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Forty Feet and Mud

Peters likes to drift. He likes drifting more than catching walleyes, that's a fact. And bottom line, that cost me my best walleye fishing outfit.

You have to know about midwest walleye lakes to understand what happened that evening. A walleye hotspot on a lake is a rock bar or sunken reef that rises out of surrounding deeper water to within ten or twenty feet of the surface. The deeper water – – forty feet is a common depth – – typically is muck, silt, or most often mud. It doesn't hold walleyes. Even Peters admits it. You don't catch walleyes in forty feet and mud.

On the other hand, the top of the reef does hold walleyes in the rocks. You know walleyes are there because you catch them. And you catch them by dragging your Lindy Rig past them.

That's where drifting comes in. You put your boat upwind off the reef, drop a Lindy Rig into the water, and let the wind blow you across. The Lindy Rig starts out in the deeper water on one side of the reef, is dragged up and across it, and descends into the deeper water on the other side. Somewhere in the middle you sometimes catch a walleye. That's drifting. It's as simple as that.

Peters likes to drift. And he's actually right. Once you get the boat going properly, get your beer can positioned conveniently (in your hand), start the fishing stories with your buddies, start listening to the loons, well, drifting is a delight. Having to put the beer down, reel in the Lindy Rig, restart the motor, run the boat upwind, find the right spot to start another drift – – that's all a pain in the ass. It's much easier to keep drifting.

The only thing that really disturbs your drift is catching a walleye, and that can happen only for the brief moment you're on top of the reef. Otherwise, it's a very peaceful activity. I agree with Peters. I don't mind at all, unless I want to catch walleyes.

With that as a background, you need to know two other things. First, we were on Wisconsin's Grindstone lake, which at that time held eight walleyes. We had been fishing seriously for three days, and had caught four of them. "We" means the other guys.

I hadn't caught any.

The second thing is that Molyneaux had caught and released a 41–inch muskie that afternoon. (I hadn't caught any muskies, either) . That fish won our $60 fishing contest for Bill.

Lakeview Bar and Grill

It all started when we celebrated Bill's muskie at the Lakeview Bar and Grill.

Of course, Bill paid for a round of drinks from his winnings. Peters insisted that we sample "T&T's". It was an excellent suggestion. In fact, we sampled several more rounds to verify that the smooth taste of the first one wasn't a fluke. It wasn't. We toasted Bill and his muskie in style.

toasted Bill's muskie

We also rolled out of the bar feeling no pain. It was just getting dark, the best time for walleye fishing – – the evening bite. Boettcher and I got in the boat with Peters and ran over to a promising ten foot reef. It was a perfect evening for drifting. Mild, a light breeze, loons warming up, stars, satellites. We even had a beer of two left over from the day's fishing.

Peters found the reef, got us positioned upwind,and shut the motor down. We baited up our Lindy Rigs and started the drift.

I could tell it was a soft bottom from the moment the sinker touched down. The depth finder confirmed it – the narrow line of the return at forty feet clearly spelled mud. No bites.

We popped the beer and got comfortable. Lots of good stories, lots of loons. No bites. We kept drifting. The wind started to die down,slowing our drift. Still no bites. Another beer. Slower yet, but no hint of a bite. Forty feet and mud.

Eventually, the depth started to come up on the depth finder. The return also became solid, so we were into rocks. And I finally felt the "tick" of a walleye at the end of my line. I could tell. I had felt it many times before in my fishing career. Definitely a walleye – no question.

I let the line slip off my finger, fed the fish additional line, closed the bail on the reel, tightened up the slack, and set the hook. Impeccable technique. No result at all. No snag, no weeds, no fish.

The depth finder showed us over the top of the reef, going down the other side.

"Peters, go back around, I just had a nice bite."

Pause. No answer. We kept drifting.

"Peters, let's get back to the top of the reef!"

"No let's not. I'm comfortable. I want to drift."

I believed that. I also believed that I hadn't caught a walleye or a muskie or anything for three days, and wasn't going to catch any now.

We kept drifting. Thirty feet. Bottom getting soft. Thirty–five feet. Then forty feet and mud.

Which is what I yelled at him "Peters, it's forty feet and mud! It's hopeless!"

And I threw my fishing rod down with disgust on the seat of the boat.

It happened in slow motion. The handle of the rod hit the seat and bounced up. The reel caught on the side of the boat. That swung the rod tip into the water. And that pulled the whole outfit over the side and into the lake.

My instinct was sound. I plunged my arm into the water, up to my elbow, in a futile attempt to grab the rod. I have a dim memory of touching it. I didn't get it.

Peters and Boettcher were dissolved in hysterics even before I pulled my arm back out of the lake. I'm convinced that Peters threw his beer can over the side and into the lake as he doubled up. But I can't prove it and nobody cares.

I stood there in the dark. Finally, I threw out a marker buoy to fix the spot. We went ashore, back to the cabin. I went to sleep. The rest of the crowed stayed up for hours listening to Peters and Boettcher relate the events of the evening.
Unembellished, I'm sure.

Juris directing

The next morning we fixed up some treble hook & sinker gadgets, went out in both boats, and dragged the bottom in the vicinity of the buoy, hoping to snag the rod or line.... It didn't work. Eventually I borrowed another rod and went back to fishing. I never did catch a walleye that trip.

For months afterward, people at work questioned me on the happenings that evening. Even my boss's secretary asked why I threw my "$200 fishing pole" into the lake.

They don't understand. It wasn't me at all. It was Peters and his worthless drift in forty feet and mud.

Peters Laughing

I laughed till I cried

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Date Created: February 29, 1996
Last Modified: April 4, 2004
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