Hold on to the brief, sweet moments

Jeff Fox
Headed for trouble
Jeff Fox

There's something about the light on a late summer afternoon in northeast Wisconsin. Maybe you don’t have to be near Lake Michigan to see it, but it doesn’t hurt.  

Camp life on a fishing trip has a certain rhythm. There’s always the next task, the next meal to cook, the next fish to clean. Not too many moments to just look and listen and smell the air. To just be a human in a moment. 

I had an uncle who dearly loved to fish that lake. I tagged along now and then. 

Here's the setup: Up at 4:30 a.m. Coffee and Danish. Back in the boat into the water at 5, and be in a good spot at 5:30. Troll slowly for king salmon and rainbow trout. They grow big, fight hard and taste great. 

Fish until 9 or 10. Head back to shore, and go to that cafe that serves too much for breakfast. 

Back to camp. Fix what needs fixing, and with a 23-foot boat and lots of rods and reels there's always something. 

Head back out at 4 and fish until sunset. Then pizza and a cocktail. Maybe two. 

Stay up a little too late, but hit it again at 4:30 a.m. 

It was pretty great. 

But those days are over. My uncle passed away years ago. The memories linger. 

The other night Spotify and I took a spin through Brooks & Dunn. Yes, it's country music that's essentially the same solid formula for song after song, but they could play, Ronnie Dunn sure can sing, and they had a good run. 

And with the first lines of “Neon Moon,” I was on Lake Michigan, five miles off Algoma, Wisconsin. The water is calm, the breeze has a welcome chill, and the sun has set. The salmon aren't biting, and we really ought to pull lines and head on in. 

But not just yet. It's a beautiful northern night, the music is loud, and life for one moment is pretty damn sweet. Turn it up. 

Heavy winds and waves keep you on shore a fair amount of time, and that’s when you play cribbage. But one time, we were trying to solve a problem: underperforming rigs with two large snelled hooks needed to match the lure of choice that summer. The store-bought ones tended to fail. 

What if we just bought one of those funky knot tools and tied our own? I actually got pretty good at it. Cooped up in the rain, I cranked out dozens of them. That saved a few bucks and more than a few good fish, which after all is the point of the exercise. Even my uncle was impressed. It feels good to contribute to the team. 

I doubt I could snell a darned thing today, let alone a double rig. A neglected skill fades.  

But the moment was good. The memory is good. 

Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at jeff.fox@examiner.net.