If you are like the rest…each year Auld Lang Syne is sang on New Year’s Eve; you may not know, but the tradition goes way back, in fact it goes back to the Scottish who would come together on the last day of the year to celebrate Auld Lang Syne (for old times’ sake). They would all stand in a circle, sing the song with their arms interlocked and then rush in to the middle of the circle as the New Year began. We might not be able to be together for the New Year celebration….but come along with me for just a moment as I look back on a spectacular year (2016) of outdoor pursuits.
I have always intended and wanted to keep a journal for the entire year…miles driven, lakes fished, number and species of fish caught, days spent afield fishing or hunting…and this past year I was quite meticulous; I kept a small daily calendar in my Yukon and after each outing I simply recorded the basics of the day. The numbers were a bit staggering…
For the year I drove a bit over 23,000 miles in pursuit of fishing, hunting and the outdoors in general. I was able to fish 106 days and caught 1,398 fish; 15 species that ranged from bluegill to musky. My best month was May as I landed 333 fish. My most busy month was July as I was able to fish 20 out of the 31 days. Before it was all said and done I fished in 6 different states: Indiana, Missouri, South Dakota, Iowa, Michigan, Montana…and one country, Canada. My licenses for the year came to $484…which I always feel is a great contribution to each of those states and their efforts to further conservation.
My best largemouth bass of the year came way back on Saturday, February 27th. It was in fact my longest bass yet to date…25 inches. At the time it was quite slender as it was early, so early that Frank and I had to break a thin sheet of ice to get into the small lake located on Minnehaha. I thought often of that big female over the next couple of months and would have loved to caught her later when she was spawning…she might have just pushed the double digit mark.
I March, Vickie and I took off on an adventure; we trailered my small boat all the way to California where we dropped it off to its new owner. On the trip we were able to visit Sequoia, the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde and my favorite of all national parks…Yosemite. In all we traveled 5,850 miles winding up in Missouri for some awesome trout fishing at Bennet Spring.
April 27th was opening day this year for spring turkey and I found myself in the rarest of predicaments…within minutes of leaving my truck I spotted a full-fledged Tom strutting his stuff for a single hen. In just over 30 minutes I was able to set up and harvest a 21 pound male that had an 11 inch beard. I shared this bird with my class the next day as we discussed turkey, nature and had some delicious wild game.
Sunday, May 8th found me atop the new 1000 Islands public area just a couple miles south of Linton. On the day I was able to land a pair of bass over 20 inches with a total weight of my five largest bass of 17 pounds. For sure it was one of the most prolific days fly fishing from my float tube…that I have ever had. Later that month on May 21st I had one of the most epic days fly fishing for smallmouth bass that is possible as I landed 20 big smallies, two of which were 19 inches. The water and conditions were perfect as the big females were out in search of putting on some weight prior to their spawn.
Sunday, June 5th found me once again heading west, this time I would pick up Harrison at the Denver Airport; over the next 11 days we would visit 11 states and four more national parks. The highlight of the trip for both of us was a visit to Glacier National Park…unfortunately we couldn’t take the “Road to the Sun” because of the massive amount of snow still left on the 7,000 foot pass.
Early July found Vickie and me off on our own adventure to Canada. We fished and camped our way up through Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Canada, upper and lower Michigan…all before once again returning back home to Indiana. In all we put another 3,485 miles across the heartland of North America and found Canada to be a place where we would once again visit many times.
By the end of the first week in October I had traveled west, towing my one man camper all the way to Montana with three bird dogs along as my companions. There we would harvests pheasants, sharptails and one Hungarian partridge…before leaving Montana for Iowa and The Driftless where on one cold morning I would land my most memorable fish of the year…a 17 inch wild brown trout from French Creek. This gorgeous, wild specimen was landed in gin clear water using one of my own hand-tied flies!
Thanksgiving week this past month found me, Charlie Warthan and Harrison, west, in Nebraska. There we would hunt rooster pheasants for a few days with my longtime friend Norm Lorenz. On one glorious, sun-filled Nebraska morning we were able to point and then harvest 11 rooster pheasants in just under two hours. It was one of those days where my bird-dogs and I were in total harmony and all was right with the world.
What a year. What an incredible country we are privileged to live in. I believe you are shaped by your surroundings and the more I see…the more I want to see. I truly love this country and thank God for all the freedoms we possess; but none more than Enjoying the Great Outdoors.