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The Last Windrow: It's the time of year to fish

I haven’t written a fishing column for some time. As I have perused my columns from the past 30 years, I’ve come across numerous columns devoted to what has always been my favorite outdoor activity, fishing. 

I think I chose fishing as my sport the day my Grandpa John and my dad took me to the banks of the West Fork of the West Branch of the Little Sioux River. The five-yard-wide stream flowed southeast through my Uncle Reed’s farm in a twisting manner with lots of willow trees growing along the edges. 

It was after I pulled my first fully developed creek chub from the depths and held it in my dirt-worm stained hands that I must have decided that this was about as good as it could get. My dad tells me I held the fish all the way back to our farm. 

How they divested me of the slimy and now-dead fish, I do not know, but it could not have been a pleasant parting. I was not into catch-and-release at that point in my life.

Over the years, I graduated to the state fish of Iowa, the yellow-bellied bullhead. One had to be careful when you handled one of these piscatorial delights or else you would find a painful spine lodged somewhere on your body. I grew quite adept at de-hooking these barbled creatures and took great pride in coming away from Buck Hageman’s creek many times with nary a puncture wound. 

From bullheads, I progressed to largemouth bass that I found lurking in the Everest Sandpit in Hawarden. I fully remember the first largemouth I hooked. I had eased over a hump above the water with my green Jitterbug lure dangling from my fishing rod. There, just off shore a few feet, lie a 2-pound largemouth bass, hiding under the shade of an uprooted tree. 

I cast the Jitterbug just in front of the bass and gave it one twitch. Out from under the roots the bass came, charged up to the lure and engulfed it. I didn’t even have to reel it in. I just lifted my rod and the prize was mine. Now I was an official gamefish angler! I remember the thrill like it happened two hours ago. 

Over the years I began reading about the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota. Just about every outdoor magazine I purchased had some feature about fishing in Minnesota. But, my age kept me from getting much farther away from home than the Big Sioux River. 

That was until I procured a driver’s license. The very next summer, my friend, Norman, and I headed north in the ‘51 Chevy and found our way to Sibley Lake near the town of Pequot Lakes. We thought we were in fishing heaven as we boated bass, crappie, northern pike and even a walleye! 

I had to admit that the walleye had the yellow-bellied bullhead beat all to heck when it came to looks. 

Since then I’ve fished with some of the best anglers on earth. I’ve guided a few folks to a hefty stringer or two and even had one of my friends boat a 10-pound plus walleye one fine fall day. We released it back to the depths with a smile on both our faces. 

I’ve had good luck and I’ve been skunked. Any guide who tells you he has never been skunked is either full of himself or wants your down payment ahead of time. Believe me, they all get skunked at times. It’s part of the business. 

At my age, I feel I’ve come about full circle in the angling world. Rather than pursuing the freshwater tiger, the musky, of which I’ve caught a couple of true trophies, I now find myself having just as much fun catching sunfish off a dock. Rather than trolling endlessly for a walleye that won’t bite, I now find myself bobber fishing for crappies. 

With this past spring’s endless winter and cold water, fishing has been a little slow around here. I’ve not been out on the lake in my boat. But, soon I’ll venture forth with the multitude and get back to business. 

I still have the same feeling as I did 61 years ago when I pulled that first creek chub out of Uncle Reed’s creek. The thrill never goes away. 

It’s the time of year to fish. 

See you next time. Okay?