Recently while talking about the “Take A Kid Fishing” weekend during the Fan Outdoors
broadcast emotions almost got the better of me. The topic is of significant importance on both a very personal and professional level. The personal part has to do with my love of the outdoors including the fact that as a parent it was extremely important to share and teach my sons, Erik and Chad about the outdoor world much the same as my own father did. The process is by no means difficult but it does require a purposeful approach in the parenting process. On the professional level it became very clear that for too many kids the outdoor experience of fishing or hunting is not widely shared or taught.
As a young adult, at my dad’s urging and following his lead I became a volunteer MN
Firearm Safety Instructor teaching classes for more than 30 years. These classes were filled with personal stories coupled with conservation, ethics and the importance of firearm safey. Sharing a love of fishing began within a career in public education taking place over a span of 20 years. With the help of colleagues and fishing friends we allowed thousands of young people to experience a day on the water in boats with adult mentors . It was while remembering some of those kids and their stories that my emotions almost got the best of me. Thanks too for Bob St.Pierre bailing me out because finding words at that moment was
Now as I sit in the cabin looking out at the lake during yet another rainy day it’s easy to
reflect back on some of those times. The biggest parent mistake I almost made was while on Lake Minnetonka with a very young Erik. We had driven to the lake, launched and began fishing but my intent was misplaced as we got on a weedline and began a bass search. He soon became bored with the deep water probing announcing he wanted to go home. Raising my voice my reply was “we’re not leaving yet so just sit down!” Quietly he sat down and began to cry. It was like a “hey stupid” hammer that hit me as this duhhhh moment rang home. With an “I’m sorry buddy” we packed up and went home. The note to self read “if
you’re taking a child fishing keep that as the only focus in the day!” That was a parenting lesson I’ve never forgotten and a mistake never made again! Now the tables have turned and it’s me that suggests to them that it might be time to head home.
Today it’s very quiet here but for the pattering of rain on the roof. Both dogs are sound asleep at least for the moment. But as I stand and turn 360 degrees there are so many memories in every direction. Memories filled with family and friends. Fishing, hunting, water skiing, campfires and overnights. That same oil burner is warming the cabin right now in exactly the same way it did so many years ago. The same 12’ Crestliner sits on a
trailer in the green shed too. A boat I learned to fish in and the same boat both boys also first explored Sauk Lake. Learning to drive that little boat and eventually going alone was a big deal-I know because I did it too.
Most of my family from that era are gone now and the cabin has become ours. The memories will live on and here comes the lesson. This grand experience we call the “outdoors” is still here! I’ve spent a lot of years teaching young minds and helping them be better prepared for
their tomorrow but the greatest treasures in my life are family. Both boys have developed a deep love and profound respect for the outdoor experiences. In that I am very proud!
How about you? Don’t miss the opportunity when it comes around. I promise you won’t regret it.
On most days we hook onto the boat with plans for a day on the water. It might be with friends, family or even solo but the ultimate goal is to have a relaxing good time along with some finny critters tugging on the line. The end result may be a meal or simply a personal satisfaction in knowing you caught and next watched that big one swim away. For me it also included fishing for cash but often the end result was spending plenty and a tired trip home. Well if you’d like to make a memory to last a lifetime I’d like to offer some insight into how you can do just that!
It’s certainly not real difficult but will require some advance planning. It’s also not super expensive but know too that people travel from long distances even across the globe for the experience and it’s sitting just north of us waiting to be had. It begins with a drive up near the Canadian border to a small town whose storied history has deep roots in the mining industry, Ely, Minnesota. You can but you really won’t need to pull a boat up either. Here’s where the planning comes in with a call to a local Ely outfitter. Help can be had with a call to the Ely Chamber of Commerce too. You’ll need to apply for a permit because your destination is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Options are a day trip or a multi-day experience. I’ve only made a few day trips in but some overnights are extremely appealing. Next is tackle prep. Used to being in my boat this was difficult but getting what I thought I’d need into 1 Ranger tackle bag is possible but be sure to bring an extra spool of line. I always fish 6 lb P-Line and needed some extra due to angler “over-shots” and “loops!” First time of the year ya know! Also bring only 1 or 2 rods ‘n reels with open face spinning being a great choice. Why? Simply put it’s because there’s just not that much room in the canoe. The BWCA is an extremely large area offering diverse experiences but the fishing was our choice.
