Midwest traditions hold strong with my family, and they never change.
In the Midwest traditions hold on strong and with my family particularly, they never change. Since I was a baby we have been camping and fishing at the same lake up in Northern Minnesota, my father, Uncles and Aunts camped and fished here when they were kids, and my Grandpa and his siblings they were kids. This place has been in the family for generation to generation and will always have a special place in my heart. Its funny, in my teens I remember hating going up north and “losing” a whole week of my summer vacation, but now as an adult there is nothing that will keep me from missing the trip, not even living over 1700 miles away now.
The Midwest and my family have taught me so much and my roots are deep with our family traditions, they have been a huge role in shaping me as a person and knowing the feeling of belonging to something bigger than you and having a sense of purpose and identity.
We have many other traditions in my family but the summer fishing trip will always be the most memorable and nostalgic to me.
Even though I don’t have any children of my own to pass the family tradition down too, I was still just as excited to share a bit of it with KC, but also nervous, I have a large family and they can be a lot to handle at times!
After about four hours of driving we make the turn down the pothole filled, winding, gravel road to the Lake, and as we start to unload the car I’m flooded with memories of my sisters and I fishing off the dock, then as I walk by and smell the old fish house, memories of when my grandpa taught me how to clean my first fish as a child. With almost every step I take at this lake there is a memory of my childhood around the corner.
We walked down through the tall grass as frogs hopped away from each of our steps and we skip over the missing planks in the dock and steady our steps as it sways.
The lake that to my knowledge has never seen a fly touch the water before, so we eagerly wanted to get out and see what the fishing will be like. We grab our Predator 7wt and Vapen 9wt rods and ensured we stocked enough poppers and hit the water. We climbed into my dad’s aluminum fishing boat that he has had for I swear 100 years now and that he claims “was running great until you touched it” to me every time it won’t start.
We only had a couple hours until sundown and my younger sister Adria jumped in the middle of the boat with us. She has been a lot like me growing up and has found a love for fishing and the sport of it and has been interested in learning more about fly fishing which I am super stoked on! .
The water is like glass, we sit and watch the colors of pinks, purples and blues from the sky dance around the reflection of the lake to the sounds of the loons echoing around us. I still can’t get enough of the Minnesotan sunsets, they are always so beautiful to me.
As we cast poppers at the banks, the darkness creeps in on us and the large mouth and bluegills are testing our knots and bending our rods. What a first night, the fishing rules and are extremities were itching from the relentless mosquitoes.
We wrap up our night with a bonfire and listened to my great uncle Keith share stories of when he and grandpa were young at the lake. We stuck around until our stomachs and jaws hurt from laughter and then we called it, as we knew we had an early day ahead of us -- Those pike’s can be some early risers!
I peel open my eyes to a barely lit cabin room, my phone alarm is yelling at me and I shine the bright white light at my face to see the time and know that If I am wanting to get my first pike on a fly I need to get up! We stumble our way out of the cabin and to the boat, there was a temperature drop and I feel it as the wind hits my face and wakes me up more with each gust.. Not Ideal conditions but we know today is our best shot with the limited time we have here. We cruised to the opposite side of the lake and found a little cove in attempts to shelter ourselves from the wind.
My shoulder and arm are starting to get tired from casting the heavy flies, I feel my patience getting smaller every time my fly line gets caught around the boat anchor rope, or the net... or the motor... or my feet -- or anything at all my line touches!… but I haven’t gotten a pike yet and I am determined to get my first northern on the fly.
The clouds have taken over the sky and the wind is picking up more and more each hour, I changed flies for the 2nd or 3rd time and decided to try a completely different color than I had been using - the purple and chartreuse one - I was confident for some reason on this fly, total superstition but it felt like the right choice and let’s be honest the flies are more for the angler than the fish at time. By the tenth I start to feel my confidence depleting but continued knowing that I would have to tie more tippet on if I change my fly one more time and my lazy self just decided to keep fishing it instead.
As I’m stripping my fly back towards the boat I see it approaching and admire the way it flashes and moves in the water, I get caught in daydream as I continued to strip and retrieve my fly, then feet from the boat I see a dark silhouette dart right at my fly, My eyes widen and my grip around the cork tightens, my line explodes and I lean back to set my hook in disbelief and yell to KC - “DID YOU SEE THAT?!?” My already tired arms are now finding the strength from adrenaline to fight my first northern and the fish is wresting my fly down under the boat -- I frantically try and get my line around the boat motor to the other side trying not to lose the fish, “He’s still on” I say to myself and continue for what becomes another 10 or 15 minutes later of a battle to get this pike into a net my dad has had from the 80’s. KC manages to maneuver the net around the pike that is too large for it and I smile with relief and pride to have landed my first northern on a fly and in that same moment I see the pike biting and wiggling his way out through the shitty old net - I yell to KC “ He made a hole in the net!!” and KC quickly stops his escape and we laughed together over the battle I had won and laughed some more as I struggled to find any remaining strength to hold the fish as I released him back into Jail Lake.
We got back to the dock and shared our success with my family and laugh at the fact that fly fishing was out fishing the gear fishing on the lake this trip.
Jail lake is just one of the over 10,000 lakes in Minnesota but it holds the most memories and those memories continue to grow with each trip back. I feel mentally reset after a long weekend with my family filled with fishing, bonfires, fire flies and laughter. KC and I have decided now that instead of the cold MN winters during the holiday season we will come out for the family trip at Jail lake every summer. I already can’t wait until next year.
Written for Redington Gear