Norman Maclean wrote in his legendary story “A River Runs Through It” that when fly fishing, eventually all thoughts leave one’s head except those about fly fishing.
I found that to be true when I was more engaged in that form of fishing, and I find it to be mostly true of spin fishing. I count thoughts about the sights and sounds and smells of nature as part of the fishing experience to maintain the truth of the statement.
Consequently, I often don’t notice other activities going on around the lake, except for when I am somewhat annoyed by an early-morning water ski boat’s wake bouncing me around.
But taking my wife, Judi, for a simple boat ride around the lake during a late morning of a beautiful Saturday provided the opportunity to see how other people enjoy Little Lake Wissota. It was as American as having a slice of apple pie on the Fourth of July.
On one of those square diving platforms anchored a ways off the end of a dock, two boys were playing, with another boy and a (presumably) dad treading water nearby. One boy on the platform attacked the other, who was just climbing up, with one of those rifle-like water cannons until it was empty. The victim calmly walked up and gave the shooter a gentle push. It didn’t appear as it he were trying to push him in the water, but the boy moved back a bit, started to slip and went in anyway. I could see the others laughing.
Over a 28-foot-deep hole, three young women in a ski boat were apparently making their own diving platform. One was on the bow, lowering an anchor rope, hand over hand. Their swimsuits showed they were not stopping there to fish.
A big pontoon passed us going the other way, pulling a floating tube with a young boy clinging to the ski rope. He appeared quite small; it had to be his first summer when he was old enough to pull through the water. Will he cherish the memories for decades to come?
Heading up Paint Creek to show Judi some spots where I often fish, we passed a blond boy fishing off the abutment of the now-removed bridge. The bridge’s demise has improved access for shore fishermen, at least temporarily. “Catch anything?” Judi shouted up at him. He reached into a bucket and proudly pulled out a smallmouth bass and flashed a big, beaming smile.
Farther up the creek, at second bend, a family in a nice boat had taken control of another boat that had broken free from a dock. They shouted up at the people on shore heading for the stairway down with gear for an afternoon pleasure trip on the water. A young man was first to arrive and hopped in the family’s boat, then over to the stray to take command, thanking the rescuers. If they hadn’t come along, we would have done the same. Lake people help one another.
I have noticed paddle boarders on the lake during the relative calm of the early morning hours. I was surprised to see a group of three making their way along, despite the fairly heavy boat traffic. I powered down as I went by, not wanting to give them any more wakes than they already had to deal with.
In the distance, a couple of kayakers paddled their way along. Much closer, a couple of jet skits whipped around in circles like a couple of teenagers spinning donuts in the high school parking lot. To each his own, I guess.
Heading back home, tied to a dock a couple of doors down was a large inflatable platform, with high, cushiony walls. Two moms lounged inside, keeping a sharp eye on the kids in the water holding on to float tubes.
Yes, there are user conflicts among the people enjoying the lake, for not all of the activities are compatible with one another. But conflicts are the exception. For the most part, the people of the lake know how to get along and respect one another.