Having a group of friends that share the same passion that I do for fishing and the outdoors is a blessing. Most of these same friends would also say that I take it to a whole different level. Like they say about the postal service: snow, sleet, driving rain and other challenging conditions will not keep me away. These situations create unique stories and experiences that define me. Having someone else there to share in that experience is also part of the fun. We still talk fondly about the epic fishing during a hurricane on the Roach River. The rain was coming down in sheets and the river was rising before our very eyes, but the salmon were active and on the move providing us with phenomenal fishing. I was also really sick that whole week, but managed to be there and would not have traded that experience for anything. Even with those adverse conditions I still hold those memories of time spent with friends very close.
There was a time when I would rather strike out on my own rather than wait for others to join me. I still spend a lot of time in the outdoors by myself, but I find it more rewarding to share those experiences with someone else. That is why being a guide comes naturally as I am looking to share my love of nature and all it has to offer. The sense of pride in helping a client, friend or family member catch a fish is intoxicating. Dan, who is also a guide, jokes with me often that when he is in my boat he feels that I am guiding him. Jeff learned on our first overnight camping excursion that I love cooking for people and take control of the kitchen area. It is not that I think I can do better, it is simply my way of showing that I care. My wife has had gatherings at our house and I cooked my heart out for her guests. It would be a shame to not share what you love with others.
Before any trip with my friends I would have to say that the preparation and anticipation is what gets me the most excited. There is always a flurry a phone calls, texts, messages and emails sent back and forth between us until we come up with an idea of who is bringing what. Inevitably we always forget one thing and that remains a topic for some good natured joking for weeks and years to come. Chili cheese dogs have been a talked about meal idea for a few years and we somehow forgot the chili two years in a row. With friends, the attention to detail is not as important as the overall intent of the thought. Maybe we will remember the chili next year.
Time with friends has also created moments that I hold dear due to the thought behind an action. On our first overnight camping trip together Jeff did something that I still remember. We were sitting by the fire looking at the stars when Jeff told me to grab the tip of a small balsam fir branch and he did as well. He said to put it in the fire and in the morning when the fire had cooled to take a piece of charcoal from it. That piece of charcoal would represent our trip and the memories attached to it. That really resonated with me and I still look at that saved piece of charcoal periodically and immediately those memories come back like the trip was yesterday.
There have also been recent times that I needed my friends to just be there for me. When I lost my mother back in September 2015 I was unsure if I wanted to get back onto the water for a while. We had planned a trip up north around that time and I was hesitant to go. My friends let me know that they would support me either way, but it was the thought of my mother chastising me for not moving on with my life and doing what I love that was the final deciding factor. Before heading up north on our trip Jeff and I headed out onto a local river to try for some larger spawning salmon. I was just looking to get back to some sense of normalcy and an easy morning on the river was what I needed. As the discussion moved toward getting ready to leave the river for lunch we spotted a large pod of salmon. Never one to pass up a willing fish I threw everything I had at one large salmon that only moved to refuse my offerings, but never moved away in fear or seeking shelter. When he finally grabbed one of the numerous flies that I drifted by his face I knew I had made the right decision. Jeff was there to share in the experience of landing and releasing one of my best fish I have ever caught on that river and it was an emotional moment for me. Even while I write this the emotions are coming back and the memory is one of great warmth and sorrow. I realized I would be able to get through my grief as long as I made sure to do what I love and share those moments with those that are near and dear to me. These will not be the last moments that resonate with me and I look forward to many more times spent with friends in the future.