When Richard, the manager of a state park near here,
called the other morning he did something quite
unique. He gave up a lake.
No one gives up a lake nowadays. Too much pressure.
Too many "meat" hunters. Too much trash left along the
banks and accesses. Too much too much.
Richard didn't just give up a lake.
He gave up his personal hideaway, and that is even
more impressive and humbling.
Richard had called to see if I would agree once again
to do a presentation on warmwater fly fishing at his
interpretive center in June. It was during this
conversation that I told him of discovering a walk-in
lake close by his state park, and how it reminded me
of a lake I fished years ago in Sweden - hidden in
trees, quiet and remote, yet no more than a few
hundred meters from a highway. Finding a lake like
this in modern day Minnesota is practically
"If you like this lake," he said, "then you should
look for the portage from there into Pearl. The
portage is the only way to get into Pearl," he said.
"It's really wild back there. It would be your type of
fishing, with your canoe and flyrod. It's where I go
to get away. Not many people know about it. Even if
He let the sentence die. People are generally lazy,
and if they can't use a power boat they likely won't
bother with the effort.
Richard introduced himself a few years ago just
moments after I had won a fight with a chunky little
largemouth bass at a stream inlet adjacent to the
state park. The park is on the northeast shore of the
lake. He had pulled to a stop on the quiet blacktop in
his DNR pickup to watch, and I figured I would need to
find my fishing license.
He simply sat and watched as the fight played out in
the roiling waters. He had strolled down for a closer
look as I worked the hook loose to release the bass.
"You do much fly fishing around here?"
"Pretty much all I do."
"I guess I thought it was something you mainly did
"Oh, I'm not alone," I said, rising up from my
crouched position. "In the spring several of us come
here to fly fish these flats for crappies and
bluegill. Some in float tubes, some in kayaks, and
myself, I fish mainly from my cedar strip canoe."
He then asked if I'd give a presentation on fly
fishing at the state park. It was late in the year, so
we agreed to "negotiate" later.
I'm easy. He agreed to set up weekend reservations at
an adjacent state park which is much smaller and has
no electrical sites in return for the presentation.
While his park is a glacial moraine now covered with a
dense growth of hardwoods, his camping area resembles
a Walmart parking lot. I prefer the other park for
So last July 2 I packed in my displays of flies for
specific warmwater species, a flyrod and vise.
Richard didn't expect a large crowd, and I came with
no expectations. Surprisingly the little room in the
Interpretive Center was packed. Most were school-aged
children, along with a few parents. A couple of
retirees were on hand as well.
After warming them up with a few fishing tales, I
picked out a likely victim to help me choose a color
for tying a quick Gill Buster (I gave her the fly for
her efforts) before going through my fish and fly
Everyone was invited outside for a casting
demonstration, after which they were given an
opportunity to try their hand at casting.
With Richard observing off to one side, the
soon-to-be teenage boys made fools of themselves
overpowering the rod.
One of the retirees took the six-weight in hand as if
he were greeting a long-lost friend. "Haven't done
this since right after the War," he said. "Fifty years
I'm guessing." After a few false casts he was in the
swing, and walked off with a large smile and promising
a trip to Cabelas.
While all the kids seemed anxious to try, one little
girl - probably about five or six, arms about as big
around as my rod, and with a baseball cap hanging long
over her ears and held in place with her ponytail -
stood off to the side.
After all the other kids were done, I urged her to
try. She sighed. Then, with a steely and determined
look on her face she took the rod and did a lazy and
loose backcast before laying out an almost perfect 20
feet of line. No, it wasn't a tight loop, and it
probably wasn't perfect, but wow! I looked over at
Richard. He was smiling from ear to ear.
She then repeated it, incredibly lifting the line,
using her wrist and forearm to bring the line up, load
the rod, then unleased the line gently across the
"We have a natural," I said, giving her a true
Richard then stepped in to thank everyone for coming.
As the crowd dispersed into the woods and up the hill,
he asked to give it a try. "I doubt if I'll do as well
as that little girl, but this is something I've always
wanted to try."
Richard was a tangled mess, and after several
attempts and some arm guidance, he was able to put out
a decent amount of line.
As he handed me the rod, Richard said the session had
gone well and added that he hadn't expected the
hands-on with everyone in the crowd. "That was a nice
So when he called the other morning to see if we
could do it again this summer, I was thrilled.
That's when I told him of discovering the hidden
jewel of a lake, the one that reminded me of Sweden.
It was then he gave up his lake.
"I wonder if that little girl will be there again?" I
"That was pretty special," he said.
So was giving up his personal hideaway. ~ John White (white43)