Uncharacteristically, we found the walleyes tightlipped, and the saugers, too, as did the hundreds of other anglers in the scores of boats that bobbed along with us atop the river just below the Red Wing dam. We were a veritable flotilla, and Griz and I wondered just who in this country works anymore.
“Even when I was in a motorcycle gang, I had to show up,’’ Griz said.
Maybe it was the late spring that slowed the fishing. Maybe not. Either way, we caught 25 walleyes and saugers, good for but a fraction of the usual river bounty that Griz — guide Dick Grzywinski of St. Paul — collects for a day’s work at this time of year.
Included in our larder was a 9-pound walleye Griz landed on a jig and fathead, his usual bait.
“Maybe that’s why you’re in the Fishing Hall of Fame and I’m not,’’ I said as I netted the bulbous fish and presented it to Griz, who quickly released it.
“There’ll be another,’’ he said, and he rebaited his jig.
• • •
In early afternoon Griz dropped me on shore. I wanted to end this good day fishing for trout, and I drove farther south still, toward Whitewater State Park, about an hour and a half distant. The regular trout season would open Saturday. But the catch-and-release season had a couple of days to run, and few anglers would be around. The good spots would be there for the taking.
Bill Grehl, who lives just north of Nisswa, Minn., was thinking similarly, and I found him standing knee-deep in the Whitewater, a vintage Orvis fiberglass fly rod in his right hand. He had had a good day, he reported, catching trout here and there throughout the park. Now, soon, he would return to his campsite, build a fire and cook a pork chop.
“I’ve been coming down here as long as I can remember,’’ Grehl said. “I wander all around. Today I heard turkeys gobbling. Geese were overhead. Eagles are always here.’’
When Grehl packed his gear and angled away in a pickup that suggested he could fend for himself, I pulled on my waders, pieced together a rod, hung a reel and strung line through its guides. The afternoon was getting on, I was a fair piece from home and I could have called it a day. But the stream not far away tumbled between bluffs and over smooth stones, and I wanted more of it.
Living in this country you appreciate winter gladly or begrudgingly. Either way you’re here, and on toward March you scan the pastures for bare ground, the horse for shedding and the maples for sap.
Then, open water.
On the Whitewater the other evening, I caught one brown trout, then another and another.
Happy for my good fortune, I bought myself dinner.
Dennis Anderson • email@example.com