Anderson: Casting for smallmouth bass in downtown Minneapolis

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 12, 2013 - 12:35 AM

This isn’t the wilderness, the buildings say, but it sure fishes like it.

Lunchtime in downtown Minneapolis on a pleasant August day, the Federal Reserve building towering on one end, the Guthrie Theater toward the other, untold buildings rising between.

In and among these, surprising numbers of people jog along the Mississippi, while others pace themselves more slowly. Still others recline on public benches and open brown bags to discover anew what’s for lunch.

From our vantage point in a drift boat on the Mississippi, fly rods in hand, movement along the river walkway and on the streets and sidewalks leading to it seemed antlike and overly busy.

Doubtless we appeared odd, too, the three of us spaced uniformly in a two-ended boat powered by a lone oar man.

Yet our movements in search of smallmouth bass were methodical. From the bow, Greg Farley cast a white streamer, while from the stern I tossed a surface bug, or popper.

Between us, Kip Vieth kept his drift boat within reasonable casting distance from shore.

“Shorelines with rocks will be best for smallies,’’ Kip said.

We had put in at Boom Island, upriver from downtown, and would spend the day attempting to fool the feistiest of freshwater fish, smallmouth bass.

Twin Cities anglers looking for virgin water might consider throwing a line in this length of the Mississippi, which gathers and bends through downtown Minneapolis.

But beware: Marriages have broken up over repeated trips to catch these great fish, whose eruptions from dark watery depths to vengefully smack surface flies or hard baits can prove addicting.

“It’s as good a fish as there is,’’ said Kip, 47.

Kip operates a unique Minnesota business: He guides river anglers — mostly those who fish with flies — in a drift boat of the type commonly seen in the West.

“In 1991 I took a trip out west to fish the Yellowstone River and just fell in love with drift boats,’’ Kip said. “From that moment on, I always had it in the back of my mind I wanted to guide here in Minnesota using one.’’

Easing into his new profession, Kip bought a drift boat, then offered free “learning’’ trips to friends, family — anyone who wanted to float a river in search of fish.

A fly fisherman himself, and a river nut, Kip knew he was swimming upstream a bit in Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes and nearly as many motorboats filled with walleye anglers.

Kip also had a family to help feed, including his wife, Linnea Peterson, and their (now) 12-year-old son, Truman, and 16-year-old daughter, Grace.

“It was September 2002 when I got paid the first time for guiding a trip in a drift boat,’’ Kip said. “My wife wasn’t sure we could pull it off, that someone would actually pay me to take them fishing. But they did.’’

For about five years, Kip guided part-time, as many as 60 days a year, counting weekends and vacations from a sales job.

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  • A drift boat, a fly rod and smallmouth bass: Not the usual trappings of the city, but the Mississippi is an unusually bountiful urban fishery .

  • Fishing the Mississippi River for small mouth bass in a drift boat is a great way to go. For an urban area the Twin Cities is a bountiful fishey, with some of the cleanest river water in the country. Dave Farley of Inver Grove Heights holds a popper

  • This view is shot just off of Boom Island in Minneapolis

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