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Feeling the Fever
By Chris Jones

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.


Chris Jones

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 down river.

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?