A series exploring Minnesota's favorite season.
Poofy clouds blanket the sun. A lazy wind swirls through the oaks hanging over Vadnais Lake. "It blows every way but straight down," says Mike Pratt of Roseville.
Pratt ties a jury-rigged spoon lure -- "made it myself" -- to his line and flings it well past the weeds. "One hungry guy is all we need," he murmurs.
For the half-dozen anglers lollygagging alongside their cars in a small unpaved lot off Sucker Lake Road, a famished fish would be a bonus. Just basking next to this little-known gem on a breezy afternoon is reward a-plenty.
The lake is man-made, but its sights and sounds are anything but. As a reservoir contributing to St. Paul's tap-water supply, Vadnais Lake has no boats, no houses.
"I like it for the scenery more than anything," says Dianne Kelley of Edina. "I have a lot of life stresses, and this is my little escape."
Pratt concurs. "It's peaceful. It's clean. You don't have to be concerned about Jet Skis roaring by. And the livestock is second to none: eagles, cormorants, deer." As if on cue, a pair of cormorants swoop in and decamp on the lake.
Pratt is a regular. "About 6 a.m. there's usually a group of us out here," he says. As a 73-year-old retiree, "I don't have a heckuva lot to do. When I wake up, I know this day's gonna be just like any other unless I go fishing -- and then something might happen."
Besides an idyllic setting, the convenience entices the likes of Kelley and Pratt, who doesn't move well as he used to.
"You pull right up here, take out your gear and then fish right next to the car," Kelley said. "Do I wish I had a pontoon boat? Yeah, but this is not so bad."
As the day lulls along, the small lot fills. It's not uncommon in the evening to find a dozen cars parked along the road and a line or three dipped in the green waters nearby.
Of course, you don't want to be too successful. "The problem with catching something is, you have to clean it," Pratt said. "My mother talked to my wife before we got married and told her two things: Do not learn to rub his back because he'll want it constantly. And second, do not ever, ever learn how to clean fish."