Lighter Side

What is life if there is not laughter? Welcome to the lighter side of flyfishing! We welcome your stories here!
July 17th, 2000

The Opener, Conclusion

by Scott Alexander Burrell

Buddy had left, with, no doubt, food on his mind, a full hour before I gave up to join the helter skelter supper drill. Ace had fires started in both the fire pit and the fireplace. Buddy mixed drinks and marinated steaks. Chief and I shucked corn and baked potatoes.

About 10:00 we finally sat down to a killer meal. Grilled trout might have been more apropos and Hemingwayesque, but then rare whiskey and thick steaks are tough to beat. While that rare whiskey warmed my spine, we had few fishing highlights to review, but I did slip into contemplation about the qualities of such a trip and the urgency with which strangers can become lifelong chums if the chemistry is correct.

Standing by the river after dinner, Ace surprised me by excusing his utter lack of decorum and dumping half his drink into the stream. He then genially blamed our poor luck on his failure to bless the river and solemnize that blessing with a decent sized whiskey dram. Somebody, half-drunk and half-serious, then suggested that we all quit our jobs, move up to the AuSable, and fish for a living. Demonstrating that the half-drunk was beating out half-serious by a mile, he said, "we'll use worms if we have to! He also forgot that Michigan in April isn't in the habit of doling out the crystalline gems we had just enjoyed and that more often than not the weather is as bad as the fishing.

On Sunday we had another late mornng and my dad came over from Traverse City to fish with us. Ace worked with Chief to straighten out his casting problems and chief caught a glistening beauty on a nymph. I got a couple of pocket water denizens to play with a beadhead hare's ear. Dad picked one up on a streamer and Buddy cruised up stream and out of sight. We got back to the cabin in the mid-afternoon and had the last of the food for lunch then dad and I headed back to Traverse. My head buzzed with all the fun I'd had and what I'd learned both about the AuSable and going fishing with the fellas.

I fished the Boardman and the Platte morning, noon and night over the next three days without once getting skunked and often landing over a dozen fish. Were the conditions better? Maybe. Was fishing my home water the key? Probably. Was fishing alone and stealthily more productive? Certainly.

I didn't care because those were just fishing days, pleasant days for sure, but days nevertheless. I had, however, spent the opener on the AuSable as the guest of an entertaining new friend that exuded an incredible love, knowledge, and appreciation for his special river. I hoped one day to be nearly as fine a host. With another guy who I'm certain I'll never see again, but who made me bust out laughing about a dozen times over the weekend. With my best friend and with my dad.

"So what if we hardly caught any fish," I thought until the local paper headlined "Trout Opener Best in a Decade" citing anglers reporting prolific hatches and aggressive fish on all local streams, including the North Branch of the AuSable. I read the article a second time and got angry, then disdainful, then sad. Then, I thought, what about Chief, Ace and Buddy? What about Ace rolling the window up on Buddy's hand? What about the baseless Monopoly arguements fueled by nothing more than boasts and bravado? What about the beauty of the AuSable and the perfection of the weather?

Those fisherman quoted in the paper couldn't possibly have had as much fun as Ace, Buddy, Chief, and me. Besides, I am confident that I'll be around for plenty more openers and when I reflect back it'll be the faces and jokes and antics and comradery that really stick in my mind. I am confident, too, that someday it'll be me or Ace or Chief that winds up in the paper saying "this year's opener was good, but it wasn't anything like the one we had in '99." ~ Scott Alexander Burrell

Excerpt from The Riverwatch The Quarterly Newsletter of the Anglers of the Au Sable. We thank Bob Linseman for use permission.

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