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Fisherman uses time alone to contemplate life
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Yesterday, I fished alone on a long, wooded stretch of stream. I typically don't like fishing alone. If I have a fishing partner, I have someone to talk to and a photo subject also. Yesterday was different. I went alone to have some ‘me time.’ Some recent news had me thinking about why I fish. 

I started on my fishing journey at the age of five. I am 56 now. My first outing is very vivid in my mind to this day. My recent outings have been a little labored due to my back problems. They are shorter outings and I have lost my path a little. My focus seems clouded and not about the big picture. 

Yesterday when I fished, I was thinking about my past and what led me to this journey that is trout fishing. It was easy to establish my starting point and my motives. The big trout bug bit me on my very first outing at age five.

The other anglers that have taken a similar journey talk about the evolution of a trout angler. I was always of the opinion that I was stuck on that big trout level and that was why I fished. Yesterday as I fished, I did some soul searching. The reason I trout fish came to me and it wasn't just one thing or the next big trout.

I take lots of photos when I am out on stream. Every so often I get a photo or two taken of me holding a trout. Every person that has ever taken a photo of me asks me why I don't smile when I am holding a big trout? I thought about it yesterday.

What makes me smile when I am out there? I caught myself smiling a lot when wandering yesterday. Then, it just clicked. It was a self-aware moment. I thought back in to my book of life and it was obvious.

Early season trout fishing is cold and stark. The snow is typically deep and I wear out easier. The environment is not inviting like the lush greens of summer, but there is an allure to those days of frozen guides and numb fingers. The long winter has made me forget the gnats and mosquitoes of late September. My heart yearns to brave the crisp cold days of Wisconsin's early season.  I like to be the first one to place their footstep in fresh snow of opening morning. It makes me feel like I am the first angler to ever set foot on that stream. One of my biggest smiles I can ever remember while fishing is when the snow was coming down hard on one of those frigid openers. The snow was going down the back of my coat and then that big broad smile was painted on my face. You would have had to experienced it yourself to feel what it meant to me. The solitude was deafening.

Spring comes quickly to my home waters. I don't miss a beat and am out there fishing and continuing my journey. The smells are amazing in spring. The ground melting has a unique smell to it. The trees are budding and the grasp of winter is being shed. The world is becoming anew. That very first smell of a plum tree blooming triggers a smile for me. The smell is better than any expensive perfume from Paris or New York.  I feel alive again and I am anew.

Early summer comes and with it the baby birds and the sounds of the stream come with them. The first wildflowers appear. Not long after that the wood anemones and blue bells paint a tapestry on the valley floors. My stream is a veritable sensory smorgasbord. A constant smile was painted on my face. My stream is alive and me with it.

Summer brings hot and biting insects. My lust for the stream is  dampened by the stifling hot, but I trudge on. What more could an angler wish for? I am one of those crazy guys that wade in water and mud up to their belly buttons and enjoy it. The only thing that could make it better would be a slow steady rain. Are you smiling now?

September comes quickly. The trees begin to change color. The leaves on your sentinels of the streams are tipped with gold. You need to layer up to fish because that cold wind has whispered to you that winter will come quickly. If you are not smiling then you need to lay your pole down and take up golf.

My very good friend was diagnosed with liver and colon cancer this past spring. He is upbeat and positive. I was bashful at first to talk to him about it. It made me feel so mortal and close to death myself. We talked this weekend about it. He was candid about his condition. His positive thought process was obvious. I noticed he smiled a lot during our conversation. I need to learn to smile more often.