Yesterday I fished alone on a long wooded stretch. I typically don’t like fishing alone. If I have a fishing partner I have someone to talk to and a photo subject also. Yesterday was different. I went alone to have some me time. Some recent news had me thinking about why I fish.
I started on my fishing journey at age five. I am fifty-six now. My first outing is very vivid in my mind to this day. My recent outings have been a little labored due to my back problems. They are shorter outings and I have lost my path a little. My focus seems clouded and not about the big picture.
Yesterday when I fished I was thinking about my past and what led me to this journey that is trout fishing. It was easy to establish my starting point and my motives. The big trout bug bit me on my very first outing at age five.
The other anglers that have taken a similar journey talk about the evolution of a trout angler. I was always of the opinion that I was stuck on that big trout level and that was why I fished. Yesterday as I fished I did some soul searching. The reason I trout fish came to me and it wasn’t just one thing or the next big trout.
I take lots of photos when I am out on stream. Every so often I get a photo or two taken of me holding a trout. Every person that has ever taken a photo of me asks me why I don’t smile when I am holding a big trout? I thought about it yesterday.
What makes me smile when I am out there? I caught myself smiling a lot when wandering yesterday. It clicked and it was a self aware moment. I thought back in to my book of life and it was obvious.
Early season trout fishing is cold and stark. The snow is typically deep and I wear out easier. The environment is not inviting like the lush greens of summer, but there is an allure to those days of frozen guides and numb fingers. The long winter has made me forget the gnats and mosquitoes of late September. My heart yearns to brave the crisp cold days of Wisconsin’s early season. I like to be the first one to place their footstep in fresh snow of opening morning. It makes me feel like I am the first angler to ever set foot on that stream. One of my biggest smiles I can ever remember while fishing is when the snow was coming down hard on one of those frigid openers. The snow was going down the back of my coat and then that big broad smile was painted on my face. You would have had to experienced it yourself to feel what it meant to me. The solitude was deafening.
Spring comes quickly to my home waters. I don’t miss a beat and am out there fishing and continuing my journey. The smells are amazing in spring. The ground melting has a unique smell to it. The trees are budding and the grasp of winter is being shed. The world is becoming anew. That very first smell of a plum tree blooming triggers a smile for me. The smell is better than any expensive perfume from Paris or New York. I feel alive again and I am anew.
Early summer comes and with it the baby birds and the sounds of the stream come with them. The first wildflowers appear. Not far after that the wood anemones and blue bells paint a tapestry on the valley floors. My stream is a veritable sensory smorgasbord. A constant smile was painted on my face. My stream is alive and me with it.
Summer brings hot and biting insects. My lust for the stream is dampened by the stifling hot, but I trudge on. What more could an angler wish for? I am one of those crazy guys that wade in water and mud up to their belly buttons and enjoy it. The only thing that could make it better would be a slow steady rain. Are you smiling now?
September comes quickly. The trees begin to change color. The leaves on your sentinels of the streams are tipped with gold. You need to layer up to fish because that cold wind has whispered to you that winter will come quickly. If you are not smiling then you need to lay your pole down and take up golf.
My very good friend was diagnosed with liver and colon cancer this Spring. He is upbeat and positive. I was bashful at first to talk to him about it. It made me feel so mortal and close to death myself. We talked this weekend about it. He was candid about his condition. His positive thought process was obvious. I noticed he smiled a lot during our conversation. I need to learn to smile more often.
I enjoyed your story very much.
Fishing alone is OK and I’ve done enough of it to appreciate the solitude but for 35 years I fished with a friend, his name might sound familiar because he was a world renowned artist, sculptor, painter and inventor. Ed DeWitt was a pain in the butt as some artists are, but I managed to understand what was under that gruff surface after a while and tolerated most of his antics and learned to laugh at him most of the time. Ed and I fished in New York every Easter and Thanksgiving we’d put on our warmest clothes and head for the Hudson River by the George Washington Bridge and fish on both sides of the river where Ed grew up (Edgewater NJ) and we’d fish for tommycod, stripers and those darn plastic bags that seem to fill the Hudson River. From ferry piers that jut way out into the river we’d fish near a fire barrel someone started that kept us warm when it got too cold. After fishing we always got a great meal at his daughter’s house in Edgewater. In summer, we’d surf fish until Memorial Day on the beaches from Sandy Hook to Cape May and into the Delaware Bay. Then between Memorial Day to Labor Day (the beaches were too crowded) we’d take my boat to the Delaware River from below Trenton to the Tacony Bridge that crosses from Jersey to Philly, for shad, stripers and hybrid muskey. Then to the Delaware Bay for weak fish and black drum. Every year we’d go to the Eastern Shore of Virginia for a week to catch those big old door mat flounder. Ed and I were both single then and we’d just go-we’d leave at 4 Am and some days not come home until 1 AM then next day if the fishing was good.
Ed passed away from Mersa in a rehab place after he survived a aortic anurism. Most people never survive that but Ed did and just when I thought he’d be better, he checked out. It took me a long time to get over the loss of my favorite fishing pal. After all those years it was hard to enjoy fishing until after a few years of just looking at my gear and not having the will to go fishing, I met my wife. I was a two time widower and both of those girls died in their early 30’s of cancer. My current wife, 25 years my junior, contacted me online one day out of the blue and we talked online and the phone for about a year before we met. On her first visit with me in Jersey, I took a chance and took her surf fishing one the beach. Low and behold her first catch was a 32 inch striper. I laughed until my face was sore at her trying to reel in that beast, she finally landed it and that was it for her, she didn’t want to leave the beach that day. She never fished before but learned to cast very quickly and she was pretty good at it, she even didn’t mind baiting her own hook- she was also hooked from that first day and today she’s quite the fisherwoman(?) We belong to the Port Hudson Fishing Club here in Hudson Florida, I’m President of the club. We moved here 13 years ago because the fishing was good and we could fish most of the year. It’s funny but she’s also an artist.
Now, I have a new fishing partner, one that’s a whole lot better looking than old Ed. (sorry Ed) But I still miss fishing with Ed and think of him often and more so when my wife and I are fishing. He’ll always be there with me and he gave me 35 years of the best fishing company and memories and we would commiserate, when the weather went sour or the fish stopped biting and we’d celebrate, when we had a good day. I wouldn’t trade those days fishing with Ed for anything. I understand the solitude of fishing alone but It’s better to have a fishing partner, it makes the memories more real and it gives you something to talk about- and I still talk about Ed and the good times we had- it fills my soul and I don’t miss him quite as much.
That was a beautiful story.Thanks for sharing. Life Is Good! ; )