We didn't catch a thing.
This year it was just Steve and I because our friend had prior commitments. On Thursday afternoon when we arrived, we tried our luck on a new lake we heard good things about. We had no luck, so I attributed it to being a new lake that we didn't know.
We fished our favorite lake in a chilly 41 degree steady light rain on Friday morning that was relentless. Whenever the rain stopped for a few minutes it seemed the wind would pick up. We fished all the areas that have always produced in the past. It was a sure thing in my mind. When it didn't produce in the morning, we changed lakes to our other favorite lake. In year's past, we almost always got a fish on one of these two lakes. We fished it hard in the afternoon, but it was not to be. It was a tough day on the water.
We'll get 'em tomorrow, I thought.
Saturday was more of the same. Trolling, casting, repeating. No luck.
The whole weekend was a lesson in humility and futility. I came away on Saturday afternoon feeling despondent, dejected and defeated. I thought the two of us were pretty good at this game and we had not even had a hint of a fish.
And then I remembered that this is a very common muskie fishing experience for most people. After a shower, a change into some warm clothes and a good dinner, I came to grips with it. I had not caught a fish, but it occurred to me that I had much to be grateful for. Much more than the satisfaction a fish could provide.
When I counted them down, I realized I was grateful for:
- My friends Steve and John, whose graciousness allows me to visit this outdoor playground. John lets us take over his place and use his boat like it's our own, oftentimes when he can't make the trip. Steve invited me 5 years ago and I've been lucky to be included ever since. Without friends like these, this trip doesn't happen. Grateful.
- The fish of my past. I have 5 muskies to my credit in five years. Some people fish a lifetime and never get one. And I'm moping? No, grateful.
- I had the chance to build some great memories with Steve, including fishing in godawful weather that we will laugh about forever, using a one-eyed sucker for bait that we nicknamed one-eyed Charlie, and loading the boat at the end of the day in a 5 minute momentary sleet storm. My sister messaged me on the last day and reminded me that the trip, the journey and the memories taken away are not to be overlooked. Be grateful, she reminded me.
- This place. The Vilas/Iron County area of Wisconsin has become a sacred place to me for many reasons. It's where I go to recreate with my Minnesota family every August, and fish for muskies every year. It's where I learned to walleye fish with my friend Brad 19 years ago. It is boundless in beauty and I can't get enough of it. This trip we saw deer, loons, eagles, hawks, turkeys. Grateful for God's handiwork.
- My health. Fishing muskie is hard work. Throwing heavy lures, the logistics of launching, loading and unloading the boat in sometimes adverse conditions takes strength and stamina. I'm just happy to be able to do it at 51 and hope to be doing it at 71. Lucky to have healthy friends to do it alongside. Grateful.
- Mementos. On this trip I brought along shirts given to me by my two brothers Rob and Paul. Both of the shirts are muskie related and I consider them lucky. While they weren't lucky for me this trip, having them means much more to me than many other things I own. It makes me feel connected with them, which is weird, I know, but grant me this quirk. They and the rest of my family are pretty important to me lately so my attitude is, whatever it takes.
I've learned in life that there's three answers. Yes, No and Not Now. When I look back at this trip I'm going to look at it as a "Not Now" trip, and I am Grateful to have learned something along the way.