At 6 am Steve Kleist, a retired teacher with extensive BWCA experience picked me up from the Grand Ely Lodge. Used to launching from a trailer at the access we lifted the boat from the rack above his truck, packed our stuff and headed out. Some lakes allow motors, at least these did so with 9.9 horses for power, two portages and two hours of travel we got to Basswood Lake. Steve’s tackle consisted of a small plastic box with a half dozen jigs, a couple spoons and a couple top water plugs. Oh yea we had one more thing I’m not used to – a minnow bucket with a bunch of fatheads and shiners. Our first and only walleye stop was some slack water below a falls with rushing water above and to the side. We both tied on jigs tipped with minnows dropping them to the bottom. Steve’s skill with a paddle was obvious as he maneuvered the canoe as though he was using a foot-controlled Minn-Kota instead of the paddle. Didn’t take long for the first fish as Steve set the hook hard. I missed the first 3 but once I got into more of the Mike Kurre style of hook setting we were both catching fish. About an hour later Steve commented that “unless I’ve mistakenly taken my 18 hook stringer we’ve got 1 to go!” The next 2 or 3 fish were too big to be keepers as were a number before along with some too small but with the 12th hook filled Steve again said “how bout some smallies now?” If the truth be known I could have stayed and caught walleyes all day long but he knew bass were really what I was all about so we made a change. Along the way we stopped on a flat part of shoreline to clean the fish. The stringer acted like a bulky rudder off the canoe so it had to go. Another angler had the same idea from the skeletons left behind. With skins attached Steve packed the fillets into a collapsible Styrofoam cooler and broke an athletic cold pack to keep them cold. What a great idea!
Next a quiet rocky shoreline thinking the water should be warmer with the sunny sky above. A number of bait offerings later it seemed the Rapala Husky Jerk would be a bait of choice. It was a “jerk, jerk, jerk, stop” retrieve that produced. Nice smallies in the 3-4+ pound class and a bunch of them. Each was also prespawn but had the typical crabby smallmouth attitude and great fun to catch.
Around the next point was a marshy area with some dead weeds from the year before. Turtles sunning themselves on floating logs along with an occasional duck noisily scolding us as we invaded their nesting turf was just a small part of the scenery. The same bait on the same 6 lb line suddenly produced a Jaws-like V in the water. With rod doubled and line slicing the water like a hot knife in butter the fight was on. Again Steve had complete control as the fish pulled the bow back and forth. This would be the largest of the 5 or 6 before. As it came to the surface I said to Steve “I don’t think my hand will fit across the back of his head – any suggestions?” There was only silence as a reply! Options rolled through my thoughts. If we do boat this thing it’s gonna be a mess. If I try to grab him a head shake could put 2 trebles in my hand – a bad thing! Cut the line? Then I noticed the tired fish had only one hook in his jaw as Steve reached for his Leatherman. “That’s a Big fish” was all he said reaching over the side. The next thing was this big Northern Pike, the biggest of my lifetime was slowly swimming away! Together we guessed it was somewhere between 15 and 20 pounds. Wow what a fish and more importantly what a day! With a 2 hour trip back in front of us we decided to call it a day and headed out.
I hope these pictures will give you some idea of the day but more importantly I sincerely hope you will use our experience as incentive to make a memory of your own beginning in Ely!
I for one absolutely can’t wait to go back!
A special thanks to Steve Kleist for both his friendship and affording me a unique experience and also Linda Fryer, recently retired Executive Director of the Ely Chamber of Commerce for making our trips possible!
This is one memory I will cherish forever! Make plans and Make a Memory of your very own in Ely!
