By John Cross
Free Press Staff Writer
MADISON LAKE —
Deaf Allen is no stranger to fishing.
For more than 20 years, she and her husband owned a cabin on Leech Lake and some pretty fair fishing was found right outside their door.
And even after her husband’s passing in the 1980s and the subsequent sale of that abode, she still could hang her hat on a relative’s trailer parked near Lake Mille Lacs where a potential meal of walleye fillets was but a lucky cast away.
Time marches on and eventually, she fell out of the anglers’ fold, taking up residence at Pathstone Living in Mankato, close to friends and neighbors but far from any fishing opportunities.
But last week, along with several other residence of the senior living facility, she once again was soaking up the sun, pole in hand, intently watching her bobber as it floated on Madison Lake.
At the other end of the public fishing pier at North Shore Park, Tom Davis and David Lindquist, members of Reel Faith Outdoors, were busy baiting hooks and casting out lines for some of her Pathstone neighbors.
Reel Faith Outdoors, co-founded by Davis and Tom Brunz, both local professional tournament fishermen, is an organization grounded in Christian faith and outdoor pursuits.
“This is the third year we’ve done this,” Davis said of last week’s outing. “The residents really seem to enjoy it. They start talking about it a month before the trip and for six months afterwards. It’s a real hoot.”
Allen participated in the fishing trip last year, the first time in more than two decades since she last held a fishing pole.
Even though she managed to catch a fish last year, as a veteran angler accustomed to landing more glamorous fish, she was a bit chagrined at the species.”
“A sheepshead — about two pounds,” Allen admitted. “It was a little bit embarrassing.”
A few wheelchairs down the line, Rudolph Hummer kept the line of his spinning reel between his thumb and finger to better detect a nibble.
He was born, raised and farmed all his life along the Blue Earth River upstream from Rapidan.
“As kids, we’d go down to the river and fish for carp, sheepshead, crappies, a few walleye,” he said.
His bobber floated motionless on the nearly-becalmed lake with nary a sign of a nibble. No matter. “It’s good just to get out,” he said, turning his face to soak up the sunshine.
Bella Creel echoed his sentiments about being at the lake, uncooperative fish notwithstanding.
“Let’s see,” she said. “The last time I was fishing my boys were about ... oh, it’s been at least 35 years.”
As a young girl, she frequently fished while attending summer camp at Silver Lake and later on Big Sandy Lake.
She pulled a toy frog from her bag and propped it on the edge of the fishing pier. “That’s my luck frog. I brought it along from my frog collection for good luck,” she said.
But in two hours of fishing, even Bella’s good luck frog wasn’t enough.
Unlike last year when all of the residents caught fish — lots of small bluegills, several bass, Allen’s sheepshead — not a fish was caught during last week’s outing.
“I didn’t do my homework,” Davis said, gesturing to the green-tinged water. “It looks like it normally looks in late July. We probably should have gone to the other pier.”
But if it mattered to the gang from Pathstone that the fish weren’t very cooperative, it didn’t show.
Lined up on the public fishing pier, fishing poles in hand, they may not have caught any fish.
But perhaps for a moment, while gazing past motionless bobbers, they caught a small measure of their youth.
John Cross is a Free Press staff writer. Contact him at 344-6376 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.