A handshake at the lake

I’ve often heard that a bad day fishing beats a good day at work, but a good day fishing, well, that beats pretty much everything.

And I had a good day fishing — a great day fishing, in fact.

I may as well come right out and say it … I caught a walleye!

Oh, I’m not gloating or anything like that. My walleye certainly wasn’t large enough to hang proudly on a wall. My walleye didn’t put up a laborious fight when I reeled it in, and it wasn’t even worthy enough to have its photo taken (although I did it anyway — for proof, at the very least!)

The first time I ever caught a walleye was the summer of 2005. That, sadly, was also the last time I caught a walleye.

It hasn’t been for a lack of trying on my part — my tackle box is filled with gadgets and gizmos to lure in a mightyMinnesotawalleye. I just chalked up all of those unsuccessful fishing adventures to not using the right bait, jig or Rapala.

Or maybe, just maybe, I didn’t have the right fishing buddy by my side.

For years, I was too busy teaching the nieces and nephews how to rig a line, bait a hook, cast and take a fish off the hook. In reality, I should have spent a little more time being a student.

I tried to do that a few times this summer — going fishing with a few friends who all happen to be involved in the local Pheasants Forever chapter.

Outing No. 1 was filled with great conversation … but no fish.

Outing No. 2 was filled with plate-sized panfish that were biting so fast there was little time for chatter (and little time to fish due to my work obligations).

And outing No. 3, just a couple of weeks ago, was filled with lots of stories, an entire day without any work interruptions and a few fair- to fine-looking fish.

Herman Hinders was my fishing buddy for this third and, most likely final, fishing excursion of the season. I met Herman at the Pheasants Forever banquet two years ago — and it happened to be about a month before he, a World War II veteran, and I, the reporter, were to depart on the inaugural journey of Honor Flight Southwest Minnesota. We became instant friends, and I think of him as the grandfather I never knew.

(I met a veteran on the fourth and final Honor Flight last month who actually knew my Grandpa Kohls, and I learned something about the guy who died when I was in third grade. It seems my Grandpa helped found the Sportsman’s Club inDanube. If one can inherit an interest in a particular subject from our relatives, I’m pretty sure my love of the outdoors and fishing stems from Grandpa Kohls.)

Anyway, I asked Herman earlier this year to go fishing and decided if I was going to learn how to catch a walleye, he and I needed to hit the lake.

First things first, though. Herman gave me an assignment.

I needed to learn how to tie up a Lindy rig (that’s what I call it, but that isn’t what Herman called it). So, the night before our fishing expedition, I was looking through YouTube videos on the Internet to learn how to put one together. (I had Lindy rigs in my tackle box, but they were still in their unopened packages.)

When I picked Herman up the following morning, he inspected my work and made me do it over — the line was too long below the moving sinker and the hook was too small.

The teaching didn’t end there. The next stop was the bait shop, and then the lakes.

We visited three lakes that day and fished about five hours, excluding drive time and sack lunch time.

I not only watched and learned, but I listened to Herman share story after story about growing up inIowa. I’m rather amazed he ever survived childhood after hearing the daring stunts he pulled.

I’m glad he did though, and I’m glad he agreed to go fishing with me. I caught a walleye (can you tell I’m still excited about it?) and Herman reached out and shook my hand.

Then, he proceeded to catch a bigger walleye.

Oh, what a good day it was.

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