Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pickin' With Dave

 My weekends are consumed with spending as much time with my dad as possible.  Time is against us so I am making the best of it.  This weekend also marked the opening of Blueberry Ridge Orchard, where you can pick your own blueberry's by the truckload if you so desire.  My brother Steve and mom have been picking here last year and claimed it was pretty easy to fill up a 5 quart ice cream bucket full of beautiful blueberries.  Sunday morning I headed north towards Eau Claire on Hwy 93 to the old Darrell Hageness farm.  When I lived in Eleva and worked for Vic, Darrell was a good friend and a very nice man.  He had suffered quite extensive burns while working at the Paper Mill in Eau Claire and he was going back to school for accounting at the same time I was going there for electronics.  The farm is visible from Hwy 93 and he often had a word cut into the hay field for everyone to read.  Darrell has since passed away however I was delighted to find out that his daughter and family were still on the farm and had started the orchard featuring U-pick blueberries.  And pick there is!  My brother and mom had been there on Saturday morning picking 8 ice cream buckets.  Parking in the field, I was pointed in the right direction and picked 6 ice cream buckets in about an hour.  The berries were huge, some as big around as a quarter.  I have a number of blueberry plants, the same variety but nothing like these.  Sweet and bursting with flavor, I ended up going back in the afternoon to get another 2 buckets worth.  I thought the prices were very reasonable as well.  At $1.85/pound, an ice cream full of berries weighs about 6.5 pounds and cost about $12.00.  Comparing to the bland berries you buy at the store for $3.00 a pint, the equivalent amount would have cost you $30.00.   The picture on the right gives a great example of how loaded the bushes are with berries.  If you are in the area check out Mark and Andrea Nyseth's Orchard and pick a few pails (they freeze really well!).  They are the nicest people and you will leave very satisfied.   You can visit their website at

So, weekends back home has left little time for fishing.  With the Mississippi River finally settling down to a manageable level (it is still pretty high and fast), my neighbor Lory and I decided to try out the Jon boat for the first time this year.  Loading up the boat and using my ATV, we simply drove to the neighbors house, through the horse pasture, and used his landing.  This take all but 5 minutes before you're in the water.  With the current still fast and 2 guys in the boat, we hit a whooping 10 mph running upstream.  Zig Zagging the river, looking for holes, our strategy was to run upriver as far as practical, drift back down fishing the rivers edge before anchoring close to the landing and trying for catfish, carp, or whatever enjoys a nice nightcrawler.  About 3 miles up we stopped, put on a couple of artificial lures and started casting.  My first choice was a shallow running Bomber A crankbait in fire tiger.  On the very first cast a small smallmouth bass inhaled it.  A nice start.  3 minutes later and 200 yards downstream I casted in front of a downed tree and this nice 17 incher grabbed the lure and put on an aerial display.  Lory finally got it in the net after about a minute and was taking my picture.  Releasing the fish we proceeded to follow the shore, casting tight and bringing it back.  With the water high and fast current, the fish were hanging tight.  By the time we arrived at our designated catfish hole the total was 6 smallies caught and released.  Not bad!  Our catfish hole was located where a side channel met up with the main river and formed a large current slack.  The edges of these slacks can be super productive.  The hole itself was about 14 feet deep so once anchored I rigged my casting reel with a 3/4 ounce bell sinker, snap, and a 2 foot leader with a circle hook at the end.  A fat and sassy crawler threaded on the hook I casted into the current edge.  It wasn't 5 minutes later when my pole almost went over the side.  Grabbing the rod I could tell it was a nice fish and within a few minutes the catfish showed itself.  After netting, unhooking, and snapping a picture, I released it back to fight again.  Because the line broke at the hook I retied, rebaited, and back out to the current break.  This time I wasn't going to chance losing my prized rod so I hung onto the pole waiting for that tell tale tug.  It wasn't long before something was yanking pretty hard.  The reel was in freespool so I let the fish run about 6 feet before reeling straight in, the proper method for circle hooks.  Well this fish was significantly larger than the first catfish however after about 10 seconds the line broke.  Although I did retie again it was getting late so we left.  The river is an exciting place to be.  We saw 2 immature eagles perch right above our heads while an osprey screeched it displeasure with our presence another half mile down stream.  It a great resource, one that is close to home and provides excellent fishing.

I will be heading back to Eleva this weekend to see dad, pick some more blueberries, and my good friend Rick Semingson from Blue Ridge, Georgia is coming home for a wedding.  Rick was a class mate of mine and I am always excited to see him.  He's lived in the south for over 30 years now and has developed quite a Southern Drawl.  My friend Charlie is suppose to be here for my annual trip with him and as well I am scheduled to go to San Francisco.  It's looking to be a busy next 10 days.

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