Anderson: Taking advantage of a beautiful day on the St. Croix

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 14, 2013 - 12:25 AM

All the wonders of fishing were evident on the St. Croix.

hide

Bob Nasby, left, and Dale Wiehe cast flies for smallmouth bass Thursday morning on the St. Croix River. The pair took advantage of a (rare) beautiful day to enjoy the wonders of the outdoors. The trip was a perfect illustration of all that is right about fishing.

Photo: Dennis Anderson • danderson@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

– Izaak Walton said a few centuries back that fishing is “so pleasant a pastime it is akin to virtue — a reward unto itself.’’ Hemingway, also a fisherman, and somewhat more of a rascal than Walton, with a taste for women, dry martinis and Havana’s sea-salt air, might have instead likened fishing’s many pleasures, and rewards, to vice, not virtue. Either way, the sport comes highly recommended.

Early Thursday morning on the stretch of the St. Croix extending from Stillwater to Prescott, Wis., that recommendation was made anew. In large boats moored along this river way, or swinging from anchors, people surely awoke to the sunny morning and were happy enough to bask in it, perhaps also with a cup of coffee and the gentle rocking of their boats. But the St. Croix’s early fishermen wanted more, among them Bob Nasby and Dale Wiehe, both of whom not long after sunup strung long fly rods and aired out lines that carried, variously, surface poppers and streamers. The target: smallmouth bass.

A longtime St. Croix guide who is now in recovery from that occupation, Bob these days teaches fly casters how to do what he was doing on this morning from his fine boat: hauling, back-casting and double-hauling, then forming tight loops of line that carried his fly toward likely looking smallie haunts.

Yet, artful casts or not, as Bob says, “You can’t make ’em bite.’’

Which of course is the frustration of guides worldwide.

“I’d get so nervous when I was guiding and the fish didn’t bite that I ended up in the hospital twice,’’ he said. “Hearing people whine on a boat gives me panic attacks.’’

Casting from the bow, Dale seemed no threat in this respect, and in fact appeared preternaturally upbeat, at least so long as he was tossing flies. A chemical engineer who works for 3M, in the past decade he has been variously involved with that company’s Scientific Anglers division — only recently sold to Orvis — and knows well the machinations of fly line technology.

Quite comfortable with words like “extruded,’’ Dale, I figured, could mop up on “Jeopardy.”

Smallie haven

By way of fishing action, we weren’t asking for much. The Lower St. Croix is a smallie haven, or can be, day by day, and metro anglers who fail to take advantage of this real-life watercolor are deficient not only in their consideration of nearby fisheries, but in their appreciation of nature’s aesthetic, the latter critical to angling enjoyment. “You can’t beat a morning like this,’’ Dale said, soaking it all in.

And you couldn’t. Rising ever higher in the eastern sky, the warm sun soon beat back to the Wisconsin side of the St. Croix the night’s dark shadows. As it did, from black to green, the steep bluffs that bracket the river revealed their forests of trees. Immersed in this drama, the temptation is to make more of it than it is. But it was a wonderful morning on the water, a description that can’t be embellished. As Hemingway said, there’s no symbolism to decipher. “The sea is the sea. The boy is the boy. The old man is an old man. The fish is a fish.’’

An hour or so elapsed, and finally a volunteer smallie whacked Dale’s fly, pulling his extended rod into a broad arch that suggested a gateway to the future, and the past. Thirty years ago almost exactly, Bob and I were in the Marquises Islands off Key West, fishing tarpon. The water was flat, the hot sun had beat on us all day and we wanted to bring a fish to the skiff. But we hadn’t hooked up, and soon the Gulf would swallow our daylight. More than anything we wanted to begin the long run back to Key West, and find our way to the balcony of Bagatelle, the restaurant overlooking Duval Street, for refurbishment.

Instead we took one more drift, finding as we did a dozen or so daisy-chaining tarpon, one of which ate Bob’s fly. And he brought it to the boat, all 125 pounds of it.

Now on Thursday by midmorning the St. Croix was coming alive incrementally. Blue herons lifted from the shallows. Drake mallards sought their own company, away from hens’ nests. And the odd cabin cruiser chugged upriver or down, going nowhere and everywhere.

Soon, another bass took Dale’s fly. But by then we had been reminded again that, as the country song says, some days, the fish don’t bite. This was one of those days, and it couldn’t have been better.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Minnesota 94 FINAL
Philadelphia 103
Houston 93 FINAL
Boston 87
Portland 99 FINAL
Atlanta 105
Sacramento 90 FINAL
Cleveland 101
Toronto 127 FINAL
Brooklyn 122
Dallas 93 FINAL
Miami 72
LA Clippers 103 FINAL
New Orleans 108
Golden State 100 FINAL
Utah 110
Chicago 93 FINAL
Phoenix 99
Pittsburgh 2 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 1
St. Louis 3 FINAL(SO)
Carolina 2
Nashville 0 FINAL
Colorado 3
Buffalo 2 FINAL
Vancouver 5
Chicago 4 FINAL
Anaheim 1
Harvard 75 FINAL
Princeton 72
Quinnipiac 57 FINAL
Canisius 63
Brown 49 FINAL
Cornell 57
Siena 79 FINAL
Manhattan 87
Marist 65 FINAL
Niagara 61
Dartmouth 51 FINAL
Penn 58
Oregon 68 FINAL
Arizona State 67
Yale 63 FINAL
Columbia 59
Monmouth 60 FINAL
Fairfield 59
IUPUI 59 FINAL
Western Ill 63
Oregon State 34 FINAL
Arizona 57
Kent State 55 FINAL
Buffalo 80
Canisius 75 FINAL
Monmouth 58
Butler 67 FINAL
Providence 59
Cornell 65 FINAL
Brown 52
Columbia 47 FINAL
Yale 55
Coll of Charleston 47 FINAL
Drexel 64
Penn 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 39
Elon 60 FINAL
James Madison 89
(19) Princeton 96 FINAL
Harvard 46
(9) Florida State 82 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Quinnipiac 87 FINAL
Siena 62
Richmond 54 FINAL
Rhode Island 50
Loyola-Chicago 58 FINAL
Southern Ill 64
Georgetown 52 FINAL
DePaul 93
Villanova 75 FINAL
Marquette 59
Wichita State 70 FINAL
Northern Iowa 51
Xavier 65 FINAL
Creighton 74
Bradley 58 FINAL
Illinois State 55
Missouri State 89 FINAL
Drake 94
Arizona 48 FINAL
Utah 62
(11) Arizona State 68 FINAL
Colorado 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close