action surface lure with a propeller on the back that looks like a wounded fish. I did as he said, and we continued more whooshes and whizzes.
It is somewhere about here I think that Juris' story starts. Give or take a few embellished facts some of his story is true. Juris and Jim did indeed drift over, and we tried to wave them away so as not to scare off the muskie. But thanks to their quick thinking (or deliberate provocation to irritate us?) they threw out a yellow float. We were actually glad they did. You really lose track of your location when all the water looks alike. (We have tried to put X's on the bottom of the boat to mark our spot but it doesn't seem to work. Of course the GPS system on Jerry's boat would be more effective if we turned it on and occasionally looked at it.)
But back to the heat of the battle.
Now with Juris and Jim in the area there were five whooshes, whizzes and splashes hitting the water. I happened to look up about 20 feet out from the boat and saw Jerry's strange lure (mud puppy) zipping in towards the boat and just behind it, moving really fast, was a long dark object. I gave out kind of a big yell "There it is!" It might have heard me, or I contend it saw the boat, but in any case it quickly turned away.
Jerry gave me a look of despair and was probably contemplating "How can I throw him over board and not go to jail?" But he didn't do that, and instead asked me "Why did you yell?" I replied, somewhat sheepishly, "Not sure, just got excited I guess."
So we went back to whooshes, whizzes and splashes. I am sure that somewhere there were also a few backlashes, but it had now been about 10 to 15 minutes since the first follow. Now to give you the real facts and the story that Juris has had the unfortunate pleasure of listening to over and over again. It is only because as those unsuspecting passers-by get pulled into my office and make the fatal mistake of saying "WOW! Nice fish!" (It is amazing how many people think about how much the fish weighs, about keeping the fish or eating it. Even more so how many are surprised that I would release the fish. As Juris mentioned no one in our boats even thought of keeping the Muskie.)
Where was I, Oh yeah! I cast out my – let's set the record straight – I cast out Pat's Giant Jackpot. The sucker is so aerodynamic that it goes 100 to 150 feet with no problem. I start the retrieve with the "Jerk–jerk–jerk." This is not something you pick up in just a few casts. It is a lot of work but I think I got the hang of it now. And thanks to Juris, who as usual, was watching me the day before, profoundly noted that I was not jerking it correctly, and proceeded to get his out and show me how it was done. His is a pain sometimes but we love him dearly.
Now you have to picture how still the water was that day and how bright it was. The water barely had a ripple on it and you could see every motion of the lure. I now had the Jackpot out about 75–feet from the boat. Out of no where this dark ominous structure surfaced behind my lure. By this time my jerks were on auto pilot and I just kept the motion the same. I yelled (softly of course) "It's coming!" I could hear the sound from "JAWS" in the background. This caused Jerry to look over and it was like an echo "It's coming!" By now Pat had turned around and was catching the action.
Your first reaction would be to stop jerking and let him take it but I was still on auto pilot and kept up the even motion. In seconds the water exploded with a sudden swish of his tail and open mouth as the muskie grabbed the lure. I pulled back to set the hook. The Muskie came out of the water with a glorious tail walk on the water. (Juris missed this part.) And it made a "swish–swish–swish" as it came completely out of the water. It dropped back down and tried to swim away and I pulled back again to make sure I set the hook. (Not like the first fish I lost.)
The Muskie did another "swish-swish-swish" tail walk (Juris missed this one also). The Muskie hit the water and thrashed some more (this is what Juris finally saw). I yelled back to Pat to come up to the front and get my camera out and take some pictures. As you can see from the series of shot he did an excellent job of capturing the events to go with this story.
Now about the part of muscling in the fish. I am not sure that's what I did. But with 36–pound test it can be done. I have to admit that the minute you get a fish on your first instinct is to reel him in because you are afraid it is going to get away. So the sooner it is in the boat the better you feel. So maybe I did muscle it in but it did take a couple of minutes I am sure.
Jerry was also yelling at me to bring the fish over to his side so he could net it – easier said than done. The muskie went where he wanted to. Jerry picked up his feeble looking (walleye) net and asked "Should I net it?" Just then he looked down as the Muskie came by and said "Forget the net!" The net did not have half the depth of the fish and never would have worked. So Jerry looked for his gloves so he could pick it out of the water.
After an un–timed and unsubstantiated interval, Jerry had the muskie under the jaw and part of its tail. Meanwhile RJ Kodak (Pat) was in the back of the boat shooting all the action with the SAMSUNG fully automatic 400 speed film. (Great shots of course.)
Jerry proceeded to pick the muskie straight up and Juris and Jim get a full frontal shot from their vantage point, about 10–feet from our boat. No sooner did Jerry set the tail of the muskie down when the treble hook fell off the lure. (The eyelet on the lure was bent open far enough to let the hook pull out.) At the same time the other treble hook that was still on the lure imbedded itself into Jerry's hand and glove. But we did not loose the fish.
Now we had an unknown size slimy and slightly bleeding muskie in Jerry's clean boat. This was the first time he had had a muskie in his new boat (although a number of them came over the side of his old boat, mostly caught by Juris.) One of the 3 hooks was embedded in the top jaw and one in the bottom jaw. Fact or fiction I managed to cut all three hooks with very little problem.
Now the remainder of the story is pretty much the same as Juris documents. So as not to bore anyone you can go back a few pages and read how the poor fish had trouble getting going. The part about the muskie tooth is real. I have the tooth mounted with the lure in my office. I do not know how or why the tooth came out but I think that was the only reason for the blood.
Now if you have never been in this situation you miss the kid in the candy store comments while the action is taking place like:
Once the muskie fins and dives away you just keep reliving the action for the next 10 to 20 minutes (and really the rest of your life).
Just like when your team makes the winning touch down:
If you have not had enough of this story just stop by my office. I have an 8x10 and a 5x7 picture, plus I mounted the lure, leader, tooth and the muskie hat. I am not sure how much time I will have, but I might be able to embellish a fact or two about the one that did not get away and few about the one that did.
A special thanks to my boat buddies Pat and Jerry. Also my lying friend Juris and his boat buddy Jim.
The best observation from all of this was made by Pat. He made the profound statement to me: "You are caught now!" meaning I am hooked on fishing muskie.
I WILL GO BACK!
I want to see my name on the status board. I also know where I will be at 6:30 am on the opening day of the 1998 Muskie tournament.
NOW that's the truth and nothing but the truth.
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Last Modified: February 21, 2004
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