With icy roads and snow in the forecast and a puddle of windshield washer fluid appearing on the concrete after running the wipers and not getting a clean windshield, I headed down the road to Postville, IA, to Reggie's Body Shop. Special tools were needed to get to the spot where there was likely just a loose connection. The fly fishing roadtrip for trout in the Driftless would have to wait a bit.
With our heads under the hood and his two dogs running around, we talked about his buddy's custom knife-making business, and then I mentioned I was heading toward Decorah for some fishing. That led to Reggie and me heading back inside for Reggie to show me a photo. I held it in window light and saw Reggie's father-in-law holding a musky and another rough-looking fish, along with a friend gripping a very long cane pole. "What's that?" I asked about the cane pole.
While Reggie worked on my fishing and car-camping suv his story began.
In the cold, back under the hood of the suv, Reggie cut off the portion of hose that had been pinched under a cover, had cracked, and eventually sprung a leak. While finding something to splice together the now separate tube, he told me about the 20-foot cane rod and how it was used to catch musky. I took pictures and asked for more details. Ultimately, he found a little elbow connector, mated it up with the hose, we did a washer fluid test, and then headed indoors to finish the story inside the warm little brick building.
For many reasons, I can't recommend this method of fishing. BUT... to be honest it is a pretty creative way to catch musky and it makes a good story, so I had to share it. The fishing is done in a boat that is drifting (Reggie said that trolling is illegal). You need some suckers, and I was told they can be alive, but Reggie has used dead suckers, stinky ones even, and the musky don't seem to mind. You run the bite guard through the sucker's mouth and around the gills. Now, Reggie said that for some reason it is now illegal not to use a hook, but in the past they just used to tie off the bite guard, sans hook. So, you've got an unlucky sucker, a bite guard (and a hook so you are legal), fishing line with a rubber ball tied in somewhere (as a bobber), and the line is connected to your 20-foot cane pole. While drifting (nope, not trolling-- it is illegal), the cane pole butt section is set in a rod holder. Have fun and watch the rubber ball.
Now, when your ball starts doing some moving and grooving, that is when you take the cane pole out of its holder and just chuck that pole in the water in front of you! Next, to ensure success, kick back, drift in sight of the pole, and drink two beers. If luck is with you and if you drank slowly enough, your musky is now "hooked" even if you aren't using a hook (but that is illegal), so you position your boat near the cane pole and pick the pole up. Then, after you get hold of some of the attached fishing line, throw the pole back in the water behind you. Start hand-stripping in the line (Reggie didn't say it, but they gotta have gloves on), net your musky, and bring it into the boat! If you do it all just right, that musky won't regurgitate the sucker until the musky is in the net... otherwise, bye-bye musky.
Just remember the important part. This method of fishing requires that you bring beer. If you don't drink two beers after the musky takes the sucker, the musky will not have had enough time to adequately turn the sucker around in its mouth and swallow it sufficiently to be "hooked."
So, I drove away from Reggie and the brick body shop. While I fished and caught trout the following day with my 9-foot graphite fly rod, I thought of his story, but knew that I would stick with fly fishing and using my own flies, casting and casting, flaring up my tendonitis, and at some point, hooking and strip-setting for the chance to net a musky... and to safely release it. I do agree that drinking two beers is still a good idea, but only two because we always musky fish with hooks. Big ones. Then, when the sun is sinking low after the last cast is made and the rods and boat are tucked away for the night, to my fly fishing friends at the campfire I'll tell the tale of catching musky with a 20-foot cane rod, a rubber ball, and no hook.