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Packed-up hopes keep dream alive

The note arrived by e-mail. I knew the writer. He's an older gentleman whom I've written about a few times over the years. I've enjoyed our casual friendship, usually centered on his fly-fishing.

The note arrived by e-mail. I knew the writer. He's an older gentleman whom I've written about a few times over the years. I've enjoyed our casual friendship, usually centered on his fly-fishing.

He's organizing and planning a couple of trips, he said. He didn't say where. I assume they involve fly-fishing.

But I know where he is now. Here, in April, he probably is sorting and gathering. Figuring out what his trips will require. Making sure he has the requisite flies. Making sure his waders are shipshape. Making sure the pockets of his vest are well-supplied.

In a follow-up note, he said he was really enjoying the process. He is, I think, beginning to live those trips already. As he ties flies, he probably thinks about the streams he will fish. If he has fished them before, he can see the runs in his mind, the clarity of the water, perhaps some watercress growing along the shore. He may see fish he has caught and released there in the past, the way they gleamed in their wet skin, the way they hesitated upon being freed before they shot away again.

The trips he's planning will unfold in time. But this dreaming, this imagining, is an essential part of the process. The anticipation and the preparation -- all of it brings great pleasure.

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I have another older friend. He came by the other day to give me a Duluth Pack he had owned for some time. The price tag was still on the pack. The price was a fraction of the cost of today's new Duluth Packs. My friend had never used it.

I protested the gift but, no, he meant for me to have it. He wanted to know that the pack would grow worn and faded, that it would be well-used. So I accepted it.

The man is 75. He lived most of his life in the Chicago area. He worked for the railroad and then in construction. His heart was in the North, but he couldn't get here then. It just didn't work out. But he would read all he could about this area, particularly about the canoe country. And he began acquiring gear toward the time he would be able to move north. This Duluth Pack was one of those acquisitions.

Like my friend the fly-fisher, he was planning and dreaming. He was getting ready.

He was not able to get here until much later in life. His wife had died. He gathered his accumulated gear together. He moved up.

He is here now, living a good life in a cabin up north. He could see, in recent years, that he would not be able to use the Duluth Pack. But he had no regrets about buying it all those years ago.

"It served its purpose," he said.

It kept his dream alive.

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SAM COOK is a Duluth News Tribune columnist and outdoors writer. Reach him at (218) 723-5332 or scook@duluthnews.com .

Related Topics: FISHING
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