Memories with Richard Bleil
Burt lake is beautiful. Nestled in the woods of Michigan, my family would rent a cabin there for a week every year. We went Walleye fishing every year. Well, not really fishing. And for those how don’t know, here’s what I know about Walleye. It’s a type of fish.
In ten years, we barely caught anything. Dad always insisted on using lures, and those lures, well, they just didn’t cut it. Dad had a simple metal lure that was so big and heavy that casting it one day my father literally snapped his fishing pole in half.
My mother had the best luck of all of us. In ten years, we had two catches, and both were my mom’s. The first was a tiny little clam. It had clamped onto the curve (not sharp) part of the hook. Dad managed to get it to let go, and before we could throw it back, yes, it spit at my dad.
In our last year, after ten years of failure, my mom finally decided to try live bait. She found (or dug up) a worm and put it on the hook. She caught the one and only actual Walleye in that decade. The good news is that they made me clean it. Go figure.
Dad got me up every morning in the dark. It was always cold, and I certainly didn’t enjoy losing sleep. Somehow, though, I didn’t really get a choice. My mother and sister got to sleep in, while I was sitting shivering in a boat catching, well, nothing. Of course, we weren’t allowed to talk because that would scare away the fish that were never there anyway. It was a, what, great, bonding experience with my dad, I guess?
The state was beautiful, though. I wish I had more time to enjoy it with things like hiking and exploring, but I guess being unproductive on the lake was, well, just as good. I guess.
Honestly, I would love to return to Burt Lake with a special lady, especially if she doesn’t enjoy fishing. But obviously that won’t be happening.
My favorite daily routine at Burt Lake was old Fella. Every day, we had a very polite and sweet dog pay us a visit. He apparently had a routine. He would walk up to our front door and scratch, once and only once, to alert us as to his presence. He would not bark, but sat politely, let us pet and love on him, and wouldn’t leave until he got something to eat. Nothing big. He wasn’t picky. But dad never let us have our own dog because he had dogs as a kid. Good reason to deny the family a pet, right? So, we looked forward to Fella’s visit. It was like, for one week, we had a daily temporary dog.
It wasn’t easy at first. The day that we arrived, there were millions of insects that swarmed our car. They were whispy flying insects called “Juneflies”. They looked vicious, with long protrusions from their back, and certainly not afraid of anything. Mom refused to get out of the car until my dad went to talk with the cabin owner to find out what they were. As it turns out, they don’t bite, and usually only live about a day. They swarm and land on anything, including us, but they would just sit there. You can’t wave them away because they just sit there. But you can easily grab them by their wings and simply pluck them off. The only real problem is that they also can land on water with surface tension holding them up. The fish love them, so presumably they affect the fishing, but they never seemed to make a difference to our fishing luck.
Now, you might be thinking, “oh, maybe it’s the Juneflies that gave you such bad luck with fishing”. Except that, those fishing in the neighboring cabins were reeling in entire boatloads of fish, and when the Juneflies were light, we still didn’t catch, well, anything but tiny little clams.
Honestly, I did enjoy the trips. There wasn’t much there for kids since there was no television and barely any radio, and yes, this was way before cellphones, but it was a change in scenery, and I loved the woods. I don’t remember any campfires, which is a shame because I did love those as well. Ten years seems excessive. And I never understood why we stopped doing it. Maybe mom catching that Walleye was the reason.