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Cancer patient, daughter land fishes of a lifetime in 24 hours

"I'd like you to take my daughter-in-law out to catch a walleye." The request, similar to queries received almost daily throughout the summer months from people looking for a fishing guide soon turned into something entirely different.

Natalie with Eric Moen
Anne's 5-year-old daughter Natalie with family friend Eric Moen, landed a 24-incher. The two fish will be mounted together by Pilgrim's Taxidermy of Park Rapids. The family is from Andover.

"I'd like you to take my daughter-in-law out to catch a walleye." The request, similar to queries received almost daily throughout the summer months from people looking for a fishing guide soon turned into something entirely different.

"She's never caught a walleye before and she wants to land one before she dies." Offering a further explanation, Sheri Notch of New Frontier Resort on Long Lake informed me that her daughter-in-law, Anne Notch, was battling stage-four colo-rectal cancer and catching a walleye was a goal yet to be accomplished.

Unfortunately I was booked, but told Sheri to call good friend and fellow guide Jeremy Anderson of Jone's Guide Service. Jeremy arranged a trip and I couldn't wait to hear the results.

I called him the night following their trip, hoping he would deliver good news. "The trip was cancelled," he said. "They called this morning, Anne was too sick to go".

It was just over a year ago today that Anne Notch, pregnant at the time, received her cancer diagnosis. "The doctors said I might have two years to live if my body responds positively to the chemotherapy", Notch says. "My body has not responded."

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A CAT scan last June showed the cancer had spread to double the size.

Although I had never met Anne Notch, her plight stuck with me. But mid-August, the phone rang and once again the voice on the other end was Sheri. "My daughter-in-law is coming back up at the end of the week, is it possible to get her out fishing?" Once again, guide trips filled my week, but I suggested checking on Jeremy's schedule.

A few days later, while driving the boat in from a guide trip on Long Lake, I met Jeremy cruising out. We checked in with each other that evening, as we often inquire about other's success from the day. "I had Anne Notch today", he said.

During the first three hours of their four-hour trip, the fishing was pretty slow; a few bass and northern pike, but no walleye. In the final hour Jeremy got a bite and fed the fish some line, assuming it was another bass. It turned out to be a 12-inch walleye and he was disappointed that he hadn't let Anne catch that fish. Anne said, "I would be happy with a walleye like that; any walleye."

Then the fishing gods smiled upon her.

"She had a great hook-set," Jeremy said during our conversation. "By the bend in her rod it looked like it was big, but I couldn't tell how big." After netting the walleye, the measuring tape told them exactly how big--27 ½ inches for her first walleye ever!

Once Ann's five-year-old daughter Natalie saw the fish, she became enamored with walleye. "She spent 5 hours one day trying to catch a walleye and even though she never lost focus, it didn't happen," Anne recalled. But the next day, after only 15-minutes on the water, young Natalie was proudly displaying a 24-inch walleye. Pilgrim's Taxidermy will memorialize the two fish in a combination mount created for Anne and Natalie.

Anne's one-year old son, Christopher, probably won't remember the summer his mom and big sister each caught their first walleye, but 3-year-old brother Sam might. He now wants to catch a walleye and additionally would like to dress up as one for Halloween.

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Readers can leave messages and read more about Anne's fight against cancer on her Caringbridge Web page, www.caringbridge.org/visit/annenotch .

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