"He hammered it," Dad yelled from the back of the canoe as we trolled through 120-feet of water. The smile on Dad's face quickly dissipated and turned to the serious look of a diehard fisherman fighting an epic battle with his first lake trout. "He's still got it, he's still got it," he repeated as I continued to paddle on that cool, cloudy, mostly wet day in June 2011. This trip started about eight months prior around Thanksgiving 2010, maps spread across the kitchen table, looking at different routes and talking about what we wanted to accomplish. Normally, we plan four day trips, but that year we wanted to try something a little longer, a seven-day loop. We figured a few days chasing the elusive lake trout and a few chasing Dad's favorite, the walleye. I suppose over the last 25 years I have also come to love the walleye, never eating more than a meal or so per trip, mainly I love the chase. The adventure the BWCA provides is the real attraction, exploring new areas, paddling through big and small lakes, and streams of varying difficulty, there is truly something for everyone. This fish proves that theory.
I quickly reeled my line in and continued paddling to keep us in the deep water. The last thing we needed was this monster getting caught up in a log or some other structure in the shallows. The fish was peeling line off the reel like I've never seen before, running 30-40 feet at a time and then, sitting not giving an inch. "He's gone!," Dad said. "What? No way, you kidding?!" I replied as I turned to see Dad's rod straight as an arrow. He was still reeling, picking up slack and bang, "He's back!" The battle continued for the next 40 minutes. I'd been paddling the entire time in the front of the canoe by myself, the slight head wind adding a little extra burn to my arms. "Get the net!" As the fish came to the surface, Dad and I looked at each other in amazement. How was this tank going to fit in the net? The giant was so exhausted he gave me no problem, aside from his sheer size, measuring 37.5 inches. How about that for a first lake trout? We took just a quick minute to snap a few pictures, before returning him to the water as quickly as possible. As we released him, we watched him twist and turn as he slipped through Dad's hands. I will never forget that scene; an old giant going back to patrol the waters he's roamed for decades.
Dad and I decided to paddle west to a nearby bay to take a break. We wanted to reflect on what had just happened, both of us still in shock. Coasting into the calm bay, we saw it, floating just as perfect as could be; an eagle feather. Like a picture out of a story book, it was somewhat emotional. There are some old Indian tales that claim eagles are messengers from the afterlife. Just a year earlier my mom had lost an exhausting battle with pancreatic cancer. I can promise you she was right there with us that day in June. There was a reason we were on that lake, in that spot, on that day, with that lure. This journey had been tough for both my Dad and me. The feather was a sign to keep battling. Every year we make a trip or two. The routes are rarely the same, but one thing never changes, the adventure.
Joey Klegstad works in the gaming entertainment industry as the chief operating officer of Pro Paintball MN and Escape MSP. Born and raised near Ely, MN, Joey has a deep connection to the Boundary Waters Wilderness and family roots in the mining industry. Joey is a member of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and spends much time hunting and fishing across the state. He currently lives with his family in Lakeville, Minnesota.