Melissa and I flew out mid morning on Tuesday and arrived in Minneapolis rather quickly. Then we drove the 3 and half hours to Bemidji. I really enjoyed the ride as we moved through the city then suburbs then a lot of farm country and then into more of the north woods. Melissa was less enthused about it. Honestly next time I'll probably fly to Bemidji but having only really been to Minnesota once before it was nice to get out and see some of it. We were greeted at the Bed and Breakfast by Dick who said he didn't usually play host but Jill was a bit under the weather. He then steered us to a great little restaurant around the corner for an amazing meal at the end of a long day. Before we headed out he asked what we wanted to fish for. Having never caught a walleye and having grown up bass fishing most every weekend I told him either would be wonderful. We set up a meeting time of 6:30AM and Dick said he would drive us down to a couple of Lakes in the Detroit lakes region where he grew up.
The next morning Dick was ready go early when we came down from our room. He informed us there had been crazy storms in the Detroit lakes and there were a ton of trees down so we were going to stay a bit closer and go to a couple of nearby lakes. I was a bit concerned to hear this as I assumed that plan B was likely not a as good as plan A. However Dick was all smiles and only wanted to know what kind of sandwiches we would like. A few minutes later Dick was ready to go with a picnic basket in hand. Seriously this had to be a dream.
We popped in for bait around the corner and then to gas up the boat. In doing so Dick knocked something over and yelled out, "Son of a buck!" The funny part is that is really what he said. It was the first of an endless number of exclamations over the course of the day that were both overwhelmingly creative and genuine while never once including even a borderline bad word.
A few minutes later Dick had us on the water and heading out to a sunken Island to go after some early morning walleye. He had warned us that the walleye were slow to bite in the mid summer but assured us we would get some and then we would take a mid day break and drive to another Lake to get some heavy action on small and largemouth bass.
Dick quickly got us set up with some live bait, even putting it on the hook for us, which was good as I didn't see Melissa grabbing a leech and hooking it anytime soon. He then explained how to cast so expertly that Melissa, who had never been fishing in her life, not even as a kid was casting like a pro in less than a minute. Once he had us set up and our baits were in the water Dick threw a line in as well. Almost instantly he was exclaiming "jimminy christmas there's one!"
Now one time when I was a kid my dad got permission for us to go fishing on a private pond and he caught one on the first cast and that was a start to just about the best day of fishing we ever had. It is also the only time in my life prior to this trip that I had seen a fish caught on the first cast.
Within a couple minutes he was proved right. Melissa had one on. The girl who prior to this had never held a rod or been on a fishing boat was hooked up and loving it! It was a bullhead, much to Dick's delight and surprise. It made me feel better about not getting one yet because obviously this was a fluke fish and not something Melissa had done with skill.
A couple minutes later Melissa had another, this one was a bass and I could see a trend starting. Dick and Melissa kept hitting them and I kept setting the hook on grass and getting my bait stolen. Though I did get one solid hit and set the hook to have the line almost instantly go slack and found myself biten off which Dick assured me was a pike, which were plentiful here as well. I was obviously paying a price to karma for underestimating Melissa!
Melissa with her first, of many, bass
Meanwhile as the other two kept reeling them in one after another, Dick even getting one while he was unhooking the one Melissa had just caught, The pole nearly went out of the boat as Dick dove across the bow to get it! We were having some of the most engaging and fun conversation I have had in a long time. I knew Dick was a story teller but he is also a conversationalist and we flowed along laughing and going on like lifelong friends. Meanwhile I was stunned to see the ear to ear smile glued to Melissa's face as she had insisted since telling me about this trip that she was only going fishing to "take one for the team." Now she was having as much fun as me.
Melissa's Fishing Smile
Now as we went along Melissa and Dick were catching a great combo of bass, walleye and even a couple of northern pike. With Dick getting legitimately disappointed each time the fist turned out to be something other than a walleye! This included when it was a nearly 30 inch long Northern Pike! It was hilarious. I was still struggling with the fish but positively having the time of my life. At one point while we were talking Dick actually said "we are like two peas in a pod, you and I." Now I have received some compliments in my life but that one has to be one of the highest a guy like me could ever get. It is hard to describe what makes a day like this so magically. It wasn't perfect weather, it was cool and windy and at times it rained a bit. I wasn't catching anything, yet, but here I was with the love of my life who was having an unexpectedly wonderful time and talking with Dick it really felt like we had been friends for years. My cheeks were actually starting to hurt from laughing and smiling so much.
