Jim O'Leary

Waverly Star

By Jim O'Leary

An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.

May 13, 2002

Fishing season opens this week.

Gerry Meehan Smith, who lives right on Waverly Lake with her husband, Don, gave this to me a year ago.

She had clipped it out of the Howard Lake-Waverly Herald a few years back. I have asked Mr. Hanna if I could have his permission to run it in the Waverly Star column, and he graciously granted it.

I think it speaks to a lot of us who used to fish Waverly Lake. Some of us still do.

Lake Waverly remains vivid

By Bill Hanna, The Virginia Times

"He would try to gently wake me with a shake of my arm.

"When that didn't work, he would whisper the magic words, loud enough to wake me but quiet enough not to disturb the others at 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning: 'Bill, Bill, the fish are waiting,' my dad would say.

"He was already dressed and had the car loaded. The opening of each fishing season was his second Christmas.

"My older sister and brother did not share my dad's personal joy of sitting in a boat, rolling with the waves, and analyzing why the fish below were either not biting or were so darn talented at spitting out a hook just as they were being pulled from the water.

"At age eight, I became my dad's fishing buddy. Five years later, when adolescence came knocking and I thought I had better things to do, the honor would be passed to my younger brother.

"But for those five years, my dad and I became one with Lake Waverly, located about 60 miles west of Minneapolis.

"Each opening day the routine would be so wonderfully the same. Awake at 5 a.m., and on the road by 5:15. I can still see the towns of Maple Plain, Delano, Montrose, and finally Waverly pass the window and the eyes of the young boys going fishing.

"But before Montrose and Waverly, there would be the traditional stop at a cafe in Delano. The breakfasts were plentiful and the conversation in the cafe buzzed with fishing talk.

"Once at the lake, the boat would be rented and we would shove off, not to return until late in the afternoon.

"When it came to a day of fishing with my father, it was useless to complain of a sore butt or lack of cooperation by the fish. Only severe thunderstorms could force him to shorten a day's fishing.

"A steady rainfall? No problem. Rain gear was handy and, 'They bite better when it rains,' he would say.

"Lunch? Again, no problem and certainly no reason to go ashore. My mother had packed our lunches the night before. And if I tried to sneak a sandwich in the morning, I was persuaded not to. 'It's up to you, but that's all you have for lunch,' he would say.

"It's been more than 20 years since I've been to Lake Waverly, but the lake and the route we regularly took in search of crappies and sunfish have never dimmed.

"About mid-lake and just to the left of our boat rental was our spot for crappies. It was directly out from an old pump house and directly above a sunken large wooden crate. It was the hangout for crappies.

"To the right of the boat rental and around a point was a small bay that ran into an old baseball park. The water was shallow and weedy. It was the hangout for sunfish and bass.

"In the morning we fished crappies, and when St. Mary's Church rang its noon Angelus we would eat lunch.

"Then I would pull up the anchor, my dad would start the motor and we would pursue the sunfish in the warmer afternoon temperatures.

"And each time, as the boat skimmed the water between the pump house and the ball park, my dad would yell above the motor's roar while pointing to the far side of the lake, 'That's the home of Hubert Humphrey.' And each time I would nod and say 'Really,' as if it was fresh information.

"I think often of my dad and Lake Waverly each May as the fishing opener rolls around. It is not a big lake and never held any lunker fish. But for five years, it was a place that provided warm memories of youth.

"And it was also a place where I saw my dad at his most relaxed, and perhaps his happiest. That makes Lake Waverly very special indeed."

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