Al Campbell, Field Editor

December 10th, 2001

By Al Campbell

It's winter in South Dakota. I'm not getting out to fish, the remodeling job in my basement has locked me away from my fly tying vise for more than a month and I'm generally crabby. My wife says I'm a GOOP (grouchy, ornery old poop). Lately I represent that label very much.

I didn't get to fish a lot this year. Sadly, I can count the times easily, and they don't add up to nearly the number of days I usually spend on the stream. I can't say the year has been a loss though. I didn't get to fish as often as I would have liked to, but I did get to fish some, and that time was quality time.

Looking back over the year, I fished a few evenings in the spring, clobbered the bass and bluegills on Memorial day weekend while the wife was out of town, then fished the Bighorn river for four days in June. My July was spent preparing for, enjoying and writing about the fishing opportunities in Belize. I only got out a few times after that. I could be disappointed, but I'm not sure it would be justified.

Those afternoon trips in the spring were spent on one of the finest blue ribbon trout streams anywhere; Rapid Creek runs right through the town of Rapid City, and the fishing here in town is better than most places. Some folks spend thousands of dollars to travel to distant places to catch fewer and smaller fish than I can catch on any afternoon just a few miles from my home. I can't complain about that.

I had two full days to fish on Memorial Day weekend. During that time, I caught over 40 nice bass, over a hundred nice bluegills, several small northern pike and a few other less desirable fish. I also had the opportunity to photograph caddisflies in their natural surroundings. I used the fishing to hone my skills casting a long line and practiced the double haul in preparation for a trip to saltwater. I won't complain about the time spent or the results.

I only live 300 miles from the Bighorn River. People travel thousands of miles to fish the stretch of water I fish every June on the big river. I can pack the car in the morning and be wetting my line in fabled Bighorn water by early afternoon. A bonus is the beautiful scenery I travel past on my way to the river. I guess I can't complain about that.

Getting an opportunity to travel to a place like Belize and fish for bonefish and other hard fighting fish is a dream most people pay a lot of money to enjoy. Some people are never fortunate enough to enjoy a trip like that. Being invited to enjoy that trip as an outdoor writer, at someone else's expense; is a writer's dream and a great honor few are able to enjoy. I made that trip in July, the Belize Tourism Board paid the way, and all I had to do is write about it. As a bonus, I get to keep the memories and pictures. How could I ever complain about that?

Summer projects and other duties kept me pinned to the home front most of the remainder of the summer. I did get out a couple of times, mostly here in town, but no all-day adventures were in the plan. I might resent the idea of being stuck so close to home if it weren't for the fact that I still caught dozens of fish on those few outings. My 45-minute Labor Day jaunt to Canyon Lake on the west side of Rapid City produced a 24 inch rainbow and several others in the 18 plus inch category. It would be silly to complain about that.

So, here I am, being a GOOP over what? I enjoyed fishing this summer in places many people only dream about. I live in a place that has fishing fine enough to draw people from all over the world. So, what am I complaining about? I guess this happens to me every year when I realize that summer is over and I didn't do all the things I planned to do. Call it practicing the art of cabin fever.

I also get this way when the work schedule gets hectic and the honey-do list is full of things I don't enjoy. Working in a retail store and listening to all the grouchy people complain about prices and the lack of availability of products no one even makes, sort of takes the thrill out of the season. The commercial aspects of this season aren't very pretty when viewed from the salesman's side of the counter, even if this is the time of year when I make the most money. Like I tell my boss on occasion, "my God isn't green and doesn't have pictures of past presidents printed on it." My "bottom line" isn't fully in line with a retailer's point of view.

I think I'll try singing to cheer me up. Maybe I'll put on a Christmas CD and sing along while I pound nails into the wife's latest 'honey-do' project. If I turn the music up it might muffle my comments the next time I hit my finger with a hammer. The grandkids remind me that I'm not supposed to use that kind of language, and I might get my mouth washed out with soap if I do it again.

The Christmas spirit will eventually hit me. By the time I sit in the big chair and read to my grandchildren about wise men, shepherds, angels and a Child in a manger, I'll have a totally new attitude. 'Tis the season to "get over it." I'll work on it. I hope you do the same. ~ AC

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