The person who introduced me to fly fishing was part of an established group of very capable fly anglers. Some had pedigree. Others brought skill, but everyone had something to offer. The group offered vast knowledge of fly fishing which they generously shared with me.
Within the main group were at least four subgroups with some members sharing time between different subgroups. Every year the main group would unite on special fishing occasions. We’d be together for the trout opener in Soldiers Grove. Many would make the annual pilgrimage to the Au Sable. We ended the year together at the ‘big house’ on the Brule.
As time passed, the group thinned. Some members were sniped down by marriage vows. Others were enslaved to important careers. The blessing of offspring was a curse for many in the group. Time is a tyrant and it took the group apart piece by piece.
For a short time there was an effort made to replace the missing pieces of the group, but there was no substitute for the real thing. Half-hearted newcomers were welcomed with skepticism. I don’t remember any newbies that stuck.
Once the big group reached its tipping point, it fragmented quickly. Many subgroups didn’t survive, but a few strong cells remained. My subgroup survived the cull mainly due the foundation of our group. We all had a passion for fishing, a love of nature, and the fear of God.
Our subgroup camped the Northwoods and chased musky on the fly. We chased just about anything on fly. The group continued the tradition of fishing the Driftless region and we embraced new areas like the Sand Counties and scoured our region for sleeper smallmouth creeks.
Having witnessed the demise of the main group and the fate of other subgroups, we took precautionary measures to safeguard our group’s future. We began to incorporate our spouses and young families into our trips. Our focus shifted from fishing to family.
We still chose locations that were near good fishing and discovered that our fishing adventures could continue if they were scheduled in as a night activity. This held true provided that the following requirements were met:
- Children were asleep in the tents
- Spouses were left with a well stoked fire & ample firewood
- Spouses had head lamps
- Spouses had beverages
The newest iteration of our group was different, but a good different. Our families grew closer with each new state park camping trip. It was the best of times. It ended suddenly when I decided to move my family back down to Florida.
I said goodbye to some of my best friends and we said goodbye to some of our favorite family friends. The families did a good job of staying connected the first few years after our move. But children keep growing, families get busier, and empty voids are filled with new people. It’s been awhile since we’ve been together and I’m not sure when the final iteration of our group will meet again. But I know we will. I look forward to the reunion.