With the hot afternoon sun finally beginning to sink toward the western horizon, my brother Jimmy and I were headed into the woods to do a little trout fishing before darkness arrived.
For me, there are several types of trout fishing, and each has its own appeal, while differing greatly in its feel and approach.
There’s trout fishing by myself, which usually offers great moments of introspection, solace and peace.
I experience all the various stimuli nature has to offer – from the touch of cold waters to the smell of summer blossoms, the ebullient and delightful songs of the river and the birds to the sights and tastes of the seasons, like blueberries, blackberries and apples.
There’s also hitting the stream banks with my longtime brook trout fishing buddy, the Coaster King. The camaraderie we share is truly special to me, as we continue to pursue our childhood-borne pursuit of small-creek brook trout fishing.
Another, rarer pleasure is fishing with the Queen of Shebis, my lovely wife. While she is often too busy to follow this trout bum out into the woods, when we do get to arrange a day on the water together, we have a wonderful time.
She often catches more fish than I do, and I am happy to clean them.
Still rarer these days is the opportunity to trout fish with my boys, who live out west with wives of their own. We only get to fish together every few years, but it’s a tremendous thing when it happens.
I taught them how to fish when they were very young, like my dad and mom taught me. It’s very rewarding to know that they still love to fish themselves and do so often, chasing fish like cutthroat trout that I’ve never seen in real life, much less caught.
I recall one summer when they came here to Michigan for a visit, we spent a few days in the western part of the peninsula, fishing for trout and spending evenings at a cabin we’d rented.
On that trip, I taught the boys how to pan-fry their brook trout and how to debone the fish once they were cooked. They helped clean up afterwards and participated in the whole process, from tying on and baiting their own hooks to giving the countertop a last wipe.
I was proud of them then, and I am proud of and impressed with the men they have become. I just wish we lived a little closer to each other. I hope to get to help teach my grandchildren to fish too.
I used to love to fish with my dad, but those days are gone. He’s now leaving me a spot next to him along the big trout waters in the sky. I wonder who he’s getting to clean his fish for him now that I’m not around.
Finally, there’s fishing with my brother. Fishing with him is kind of like a mixture of some of all the other types of trout fishing I just talked about, with a few more ingredients folded in.
We used to fish together all the time when we were young boys. He is four years younger than me. Our boyhood fishing ended abruptly when our parents got divorced when I was 13.
He moved to Canada with my mom and my two sisters, and I stayed in Michigan with my dad, the only child old enough to decide. Though we did fish a couple of times during those “missing years,” it wasn’t like the old days.
But when we get together now, it is.
As I used to do in those now-ancient times, I often serve as the guide, trying to find my little brother a good place to fish. I know that if he gets fish, he’ll be happy and that will make me happy.
It will also make my fishing experience better.
In some ways, I see a lot of my dad in my brother when fishing. Like my dad, he seems to be more bothered by mosquitoes than I am and gets frustrated more easily.
However, like my dad, he still toughs it out and is willing to stay out there as long as I am – which is usually a very long time. My brother also enjoys horrible puns. Clearly, he is his father’s son and his nephew’s uncle.
We parked my Jeep and got out, splitting up to each find a trout hole to fish. I urged my brother to head downstream, and I went upstream.
In any fishing partner pairing, I am most often the one to be using a spinner or other lure of some type. But tonight, before leaving the house, I decided to toss a container of Canadian crawlers into my bag, just in case.
I decided to start with a worm, as there happened to be a hook tied on the end of my line from the last time I was out. In about a half-dozen casts, I had three or four bites from small trout.
Just as I was realizing that there was nothing of any real size biting in this hole, my brother called out to me from the road beyond a big green wall of trees.
“Are you there?”
“Yeah, what are you doing?”
“There’s a couple of nice-sized fish over here that I can’t reach with my lure. I thought you might be able to get them with a worm.”
I followed him back downstream, and with two casts, I had both fish in my bag. I was obviously pleased with the beautiful catch, and he was happy to have been my guide to the fish.
“The roles have been reversed for once,” he said.
In a few more minutes, I landed another nice trout, and he hadn’t caught any yet.
I told him that it looked like a night for crawlers, and he should consider switching up his offering to the brookie trout gods.
He put a worm on his hook and was soon catching fish and catching up to me.
By the time we had moved to a couple more places on the creek, I had caught my limit of five trout. My brother had two.
I was now in guide mode once again, putting my fishing pole away in the Jeep.
I suggested he get down very low to the ground to be able to sneak a cast over some branches and into a deep hole.
When he said he didn’t think he could get his line in there without snagging it, I offered to cast it for him. I was surprised he accepted the offer. I casted and then quickly handed the rod off.
On that first cast, a fish hit, but got off the hook on the retrieval.
A few more casts led to a few more hits, but no trout landed. We moved on to the next hole, where Jimmy put another fish in his basket. With the nighttime approaching, he said we could quit now, and he’d be fine with that.
I urged him to continue. I said we could pass a few less-than-premier holes to get to one that I often had great luck with, especially as night was falling.
He agreed to follow me through the brush.
Arriving at the hole, he took one cast and then another. I think it was the first or second cast that he got his first bite. He then snagged his line on a submerged log.
He tried to pull the hook free, and his line snapped loudly, the concussion rippled through the warm, night air. Again, he was ready to call it quits, as it was getting darker, but I told him I could see just fine and would tie another hook on for him.
I baited that hook and he casted his line into the hole. Within a few short minutes, he had landed two more beautiful trout. The last one was our biggest fish of the night.
We both had caught our brook trout limit. I led us back through the woods to the Jeep, my brother trailing me with a flashlight.
It was great fun and reminded me so much of the times I would fish as a kid along the creek banks near our house, with my little brother tagging along.
On the drive home, several woodcocks flew up off the dirt road, and a great horned owl afforded us a chance to see it with a flashlight trained on it.
At home, my brother headed for the shower and left me to clean our sink full of fish.
“Like father, like son,” I mumbled as I got my fillet knife out of the drawer.
But I didn’t really mind. It’s been about a week since that night, and time has since enveloped the entire evening within a memory packed away tightly inside our hearts and heads.
Demands and commitments of the dizzying world have once again crept in and consumed us, cementing the importance of taking the time to get out fishing together when we can.
Even just a couple of hours can prove to be incredibly fulfilling and helpful to our spiritual, psychological and physical well-being.
Though we’re older now, and perhaps a little gruffer around the edges, its incredible to be able to spend times like these together again – out for trout.
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