DRIFTLESS - This is one of my most favorite photos that I have ever taken. I look at it often and try to figure out why it is my favorite. It was a good capture and the colors pop and the clarity is awesome, but those are only the technical reasons why I love this photo.
First off, when I look at this photo, I smile. The angler in the photo is Frank. Frank is a character. The first time I met him we talked about many things around a roaring campfire in my hometown of Gays Mills. Frank said he was going back to school soon and after he became successful, he wanted to own a small hobby farm and grow miniature goats. From that first night I dubbed him ‘Goat Boy.’ The name stuck.
Frank was on a journey to Wisconsin from Cleveland Ohio with his best friend Erik. They saw it as their last great hurrah before they had to take life seriously and become adults. It made me a little sad to think of Frank settling down to the 9-5 and becoming a worker bee instead of a trail blazer and traveler in search of the next adventure. I put myself into his shoes and I was a little melancholy.
Frank fell in love with the Wisconsin Driftless. He even told me he contemplated moving here and doing the goat thing here. He explained to me that there were trout near Cleveland, but the Driftless was magical and tugged at his soul.
We spent a couple nights around the campfire, during his Driftless quest. The tales came from every direction. The last night they were here my wife even invited herself to sit around the campfire. The stories I told her when I came home were too much for her to be a spectator. She wanted to be part of the grand bull session around the campfire. She was not disappointed.
Frank and Erik were leaving the next day at noon. My wife Barb suggested a place to take the crusaders the next day. I had showed her the area one time long ago. She thought it might be a fitting place to end their week. She described to the Ohio Boyz what was so special about the area that I was going to take them to the next day. She got into the campfire stories that evening as much as we did.
I remember the next morning well. They obviously stayed up around the campfire long after we left. They stayed up late taking in the whole experience and were talking about life and how it was going to change now that they were going to be real adults. I had to kick them out of their sleeping bags and get them ready to go.
I was totally blown away when they rolled out of their sleeping bags and they both were in waders and ready to go. They had slept in their waders. They broke camp and just stuffed their tent and sleeping bags in the back of the vehicle. Frank said they could take care of the small stuff when they got home. There was fishing to be done.
The morning brought an overcast sky and a whisper of a sprinkle. We agreed that it was perfect conditions for their last day. They were fired up by my wife's description of where they were going.
We hit the water at 7 a.m. The trout were eager and the boyz were flabbergasted at the beauty of the stretch where I took them. It was late September and the leaves were just starting to put on their fall colors. The foliage was trimmed with yellow and gold colors. You could not have painted a better picture.
We fished the stretch slowly and meticulously. They did not want it to end. They wowed at the scenery and sat down numerous times just to soak in the beauty and grandeur. The stretch typically took two hours to fish, but this morning it took four hours. They did not want it to end. They weren't ready to be part of the 9-5.
Erik had the duty of driving the first stretch back to Cleveland and went to the vehicle to prepare. Frank was hypnotized by the setting and did not want it to end. He told me he was still catching fish and Cleveland could wait.
There was a large bluff just ahead of us. This meant Frank had to stop when he got to it because the rock formation caused a very deep hole and there was no way to keep going with the bluffs on each side. Frank continued to fish. He wanted his magical trip to a far away land to continue. He was not ready to be a worker bee.
I crawled up on the bluff and watched Frank fish. The gentle rain was still whispering and telling him to stay. The late season morning was cool and very inviting. His casts were so smooth and almost poetic. My bird's eye view of Frank and the world will be forever etched in my memory.