Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Hardy Minnesota anglers November 27, 2017

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AHEAD OF US while entering Morristown, orange flashed as three boys dashed across a county road to the side of a bridge.

 

 

Their presence here impressed me on a late November Sunday afternoon of temps hovering around 35 degrees. I wouldn’t be out in these brutal elements angling for fish in the Cannon River. But I suppose when you’re dressed in insulated pants and snow pants and warm coats and boots and other cold weather gear, the temp is tolerable.

 

 

And I suppose there’s something to be said, too, for the endurance and exuberance of youth. While I thought the boys a bit too dedicated to fish on a frigid day like this in southern Minnesota, I respected their decision. Here they were, outdoors, and not sitting in front of a screen. In today’s tech-focused age, that’s something.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Fishing on Circle Lake, a photo essay October 20, 2016

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Photographed in early October, Circle Lake, rural Rice County, Minnesota.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Part III: Lured to the water in Clear Lake, Iowa June 3, 2015

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A view of Clear Lake from the public boat landing at the end of Main Avenue.

A view of Clear Lake from the public boat landing at the end of Main Avenue.

IT IS THE LAKE or the Surf Ballroom, I expect, which draw many to visit the community of Clear Lake in northern Iowa.

The Walleye Classic opened Saturday morning under foggy skies.

The recent Walleye Classic opened under foggy skies.

At 3,684 acres with 14 miles of shore line and an average depth of 10 feet, the lake is among Iowa’s largest.

This sign along Main Avenue welcomed anglers to the annual Walleye Classic.

This sign along Main Avenue welcomed anglers to the annual Walleye Classic.

The only fish I saw while in Clear Lake was a clay one in an outdoor sculpture at the Clear Lake Arts Center.

The only fish I saw while in Clear Lake was a clay one in an outdoor sculpture at the Clear Lake Arts Center.

A fitting decal on a pick-up truck parked lakeside.

A fitting decal on a pick-up truck parked lakeside.

Anglers fish in a lake known for walleye. While I was in town, the Clear Lake Fishing Club was hosting its annual Walleye Classic.

The public dock stretches and corners into Clear Lake.

The public dock stretches and corners into Clear Lake.

I wasn’t interested in fishing, but rather in following the shoreline, in viewing the lake. Water mesmerizes, soothes. And I was seeking a bit of calm, a respite from the worries of life, a place to celebrate 33 years of marriage. I found that in Clear Lake, where I walked a short distance onto a dock in a public access area at the end of Main Avenue and focused on the water.

Teens' shoes abandoned along the brick pathway by the public beach.

Teens’ shoes abandoned along the brick pathway by the public beach.

The docked Lady of the Lake.

The docked Lady of the Lake.

A couple was fishing right next to the tethered cruise boat.

A couple was fishing right next to the tethered cruise boat.

On the opposite side of a public boat landing, my husband and I crossed the sandy beach to water’s edge. He dipped his hand into the water, declared it cold. Not unexpected on May 15. We observed a young family testing the waters, teens tossing stones into the lake, and, farther down, a couple fishing next to the tethered Lady of the Lake. The cruise boat tours the lake.

Boats stacked behind the Clear Lake Yacht Club next to the public access.

Boats stacked behind the Clear Lake Yacht Club next to the public access. The club features numerous racing events.

This art, photographed at J Avenue, a shop located on Main Avenue, summarizes lake activities.

This art, photographed at J Avenue, a shop located on Main Avenue, summarizes lake activities.

The single boat I spotted speeding across the lake Friday afternoon.

The single boat I spotted speeding across the lake on Friday afternoon, May 15.

Boat traffic was minimal during our visit. Too early in the season. Weather too dreary. But I expect on a summer weekend, this place is crazy busy with anglers, boaters, sunbathers and others recreating on and along Clear Lake.

Plant growth in the lake tints the water green.

Plant growth in the lake tints the water green.

The name is a bit of a misnomer. Water quality and clarity are not clear. We’re not talking pea soup, but green. Definitely not clear like northern Minnesota lake clear, although clearer than I expected.

The only sunset I saw was this one in a painting at the Clear Lake Arts Center.

The only sunset I saw was this one in a painting at the Clear Lake Arts Center.

I read that the lake setting presents spectacular sunsets. If not for the clouds and grey skies prevailing during our visit, I might have experienced that.

Many of the downtown shops sell water/lake/nautical themed art like this photographed at The Red Geranium.

Many of the downtown shops sell water/lake/nautical themed art like these photographed at The Red Geranium.

Still, I was not disappointed. Clear Lake is lovely. Not just the lake, but the community.

FYI: Please click here to read my first and second posts in this series from Clear Lake, Iowa. Check back for more stories in this seven-part series.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A Minnesota bait shop Norman Rockwell could appreciate April 26, 2013

White's Bait Shop, Madison Lake, Minnesota

White’s Bait Shop, Madison Lake, Minnesota, photographed while passing by.

FROM A PURE visual perspective, White’s Corner Bait in Madison Lake confuses the eye with a mishmash of angles and cluttered signage. Too many words to read while passing by on Minnesota Highway 60.

Pop, ice, bait...

Pop, ice, bait, batteries, tackle, rods, reels…

But from an artistic perspective, this long-time bait shop delights with a Norman Rockwell-like Americana charm.

I have, for decades, admired this barn red multi-layered building of angles and assorted jumbled rooflines defined by a pointed corner tower.

Not once, though, have I stopped to photograph it, to step inside, to check out the bait, to gather information on where the fish are biting.

Oh, how I love that kitschy fish.

Oh, how I love that kitschy fish.

White’s Bait, open since 2011 in a building that has been a bait shop for more than 50 years, prides itself on providing “good quality bait and great customer service.” Says so, right there on the business website.

Seems quintessential Norman Rockwellish to me. That good quality, that great customer service.

Next time I’ll stop.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Angling in the rushing floodwaters of the Cannon River September 25, 2010

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Fishermen angled for fish in the swollen Cannon River at the King Mill Dam in Faribault Saturday afternoon.

BROTHERS DYLAN AND PARKER and their friend Doug are way braver than me.

No way would you catch me angling for fish along the churning Cannon River at the King Mill Dam in Faribault today. Watching the water tumble and swirl, hearing the rushing roar, made me nervous. But seeing the boys standing so close to the dangerous river, tossing their lines into the mayhem as if they didn’t have a care in the world, caused me even more anxiety.

Only the top parts of a warning sign and of a sidewalk rail peeked above the high water at the dam site.

I was concerned, enough to ask if their moms had given them any special instructions before they left home.

“Watch the speed of the water,” said 14-year-old Dylan.

“Don’t try and fall in,” Doug, also 14, added. Only the 11-year-old didn’t have anything to say.

I suppose the boys thought they were cautious enough, and they really weren’t careless. But one slip on the steps where they fished, or one misstep from the bank, and they would be carried away by the swift-moving waters.

Part of the stairway and sidewalk were submerged in the Cannon River. The boys fished at the bottom of the stairs.

Parker climbed the stairs to the top of the dam with his catch, a sunfish.

I tried not to dampen their spirits; they seemed so content—three boys fishing away a Saturday afternoon, reeling in bass and perch and sunfish. But I wanted them to know, in a subtle way, that I cared about their safety.

A sign at the top of the dam walkway and stairs cautions anglers and others.

Doug crosses the bridge over the King Mill Dam as the river rages below.

The boys set their tacklebox at the top of the stairs, which runs from the top of the dam to the lower river bank.

I didn't worry quite so much when Dylan fished from the footbridge across the top of the King Mill Dam.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling