March 10, 2005 at 9:08 a.m.

Alone with my thoughts on the Willow River

Alone with my thoughts on the Willow River
Alone with my thoughts on the Willow River

Last Saturday, I ventured down to the Willow River, north of Hudson, for the opening day of the early stream trout season in Wisconsin. This has become something of a perennial habit for me, I suppose for reasons that this river is fairly close to my home, and, if the fishing is crummy, makes for a shorter return trip. Following the long winter break, I looked forward to the opportunity to once again feel a well-timed cast and a feisty trout pulling against my fly rod in the swift current.

Late in the morning, singing along to a Gordon Lightfoot CD as I wound the truck down Trout Brook Road into the river valley, I noticed several vehicles parked at the two bridges that span the Willow and Willow Race Braches. Past experience led me to believe that most – if not all - of these fly anglers would choose to begin fishing at these bridges and work their way upstream from there - no doubt due to impatience and their excitement to get into the water as soon as possible.

I chose to walk a distance downstream of the bridges, cutting through the woods and putting in below the confluence of the two branches to work my way back to my vehicle. At some point during my walk, for no other reason than to keep my mind occupied, I had the ridiculous idea that delaying my gratification would somehow appease the Fishing Gods and bring me good luck that day. I also felt foolish after laughing out loud - alone in the middle of the woods - as I recalled a great quote by John Geirach, a noted fly-fishing author: “Anyone would go fishing thinking he'll catch something. It's when you go figuring you probably won't that you know you've crossed some kind of line.” The exercise of fly-fishing is, more often than not, a leap of faith, and each trip marks another occasion for hope that the fish will bite.

Well, I’m happy to report that the fish did indeed bite and I caught some dandy trout on Saturday. And nearly as important as that fact, I didn’t see another angler on the section of water that I fished. So, without a credible witness in sight, I smiled to myself and admired a brightly colored fish – the last trout of the afternoon - before taking a quick digital photo and slipping it back into the current. During those four hours, I enjoyed the warmth of the sun on my neck and hands and felt satisfied at the end of the day to realize that I’d hooked and landed eighteen hard-fighting browns.

There were some tentative plans made last week to fish with a friend or family member this past Saturday, but looking back on it now, I’m thankful that these plans didn’t work out. Slowly wading a river and fishing by myself, alone with only my thoughts to keep me company, I always sense that I exist as an integral part of nature, and experience a peace of mind that I cannot achieve doing anything else in this world.

Dan Brown’s weekly outdoor column is brought to you by Frankies Bait and Marine in Chisago City and St. Croix Outdoors in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin.

Dan Brown is a director at the Chisago Lakes Achievement Center in Chisago City. In addition, Brown is a fly casting instructor and trout fishing guide at Seven Pines Lodge in Lewis, WI. Recently Brown was featured on Ron Schara’s Minnesota Bound and ESPN II’s Backroads with Ron and Raven, as well as KSTP channel 5’s Eyewitness News Morning Show. He is a Taylors Falls resident and can often be found on the area lakes, trout streams and the St. Croix river.




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