Thursday, September 11, 2014

Around the riverbend

The South Fork of the Flambeau River heaves steam
into the cool morning air as it cuts through the woods,
twisting and turning its way down to meet the north fork.

Time to switch lures

When I took up fishing again as an adult it took me awhile to re-learn the fisherman’s knot. I remembered to hold the end of the line between my forefinger and thumb and twist, and that the end of it went through the loop at the bottom, but feeding back through the second loop really challenged me. Add on top of that the extra performance required while sitting in a 12-foot Alumacraft on a winding river or windy lake, and you’ll have an idea why I was rather opposed to the notion of changing lures if the first one wasn’t catching anything.

I would cast and retrieve over and over, trying different speeds, different jerks and bobs with the rod, even row to a different location before I would take that lure off and put a new one on. Talk about being stubborn. I guess I figured I’d rather be actively searching out a bite than fumbling around with tackle. 'Time is limited,' I’d reason with myself.

Of course the tradeoff to this was setting me back two-fold. Not only was I not catching any fish because I refused to give another lure a chance, I was also not practicing the knot I really needed to learn if I wanted to be successful down the road.

Eventually I did of course suck it up and learn the knot. This increased my ability to adjust what I was fishing for and with what, and therefore made me a better fisherman. Of course when I say better, I mean average...

This very basic fishing lesson echoes into other realms of life. Really what I was facing was not only a learning curve, but also a crossroads in my rebooted recreative activity. That is to say, I had to decide just how serious I wanted to be about fishing in that I needed to shift my focus from ineffectively casting the same lure over and over, to being smarter about what I was using to lure fish in the first place.

Now I’m facing a similar situation with this column. Woodsman Enough has been published in 116 newspapers over the course of about 28 months of my life. The range of topics covered has varied from outdoors pursuits, to economics, to personal growth, to career path, to art projects and beyond.

I am pleased to say the journey has been extremely rewarding thanks to the insight I’ve received from readers, the staff at the paper(s), and from the arduous labor that comes with forcing words out of oneself on a weekly basis. Now though, it’s time for a change.

This project has followed a few simple rules since it began. Chiefly, I must force myself to write, but secondarily it has always aimed to inspire by attempting to wring some truth out of life as I see it. To do this, I have looked through the lens of a community embedded in outdoors living, and tried to make sense of the world by observing that on a consistent basis. I’d even go so far as to say I think I did alright a few times.

Alas, I’ve decided to stop casting in a relentless fashion. I’ve got down what it takes to tie one lure and cast it over and over, and though I’ve caught some proverbial fish out of the lake, it’s time to change tactics.

Circumstances have changed since I started my woodsman training in June 2012. At that time I had just moved back to the area after many years living in other cities and states. I was looking for ways in which to get back in touch with the homeland I loved, and tying fisherman’s knots was part of that experience. At that time the newspaper was also in need of additional copy for its outdoors section, and I went after that opportunity so I could write a bit more creatively than news reports and sports stats allow for.

Since that time, though, I’ve changed jobs within the company a few times, become engaged, become a parent, and started new pursuits on the side. My time commitments have changed, and reassessing priorities is a healthy habit every so often. Plus it’s fantasy football season.

At this point, I am planning to continue writing a Woodsman Enough entry, though more likely on a monthly basis instead of weekly. The Price County Review has an excellent set of outdoors writers in Anna Maria Hanson and the contributed work by Emily Stone. Both are more than capable of delivering quality content on a regular basis, which makes this shift easier.

At this new turn in the road, my goal is to give myself a little more time to write in the effort to provide a better piece, rather than more pieces. In essence, I’m after bigger fish, which are harder to catch.

So as the direction of this excursion shifts course, please bear with the bumpy road. I’m looking forward to what this new format will provide, and I expect it to continually take shape over the coming months. As always, your feedback as reader, critic, or both, is welcome and appreciated.

See you out there,
A woodsman in training.


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