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Joined: 06/03/2010

            My Dad’s father passed away at a young age, fifty, and as often was the case with families in those days the need for a husband and breadwinner dictated that the widow get remarried to continue to care for her family so my Dad’s mother remarried. Her new husband Wally was a fisherman of sorts and since he was retired by the time I met him he had plenty of time to spend on his fishing. Wally liked to trout fish but he wasn’t a purist who only used flies and flyrods, just a bait fisherman who loved to catch trout. It should be remembered that fishing in those days meant wild fish, not hatchery raised, and you could keep what you caught, catch and release were words only applied to fish that weren’t considered edible.
            One of my first recollections of Wally was as a small boy when my family visited one early summer weekend and my brother and I got to help him catch his bait. With red cellophane taped over flashlights my older brother Larry and I helped Wally hunt night crawlers in the yard after dark. I was amazed that the huge worms simply crawled around at night and as long as they weren’t spooked by a white light they could be quickly snatched up and deposited into an old gallon paint pail which was lined with a bit of wet moss and grass. We caught dozens and Wally had a worm bed fixed up in his garage to keep them when he wasn’t fishing.
            Bright and early the next morning we were up and fed and off with Wally to fish for trout in the small streams and creeks that were abundant throughout the Upper Peninsula. At first I was skeptical about catching anything other than frogs in some of the trickles of water we trekked along catching many a wood tick and mosquito bite as we walked the brush lined streams. We had been outfitted with small bait casting poles and reels and old band-aid cans with a belt loop soldered on back full of night crawlers for bait. I was the youngest and needed lots of help learning this trout fishing thing but to my surprise Wally was patient and taught me how to tie a hook on the line and lace a crawler on so I could drift it out into the water hoping for a bite.
            Wally caught the first fish and then Larry caught one too and it was up to me to do my best to catch one. My first bite jolted me as the little trout jerked my line and fought like a jumping marlin out on the ocean! I lost it just as fast and felt bad only for a minute as Wally explained how to set the hook and fight the fish so it wouldn’t snag my line or break free. Soon I had a beauty on the ground and as it flopped about Wally told me it was a “Brookie” and a nice one at that. I don’t remember what the size limit was back then but probably around 7or 8 inches for those stream trout and the daily limit was at least a half dozen. I do remember we all caught more than enough fish to each fill our quotas and Wally carefully packed them all into his creel to keep them fresh until we got back to the house. That evening we cleaned our fish and Wally fried them in fresh creamy butter in a cast iron skillet. We had sliced fresh bread with hot butter along with fried potatoes. That was a meal I have never forgotten as it was my first fresh caught fish fry. I don’t think anything ever tasted better!
             Years later hunting took up much of my time and when I did fish it was usually in the big rivers or the bay (Green Bay) for bass or walleye or pan fish in the little lakes but not trout in the streams. I had simply forgotten my old adventures with Wally and yet I lived near numerous small streams that were fished for smelt or suckers in the early spring but not fished much otherwise. I decided to catch some crawlers and fish those creeks just like I had learned to do years before. I used a small old Zebco rod and spin cast set up that my kids often fished with and small trout hooks with a split shot up a foot or so above to help the worm drift down the current slowly. I was rewarded with many nice rainbow and brook trout over that summer and I often would take a walk along some little drainage ditch that emptied into the bay and astound my friends with the trout I caught in my secret places!
              I haven’t fished a small creek or stream for many years now and I don’t even know if there are any trout in them, especially wild ones. I know that over the years the lakes have been inundated by many invasive species like lamprey and zebra mussel and that there have been many changes in the Great Lakes fisheries, like the disappearance of smelt and perch that once seemed so numerous they could never vanish. I am comforted by the memories of Wally and that weekend long ago when I learned to trout fish.