The Bluegill Flats

The western edge of the lake was ill defined, gray and fuzzy to match the morning sky. It seemed to be a bit odd; it wasn’t fog, nor was it humid enough for haze to be a factor at a distance. It puzzled me for another few moments as the fuzziness crept down along the northern shore and then raced across the lake toward our boat house. Then I saw the edge of the disturbance clearly, a passing cloudburst that broke the quiet the surface of the water with a combination of wind and rain.

The rain was surprisingly cold. Two kids on a jet ski made a break for it, my wife told me she was headed back inside, and that left me waist-deep and forty feet off-shore, fly rod in hand, facing the thin stand of weeds growing between our cottage and the next house down. A rather chill great blue heron chose to ride out the storm atop our swimming dock, legs akimbo as it fought to stay upright on the rocking platform. It eyed me curiously, as if to ask You call that fishing?, then deliberately dove into the water. Coming up empty, it ruffled its feathers and took off. I felt a bit of satisfaction seeing the heron strike out just as I was, and found some vindication a few minutes later after landing a nice hand-sized bluegill that would’ve made that bird envious.

The lake isn’t for anglers. It’s the place for boaters and their toys, and on a typical summer weekend the water is roiled by passing jet skis and speed boats, and the evening brings out the leisure booze cruisers doing laps in covered pontoons. I have heard at one time the lake had decent bass and northern action, but those days appear long past. But like any body of water in Wisconsin larger than a puddle, the panfishing is enough to keep me occupied over a long weekend. I can put into the rowboat and make it out to the little bay on the western side of the lake, or putter around in the float tube, but its easiest and just as productive to throw off the sandals and wade off the beach and within reach of my beer.

And sometimes, in the late afternoon when the sun hits the water and shows off the deep blue and green hues of the lake, and a gentle breeze rolls waves toward shore, and the beer gets to me a little bit, you can squint sideways and think you’re working your way along some distant saltwater flat. And with a 4-weight rod, a size 8 Woolly Bugger, and a steady strip-retrieve, hooking a 8-inch bluegill can provide just as much excitement as their salty cousins.


Author: chesleyfan

I work, I fish, I write.

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