This is a walleye for those who don't fish
Dick with the largest of the pike he caught. How this thing didn't bite off his line I'll never know.
Before long Dick decided the bite was slowing, though this was not too obvious to me, we had already caught more fish then in any day of my life to date, and we were heading for a snack and the second lake. This one was down the end of a series of ever smaller dirt roads and we were greeted by a pair of nesting loons and their two young babies.
Dick drove us to the middle of the lake to set us up with rubber worms and explain how he wanted us to fish them. He set up Melissa first and as he was setting up his rod and mine she cast out. Dick sort of chuckled and said this wasn't were we were going to fish but she was free to try anyway. Within a few seconds Melissa was hooked up. First cast again! Dick was full of fun exclamations for this one. Amazed that Melissa had somehow caught this bass in 50 feet of water with no structure around. As soon as he got back to tying his line Melissa had a second one on. First two casts back to back! Yeah it was that kind of day.
Melissa's first cast
Melissa's second cast
All rigged up we headed off to the target spot, but not before Dick geo-located the spot and studied his sonar a bit to get an idea why she was hitting them out in the middle of nowhere. This was one a few moments on the day when it struck me why Dick was so darn good at fishing. He is meticulous and he is always learning. He actually went back to the same spot a couple days later when he had a free afternoon to do some research.
On the target spot I almost immediately hooked one and was glad to finally be catching fish like everyone else, except it was a tiny rock bass. I mean I couldn't believe the the thing could even get the hook in its mouth! Melissa was taking no small joy in my woes and really it was almost making the trip more fun. That said with the ice broken now I was now catching them with the same frequency as the other two. A couple small large mouths and a couple more rock bass came quickly and then off a point I hooked into something I could tell was better.
My first fish of the day! It was a whopper!
As it got closer to the boat it really dug in and I realized I was onto a really nice one. As it came by the front of the boat Dick got a good look at it and he got really excited! He started shouting his very personal and wonderful string of non-swear exclamations. Including, I kid you not, "Jimminy Christmas that one is a dandy!" And it was. At 18 inches and in the 3 to 4 pound range it was the largest smallmouth I've ever caught and Dick and I celebrated with an off balance awkward fist bump and something like a little dance. It was a hilarious and wonderful moment in a great day.
The weather actually turned on us a bit and it rained pretty steady for a little bit. The thing was we hardly noticed. We were catching fish left and right. I actually didn't realize how hard it had rained until I saw Melissa's pictures at the end of the day and saw my shorts were soaked in one picture. At one point Melissa and Dick caught fish simultaneously and Melissa finished off her amazing string with a largemouth that was about the same size as my smallmouth. Finally it was time to head home.
Arriving back at the Bed and Breakfast we were like three kids pouring into the yard talking all at once about the amazing day we had. Dick wasn't too thrilled with the fishing but all of us had really just loved spending the day together and enjoying the conversation, the sights, from loons to eagles, and the wonderful fresh air of the great North. Ok for me the fishing was pretty amazing too but Dick has high standards and I had to explain to Melissa that it doesn't normally go that well on the water. At least not when you don't have Dick showing you the way.
My big smallmouth
We enjoyed the rest of our trip. Jill makes some of the best, and fanciest breakfasts I've ever had. She made a frittata one morning that I'll be dreaming about and trying to recreate for years to come. We went hiking in a few different places, including crossing the headwaters of the Mississippi River, with the Beardsley's little mini golden doodle, Scarlett, who Melissa grew so attached to that when we left and Scarlett chased us to the fence and then started barking Melissa started crying. Believe me we have had some great vacations together but Melissa has never cried when it was time to go home before. The bed and breakfast itself is very cute with only 3 guest rooms and Jill keeps it SPOTLESS, but the biggest thing was the friendship we built with Dick and Jill. Melissa and I commented again and again to each other that although Bedmidji is nice it isn't nearly the nicest place we have been but that Jill and Dick made this truly a trip of a lifetime full of memories and stories that we will treasure and share for the rest of our lives.