The day started off unlike any other. Everyone was on time, the weather outlook was good, gear had been correctly chosen, we remembered all equipment necessary, wader leaks were patched, beers were packed, gas tanks were full, hangovers were non-existent and spirits were high. There was even a shovel to help get us out of the ceremonious ditching of the car and a football in the case the urge for an impromptu game of catch occurred. The day started off unlike any other, it would be a good day, spent fishing.
This time last winter we tried the same trip with many more usual consequences of such an effort. I had received an early morning phone call that Donnie was ‘dead’. By ‘dead’, Seth meant that he was not going to be making it fishing. Instead, Donnie would be suffering from his choices made the previous night as his body did its best to refute his efforts of having a good time. Seth made his way down in the heart of the polar vortex to try and find some fish. After a late start we immediately broke the Tenkara rod due to the extremely cold conditions. Eyelets were constantly freezing over and fishing was difficult. Not the type of weather you’d expect to catch trout in. Even the frothy beer would immediately freeze upon opening. Fishless and tired we headed back home and our only thought was that it was Donnie who had suffered as he missed out on a day, spent fishing.
During the winter months in Minnesota, the infinite cold traps the open water under layer upon layer of ice. Most non-Minnesotans have a hard time conceptualizing ice fishing and the enjoyment that it brings but today we were after trout in the open streams of southeastern Minnesota. With the waters of Minnesota lakes comfortably stowed away, the sound of moving water is enough put you in a different state of mind. We went from spot to spot in search of any sort of a bite. The waters that looked fishy ended up having nothing in them but, more than likely, nothing willing to bite. As I was walking from one spot to the next, I noticed my footprint in the water. It was reminiscent of one that you would see on the moon. The unearthed rocks underneath the silt revealed the layers underwater. I was leaving footprints in another world, one cut off from anything above. It is a world with its own predators and prey, worries and concerns, seasons and cycles and we were trying to be a part of it. The crystal clear waters reveal sand bars that take their own form as the water creates ripples similar to a zebra’s stripe. Each river and area is different and no two are alike. We were visitors to this water. The rivers would run as they always have with or without us there. The trout would find their food and continue to thrive in the cold waters as anglers continually come and go in pursuit of catching a glimpse of their beauty. That is always the goal of a day, spent fishing.
After the usual spots resulted in no fish, we decided to try a different spot. We were greeted by faded sign reiterating the fishing regulations as the snow crunched underneath our feet. The anticipation of fishing new water is something that is difficult to describe. The urge to find a new spot is one that is similar to the ‘last cast’. Knowing that there is something out there but it is just a matter of time before we find it keeps the line in the water. It was also during this time in which Seth stated that just being there was satisfaction enough. The need to catch fish was not mandatory but that he could find other joys in a day, spent fishing.
More often than naught, it is when we are content with what we have, when we get more. With everyone being happy with the way the day had gone was when the sun broke and we fished a new hole. It wasn’t three minutes in when I started catching fish. The first was a small brown that quickly spit the fly but I saw the white underside and could feel that there were more fish to be found. Soon after the first hit a well-fed rainbow took the line and was landed. For the next fifteen minutes drift after drift provided some sort of action. We finally had found the spot that we were looking for.
The end of the day quickly came, as we needed to get back home early for previous commitments. Just as soon as we started catching fish and searching new waters it was time to go. It was a day unlike any other. Everything had gone according to plan; we all made it on time to leave, we made it back in time to appease the wives, the patches in the waders held tight, the right flies had been tied, the beer was cold, the sun came out, the camera had batteries, the net was used and no one fell in. It is during these frequent trips that we find a deeper meaning to getting out. It is a day away from the usual routine and chores. It is a day when the cold wind leaves red cheeks, numb hands and fond memories – the true feeling of living. We are just visitors in the grand scheme of things, looking to be a part of another world. The world underneath the water is on one that has existed long before us and, will continue long after we’re gone. Our footprints in the mud will eventually fade and that makes us appreciate the time that we have to be outdoors. There has never been a bad day, spent fishing.