Things We Can Control

  There is an old adage in the guide world... only a small portion of what we do relates to fishing - knot tying, rowing the boat, teaching new techniques, etc. We spend far more time in other roles much better suited for professionals within their field - you know...the kind meant for PhD types - but for some reason, people like to go fishing when they need to let loose from the issues affecting their personal lives. John Gierach wrote "The solution to any problem - work, love, money, whatever - is to go fishing, and the worse the problem, the longer the trip should be." We see this, we listen, we offer advice, and sometimes we throw a sarcastic jab in to help lighten the mood. But any guide worth their salt will agree that these are the foundations of the relationships we build with our guests... the fishing is just a plus.

Unfortunately, this world is currently turned upside down. People are out of work. Couples are struggling in quarantine. And money is draining from bank accounts. Some of these things we can control - others, we cannot. That's the part we are all struggling with. It's the elephant in the room. It's hard to talk about. But it's true. And ignoring the problem may not always be the best solution. Sometimes we need to relate. We need to provide reference for clarity.  That's where fishing comes in.

We may have our heads in a tizzy because of Covid-19 and the restrictions it may bring... but let's be honest... the trout don't care. Neither do the bugs. Or the weather. Robert Traver (John Voelker) wrote "trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed, or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility, and endless patience." What Voelker was referring to in this passage was that although there are certain things we may think we can control, the trout are not one of them... nor are the multiple other facets of fishing like the bugs and the weather. Another one... is the worldwide pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2. So what can we do? Focus on the things we can control.

Organization. Planning. Execution.

I start each season in organization mode. The previous seasons' abuses on my gear and fly boxes take a back seat while the hibernating effects of winter set in, but before long I'm at the vice thinking I have a solution to some unknown scenario I may encounter on the water. Problem is, I'm tying with no end goal. I soon realize this and I pull the boat bags and fly boxes out of my office - and everything else for that matter - and my kitchen table becomes the bane of my wife's existence for the better part of a month. Current flies get checked for defects, rust, and get tossed. Others get sorted to their respective locations in my master boxes. Hatch boxes get a makeover. Leader & tippet orders start to materialize. Tools find their way back to where they belong - or where I think they belong. Fly lines get checked, cleaned, and reels organized. Then... when things finally have some sort of renewed substance... it's back to the tying desk. I close the gaps, fill the holes, and design new, yet-to-be tested, patterns. When the weather breaks, the boat gets tuned-up. Full cleaning from gunwales to hull. Trailer lights tested. Axles get fresh grease. Grills & coolers get scrubbed and sanitized. And everything else in between.

Then the planning begins. What's the almanac say for the season? It's not much, but it gives me a better idea of how a season may progress. Where do I want to fish this year on my day's off? Which beats are worth the time and effort - ranking the highest prospects. Should I suggest a new beat for a return guest, or should I stick with tried-and-true? Google Maps & OnX become daily references again. I read my journal entries. As soon as the snow breaks from the two-tracks, it's hiking creeks and river sections that may not be open for another month to see what changed over the winter. I justify it a thousand different ways, but in reality, I move along the bends daydreaming of former encounters or imagining which will likely hold trout when season comes along, and how to approach it when it does. I reference the hatch guide and test my knowledge. I test my guides. I start to get back in the groove.

And on any normal year, execution is similar as the year before. I start to fish more. Guide trips fall into place. The things I can control have been planned for, and the things I cannot determine my next moves. And finally, the summer season moves through its ever-increasing speed of progression.

But not this year. Execution is different this year. It's different for all of us. And we should recognize that and plan accordingly. Refer to step 2 - Planning. Focus on the things we can control.

Feeling lost? You're not alone. Traditional season opener is Saturday, and barring that you've got your organizing out of the way, it's likely you want to get on the water. Here are some tips to help.

Boating banned for folks outside your immediate household? Leave the boat in the driveway and hike into a piece of water - you know... like what we all did before having a driftboat was "cool." As I've joked with several friends... this is the year of the walk & wade. Some of us have always embraced the hike-in, while others are going to struggle re-learning how to ride the proverbial bicycle. Able to get to your summer cottage before the lockdown only to realize that it's still April and you typically do not get to northern Michigan until sometime in June or July on most years? Embrace some of the best hatch-match fishing in the Midwest. The hatches that the locals relish in, while the out-of-towners wait until the boating weather is suitable. Build your small stream skill set. Spend time casting in the yard. Learn new hatches. Need some help - call me, shoot me a message. The shop may not be open, but I still want to help you in your pursuits. (Hint: If you don't have the right bug in your box, and the shop isn't open - an adams or robert's drake will usually work in a pinch - there is a reason why they've stood the test of time.) Trout bum stuck in Southeast Michigan - doing your part to stay local and keep our rural healthcare systems from losing traction? Give our buds at Schultz Outfitters a call and let them dial you in on the smallmouth game downstate. We are still a month out before smallmouth fishing materializes up-north. Or checkout the small spring creeks on a nearby farm (get permission). Or take a rowboat or canoe on a nearby pond or lake.   Worried the weather is going to affect hatches? It will. It does. Every year. And like a normal Michigan spring, we've seen 60s & sun and 20s & snow within a couple days. But warmer days... means warmer water... which means bugs. This year is already shaping up to be a better year than last. And each day is a new day. It's different than the last. The best you can do is go see what the day holds.

These are the things we can control. You can be mad at the Governor or the President... Covid-19... whatever... or... you can heed Gierach's advice and go fishing. Sometimes, even when the world is throwing a thousand things at you that you feel you cannot control - because let's be honest, you cannot - put things into perspective and focus on the things that you can.

So there it is. Free advice. Take it for what it's worth - you didn't even have to spend a day in the boat to get it. But, if it helped, I hope that you will. I may not have a PhD in psychology, but I do share two things with you... fishing... and solid relationships.

"And finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important, but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant and not nearly so much fun." - R.Traver

-Ethan

|||| I've had several folks reach out concerned about the status of our guides. What can YOU do to help? Book a trip. That's the best thing you can do for us. Social distancing guidelines may cause us to push trips out, but when the time comes that we can re-engage, trips on the books are the biggest plus. So please, book a trip with us and see why northern Michigan is your next best escape.