Knowing area trout streams inside and out, Len Harris could have spent his life being a fishing guide.
But, it was not for him.
"I liked it, but watching people fish was a little like digging for gold without a shovel," said the veteran outdoors writer, even though he worked as a guide for the likes of former Green Bay Packer Bob Skoronski and legendary college basketball coach Bobby Knight.
The treasure, in Harris's case, is trout ... big trout.
Harris describes himself as an "adrenaline junkie" who wants to be "fishing with the wood ticks, where it's muddy and wet. You won't find me in one of those manicured streams."
And he's in his element when he's hauling in a lunker.
But, when Harris is not up to his belly in water or working at his job as a case manager for a halfway house in Richland Center, he's often writing about the very activity he loves.
A veteran outdoors writer, who has penned articles for such publications as Field & Stream, Midwest Outdoors and Outdoor Life, among others, Harris has a new book out titled "The Stream of Time."
He'll be discussing his book on WRCO Radio 100.9 live on Sept. 12.
It is a collection of 24 short stories culled from Harris's own experiences in the great outdoors.
"The book is written campfire style," said Harris. "It's like a reader is placing himself there - they have a fish on or you're out hunting or it's your childhood. When you read the stories, you'll get a good chuckle. Then, there are two or three where you may need a tissue."
Harris was introduced to fly-fishing by his dad, and his most exciting angling adventure was his first time.
He can remember the day, Sept. 23, 1962, like it was yesterday. Harris was five years old.
"It was the first trout I ever caught, and my dad choreographed the whole thing," said Harris. "It was a 23 3/4-inch male, and he cast it out for me. The next thing you know I got a bite and [the fish] fought like his tail was on fire."
Through fishing, Harris's father taught his son many lessons.
"He talked about training me when fishing to be patient, to be precise," said Harris. "He was not just teaching me about fishing. He was teaching me about life."
About his catch, Harris was also taught what to do after the fishing day was done.
"He taught how to catch it, to get it home and get it cleaned," said Harris. "I also became a good cook because of it."
Those life lessons would come in handy for Harris. His father died when he was 10, leaving his mother to raise him and his five sisters in Gays Mills.
"Fly fishing kept me out of trouble when I was kid," said Harris, who estimated that his family home in Gays Mills was 33 steps to the Kickapoo River.
"The outdoors helped me grow up," said Harris. "A lot of people forget what formed them. I didn't."
Nor has he forgotten how his mother helped shape the man he became. She thought trout fishing was a healthy activity for a boy like Len, and she was right.
There's a story in his book about his mother called "The Gift." It's about how she brought up six kids all on her own.
In adulthood, Harris worked in law enforcement for approximately 30 years - many of them spent as a sheriff's deputy in Dane County.
Four degenerative discs led him to leave the field.
Now living in Richland Center, Harris has a wife, who has worked as a registered nurse for 20 years. She prodded him to collect all the stories he's written and turn them into a book.
Harris also has a daughter, Anna. There was a time when she would accompany Harris on some of his fishing adventures. Harris admits she's not too interested in fishing anymore.
Still, one of the chapters in Harris's book is about Anna. It's called "Wind in the Trees," and he believes it's a good thing for fathers to take their daughters fishing.
"Trout do not know what gender is," said Harris. "Dads, don't just take your sons fishing. Take your daughters as well."
As far as other stories in the book go, Harris says his favorite is called "Nasty," and it's about his childhood dog.
"You'll need a tissue for it," he said.
There's another one called "Muddy Boots." On one his speaking engagements, Harris came across a woman in a nursing home who wanted nothing to do fishing.
"She hated anything outdoors," Harris said. "She refused to watch my presentation."
It turned out that during her marriage, her husband was a big outdoorsman.
"She complained that her husband always had fish scales on him and that he tracked his muddy boots through her kitchen," said Harris.
Harris's talk, however, unleashed a torrent of memories for the woman, and they got the best of her.
"By the end, she was crying, and as they whisked her away, she said, ‘One more ‘Muddy Boots' please,'" recalls Harris.
These days, with the book having been released Aug. 13 on Poynette Press, Harris has plenty of speaking engagements lined up, and he'll make an appearance at Apple Fest in Gays Mills in September.
It's possible he'll regale audiences of experiences on TV outdoors shows, and how on one show, he helped land the first tiger trout - a cross between a female brown trout and a male brook trout - ever caught on TV.
Or, perhaps, he'll talk about the biggest fish he ever caught, a 27 3/4-inch brown trout that puked out a full-sized brook trout after he landed it.
Whatever the case, there's sure to be plenty of stories - some heartwarming, some sad and some of them thrilling to the very end - told that will stir the memories of anybody who's ever fished or hunted in the great outdoors.