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Truck stop kayak fishing. PHOTO: SCOTT MACGREGOR

Muskrat Love

YOU CAN’T REALLY FISH it any other way. Some try of course. You know it by the bobbers swinging from power lines. You know it from the empty worm con- tainers and whisky bottles beneath over- passes where it’s easiest to access, and where few fish can tolerate the rumble of traffic above. The Muskrat River begins miles up-

stream in Edmunds Lake in the heart of Renfrew County. It flows quietly, muddy brown through farm country, surely a nui- sance to today’s farmers interrupting the otherwise straight furrows. Leaving the last of a small chain of lakes it picks up its name and more momentum before it makes a run for the streetlights of Pem- broke’s city limits. My buddy (and advertising sales guy

for Kayak Angler) Russ Schroeder and his wife grew up in Pembroke. We were bar- becuing burgers on their patio discussing evening plans of northern pike on the Ot- tawa River when he told me a story of fish- ing the Muskrat with his brothers as kids. “Where is it? Are there still fish in it?”

I asked. Russ told me he used to fish the Musk-

rat in the city’s Pansy Patch Park. I’d know the spot, he said. It was where I’d shot photos of his wedding last fall. I’d driven over the Muskrat on the way to his house and hadn’t even noticed.

INNER-CITY RIVER KAYAK FISHING—THE ONLY WAY Once the city’s source of hydroelectric-

ity, the Muskrat now lies mostly forgotten behind subdivisions and beneath main street bridges. Today it’s a bone-yard for milk crates and shopping carts discarded by drunken teenagers racing home from house parties. Russ didn’t know anyone who’d fished

it in years, and made no promises. We left my Avalanche downtown in the parking lot of the farmer’s market and drove upstream to put in at the Irving Truck Stop on the edge of the highway where the Muskrat is widest and slow-moving, not in any hurry to trade hayfields for factories. A couple nosy truckers wandered over

asking the questions you always get while rigging rod holders and strapping in tackle. Questions like “You fish from those?” and “What’s the difference be- tween all those boats?” In this issue there are more specialized

fishing kayaks than the world has ever seen. Fishermen have never had a greater variety of variations and options; never been more able to buy a kayak that will suit their fishing styles and most impor- tantly allow them to catch more fish. I was in Ocean Kayak’s new 13-foot

Trident and Russ his Native Ultimate, radically different boats. The funny thing is that both worked just fine. In fact all the boats in this issue’s buyer’s guide will

get you down the Muskrat. I know this because after this first trip Russ and I have fished it lots. In high water where we crashed through class III whitewater and in the lowest August levels dragging our boats over gravel bars in ankle-deep soupy summer water. Every one of these fishing kayaks, no

matter the make or model, is better than shore fishing. In the weedy sections of the Muskrat we caught northern pike. In the deep shaded pools, walleye. And from shallow rocky swifts, beautiful smal- lies. All of these areas are inaccessible from any other type of boat. I answered the trucker’s questions tell-

ing them about the finer difference be- tween sit-on-top kayaks, sit-inside kayaks and hybrids. About length, width and per- formance. Popular features and accesso- ries. While I was doing so, I realized I was answering the wrong question. They should have asked me the differ-

ence between catching fish from a kayak and fishing without a kayak. That’s easy. I’d tell them that when it comes to places like the Muskrat where a kayak is the only way, the answer is: everything.

SCOTT MACGREGOR is the founder and publisher of Kayak Angler, Adventure Kayak, Rapid and Canoeroots magazines. Coincidently, he recently purchased at the Irving Big Stop truck stop a discounted CD, America’s Greatest Hits, History.… 9

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