An open-water misadventure

After spending months confined to my house watching and reading fishing materials or, at best, dangling a small jig inside an ice tent, I was relieved to get out on the open water this week, even though it didn’t exactly go to my liking.

The spot I chose was Three Bridges County Park near Quarry. I could feel the excitement for the outing build as I turned off of Highway 30, crossed the old, wooden bridge over the train tracks and drove down the muddy road to the park.

My gear that day included my trusty 6-foot jigging rod and a 6’6″ casting rod I set up to catch pike or catfish.

I changed out of my office shoes and into my rubber boots, picked up my gear and headed down the snow-covered path to the waterside. My problems began before I even got a line wet.

First of all, I was clearly rusty on how to carry all my gear. I got my line caught up more times than I care to admit as I made my way to the river bank.

Once in my spot, I took a breath, loosened the hook from its holder and opened my bale to cast my line into the one good-looking area of open water I could find.

My first cast was what British soccer announcers would call a “howler.” I cast right into the current, which carried my way-too-light jig right into an ice-covered snag. SNAP – off came the first of a fair share of jigs that afternoon.

As this same story played out a few more times and the four-letter words slipped out under my breath, I kept hearing the roar of four-wheel-drive trucks slogging down the driveway toward the boat ramp to the east of me. I had parked up by the bridge to avoid the muddy quagmire below.

By my count, every one of those trucks got down to the boat ramp area, took one look at the big ice sheet covering that section of river and fired up the engine to make their way back up the path and out of the park.

One gentleman did park in the same area as me and walked down the slope where I was set up. He said he was aiming to catch some carp, and the gear he was carrying confirmed his intention. But, like the others, he took a look at the water and said he’d come back another day to “save a sinker.”

Maybe all of the coming and going should have been a clue to me? Nope! Had to keep trying, even though it would turn out to be in vain.

I eventually changed tactics, opting for a spoon in hope of enticing a big northern pike to bite. No luck. How about a piece of cut shad for a hungry channel catfish? Nada.

I didn’t come to that spot with the idea that I would leave with a full limit of fish, but I was hoping for at least a nibble.

Looking at the bright side, it was honestly a relief to spend some time by the river. It was also a great feeling to cast a line out for the first time in months. I love ice fishing, but all of that sitting and jigging can get old.

Another reason I was so ready to get on the river was because I’d taken a good look at the weather forecast, and the story was not a good one. Spring runoff is something Central Iowa anglers deal with each year, but I have a feeling we’re in for some particularly swollen, muddy waterways this year.

Along with the rain that would eventually fall later in the week, the warming temperatures caused a lot of snow to melt and, of course, end up in our local streams. Not exactly ideal spring walleye conditions.

As I kept re-tying my rigs and failed to get even a nibble at Three Bridges, I didn’t feel I was really learning anything except that I had gotten rusty since the fall.

But, after giving the trip some thought, I’ve decided that if there was a moral to that trip it was this: Mother Nature doesn’t always deal us anglers a fair hand, but that can’t stop us from getting out on the water and trying anyway.

As many anglers know, one sure-fire way to increase the number of fish you land is to simply get your line wet as often as possible.