Friday afternoon my wife and I hopped on the Southwest Airlines 1:25 p.m. flight to Kansas City. Because we checked in rather late for our flight, we got boarding passes B27 and B28, which, in Southwest terms, barely entitles one to a seat at all. We were pleased to get adjoining seats on the very back row, although my wife advised me that her seat was much too small, though she is rather a small person.
We landed and drove to my father-in-law's house. Then we switched to his vehicle for the drive to Ottawa, Kansas, the first leg in the Dad-daughter fishing trip to which I had been invited as an official observer.
We stopped at the Comfort Inn in Ottawa, a pleasant small city just off I-35, with lots of late Victorian and early Edwardian homes. We sat in my father-in-law's eleganza motel room, festooned with two easy chairs, a television, and a bed, and discussed trifles and inessentials while the television played an NBA basketball playoff game featuring the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics about which none of us cared a whisker.
We walked to Applebee's for a dinner of modest steaks. My wife and I then watched a late night repeat of the program "NCIS", in which a murder was solved.
We met at 6 a.m. in the motel lobby for the drive to Coffey County, some 22 miles further down the freeway.
Our breakfast took place at a truck stop cafe which featured a breakfast buffet. We enjoyed the scrambled eggs, cinnamon roll, biscuits and fresh fruit. As we ate, the intercom would announce "trucker 166, shower 2 is now available". At 7 a.m., our fishing guide, Clyde, drove up in his pickup truck and bass boat. Clyde is from Topeka, and is roughly retirement age from a help desk type IT job. He laid out for us that we could go to lovely Lake Melvern, where the water is being drained down in light of a recent rain, the fish would be deep, and the wind would be up. Our other choice was Coffey County Lake, a less attractive lake with better fishing and presumably less wind. We left it to my wife to choose, and she plumped for Coffey County Lake.
We drove roughly a half an hour to the lake, past open fields with riparian trees and cows. The lake is
in a treeless section, with a nuclear power plant on its shores. The temperature was quite chilly--particuarly for May--so we dressed warmly. Indeed, Clyde even had some additional warming items for us.
I was particularly impressed with the lake because it had so many birds, all around. Sometimes when I read that the red-winged blackbird is among our most abundant birds, I find it hard to believe. Anyone visiting this lake, though, would be a believer. They were everywhere--with the lovely wings and their idiosyncratic calls. We also saw killdeer, curlew, flocks of arctic tern, canada geese, mallard ducks, barn swallows, rough-winged swallows, egrets, great blue herons, and a host of shorebirds I cannot identify.
Clyde took us out in the brisk wind to fish. We first stopped in shallow water near a rocky beach. We fished for crappie. I caught one, my wife's father caught several, and my wife caught a couple. We tried another similar crappie spot, with modest success. We did see a handsome young coyote looking out at us from the shore. The wind stayed strong, and the temperature never became truly warm. I emerged with a combination of windburn and sunburn that gives me a kind of turnip/beet elegance.
Clyde then varied our routine. Rather than bouncing lures slowly along the weeds for crappie, we
trolled, i.e., we held lures to glide in the water while the boat slowly moved. We all began to catch white bass in consistent numbers. Each of us also caught a walleye, a more prized game fish. This trip provided my first walleye catch. Although we instructed our guide that we wished to catch and release, he could not bring himself to release the walleye. This bothered me a bit, but I do not begrudge him a tasty walleye feast.
He was a very good guide, instructing where appropriate and staying out the way when appropriate.
Although our trolling was remarkably successful, Clyde wished us to try crappie fishing again. After a bit, he took us to spot to which he had taken my wife and her father three years ago. Apparently, at that time, my wife had hooked a large smallmouth bass, which had jumped from the water in a spectacular fashion. My wife
had, instead of setting the hook and reeling in the bass, instead exclaimed "Did you SEE that fish?". Clyde had apparently re-told the story a number of times as amusing.
Clyde gave a funny little speech about how my wife had a chance at redemption--he referred to the spot as Redemption Point. After a few moments, just as in a movie, my wife hooked a huge smallmouth bass. She expertly reeled it in. The bass was 18 1/2 inches long. We took its picture, and then she released it.
Clyde was beside himself with joy. Rarely has one fishing guide had a fish story end so poetically.
We all had a very good day. Excluding the guide, we caught 31 fish. My wife caught 12 fish-a walleye, 2 smallmouth bass, 2 crappie and 7 white bass. My father-in-law caught 1 walleye, 1 drum, 4 crappie and 5 white bass. I caught 1 channel catfish, 1 crappie, 1 walleye and 5 white bass. We were all very pleased with our catch, and we bid Clyde a fond adieu about 4 p.m. Though my pictures of my wife and her father are the best ones, I'll share one my wife took of me holding a small crappie fish, and a picture of the shore:
We drove back to Kansas City, where my wife's step-mother fixed us a nice dinner of roast chicken breast. We all chatted for a while, then made an early evening of things.
On Sunday, we met with my wife's family at the local country club in Mission Hills for a mother's day brunch. We had a small chamber called The East Room for our party of 11. The buffet was quite good, if in some ways similar (if more elaborate) to that of the truck stop. My 4 year old niece showed she had the right stuff when she went to the ice cream stand and eschewed the ice cream for a dish of toppings. We had a nice visit with one and all, and were able to distribute some gifts we purchased as a recent charity silent auction in the sports-memorabilia-and-gadgets variety that one buys at such events.
My wife stayed on Sunday evening, to return later, so I flew (again on the last row) to Dallas, and then picked up our dogs from the kennel in Plano just before it closed. I went to work today. Tonight I am cooking a crockpot meal of carrots, sauerkraut and potatoes (actually, cooking a second helping, as I consumed the first), and enjoying a restful night.