By Nick Simonson
I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m a homebody when it comes to the outdoors. It doesn’t take much for me to get lost chasing walleyes along the river winding through town, casting after trout in the nearby lakes, or picking off a few hungry bass as summer progresses on nearby waters for largemouths and smallmouths alike. In the fall, I don’t travel far for hunting, heading a few minutes northeast for a readily available shot at sharpies in September, and southwest about a tumbler’s worth of coffee to chase pheasants in October. My deer permit area in November makes coming home and rolling out just as easy. The things I’ve learned close to home have always paid off on the road, despite being a reluctant traveler.
I’ve been lucky to the point in the four places I’ve called home to feel as if I’ve had the best of just about everything within an hour’s drive or so. As a result, I’ve been quick to write off a trip anywhere, whether that’s for fish or game. It may be the simple joy of multiple panfish on the end of the line in a single outing or knowing that catching the biggest fish in a small lake or stream is good enough for me. The draw of the mountains half a day away just means that’s 12 hours less time to actually be catching fish than what I could do practically out of my front door. I’m content crushing cattails and stomping field grass with my lab in the fall, knowing that while populations of birds may be higher elsewhere, the windshield time is far outweighed by the chance to take a shot on the wing nearby and maybe be home in time for lunch with a story to tell. It’s truly a “bird in the hand” scenario, or fish or deer, depending on the calendar.
However, there are those places a distance away that have stuck with me. The winding streams through the hilly driftless area of Wisconsin where a buddy and I caught wild brown trout on the fly stick in my outdoor memories like emeralds in a crown. Leaping smallmouth bass on legendary Lake Erie over Memorial Day weekend punctuated a two-week trial in northwestern Pennsylvania while on a business trip. The menagerie of saltwater species – snook, redfish, mackerel and bluefish – caught along the shores of Florida’s gulf coast while there with family have left their marks in my memory book and in my fly box. The spaces and species are so different from home, but to learn them and catch them, I take what I have learned there and again go through the trial-and-error efforts, starting with what I know.
Fish are fish everywhere, they spawn, eat, strike and then shut down under a cold front in one spot much like they do in another. However, changes in sites and species can and do require alterations in presentations and sometimes entire plans. While I like to push the tactics I’ve developed and honed on my home waters, sometimes a new spot at the end of a road trip or an airplane flight requires a breaking down and building up of tactics to match the changes in scenery or a food source. As the reset takes hold and new tweaks on old tricks are developed over a few days on an unfamiliar flow, the learning experience that traveling – whether the goal of the journey is to find fish, or they are just incorporated into a day or two on a family vacation – helps expand boundaries and create new memories.
With the unofficial start to summer looming in the days ahead and travel expected to be at a fever pitch as people ditch the confinement requirements of the previous year, take the knowledge from home on the road with you like that old reliable Igloo cooler in the back of the car stocked with your favorite drinks and snacks, but know that adjusting and experimenting with those tried-and-true patterns and items of tackle or using something completely new may be in the cards. Make the most of the opportunities both while at home and away and add some memories and new tactics that might just become as much of a go-to as a favorite nearby water…in our outdoors.
Featured Photo: To the Next Bend. Wherever your adventures lead, take what you know and adjust those tactics to new waters this season. Simonson Photo.