The Testament of a Fisherman

ESCANABA — The Testament of a Fisherman

Robert Traver 1964, (Judge John Voelker 1903-93)

I fish because I love to;

Because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful, and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly;

Because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties, and assorted social posturing I thus escape;

Because, in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion;

Because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience;

Because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don’t want to waste the trip; because mercifully there are no telephones on trout waters;

Because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness;

Because bourbon out of an old tin cup always tastes better out there;

Because maybe one day I will catch a mermaid;

And, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant — and not nearly so much fun.

This week I looked to find John Voelker’s video rendition of “The Testament of a Fisherman” as he was recorded at camp and along his favorite fishing spot by Buck LeVasseur during an episode of the Discovering television program. The reason his words meant so much to me is that Wednesday marked the 10th year since my best friend and hunting companion Mike Albert passed away. His attitude about going to camp and hunting echoed what Voelker used as rationale in his love of fishing. Mike also enjoyed the soft sounds of a rippling stream as he went in search of trout with a fly rod, but his top passion was hunting.

I first met Mike in 1975 and within a year had made friends enough to be invited to his famous (sometimes infamous) deer hunting camp. We created such a bond that if I could add any meaning to the thoughts of John Voelker, it would be to include the words “with a friend” on the end of the first line.

I would also add the observations made during the 32 years of time spent in that place and the surrounding woods. Here we enjoyed the secret parts in a quality of life only those involved outdoors find. If there was ever a chance to see these two individuals sitting side by side along the river bank, I imagine how they would nod in acknowledgment of each other’s views.

It is quite possible that Mike would have testified that:

I go to camp and hunt because I love to;

Because there is nothing more enjoyable that the smell of a fresh stoked wood fire combined with the aroma of a fresh brewed pot of coffee on the stove;

Because there in nothing to enhance the taste of a cooked bear roast wrapped in bacon and smothered in dark gravy beyond having it ready as you finish a day of cutting firewood;

Because a card game can sometimes occupy a whole afternoon, and when done right does not count as a day or money lost;

Because the fellowship of friend stopping by means a resumption of when things last left off and erases the time in between;

Because wool clothing can not only keep you warm, it can also wick heat away from your body when necessary;

Because the time spent cleaning a rifle at the table is as relaxing as reading the finest novel;

Because finding the hunting knife you thought you’d lost is reason for all to raise a toast with a shot and a beer;

Because keeping a written log of events at camp is as important in settling an argument on recollection as Hoyle’s Rules are for a dispute in a game of poker;

Because a still hunt is not work but a relaxing journey into an element beyond imagination that relaxes more than tires;

Because even in those years no game is taken, being able to once again make the trip to camp makes it a successful season;

Because no one away from camp can savor smoked goose as you can’t get it anywhere else;

Because the background sound of the radio playing Prairie Home Companion on a Saturday evening at camp brings back memories of days gone by;

Because the term “tight group” means more than a well sighted rifle;

Because the years of time together at camp makes us ageless;

Because there are no set schedules at camp with the exception of wasting daylight in the swamp to get out to hunt;

Because the time spent on teaching the discipline of “what’s said in camp – stays in camp – a key element in recruiting a youngster;

And, finally, because the bond created from going to camp, hunting and fishing with a friend is so strong that even a decade after parting company, it seems as though the last experience happened just the day before.

Thanks buddy. Still miss you every day.

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Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Trails & Tales Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.