Last weekend many goals set 28 years ago were realized that
had begun with five little words. It was the day Deb came home smiling and said “You’re gonna be a dad!” My mind raced full of questions without answers. Excited, scared, anxious and wondering “what if I’m a lousy dad?” When telling some school colleagues the news I’ll never forget what science teacher Charlie Steffen told me. An older guy with grown kids of his own he simply said “appreciate a good nights’ sleep now because once born you’ll never ever have such a sound sleep again!” Looking back he was bulls eye
right on. But it didn’t change anything because when Erik arrived I could envision the future teaching him things important to me which was to be of sound character, a good friend, a hard worker having a life-long appreciation for the outdoors.
About 5 years later I heard the same words and was excited all over again. Soon with the addition of Chad we were a family of four. Nestled in my wallet was a plastic covered black and white silhouetted image of a man and young boy standing side by side on the bow of a bass boat. It was a personal reminder of what I hoped would be the future. No promises
but the beginnings were simple for both boys and very much identical. I remember so many of their “firsts.” The first fish, one a 6 inch largemouth and the other a sunfish both caught on one of many Snoopy poles stored in 5 gallon buckets at home and far from the lake.
Most of the neighborhood kids fished pretend tournaments from my deck
while I was away at some tournament myself. Memories are stored coming home to monofilament lines draped from trees and dangling casting plugs. They had
caught sharks, whales along with some bass. My job was to free the lines, retie and get them back in the bucket for the next day.
Hunting trips too began casually. Both Erik and Chad first had pop guns as we
headed afield together when they were small. It was an opportunity to begin sharing passions in a way that started building a foundation for the future.
The progression for each was slow but seemed so natural. It went from Red Ryder BB-gun, to the first youth model Remington 20 gauge pump. In the beginning they each carried it empty, the next season I carried the shells handing out one at a time, then one shell chambered and finally loaded with three. All along the way safety was constantly
preached along with hunting ethics and at the age of 12 both took the Firearm
Safety Class I taught.
In summer we fished but unlike the falls my equipment became theirs, my tackle theirs not at all unlike my youth and dad’s tackle. So when things went missing I smiled and remembered. But the black and white photo still carried was becoming a reality. Together we traveled, fished, hunted and laughed at “special” sandwiches, missed shots and high-fived
My purpose for sharing brings me back to the day each boy arrived. You see neither sets of ourparents had attended college but together Deb and I agreed that would become our priority. I had earned a teaching degree and beyond knowing the advantages along with the hard work required.
Along the way came many firsts too. First duck, pheasant, goose and deer
shot. I remember each vividly. One was a hen Redhead winging over tree tops
headed for McCormick Lake. Erik’s 20 gauge rang out dropping the bird dead.
The other first was a Blue-Wing Teal flying about Mach 5 over the
cattails. Again one shot from Chad’s 20 gauge dropped it inside a dense mass of cattails. I don’t recall which Golden it was but in she went emerging with that first of many yet to come. The memories are there etched in vivid color and from time to time I call each back to relive if only for a moment.
When Erik left for Bemidji State University it was like half
of my very soul left too. But the next 5 years spent with Chad filled that emptiness with more memories. Tournaments, fishing, laughs and a few tears along the way and then it was time again. Chad too had chosen his school of choice, the University of Minnesota
Duluth. I knew all along that it would happen and was as it should be but to say I was lost is an understatement. But there were still some openers and some weekends we spent together and there were the dogs still wagging their tails and eager to go. Today there’s still
fish to catch and fields to walk although neither seem to be quite as important as they once did. Of course that is part of the grand scheme isn’t it?
Today the future has arrived. Erik graduated with a degree in Wildlife Biology
and is working with the Minnesota DNR. Last Saturday Chad was awarded his degree from UMD in Conservation Science. So I guess you now have a better idea about how we began and understand a bit about the journey. A journey that had as its foundation the outdoors and the unlimited potential Mother Nature has at her command. Would I have changed anything along the way you might ask? Answer: “Not One Single Moment!”
Mission Accomplished! Congrats Chad! I’m so proud of both you and Erik but don’t
forget to stop back once in a while and take me along – OK? I’ll make the sandwiches!