By Nick Simonson

"Some nights I stay up, cashing in my bad luck; some nights I call it a draw," is the opening line to the song "Some Nights" by the group Fun. My wife downloaded their breakout release just before our first of three trips to the lake in as many weeks, and on the road back and forth, we've flipped the album a few times and learned the lyrics to most of the songs. After this, the second weekend without a big fish in the boat, I'm beginning to think that this particular line about struggling to find a win is sticking with me.

Night Musky Fishing

While my brother is landing muskies left and right, including two (44- and 52-inches) in one quick morning trip on Friday, my time at the lake (on the weekends I can make it there) is thwarted by high winds, extreme fishing pressure, other activities and when I do get on the water - big fish with powerful headshakes. This weekend, most of my time was spent trying to best my personal record of 22:17 in a 5K race (I finished at 22:26) before stuffing my face at the now-traditional Turkey Barbecue in Ulen, Minn., then entertaining friends and family at the cabin and getting in a long training run on Sunday morning for the upcoming Dick Beardsley half marathon. When that was all done and it was time to pack it up and head back home, I was finally able to squeeze in a few last minutes of fishing over a sunken island in the middle of Big Detroit Lake with my brother.

As we fired up the boat and backed out of the lift, I pulled out an old bucktail I had tied as part of my first foray into lure making - almost five years ago. It was a single 4/0 hook covered in white bucktail over rainbow flashabou and it had boated four muskies and uncountable northern pike in its lifetime. I recounted the early summer fish I had caught trolling on the party boat and the forty-incher that fell to it while I was casting off the dock, and smiled with the memories and hoped to add some more.

I inspected the hooks and noted that time had taken its toll on what was one of the more memorable and long-lived lures I have owned. I selected a hook file from the front deck storage compartment and went to work on the points of the old Mustad 3551 treble while we churned our way out into the middle of the lake. With each stroke, the bronze rust came off, exposing steely sharp points which had connected with the bony, tooth-filled maw of a number of fish. The post-frontal bluebird skies allowed the sun to glint off of the hook points like a wink and with that sign I clipped it on the leader.
As we pulled up to the spot and my brother dropped the trolling motor, I fired off a particularly long cast over the windward side of the underwater hump and within two cranks I felt a wallop on the other end of my line. It wasn't one of the hammer-handle pike that regularly patrolled these areas at the end of summer - it was a muskie of at least decent size. However, there was a good forty yards of braided line between us, and I went to adjust my drag as the fish ran hard and then broke the surface. And as it jumped, I realized the line was too tight and too far out for the leap the fish was making. And with one of those amazing, all-in-slow-motion head shakes, I heard the jingle of the spinner blade against the hook spiraling through the air and I felt the line go limp.
I took little comfort in my brother's long-distance assessment of the fish as it was "just an upper thirties" muskie. I shook my head, mustered a smile and pulled the lure in. I inspected the shining hook points, knowing full well it wasn't the recently-sharpened lure that failed, but my forgetfulness to drop the rod tip on the jump to provide the fish with enough slack so that the line didn't serve as some sort of rubber band which would slingshot the lure out of its mouth. Lesson re-learned.

The next hour produced one little pike and we motored in. I packed up my clothes and my gear, hopped in the truck with the dog and my wife and headed back down that familiar blacktop. I flipped the music to our August soundtrack and the words stung a little bit harder, up until I got to the end of the tune and listened to the track play out, rewinding it to the middle to listen to the words of desperate hope that trail off into the final chorus: "Some nights I always win, I always win…"

I half heartedly laughed, locked in cruise control and hoped that maybe those nights will come for me next weekend…in our outdoors.