Perhaps you have been there, you know, whether in life or in the woods or on the water, when the stars align and there is that cosmic click where all things good happen.
In that vein, if there was ever a time in our soft and hard water fishing year for the stars to align and all our ducks to be in that perfect row, it would be August. Because our eighth month is a little bit summer and a little bit fall, it is somewhat like Donny and Marie Osmond’s self-describing ditty, “A little bit country and a little bit rock n’ roll.” Many of us, of course, have more than a little bit of trouble figuring out which is the little rock ‘n roll, but maybe that’s just us.
As those of us who fish this summer’s swan song month well know, the water temps are in the mid-seventies and probably have peaked. The cabbage weeds are now spired tall, occasionally even poking out of the water like a turtle’s head. These patches are also as flush as they are going to be and even though they look more like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree than a lush corn stalk, they still house the young of the year perch and varying other minnow cousins that attract the fish that bite our hooks. Throw in the pea soup tinted water and the bottom-hugging “Rusty” the crayfish and other sorts of bugs and swimming protein and you have August’s unbelievable underwater buffet.
We who ply these fruitful August waters call this type of fishing the “action bite.” For us, August means: A is for August, U is for you be there, G is for, well, sorry, “Git-R-Done” (Larry the Cable Guy), U is for the “U” turns we have to make to unhook from snags and rocks and weeds, S is for slow down or speed up our spinner troll rate and E, of course, is for the fishing effort we put in when we should be simply enjoying summer’s last throes. Finally, T represents the team we become as we fish and bond together.
The definition of an “action” bite is hopefully catching anything that swims. Whether it be a jig or rig or spinner (we don’t use cranks as we support our local minnow dippers), our fishing as of late has been thusly inclined.
If the “aligning” thing has you scrunching your noses and furrowing your foreheads over where you have heard that before, just think of the 1969 5th Dimension song, “Aquarius, Let the Sunshine in” and that urge to google will go away like a muskie on a 4# test crappie line. The lyrics that will have caused this consternation, of course, are: “When the moon is in the Seventh House/And Jupiter aligns with Mars/Then peace will guide the planets/And love will steer the stars.” And, if that isn’t 1969, we don’t know what is. Also, like some of us who thought the Beatles’ song “Paperback Writer” was “Paperback Rider,” “Aquarius” features “sunshine” not “sun shine.”
As is much of rock and roll history, the song is steeped in a virtual cornucopia of fascinating facts. According to the website “stereogum” for example, “The legend of “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine in” is that Billy Davis, Jr., the 5th Dimension’s leader, had left his wallet in a New York taxi. The person who returned his wallet had something to do with “Hair” and invited them to see the show. The members of the group loved the play’s introductory song “Aquarius” so much they told their producer Bones Howe they wanted to record it. Howe wasn’t sure how he’d turn it into a full song, so he took a few bars from “The Flesh Failures,” another of the show’s tunes, and smashed them together, turning them into a medley even though he didn’t think they fit too well. The result was rock history. The song was so popular, in fact, it was sung by the crowd like an anthem (nothing remotely like Jimi Hendrix’s National Anthem, of course) at the legendary Woodstock Festival of August 15-18, 1969. It was also the closing song for many local bar rock bands, like for those who fondly remember, The Outcasts, from the unforgettable Dale’s Bar in Coleraine, Minn.
If you were thinking about the astrological accuracy of the song, Wikipedia explains that British astrologist Neil Spencer denounced the lyrics as “astrological gibberish,” noting “that Jupiter forms an astrological aspect with Mars several times a year and the moon is in the 7th House for two hours every day.” Also, if you were wondering, “The Seventh House” is a reach into astrology, so if you are interested, do the research. Be prepared, though, there are many famous people who are and were ardent followers, like former First Lady Nancy Reagan.
Now that we have that backstory somewhat resolved, let us tell you about an outing last week that was the epitome of not only an action bite of epic proportions, but a huge cosmic click of backgrounds. The day began greeting two smiling fishermen, each sporting classic hats, one evoking a much-shared and valued conservation ethic, the other a life experience sharing emblem—a Vietnam veteran’s hat with a prominent big red number one. Those of you who have been there or know someone who has or have simply been in tune with our military history, understand the big red one signifies the 1st Infantry Division, the Army’s oldest combat division. Although officially nicknamed, “The Big Red One,” due to its casualties and generally being in the most horrific battles, it is also unofficially known as “The Bloody First” and “The Big Dead One.”
Although the depths of war or other health and human maladies are seldom shared by those who were there, the understanding that comes from being of that age or having known someone thusly afflicted, leads to an appreciation of the fishing day that goes far beyond the “catching.”
Even though age-specific notable events like growing up post The Great Depression, WWII, the Korean and Vietnam wars (conflicts), the world changing ‘60s and the foibles of youth and young adulthood (which for guys lasts decades) serendipitously sprinkled the spirited conversations, the steady spinner bite allowed just enough time for scintillating stories and dialogue.
If it wasn’t a drag-screaming northern pike, a bottom-hugging tugging walleye, a plucky jumbo perch or the occasional zig-zagging crappie, it was watching the king of the water otters swimming and dipping, diving and dining loon families, eagles and osprey riding the high air or seagulls snipping used floating used minnows that allowed for only these modest word exchanges.
But, that didn’t matter. When the skies are clear and the breezes waft in well under gale-force danger and discomfort and the landing net doesn’t get a chance to dry, life in the boat is good.
When we dig up old stories in the form of past sports played (the older we get, the better we were) and family and friend happy and growing times, our neighborhoods, towns and rural homes and our miracles as well as sad times, and wonder how we made it so far when others didn’t get the chance, we know life in the boat is good.
When all the stars align and that cosmic click rings stridently true and resonates like the soothing sounds we heard as children when our mothers came into our rooms to tuck us in and kiss us good night and we know we have been a good spouse and eaten the healthy cashews, cherries and pita-wrapped turkey/lettuce sandwiches they packed, washing them down with cool water and although we caught a ton of fish, we kept just enough fish for a good fry with simple sides like a crisp salad and buttered sweet corn—we know not only life in the boat, but life itself, is good.
We will leave you with a heartwarming quote from Helen Keller, “Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows.”
Nik and Rod Dimich are on the pro staffs of Mercury Marine and Ray’s Sport & Marine in Grand Rapids, Minn. Rod is also a pro-staffer for L&M Supply. To contact Dimich Outdoors, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Kristin Dimich contributes to this column.