Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Friends, and the Fish and Fungus Amungus

   Things forgotten on a 5-person, weekend NE Iowa fishing trip:  polarized glasses, deodorant, tent.  Things not forgotten:  the ability to laugh and share, and to have one heck of a good time!

   No one wholly knew everyone else in the group.  Personalities ranged from the slightly reserved to, well, the polar opposite, sort of like comparing brook trout to dolphins.  Yet, all of us, Jackfish Kate, Theresa, Twitch (yours truly), Shani and her Aunt Terri (the latter two being members of Team Rang-a-Tang and a story I dare not tell)  shared a love of the outdoors and that each of us planned to have a great time come either the forecasted storms or high water. 

   And yes, storms did come.  The Rang-a-Tangs shared a camper and the rest car-camped.  So, the forgotten tent was not missed and –most importantly- the storms infringed primarily on beer-at-campfire time and not too badly on fishing time.  Priorities being what they were, we were happy.

   On the path Saturday morning along Trout River stream, Jackfish told me that a friend had told her this stream, located near Decorah, was pretty but not a ‘go-to’ stream.  By late Saturday afternoon she declared it a go-to stream worthy of both days of a weekend trip!  And yes, it sure was pretty.  All present landed fish.  Brooks, browns and bows would be baked that evening and Terri landed the trifecta on her first fly fishing outing for trout.

   I had the privilege of introducing two folks to the Driftless Region and of helping Terri with her nymphing.  We celebrated when she landed her first brookie and later, when I landed my 3rd-ever brookie.  All that happiness got us a little tangled in fly lines but I won’t embarrass myself any further.   It just didn’t take much to get this group excited!  Theresa arrived in early afternoon.  The Rang-a-Tangs continued fishing while 3 of us trekked upstream in search of mushrooms.  Signs were everywhere that the woods had been hit hard with morel hunters.  However, along a dirt path near dead wood, I yelled when I spotted 2 morels.  Theresa spotted the third.  Then, we examined Theresa’s other finds:  a tiny brown snake, Trout Lily, and Jewel Weed (which you rub on your skin when nettles have irritated it).  Back along the stream, I pointed out a nice hole to Jackfish and recommended she wet a line.  I continued on the trek for morels.  Soon enough, JKate reported she had a big one.  It wasn’t a trout, it was a morel!  Two more followed.  The rear of that fishing hole was shored up by a large, dead tree and JKate had poked around with her wading staff to locate the fungi. 

   A dream was soon realized!  Since my first spring fly fishing, I’ve been divided between fishing spring streams when I could otherwise be hunting the woods bordering those streams.  I’m sure my obsession has annoyed friends who have only been bitten by the fly fishing bug.  Each spring I hoped for a day to hold both trout and morels in my hands.  Having always practiced C&R, I guiltily desired to taste trout for the first time after cooking both over a campfire during my favorite season.  So, I did ‘kill and clean’ our morels but I also disappeared down the trail when others gave streamside last rites to fish.

   That Saturday night, we all partook in a feast.  We shared foil dinners, hotdogs, watermelon, baked potatoes, baked trout, and fried morels.  In addition, Terri, who only knew her niece, Shani, at the start of the trip, had bought prime rib for all.  The laughter she brought to our meals was the only thing to outweigh her generosity!

   Rain and thunder did haunt us, but we knew it could’ve been worse.  Friday night, soon after Jackfish got the campfire going and the moment the Rang-a-Tangs and I reached the campsite, the first thunderstorm hit.   Saturday mugginess turned to rain.  !t cleared, we cooked & then visited around the campfire without a rainy accompaniment to the crackling embers.  After midnight, I fished solo on Bear Creek under clear skies below the ‘Super Moon’.    

   Early Sunday it stormed again.  So, we hit a crowded North Bear stream late, but still hooked into fish.  Jackfish and I gave Theresa mini lessons about fishing with the long rod, and I watched with the camera as Theresa landed her first trout on the fly.  She yelled, jumped up and down, and she pumped her fists!   Then, after I took 3 crooked, self-timer pictures of our group, author and fly angler Jeffery Skeate came by & was kind enough to take a well-composed photo of the 5@NEIA anglers.  Even in this 4th photo, everyone looked genuinely happy; a good sign your trip is going well.

   Yes, I achieved my small dream of trout and morels.  I’m smiling now as I think of it.  And, as we left the privately-owned, cow-dotted stream where only fishing is allowed, I suddenly threw down my walking stick, yelled, and ran!  Tucked among the grass and mayapples were more morels.  Having realized they weren’t running or hiding… I stopped running.  But, they did escape!  You see, legally we could take nothing from that property other than fish.

   And just what might be the morel of this story?? 

   We always have to leave things behind in life, but it may be for the better.  Sometimes it’s just a mushroom but we smile at the memories attached to it.  When I leave home for NE Iowa, I leave behind stress and a life which seems to move quickly but never fast enough to keep up with what is demanded of me.  As I travel the Driftless’ gravel roads and stream paths, my heart & mind re-fill with what is simple and beautiful about life.  I suppose that is partially why I enjoy eating from a cooler and sleeping in my suv.  There is so much freedom to be found in simplicity.

   And, for a couple of days, I had the opportunity to share this special place with others, & in their own ways, I think they understood.  We arrived as strangers and friends, we all fished, and we all left as friends.  The final morel… as there is often more than one:  Be a friend, make a friend, & maybe you take em fly fishing.  Share your dreams but write your own story!  Some ‘morals’ are never out-of-season.  ~Twitch, weekend of 5/5/12


  1. Great read LD! That's what it's all about right there. F.F.F.F

  2. Thanks, friend. Yep, and I started learning all about F.F.F.F. in June '08. ;)

  3. Thanks very nice blog!


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