The largemouth bass blew up with so much authority she hooked herself.
Good thing, because she sure caught me off guard Tuesday morning on opening day at Braidwood Lake, the cooling lake south of Joliet.
All I had been doing was making a quick cast from the edge of the parking lot to make sure everything was functioning after a winter of non-use. Instead, I caught a fabled first-cast fish, a fine 15-inch largemouth.
Of course, I spent the next hour and a half, hiking the mile and a half to the end of the shore fishing along the rip-rap on the west bank, without a bite.
It was a wild morning, though better weather than forecast. A cold east wind humped thick fog off the warm side. The famous island disappeared and reappeared in the fog.
Three guys, swaddled in duck-hunting camo, drifted by in a boat. They were catching largemouth, too. As they sailed the wind down the bank and disappeared into the fog again, they yelled that the water temperature was 74.8.
I was first to reach the end of the shore fishing, where the fence blocks the restricted area. I take pride in that. And it paid off. In two casts with a Rattlin’ Rapala, I landed two more bass, a 12-inch bank runner and another chunky 15-incher.
It was time.
The wind shifted more northerly, driving thickening fog the length of the lake. On the walk back, I first bumped into Steve Ryder, a regular on most opening days. His photo ran a couple years ago in the Sun-Times.
Then I walked up on Ron Pidu, a young man from Streamwood (photo at the top), unhooking a decent largemouth. Crankbaits and spinner baits were working for him.
On the way back to the parking lot, another dozen guys, mostly younger, appeared and disappeared in the fog, like the ghosts of fishing future. All had caught at least some largemouth.
Some of the catfish fishermen off the parking lot were landing channel catfish, mostly the usual fiddler size.
Another open-water fishing season begins around Chicago.
I stopped by Fossil Ridge Public Library to file my column. And tried to divine some life meaning from the name, then moved on.
Braidwood opens at 6 a.m. and currently closes at 6 p.m. daily. Click here for general info.
STRAY CAST: Watching Sylvester Stallone not earn an Oscar was like watching a hiking group leave behind the old guy, the experienced one who had been down that path before.