Being Saved

Posted on March 2, 2002

If we’re lucky, we all go through different stages in our life. When I was a young boy I learned to fish with my dad and grandpa on Shawano Lake Wisconsin for panfish. As I grew older, I went through a long spell of no fishing through my teen years. A new friend, who I met in my early twenties, introduced me to smallie fishing in Canada’s Boundary waters and for the next ten years we not only fished the Boundary Waters, but searched out smallies, walleyes, pike, and muskie in lots of other places. In my thirties I got married, started a company and had three kids. Going north (among other directions) was not an option anymore. During that time I looked for local opportunities to satisfy my desire to wet a line. I plied the waters of our local cooling lakes, fished assorted ponds and Forest Preserve lakes, but nothing was really right for me. Then I got “saved.”

As a fisherman, my absolute saving grace was discovering stream smallmouth. As I stood in the clear, cool Kankakee River catching smallmouth bass on a beautiful fall day (with that same friend that had gone to Canada with me so many times), I knew I had found “it”. Something about this struck me with a deep resonance. This is what I’d been looking for as I transitioned from single, young guy with time, to older guy with none. It all came together and made sense for me. A beautiful hard fighting fish, moving water, being close to home but no crowds,and the ability to wade and actually seek out these fish. Riffles, pools, eddies, holes, and islands were all around and all you had to do is walk a ways to find their underwater treasure.

As I sought to learn as much as I could about stream fishing, I also discovered that these fish were everywhere. Not only were they in the well publicized rivers and streams, but these hardy souls were in creeks running through subdivisions and Chicago suburbs with populations bigger than Milwaukee. Everywhere I turned I found another secret spot. It turns out smallies were literally 5 minutes from my driveway. I could take my kids to school, pull off the road, throw on my waders and if lucky, catch a smallie or two before work. There is nothing more satisfying than facing your work day knowing that ten minutes ago you were in a cool stream working your jig through a hole and hoping for that telltale signal. Even without catching a fish, just being there put a smile on my face.

I’m really not sure what I would have done if I had not been “saved”, but I truly thank God and my lucky stars that it happened. For me, the best quote to describe this feeling comes from writer John Gierach. It goes something like this: “Rather than the fishing trip of a lifetime, I’d rather have a lifetime of fishing trips.”

As I have met many other stream fishermen in the last few years I can’t help but notice that, occasionally, some of them go through a few transitions of their own. To you I say a hearty good luck and I hope that the ability to get on the water will continue to be the saving grace for you that it was for me.

Guest Article by James Jozwiak

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