Al Campbell, Field Editor

November 18th, 2002

By Al Campbell

As another fishing season races to a close and another year is about to end, I find myself looking back and counting my blessings. I didn't get to fish as often as I would have liked, but I did get to fish, and the opportunities I did have were blessings. As I recount this year, and rejoice over the blessings I'm thankful for, I want you to join me. Thanksgiving Day is coming up in a couple of weeks. What blessings that you enjoyed this year are you thankful for? Maybe we should start a string on the bulletin board or something to allow each of us to pass on our blessings to the rest. I'll start the idea by sharing my thoughts here.

We had an unusually warm winter, but a cold spring. I didn't get a fly line wet before April. It was then that I realized how short my arms had grown over the winter. For the first time in my life, I couldn't focus close enough to tie on a midge imitation. After a few dozen stabs at the hook eye at arm's length, I managed to get the fly tied on, but I didn't change flies very often. A curse? No. I'm still blessed with good vision at distances where my fly floats. Just getting out was a blessing. (By the way, I now have HatEyes magnifiers to fix the short arm problem.)

I got out another evening in early May. Nothing fancy, just a couple of hours on the stream in town. I hooked some fish, tried out a new fly line, and tried to coach my rusty reflexes. There was a sparse caddis hatch, but the fish wanted midges. I did well with a Fall Midge Emerger, but the other fishermen I saw were cussing their luck as they flogged the water with caddis imitations. It's a blessing to be able to spot the less visible hatch and capitalize on it.

Memorial Day weekend was the first real warm weekend of the spring. I helped my brother-in-law work on an addition to his house. I do all his wiring (a former occupation and military skill), so half my weekend was spent snaking wires and installing fixtures. The other half of the weekend was spent chasing bluegills and bass, and taking pictures of caddisflies and bees. I'm not sure which activity I enjoyed the most, but if you read my series on macro photography, you saw some of the caddis pictures I took. It was a blessing just getting out and enjoying nature.

I put a new WaterSkeeter pontoon boat to the test on my annual trip to the Bighorn in June. The water was low, the days were hot and fishing was tougher than normal, but I caught plenty of fish. Sharing quality time with friends on a favorite river is a blessing anytime. Running a river in a pontoon boat as nice as the WaterSkeeter River Tamer Deluxe is an extra flower in a bouquet of blessings such a trip provides. You never forget trips like the one we shared this year. As a bonus, I managed to buy some Patagonia breathable waders at less than half price on a closeout at the Bighorn Trout Shop (one of our sponsors). Who can complain about something like that?

Our summer was very hot and very dry. Record drought and heat took its toll on our water, wildlife and land. Favorite bass and panfish ponds dried up. Some favorite trout streams went bone dry. Forest fires set records in numbers and intensity. Homes, pets, businesses, property, resources and lives were lost to the flames. The blessing is that we didn't lose more. The grass was burned right up to the steps of some homes that were saved by the determined efforts of local firefighters. At least one of those firefighters is a regular visitor and reader here at FAOL. No one can guess the number of homes and lives that would have been lost if not for the efforts of the volunteer fire departments that protect the people of the Black Hills.

The silver lining on this dismal summer was the day I got to fish with Paul Dieter. It was hot, the smoke of a destructive forest fire was thick in the air, and concerns for evacuated family members clouded the otherwise sunny day. We caught fish, we shared jokes and stories, we had a great day, and we went home early to check on loved ones in exile at a local hotel, awaiting news on whether their home had been spared the flames. The homes were spared, old friends became good friends, and we all finished the day with something to be thankful for.

Last week I got to fish with an old friend and his wife from Wisconsin. What a beautiful day! It was unusually warm and calm most of the day. We didn't catch many fish, but I don't think that hurt the day at all. We were there to enjoy each other's company in the rich colors of autumn. I was fortunate enough to catch them on an old wooden footbridge and snap a few pictures. One of those pictures will grace their Christmas cards this year. As always, fishing with old friends is a blessing.

So, as you can see, I have plenty to be thankful for. I have friends and family to share the blessings of life with. Autumn rains have replenished local streams and fishing will eventually return to normal. The forest will slowly recover, and as it does, the wildlife will enjoy a new lush environment that will sustain them well. As with all trials in life, this summer has made us stronger. I have plenty to be thankful for. The photo below shows just a few of my blessings.

What are you thankful for? ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns

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