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Fishing and Painting in the Minnesota Driftless

My friends, Mike and John, and I planned a late spring fishing trip to Minnesota’s Driftless region. The timing was perfect; the hatches would be at their peak and the rivers low and clear.

And, it would have been perfect… if it hadn’t started to rain. As we drove south from the Twin Cities multiple thunderstorms pummeled the area with up to nine inches of rain.  Tornadoes touched down to the south of us, and Decorah, Iowa was flooded for the second time in as many weeks.

Every river we crossed was swollen beyond its banks and ran the color of a latte… with extra milk. Still, Mike, who’d organized the trip, remained positive, even upbeat about the fishing. We were told that the tributaries to the larger rivers are, for the most part, spring-fed and remain fishable even after the severest deluge. John and I, as well as Mike’s dog, “Moose” remained guardedly skeptical.

The first day we fished a meadow stream born from two spring creeks. While a bit off-color, it fished well. The larger of the two spring-fed tributaries was clear and fished like a dream. We leap-frogged up the stream, trading water as good friends do and we all caught fish… surprisingly large fish, given the size of the creek.

My intention for the trip was two-fold; spend time on the water with my friends… and get in a bit of plein air painting.

The second day dawned warm and muggy, with humidity so thick that it veiled the landscape and softened its edges. I love to paint atmospheric effects on the landscape and suggested to my friends that they carry on without me while I kept company with the steers that roamed the pasture where I set up my easel. When Mike and John returned later in the day, “Pasture Stream” was finished.

And so, the week unwound. The weather cleared and the rivers dropped. Minnesota poet, Larry Gavin, joined us for a day, and we enjoyed a wonderful mix of fishing and painting.

Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • Dave Minar says:

    Beautifully done, Bob. Can’t wait to see the finished painting.
    My late friend Ralph could have healed those sloughing, eroding stream banks with his cows, with no negative impact on the fishery.

  • Dave Cudlip says:

    Hi Bob,
    I’ve never fished the Minnesota Driftless areas, but have fished northeast Iowa from Decorah north to the Iowa/Minnesota border. The terrain looks very similar. Open meadows and a few limestone canyon runs. And the whole area surrounded by the most beautiful farmland in the country. Each trout brought to hand is a trophy in it’s own right. I’ve fished Maine to Montana, the U.p. of Michigan, the Appalachians and Alaska, Ireland and Norway, but this area of the Midwest has become my favorite.

    • Bob White says:

      Shhhhh… not so loud, David!

      Just joking, of course. It’s amazing that folks from Chicago (and other places) will drive right past on their way to Montana. You’ve got it figured out!

      Perhaps, we’ll run into one another down in the Driftless… that’d be nice.

  • Rod Senn says:

    Enjoyed the story and pics! Especially showing the painting stages.

  • RICK LOTSPEICH says:

    I can hear the sound of the water in your paint.

    • Bob White says:

      Thanks, Rick… when someone looks at one of my paintings and says something like that… I know I got it right! Best to Clare…

  • Wayne Bartz says:

    Glad you came down to fish the streams that I call my home waters. I enjoyed the photo essay and hope John does an article on the trip sometime.

  • RIchard A. Dickinson says:

    THANKS Bob.

    Great pictures!!

  • Kevin Vincent says:

    That looks awesome. Might just have to come up there and see it for myself…

    • Bob White says:

      We’d love to have you guys join us sometime, Kevin… that’d be fun!

      Let’s talk about it in Argentina!

      Best to you and Lee and see you soon!
      Bob & Lisa

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