Recently, I interviewed a few friends for a trout fishing story I'm writing for a magazine. Last fall's hunting was fading in the rearview mirror, but it was still months until my friends could step into a trout stream again. The subsequent cabin fever made all of them so talkative it was difficult to get off the telephone. They told stories about steelhead fishing, ruffed grouse dogs and whitetail hunting that spanned decades.
While my friends and I have common interests in fishing and hunting, we share something else—enthusiasm. Even though we've done it for years, we're still willing to get up early to endure weather events, biting insects and unforeseen calamities for just the opportunity to wade a river with a fly rod or walk through the woods with a gun in hand. It's our way of life.
In January, I like to make informal resolutions to help me maintain that enthusiasm and make the most of my outdoor year. Some are practical. Others are a little whimsical. All are attainable, though I'll likely fall short of accomplishing all of them. But that won't be due to a lack trying.
Topping the list is a resolution to spend more time target shooting. I am fortunate to live in an area where it is still relatively easy to find places where shooting is allowed. I hope to get in plenty of practice with both shotguns and rifles before next fall’s hunting season. Shooting practice boosts your confidence afield and is lots of fun to boot.
Resolution number two is to fish for brook trout and write a story about it. A reader once asked me to write about brook trout fishing at least once a year in my Minnesota Outdoor News column. I’ve done my best to annually oblige his request except in 2010, when I gave trout fishing in streams a drought-inspired respite. I intend to make up for lost time this year, perhaps on a secluded Cook County beaver pond or somewhere along Ontario’s famed Nipigon River.
My brook trout escapades may help me reach my long-standing annual goal of catching 50 trout at least 16 inches in length. Most of these will likely be Lake Superior steelhead and lake trout, but usually there are a few brookies and browns in the mix. While catching 50 trout is an arbitrary goal, I can’t achieve it without quality time on the water—and that’s the point.
Trout fishing is my passion, but I have a standing order at home for fresh walleye filets. To preserve domestic tranquility, I have to commit to filling that order at least a few times a year, usually on quiet summer evenings. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.
Another hard task is making sure my dogs get plenty of exercise, which means daily walks and at least one extended hike each week. If the dogs get enough exercise, so do I and we are all better for it. To spice up my strolls, I’m going to make an effort to explore new country and to revisit some places I haven’t seen for awhile. Some of these excursions will be done under the pretense of looking for moose antlers or checking out new hunting places. However, I may make a couple of exploratory hikes just to see what’s out there.
While I’m in the Indiana Jones mode, I’ll also check out some new fishing holes. Lately, I’ve been sticking with my old faithfuls, where I know when and how to catch fish. It’s a productive but unadventurous fishing strategy. I miss the excitement of fishing new water and the satisfaction of discovering how to catch its fish. Perhaps I’ll explore a trout stream, find a new walleye lake, or try a different boat launch on Lake Superior. On the North Shore, you never run out of new waters to explore.
As for whimsy, again this year I plan to toss a fly rod in the camper and head out West in late summer. I have a friend in Montana who I’ve been meaning to visit for 10 years. Maybe we’ll share a trout stream this summer. Then again, I may not pause in Montana. Two years ago, I passed through the Kootenay Region of British Columbia. I’d really like to return and spend some time fishing there. Then again, if I make it as far as Montana, that may be far enough.
Another whim, unlikely to be realized this year, would be tossing a shotgun and the dog into the camper, then spending the autumn wandering across the prairie to hunt upland birds. Unfortunately, my business schedule doesn’t allow for such flights of fancy. In fact, I’m lucky to get away for few days of pheasant hunting in late October. But I’ll keep my dream hunt on the list, just in case. I learned long ago that you can accumulate many things in this world, but time isn’t one of them. So make use of the time you have now and don’t wait for the future to start having fun. If you do so, you’ll have a great New Year.
Airdate: January 7, 2010