Mar 27, 2012


It was just too nice out so I grabbed the tent and my fishing gear and sped southwest into The Driftless, that old glacier-free pocket of Wisconsin where valleys outnumber towns. Ryan and his doggie met me in Richland County and we built a big bonfire next to a stream and a weathered rockwall. The coyotes yipped and barked at the crescent moon. We enjoyed some whiskey, and after midnight a dense fog moved in... Tiny twinkling stars of water vapor drifted in front of our headlamps and then - it seemed - through us. The coyotes screamed, closer now. We marveled at all of this. Pretty lucky, we concluded, to be here and now...
We spent most of the next day wading up blue ribbon trout streams, beneath scattered clouds and perfect spring lighting.

Sometimes the general scenery out there is so stunning that I find myself missing the fine detail, but the fine detail is what makes a perfect moment. I'd catch a gorgeous trout but be so consumed with getting a good picture that I'd never actually look at the living fish.
I realized I had not been fully present in the moment.
Sometime before noon Ryan put a perfect cast above a deep and menacing root system in the strong middle of a big bend, and we saw a bright flash, and Ryan made a strange noise that told me it was a big fish. The brown trout was 18 inches, his biggest so far. There was no world beyond that bend of rushing spring water, and we burned the fish into memory, and watched it swim away.

I was driftless for two days and nothing beyond where I was standing in the stream mattered. I was quieted. I let the fire die down on Sunday night and climbed in my sleeping bag. Something woke me at 5:30 and I saw the fire burning brightly. Strange, I thought. I rubbed my eyes and expected to see a coyote stoking the coals. I went back to sleep.
On Monday morning we woke to cold rain so we packed up camp and headed for home, where glaciers had made room for more people, and pretty quickly I began thinking about what I would do tomorrow, and next week. And what was happening elsewhere... And should I make tacos tonight? What about all the things I need to get done in April? ... And what if, what if?