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Some of the best friendships are
formed in the strangest of places. While many friendships are formed
on the ball field, the school yard or in the backyard, one of my best
friendships was formed on the banks of a small stream.
Meandering through the Southern
Wisconsin countryside, crisscrossing a patchwork of cow pastures,
cornfields and woodlots, the stream flows across the state line into
Illinois before dumping into the Mississippi River. This tributary is
commonly known as the Galena River in Illinois, but in Wisconsin,
locals prefer to call it “The Fever.”
The Fever is a place where as a teenager my buddy Shawn and I embarked on many fishing trips. After a 40 minute ride in his dad’s Carolina Blue Vega with a hunter green canoe strapped on top, we’d stop and dump a 10 speed bike in the high grass near the HWY 81 bridge and then drive further up river to the nearest bridge. There we’d slip the canoe into the deep pool just below and start casting.
Between us and the bike lay
several miles of river teeming with spastic stream smallies that often
fell victim to Rebel Wee R cranks, black and silver Rapala’s and
tubes. We’d shoot the
smaller rapids and riffles and then slowly work the deeper pools and
eddies formed by the boulders in the stream, waiting for a strike.
Most days we’d catch a smorgasbord of fish including 15-20
smallmouth bass in the 10-15” range, with an occasional Walleye or
catfish and every once in a while a smallie approaching 18” but for
us the experience was more than just catching fish.
Most trips we’d stop at the big
sweeping bend a few miles south of the bridge pull the canoe onto the
bank and haul out the Weber grill. Sometimes it was burgers and beans;
other times it was hot dogs and potato chips. We’d talk about the
fish caught so far and eagerly await the fish to come.
After relaxing for a few minutes in the shade of the
overhanging willow trees along the bank, we’d make a few casts to
the deep bend in the river where several bigger fish had been caught
in the past, and then we’d be back in the canoe floating our way
The time spent on the water with
Shawn helped to bond our friendship, and it provided those classic
outdoor moments in life that many just don’t understand. Whether
taking turns catching smallies stacked up behind an eddy in the river,
cooking hot dogs for lunch or doing “rock -paper-scissors” to see
who had to bike back to get the car, those experiences made memories
that will last forever. It’s those outdoor experiences where
memories are made between friends, words are not a necessity, and the
experience itself galvanizes the relationship.
A lot has changed since then.
Trips to the Fever have been replaced with trips to the Wolf River,
and the Carolina Blue Vega has been replaced by a much more classy,
Duke Blue Chevy Suburban. The canoe has seen its better days and been
replaced with a green and silver Stratos. The grill is now a cooler
packed with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, some water and a few
cans of Mountain Dew. My fishing buddy has also changed. Now it’s my
10 year old son Logan who joins me on these trips, frequently adding
sour gummy worms and lemon-lime soda to the menu.
Despite all the changes over the
years, one constant remains. Clearly, fishing trips are much more than
catching fish. The bonds created while fishing last for a lifetime.
Whether fishing for smallmouth on a stream in Southern Wisconsin or
froggin’ the duckweed on the Wolf River, fishing creates that
perfect environment in which to forge friendships and connect to the
ones we love. These are bonds that will last for a lifetime.
Shawn and I now live states apart,
and we very seldom see each other anymore. Despite the fact that our
lives have taken different paths, we can still reflect on the days on
the Fever like they were yesterday, and that’s what makes them so
special. I’m sure that
some day Logan and I will reflect on our days of throwing frogs on the
Wolf River as well.
Do you have a place like the Fever
River in your life? More specifically, do you have someone in your
life to share these experiences with?