Picture 011We have turned the corner. The maples and birch trees in the valley have begun their turn. The daily hours of light are fading as the earth continues its turn and steals almost 3 minutes of the sun’s rays from us each day. The farmers look to cut and turn their last crops of hay for the season, hoping that the heating degrees will dry it evenly before the September rains drain the nutrition from the curing crop. These rains are much needed this year to replenish the moisture in the grounds and watersheds that did not come this spring.

These changes turn my thoughts to the north and wondering,  “Are the rainbows making their turn from the still depths of Lake Superior to the flowing waters North of the town of Brule?” Oct 2004There are many theories regarding the triggers that make these rainbows swim for home, but I like to believe it is desire. Desire to pursue a calling. A calling so strong it transcends the boundaries between man and fish, between air and water, between angler and angled. It is a place were both angler and angled are drawn to, based on desire. This angler desires to learn more about himself as well as the fish that return to the Brule.  The angled desires only to perpetuate its species in a cycle that may include a chance meeting between the two. This encounter many times serves as a reminder to both that all life is an epic journey laden with joy and pain, with success and failure, with change and uncertainty, with honor and understanding.

A few notes on the Brule River:

The Brule River is the most challenging river I have ever fished. The population of steelhead that return to the Brule each year is small in comparison to many other steelhead rivers across the Midwest. Each time I travel to this tributary of Lake Superior, I truly understand that I may fish with the highest intensity and focus that I can muster and never see, hook, feel, fight or land a single fish. Every time I make the trek North, I set my expectations to zero so I will not be disappointed with my fishing performance or what I may perceive as the performance of the fishery. I believe this mind-set  enables me to enjoy the adventure of place and people and avoid frustration. This frustration I have seen in the eyes and body language of many talented anglers who have elected not to return to this storied water after the “agony of defeat” infiltrates their psyche. Mostly the Brule can be mentally difficult to endure. The thought of fishing for 3 days and never receiving a bite can be draining. Couple this with driving rain, high winds and cold temps and the strain on the mind intensifies. Fun is not a word I would use to describe this experience. Another scenario involves the guy across the river from you, or even worse, your buddy. These two guys continue to hook, or hook and land, large beautiful fish, the likes that you have dreamed about, in the same water you have just fished through and given up on. In this situation, the fishless angler lingers in a state of disbelief and can often be seen sobbing alone in the woods. I am convinced I will see this saga again and again if I am able to continue my days on the Brule.

The  Brule River preparation for me has already begun. I have been at my vice daily tying both old standards and new fangled flies that hopefully will lure the rivers steelhead into mistaking imitation for digestible calories. Dates are being set for the rekindling of old friendships and the anticipation of sparking new ones along the banks of the river or within the haunts of the Crowbar. The clothing and gear has been put into loose piles awaiting the final packing arrangements.

This year I will once again provide you with stories from the river and useful information to enable you to understand why I go back each year. I will not, however, divulge any of her secrets at this time. That will be fodder for later posts where I will be blamed for causing an overpopulation of anglers to come and fish the Brule.

NEWS FLASH- Every angler that I have ever talked to that fishes the Brule thinks there are too many anglers on the river…….imagine that.

OK, 1 secret now.

The secret of the Brule lies inside each and every person. It is the continued survival of experiences that teach of the epic journey of life.