My first thought was that my day was shot. High in a
tree branch was my little foam popper, one that had
successfully boated any number of nice bluegill.
A fly tyer would recognize the small green thing as a
"Gurgle Pop." You make it by laying down a small tail
made from bushy end of a squirrel, then add rubber
legs to a foam body. Color doesn't matter. This one
was green and incredibly effective.
I used this particular Gurgle Pop for the first time
last summer fishing with Wes Konzin on one of his
nameless lakes. Since it has been battered by both
bluegill and largemouth bass. That thing in the leaves
was a mess of a fly. Ragged and edge-worn. A leg
missing. Yet, you grow attached to a fly like this.
Like a couple of old poppers in my box that have been
hit so many times paint has worn off the edges. Old
troopers! This was a foam version of an old trooper,
hanging listlessly from a tree branch just high enough
it couldn't be reached with an extended paddle.
At least it is in a tree on a peaceful lake; a lake
that isn't a cul de sac nor one that will ever have
its ambience destroyed with the sound of a jetski or
ski boat. This is one of a handful of 15,000 Minnesota
lakes that are preserved for quiet moments, for a day
After two weekends of community festivals I was due a
day away. With the canoe tied down to the
"granite-green gas guzzler," I was off as soon as the
rains stopped Sunday morning. Nice and humid. Not that
hot nor really that humid. Not even close to those
90/90 days my sister says hit the south this weekend,
but warm and humid enough to give you a sense of
summer. Warm and humid enough to erase those blizzard
days of winter.
At first the guzzler was headed toward St. Cloud. I
had my mind on a stretch of river running through one
of those towns near Cold Spring, and indeed, it might
be Cold Spring. High, granite bluffs face toward a
small park and landing. Looks like a smallmouth might
be niched in there somewhere. With a canoe you can hit
several such spots in a day, and after that, I
wouldn't know where to go next. On some days this
wouldn't be a major concern, but on this one I knew I
would need to find some semblance of solitude. At the
Spicer bend I found myself heading north.
Itasca? I could be there by noon. Park Rapids? I read
a piece lately that says there are some 200 lakes and
rivers within ten minutes of leaving a Park Rapids
For whatever reason the guzzler veered left once
again at Belgrade and pulled up a half hour later at a
lake access I have had not seen for a few years. An RV
park across from the lake has been expanded threefold,
and the few fishing boats you used to see in the
common spots were nowhere to be found. Instead,
waterskiers bounced across waves and wakes of the
Forty-five minutes later I was back on the highway.
Minnewaska was flat. You could see that from the bluff
overlooking Glenwood. A long line of boats waited at
the Starbuck access. I skirted around and found a spot
at the very end of the parking lot with water access.
Before the second boat was backed into the water I was
paddling toward the weedbed flats. As calm as the
water looked, and it was basically a windless day, the
boats on the big lake had me rolling. The noise was
worse. Within 20 minutes my canoe was strapped back on
top of the guzzler and we were off in search of
Somehow, subconsciously, I knew this little lake
would be my destination. Yet, it would take two noisy
and busy lakes for the image to rise. As I paddled
through the lily pads and the swimming beach I smiled
realizing that quiet here might be challenged by a
laughing child splashing in the water. And, that is
just fine by me.
There was a moment when leaving Minnewaska that a
heritage lake came to mind. With a five-bluegill limit
and a healthy population of bass and northern, chances
of hooking into a "bull" bluegill are quite good. This
is a no-motor, no electronics body of water. Still,
I came here. With the old green Gurgle Pop tied on, I
cast into the shade below a wooded hillside - a
shallow area close to deep water. On my third catch I
had a bluegill that put an impressive bend into my
flyrod, a fish large enough to douse thoughts of the
While unhooking the fish, a man eased up in a kayak.
"Don't see many people who fly fish. Looks fun."
For a second I thought of handing him my rod, and as
we chatted, I cast. That's how my Gurgle Pop ended up
beyond reach in the tree. I wasn't paying attention to
what I was doing.
He was helpful, although neither of us could reach
high enough to salvage the little green popper. A few
flies later I tied on a yellow Gurgle Pop I happened
onto in the bottom of my canvas pack. It must have
fallen out of my fly box at some point. A windfall,
What a lovely place. Nestled within an oak savanna,
this lake is well protected from wind. Even on days
when whitecaps rule some lakes, this little jewel is
still relatively calm. Besides the occasional
interruption of children's laughter, the main noise
was that of an 8 year-old fishing with his
grandfather. No matter what the kid did, he banged
something against the hull of his aluminum canoe. The
patience in the stern was noteworthy as the old man,
with his white hair clasp in a pony tail beneath a
cool straw hat, tried to coax a fish onto their hooks.
This would be a futile desire, although the two seemed
to share a timeless moment they will both likely
A moment or two later I entered my own timeless
moment - when all was right with the world. A nice
pocket with extended shade, and some very nice fish
ambling about. Life couldn't be much better. Legs
stretched out. A comfortable seat. A slight breeze
caressing the shade. I started the day with a frozen
bottle of water, and the ice was mostly melted so the
water was just perfect, and there was plenty of it.
Just sitting there fishing a day away. These are the
moments that give justice to the bumper stickers: a
bad of day fishing is better than a good day of work.
Or something to that affect.
All good things must seemingly end, or so
another saying goes. A favorite fly in a tree branch; a moment
of comfort and quiet solitude in the shade. ~ John White