A fine trout opener . . . with some turkeys mixed in

Apr 22 2010 - 11:40pm

LANESBORO, Minn. -- Terry Bahwek and Jeff Peterson have been doing this for 15 years or so, traveling to this pretty town in southeast Minnesota to fish for trout.

One Saturday morning, along the south branch of the Root River, Bahwek, of Waltham, Minn., started a small campfire between casts, warding off the day's early chill. Then he cast an old trout fishing standby, a worm swinging from a small hook, tossing his outfit into a deep pool of a river that really isn't running very deep this spring.

"We'll fix our trout for dinner, right here in our van," his pal, Peterson, said, pointing to the pair's vehicle, parked nearby. "A little olive oil. Roll the trout in Shore Lunch. We'll open a can of beans, too."

A simple plan.

But nowhere in Minnesota on that Saturday was anyone more content than these two, not at the Twins game in Minneapolis, not in a boat on Minnetonka fishing for crappies or, more simply still, rocking on a farmhouse veranda, sipping a cool one.

The first day of trout fishing in Minnesota has been like that in recent years, warm with a clear sky, and a fish or two for the taking.

That Saturday in and about Lanesboro, angling for browns and rainbows was all that and more -- whether undertaken below the dam that helps define this picturesque village or, farther downstream, where the south branch of the Root spills over smooth rocks and bends between bluffs, inviting fishers and gawkers equally.

Some anglers, such as Bahwek and Peterson, sling bait, looking for trout. Others favor small spinners and other hardware. Still others aren't comfortable unless they have fly rods in their hands and long lines in the air.

Before I arrived along the banks of the Root on Saturday, it was noon. A Turkey Emergency had altered my plans, and I found myself not holding a fly rod to begin the day, but a 12-gauge.

Prompting the Turkey Emergency was this:

Enjoyable as hunting for toms has been for me in recent days, it hasn't been productive, not yet. So rather than cast for trout early Saturday, as planned, I hunted, postponing my trip to the southeast to fish until I tried once more to fool Mr. Tom.

Instead, and perhaps predictably, Mr. Tom fooled me.

Yet I had no regrets. Trout season is long, turkey season short And whatever tranquility and inspiration Bahwek, Peterson and other anglers in the southeast might have taken from their early arrivals Saturday along the Root and other streams, I matched, watching the sun come up while sitting among a grove of sturdy oaks that abutted a tall stand of pines.

Amid these, I watched as wildly plumed wood ducks, mallards and Canada geese took wing against the gathering sunlight, and listened as toms gobbled from distant roosts and male cardinals warbled from treetops.

Mourning doves also cooed, adding to the symphony.

"We'll be right down here," my son, Cole, said when we arrived finally at the south branch of the Root.

He and his older brother, Trevor, also had come to fish Saturday, as did their buddy, Max Kelley, all of them outfitted with fly rods. For them, once their feet are wet, time suspends itself, becoming an irrelevancy. They'll walk upstream or down, ending their sojourns only when darkness falls, or hunger calls.

So I knew they wouldn't be right down here.

"Good luck," I said.

I found Bahwek and Peterson not far upstream, a genial pair.

Farther upstream still, in Lanesboro, the comings and goings of a multitude of visitors Saturday lent a carnival air.

Hundreds pedaled bicycles. Scores straddled motorcycles. Some paddled canoes and kayaks. Still others, paradoxically, on this cloudless day that invited all manner of exercise, mounted rented Segways, on which they ventured precariously atop the Root River State Trail.

"We rent them by the minute," one vacationing urban yokel offered when I rolled down a truck window to ask just what the Sam Hill was going on.

"Have at it," I said.

By then I had found the boys, a miracle in itself. This was late Saturday, and we were headed toward another of the southeast's many beautiful streams to end the day casting upriver and down, looking for trout.

By then, the sun's angle of light had grown acute, casting long shadows, and we really should have been driving north. Four a.m. would come early enough Sunday, and with it another morning in quest of Mr. Tom, a bird that was proving elusive, indeed.

But first, we figured, a few more casts.

This was, after all, opening day of trout season. The weather had been peerless, and the fish, so far, willing -- about a dozen of which had come to hand.

So, we figured, a few more casts.

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