The rolling hills around Big Detroit Lake in western Minnesota typically kick off my autumn, but it isn’t the scattering of ruffed grouse in its surrounding woods that elicit my echoing footfalls and that of hundreds of others on the weekend after Labor Day. Instead, the woodland birds, whose Minnesota opener is still a week off, have it easy for at least another seven days as I hit the pavement surrounding the water in the crisp, clear morning air of early September for the annual Dick Beardsley half marathon. Up each rise, my legs grind and sweat falls, before a bit of relief on the downhill side takes me into the next gentle dip funneling toward the lake and a bit closer to the finish line.
Strangely, the motion of ascending and descending the hills matched the gentle rise and fall of my rod tip on the water after the race, as the slow pulse of my baitcaster, tipped with a fluorocarbon leader and the blue flash of a Jigging Rap, moved the lure along the bottom and the arcs of the walleyes that showed up on the sonar. Picking them up, along with a few scattered crappies that were suspended above them as night would fall, gave a sense of reward for the moments of monotony that sometimes settled in as I became lost in thought, staring at the reflection of the sun on the water. Both the season-ending half marathon around the lake, and the fishing on its surface, seemed to mirror the summer that was: full of the same ups and downs.