Urgency to get outdoors grows as we ageSam Cook column: Up along a river on the North Shore, the steelhead angler said something that seemed to transcend the simple act of fishing. He said he didn’t know how much longer he’d be able to fish like this. He is at that place where most of us will get one day.
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
He was standing in waders on a gravel bar along a North Shore stream. It’s steelhead season, when Lake Superior’s gleaming rainbows enter streams to spawn. A long-time steelheader, he had driven a couple of hours to keep this appointment with the river. He had flumped along in his waders for 20 minutes to reach this piece of water.
We spoke of a lot of things. The fish. The river. Where the fish liked to lie in the run he was fishing. He knew the river. That much was clear.
But then he said something that seemed to transcend the simple act of fishing. He said he didn’t know how much longer he’d be able to fish like this. He was pushing 60. He pointed to a knee that wasn’t quite right. A car accident many years ago, he said. And his arm, too. It had been broken in several places.
Standing on a gravel bar and making drifts with a yarn fly isn’t hard. But wading a rushing stream can be dicey. And that hike to the river isn’t getting any easier.
He is at that place where most of us will get one day. It’s the place where you don’t want to let opportunities slip away. Where you don’t want to miss a chance to be on a river, or with a grandchild, or sitting at a campfire with old friends.
Because, frankly, we don’t know how many more of those days we might have.
I heard the same sentiment from a friend I ran into on the trail the other day. He’s 75, and he would have been 10 miles into the canoe country that day on an annual walleye fishing trip, if only the ice had gone out in time.
His group had postponed the trip for 10 days.
“This time, I’m going in no matter what,” he said. “I’m not going to get in the habit of canceling trips just because they’re tough.”
I could sense not only determination in his words but the same sense of urgency that I’d picked up from the steelheader on the river. It’s the conviction that, by gosh, you’re not going to pass up any reasonable chance to do something you love because you don’t know how many more chances you’ll get.
There are no guarantees. We know that. We don’t know it at 20 or 30, maybe. But we certainly know it at 60. Or 75. By that time, most of us have lost a friend or two. Most of us have seen others who, because of a knee or a heart or a hip, can no longer do all they’d like to do. Or all they once did.
So, forgive us if we push it a little bit sometimes, if our determination to do something seems a little over the top. Cut us some slack. We might just need that trip to the river, or up to the canoe country, more than you know.
It might not be just about the fish.
Sam Cook is a Duluth News Tribune columnist and outdoors writer. Reach him at (218) 723-5332 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/samcookoutdoors, or on Facebook at “Sam Cook Outdoors.”