May 1st, 2006

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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How To Earn a Secret Spot
By John White

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 impossible.

"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 they did."

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 for trout."

"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 camping.

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 displays.

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 grass.

"We have a natural," I said, giving her a true compliment.

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 touch."

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 asked.

"That was pretty special," he said.

So was giving up his personal hideaway. ~ John White (white43)

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