Today is the last Saturday in April, which, supposedly, is the opening day of Michigan’s trout season. But here in the Keweenaw Peninsula—the upper peninsula of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—a foot of snow still blankets my yard, and the Weather Channel says we are under a River Flood Warning. So, instead of fishing for my beloved trout, I’m fishing for a way to tell you, the reader, about this book.
This is a book about fishing. It’s a book about fishing for the things in life that are hard to catch, hard to hold, and—ultimately—hard to let go. Trout, I believe, are but one of those things.
When I moved to the Upper Peninsula over 25 years ago, the first books I read about fishing in this region were John Voelker’s Trout Madness and Jerry Dennis’ A Place on the Water. Voelker taught me about humility; Dennis taught me about hope. Voelker was a great trout fisherman; Dennis still is. At the core of all great fishermen is an understanding of what can and cannot be understood about things that are precious. The first words I read in the preface for Voelker’s Trout Madness explained this succinctly:
There is a lot of amiable fantasy written about trout fishing, but the truth is that few men know much if anything about the habits of trout and little more about the manner of taking them.
When I began fishing for trout, the little I thought I knew about their habits and the manner of taking them was clearly wrong, and, accordingly, I caught very few fish. Over time I learned to catch more fish, and I learned to catch bigger fish, but—like Voelker—I’ve come to accept that I will never completely understand the habits of trout.
There was a time when I believed I could solve the mysteries of trout in particular and of life in general. But now I think we sometimes need to get skunked. We need to break our line on a good fish every now and again, and sometimes we need to cast all day without a take. We need to be grounded by the humility of failure so we can be lifted by the hope of success.
Every good fisherman I’ve known has understood how to find humor in the most frustrating circumstances. Jimmy Buffett once said:
Tragedies very often become comedies, and they better become comedies real fast or else you’re in a lot of trouble.
Jimmy Buffett, you see, is an excellent fisherman.
Those are the lessons I want to share with you in this book. Along the way I’ll tell you about some fish that I’ve caught and some fish that I’ve lost. Mostly, though, I’ll tell you about the things that only happen when you stop wish’n you were a fish’n and just go.
I once had a professor who liked to say, “The way to succeed is to increase your rate of failure.” I didn’t know it then, but he must have been a trout fisherman.