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The Northwoods River News | Rhinelander, Wisconsin

Flanders Realty Group

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November 20, 2019

9/28/2019 7:30:00 AM
The Lake Where You Live
Things left undone
Ted Rulseh

I installed this pier where I now stand in mid-May and, as I stood then looking out over Birch Lake, I had plans and aspirations. In the six months ahead I was going to enjoy the lake in ways I had neglected.

But you know what they say about the best laid plans: they often go awry. And so it was this soon-to-end spring-summer-fall season.

Oh, there were things I accomplished. I bought a paddle boat for the grandsons, which they enjoyed greatly the one time they got to use it. I took the boys fishing on the pontoon; seven-year-old Tucker caught himself a musky, thus pulling even with younger brother Perrin. Tucker learned when and how to set a hook after a walleye or smallmouth pulls down a slip-bobber.

But mostly, yet again, I let the season go by with various promises to myself unkept. I intended, for at least a couple of summer days, to spend dawn to dusk fishing the way I sometimes did when we would visit the lake years ago as tourists. It never happened, because, you know, life.

I'd planned to invest a few hours here and there throwing a black bucktail or some other oversized lure for muskies. I didn't get around to it and for the fourth consecutive year my musky rod and reel caught nothing except garage dust.

In spring I bought new line for my flyrod and some poppers and bass bugs to replace the old desiccated ones in my fly box. We get mayfly hatches on Birth Lake and I wanted to go after the feeding bluegills and crappies some evening at dusk. I even practiced my casting out on our private road. But the mayfly-gulping fish fed unmolested off the end of my pier.

I looked forward to inflating my float tube and kick-paddling along the bulrushes in our near-shore water, pursuing smallmouth bass big and powerful enough to tow my little floating easy chair around. The tube remained flat and neglected in the zipper bag on a garage shelf.

I wanted, for the first time in nine years owning our place, to sit at the end of our pier at night and soak sucker minnows for walleyes under a lighted bobber. I remembered a lovely evening years ago with daughter Sonya and son-in-law Chad, night-fishing out in a boat, watching in amazement as the red-light floats sank beneath the surface. Wouldn't it be great to see that happen while standing on the dock? I suppose so, but I never tried it.

I paddled the red canoe around the lake's shallows just once or twice; otherwise it just lay there leaned up against a couple of saplings. I never took the canoe out long after dark on a new moon night to look at the stars.

I guess that is just how life goes in our busy world. The pier comes out in a couple of weeks. But there's always next year. Isn't there?

Ted Rulseh resides on Birch Lake in Harshaw and is an advocate for lake protection and improvement. His Lakeland Times and Northwoods River News columns are the basis for a book, "A Lakeside Companion," published by The University of Wisconsin Press. Ted may be reached at

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