On the second day of the meeting in Minneapolis we took an afternoon off to go fishing with some of our local customers on Lake Minnetonka.

When I first read about the fishing trip I was a bit meh… I used to fish as a child on our local canal and have memories of long miserable days of drizzle sitting on the side of the canal catching 1 or 2 half dead gudgeon about the size of my thumb and then traipsing off home as it got dark. Then someone told me we’d be taking a boat out on the lake and my interest increased, maybe I could just skip the fishing bit altogether and concentrate on socialising with colleagues and customers around the beer cooler. Ah, but then we heard that we’d be taking small boats out for the whole afternoon with a maximum of three people on the boat and I was straight back down to meh… again.

Anyway, we finished the morning meeting and headed off to the lake in a minibus loaded with beer, stopping first at Lord Fletchers for lunch, which for the record was so-so, I made the mistake of ordering a Greek salad which was really poor (although the evening meal there later was damn good). After we’d all finished up we headed down to the boats and got the first look of what we’d be going out on.

Damn, we were going to be pretty exposed and the day was glorious, barely a cloud in the sky, unseasonably warm and I’d brought no suntan lotion, ah well, let it do its worst! (the pic above was actually taken after we got dropped off at dusk)

I paired off with an American colleague and one of the customers, loaded the boat up with beer and we headed out onto the lake with me sitting on the high front seat which made me feel like I was balancing on a bar stool at the front of the boat. Anyway, we cracked open some beers and sat back to enjoy the sunshine as we headed out onto the lake.

It turns out that lake Minnetonka is a little odd, it’s pretty huge in total but it’s made up of a large number of smaller bays that are interconnected by narrow channels, I think I read somewhere that it has 175 miles of shore but at its widest point it’s never more than about a mile across.

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He took it easy as we pulled away from Lord Fletchers and through the channel to crystal bay but as soon as we’d cleared the buoys the captain opened it up and I was in for a shock as the front of the boat raised up and we set off skipping across the lake with me desperately trying to clutch on to the bottom of the seat to prevent me from bouncing out, trying to wedge my feet in the two corners of the boat to push me into the seat at the same time as holding my beer and trying to stop my cap from blowing off (later I heard that my boss lost his coat and blackberry on the initial burst, he’d just taken it off and it blew straight out of the boat, fortunately the boat behind saw it happen and picked it up before it sank..). The boat absolutely flew, apparently it could get up to 70mph but the speed limit on the lake is 45 mph, I can’t tell you how fast we were actually going but if you’d asked me at the time I’d have sworn it was 150mph, I was terrified.

After a minute or so he let off the throttle and as we came to a stop in the middle of the lake he got out the fishing tackle and set us up one by one with a rod complete with a dangling earthworm at the end.

We cast in, he set the boat in reverse and we sat back enjoying a beer as the boat dragged the worms through the reeds in the lake. We didn’t have much to do other than let out line until we felt the gear hit the bottom, then pull in slightly to keep it just above, well, this was the theory but I couldn’t tell when the gear hit the bottom and was constantly reeling in and out trying to figure out where it was. In the end I gave up and just left it as it was and sat back with a beer.

This was the business, a warm day, sunshine, beautiful scenery and a beer, every silver lining has a cloud though and running in reverse meant that we were getting constant gusts of exhaust fumes as we sat and drank. After five minutes of this and no sign of any fish I was starting to wish I’d stayed on the bank.

We chatted and drank, but still nothing and 10 minutes later the captain decided that we should move on and try a different spot. We started to reel in, after a few seconds the other guys had fully retracted their hooks but I was still going strong reeling away, when I finally got the hook out it turned out I’d let out about 50m of line into water about 8 feet deep (which had the others ripping the piss out of me for the next twenty minutes “which bay were you fishing in” etc, no wonder I’d not even had a bite….)

This time I was better prepared and had my beer in the can holder, cap pulled on tightly, feet wedged in the corners, one hand grabbing the stool and the other holding the rod as we off. I almost enjoyed it this time as we skimmed across the lake but I was crapping myself again before long as we headed straight for the wake of a large boat and bounced across it without slowing down, the front of the boat smacked down hard in the water and my white-knuckled fingers almost ripped the foam cover off the seat. The boat was as stable as a rock though, my only worry was the large hook at the end of the rod which I’d not reeled in tightly enough and was whizzing around about a metre or so in front of my face, as we slowed down to go through another channel I hooked it onto one of the loops on the rod and reeled it tight to make it safe.

The lake was beautiful, the trees were just on the turn and were on the way from green through to a golden/copper colour

The boat stopped in another bay and we tried again, another 20 minutes went by with nothing. “Geez guys you’re not having any luck today at all” the captain said, “let’s try something different”.

He brought out some new rods with “spinners” attached, he reckoned we’d have more luck dragging them through the reeds and trying to entice pike and bass to take a bite. He handed over the rods and explained what we had to do, basically cast out and reel in at a speed which kept the spinner off the bottom but still in the reeds, then cast out again. Well, this was great except with every cast I was bringing in huge clumps of reed from the bottom and within 5 minutes I’d got so tangled that I lost the gear completely.. This sucked, the constant casting and reeling meant I couldn’t drink my beer and we were all too busy to chat, plus we were catching absolutely nothing. I’d just about had enough when Patrick (my colleague) let out a whoop and I turned to see him lifting a fish out of the water.

A bass as it turns out, a bit of a tiddler if you ask me but anyway, it did the job of getting me motivated again and after taking a photo I cast out again.. and again.. 10 minutes later I’d still not got so much as a sniff when Tim (customer) whooped and pulled out another bass, a proper one this time..

And then another..

And then Patrick pulled out a small pike

And then Tim pulled out another bass..

I was getting desperate by this point, the others were pretty much pulling a fish out every time they cast and I wasn’t getting so much as a sniff. As the guys dropped the fish back into the water I started casting directly on top of the fish hoping to get lucky, but nothing. I even got the captain to change my spinner again, it was the colour of my spinner you know, it was all off, frightening the fish away.. he changed it for me and WHAM!!! absolutely nothing..

We’d been out a few hours now and dusk was approaching, “well it’s almost time guys” the captain said, “let’s just try one more spot and then call it a day”.

We headed for another bay and pulled up close to one of the other boats where a couple of my UK colleagues were fishing, even as we were slowing down we could see them pulling fish out of the water, one after another, this looked like the spot.

Tim and Patrick started pulling in fish straight away but still I was getting nothing, I was getting tired with all the casting and reeling and started trying to cast as far as possible to increase the time between casts. Suddenly, after an especially long cast I got a bite and a strong pull on the line, I started reeling in, whatever it was it was strong. I started to regret casting so far, I’d figured it was a good idea at the time but the fish I’d caught was a long way from the boat now and struggling, I’d got a lot of line to reel in.. Eventually I got it in though and pulled out a large pike, our biggest catch of the day, I let the captain unhook it for me (there was no way I was putting my fingers anywhere near those rows of teeth) posed for a quick photo and threw it back.

“Right guys that’s us for the day” said the captain, I’d literally caught a fish on the last cast of the day and gone from frustrated disappointment to a fully converted (and very relieved) fisherman.

To be honest we needed a bigger boat, but I skilfully landed it despite the inadequate equipment.

All in all it was a damn good afternoon, we’d had glorious weather, had plenty of fun bouncing round the bays in a lightning fast boat and I’d caught the biggest fish of the day, I was full of it by the time we got back to Lord Fletchers for well earned beers and dinner.

Would I go again? that’s a definite YES!!