It came to me just the other day that we were spoiled rotten for several winters in the early years of this century - until the winter of 2012-13. If you care to remember that far back, the winter started out relatively mild, but that changed in the late stages with prolonged snowfalls that stretched well into spring.
The result of that was an opening day of trout fishing that was the worst we've experienced in many years.
Getting to favorite fishing holes was difficult enough, but then we were met by extremely high, fast running and cold streams, which left our chosen quarry - brook trout - impossible to catch.
This is a view down a trout stream in northern Marquette County on the opening day of the trout season in 2013. As can be seen, not only is the river running way too high for good fishing, but just getting to the river along snow- and ice-covered river banks can be a challenge. With the way the weather has been this spring, conditions for this year’s opener on April 26 should be just about as bad or worse. (Journal photo by Dave Schneider)
This year will be as bad if not worse, with nary a trout angler I've talked to expecting anything but horrible fishing conditions on opening day, which is only eight days away!
It seems impossible that conditions will improve to even being bad by the time the last Saturday in April rolls around, although there is still a chance, I guess.
But what about the old days? Our fishing crew has been heading up to the same spot since the mid-1970s, and in the early days we very seldom were able to drive the 3 miles or so back in the bush.
I can remember snowshoeing in with a stuffed backpack while pulling a sled also packed with the essentials of spending a long weekend in the woods.
One buddy of ours was well-known for the excessive amount of supplies and equipment he used to bring along.
This ended after an opening weekend in the early 1980s when were able to drive his old Jeep about half way into camp before we got stuck.
We then loaded up the sleds and donned our snowshoes for the trek in, and you wouldn't believe the size of the load he was pulling. Included were a cookstove, chairs, a cot, sleeping bag, coolers of food and beverages, spare clothing and enough fishing gear to last a lifetime.
The stack of supplies moved slowly through the deep snow along the old two-track, with several stops needed to reload the sled after it fell over.
We finally made it into camp, but then another problem arose - he was soaking wet from sweating so hard while dragging the sled that he nearly died from hypothermia. We had to build a huge fire and he stripped out of the wet clothing and hurriedly put on some dry stuff
He finally settled down and we enjoyed a relaxing - although fish-less - weekend at camp.
However, things had changed weather-wise while we were in the woods. The cold, snowy weather vanished and was replaced with 70 degree temperatures and sunny skies. This was welcomed while we relaxed in the woods, but then we had to walk back out, which included the excessive packer determined to haul back out everything he took in with him, minus a few pounds of food and a 12-pack or two.
So here he was, about a mile and a half from his vehicle, dragging his huge pile of stuff in warm sunny weather - with no snow left on the ground.
Despite the challenges, we made it safely to the Jeep and headed for the local watering hole so he could drown his sorrows, and the rest of us could have a good laugh over the wonderful weekend we had, and the opening weekend folly that one in our crew endured.
I believe this was the excessive packer's last trip with us to the woods on opening day.
While this particular opening weekend story stands out for obvious reasons, the point is that the weather was very typical for late April. You never know if you're going to encounter a snowstorm, heavy rain that has marked many of the openers over the years or warm, sunny conditions.
As stated earlier, we did get spoiled in recent years but have now experienced two more typical springs in a row. What this tells us is we have to be prepared for any and all conditions that might be encountered when we head up the road to our sacred fishing grounds.
Pack everything you might possibly need, but make sure you can fit it all in your backpack if the final few miles have to be traveled on snowshoes.
Editor's note: City Editor Dave Schneider can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 270.