11 November 2015


Fishing to hunting; fall to winter; fog to frost. 

Catch-and-release to shoot-and-eat. 

Night to day, and back to night: northern Minnesota's November daylight period is such that an angler or a hunter daily witnesses both the sun's rise and set, and not through an office window. Natural rhythms are felt deeply. 

Yearly traditions of people and places, touchstones, tell us of those things that change and those don't. 

24 June 2015

Slow Down, They Say.

Excerpted from midcurrent.com: 
There is a stoplight on my way to work that happens to be in front of a mortuary. There are always a few flatbed trucks idling in the lot, each loaded with one or two wrapped pastel-colored caskets, waiting for the morning delivery manifest. Not really waiting, I guess.  Time means nothing to them. But the daily cliché is hard to miss. Life is short, uncertain, they say.
This week at the office was our quarterly meeting for recognizing employee anniversaries. Twenty-four years. Thirteen years. Thirty-nine years. Feels like just yesterday. General applause for time served. All of this muted by the eternal hush of the HVAC, conditioning seven stories of rebreathed air, and the buzz of fluorescent lights, blue and unnatural.
It’s hard not to run out the door on Friday afternoon as I make for my truck. It’s already packed with the canoe on top. Up North is the agenda. Fresh air and natural light. A couple days by myself on an off-the-grid lake with a canoe and a fiberglass rod...
Click here to continue reading "Slow Down, They Say," and subscribe to the MidCurrent newsletter while you're there.

Since last fall, I've had an almost-monthly column appear on MidCurrent. I'm lucky and honored to contribute, and I share the space with more than a few extremely talented folks.

This can also partially account for the slow updates to Voyageur Pursuits, so here's a list of my MidCurrent work, in case you've missed any:

How to Slay Your Dragon
No Good Deed
Connecting the Dots
The Heron's Notebook
A Superior Fish

Lastly are a few more photos to go with "Slow Down, They Say."

Thanks, as always, for following and supporting Voyageur Pursuits.

06 June 2015

Not A Fishing Trip

Big Sur Coast, California. Not A Fishing Trip.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.  No Fishing Allowed. Sunset-colored conglomerate cliffs and diamond blue booming surf. Kelp and otters and Brandt’s cormorants. Rare and scientifically important native coastal habitat.

And the sea lions, awkward and comical as they flop about on the rocks. But a massive skull on display at the park entrance and its thick canine teeth leave no doubt about the true nature of these lobos marinos.

Soon we can see a few in the water too. Chasing, flashing black in the luminous aqua surf. Fast. Predatory.

Which of course begs the question: would they take a fly?

19 December 2014


Many words have been written about the stark beauty of a sunlit snowscape. There is a lot to say for one. The North Woods are at their aesthetic best, perhaps, under a cleansing blanket of fresh cold powder that dazzles the eyes and frosts the pines and spruces, turning them almost black with contrast, especially in the post-snowfall deep cold that settles in and makes the air itself seem brittle and crystalline.

But there is a rarer and more solemn beauty in foggy overcast. Today is just such a day, a mid-December thaw that has collapsed the snow on the ground into greasy almost-slush and set the trees dripping so that the woods sound of a steady rain. The air is thick and heavy with mist that obscures the grander vistas but accentuates the depth of the woods by its shading, nearer trees standing out clearly and more distant ones losing first color and then shape.

Slowly the gloom can even become oppressive; apart from the tree-rain the woods seem silent. Unlike the crisp carriage of sound that cold clear air allows, this wet stuff muffles all noise and keeps it close. The residents seem to feel it as well. There are no chattering chickadees roving about and the rabbits and grouse and even the red squirrels are quiet.

An all-day late-season blackpowder hunt is my reason to be out in it. An empty freezer and a free weekend send me back into the woods for one last try. But the day soon seems to hold little promise. Presently everything, including my rifle, is wet. Will it even fire, if a soggy deer does cross my path?

I sit it out anyway. At the end of the day all I've seen are a pair of hurried grey jays and a raven that croaks and gurgles unseen above me in the overcast, his wings carving loud hollows in the thick atmosphere.

01 July 2014

It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: You will outlive the bastards.
― Edward Abbey

15 April 2014

I’ve moved home.

The grey morning after the last day of deer season, 2009, that I left Duluth for lower Michigan was a lifetime ago, by my reckoning, the four and a half actual years overfilled with new jobs, new friends, my marriage and several others, and four addresses. But finally, this spring my wife and I moved home.

I’ve heard it said that home is where your stuff is. True to a point, but not absolutely, as discussed over late beers in Escanaba, Michigan, while all my stuff was in the U-Haul parked outside.  

Home has always been the North Woods. Growing up on their southern edge, where the Laurentian Plateau descends into Lake Superior, made them the bedrock of my concept of home. Of course, I have grown to also love the sand country of Michigan and its jack pines and trout, its predictable hatches and rich dry-fly heritage, and its three coastlines with sight-fishing flats. But I am not really home until I've seen the sun set over a rocky, tannin-dark lake and watched the stars spin around Polaris – near directly overhead – next to a spitting fire of spruce and birch.

Lastly, and most naturally, home is where my people are. As I consider this, it is clear that I've left behind a home in Michigan, now, too. Friends met and made over moving water – or at least the discussion of it – that will keep a home for me in Michigan when I return, even if only occasionally.

My last weeks in Michigan were filled with fly tying, trip planning, and even some long-shot fishing, made more poignant by the impending move. And the first weeks here in Minnesota have been filled with reunions, over water and over beer, made more cheerful by not ending with “see you next year,” but instead “see you again soon.”

I suspect, however, that I’ll be returning home, if only briefly, to Michigan soon as well. When the spring flood passes, there will be Hendricksons and Isonychias and drakes and Hexagenia. And friends to chase them with. 




13 January 2014

On Traveling

Rosy of cheek and toothy of grin, the three Yankees burst through the automatic doors of the Super Wal-Mart in McMinnville, Tennessee. River water that had parking-lot flash-frozen on their waders melted again in the relative warmth of the store and their Vibram soles squeaked offensively on the tile.

They were in town to find and document a Tennessee musky; the polar vortex was in town to set records. These three hardened winter steelhead anglers from Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan had come farther south than ever before in their lives only to fish in the coldest temperatures of their lives: six degrees above zero, Fahrenheit, was the high that afternoon. And they had moved muskies. They had coaxed the outboard motor to life, cursed at iced rod guides and flies that stuck to every metal surface, and stomped frozen wooden feet – but they drew muskies from deep within the steaming and impossibly green water.

And that afternoon, in the actual last hour of light, they had caught a fish. Not a monstrous fish, but an eleventh-hour keystone musky that sanctioned their suffering and prevented them from having to say “we didn't get the shot, but it was still a good trip,” yet again to their families and friends – and editor.

The cold had the town shut down, except for the Super Wal-Mart. Enter the heroes, now, seeking a bottle of real Tennessee whiskey with which to properly toast the fish, the trip, their hosts, and anything else within range.

“You guys carry whiskey here?” they asked of the first cashier they came upon, a girl likely not of drinking age, who was too startled by their waterproof bib overalls and ice-beards to answer immediately.

But the crone at the next register was ready. She had seen their kind before. Her small eyes twinkled with joy, but she did not smile as she croaked: 

"This here’s a dry county.”