RP Outdoors: Fishing Up North


By Jake Prinsen

The year was 1998. I was around four years old, and I was watching my older brother (about five at the time) cast his Snoopy fishing reel from a pier off the shore of Lake Little St. Germaine in Northern Wisconsin.

I can’t tell you exactly what was running through my head. To be honest, this story comes from a collection of some of my very first conscious memories, so the details are a little foggy.

Perhaps my brother was in search of the elusive bluegills swimming below the pier, darting right, left and right again. I really don’t know. I do know, however, that by nature of having stood at the end of the pier, my brother was liable to being pushed into the lake for no apparent reason.

So that’s exactly what I did.

Column by Jake Prinsen Assistant A&R Editor
Column by Jake Prinsen
Assistant A&R Editor

There was a push, a splash and my brother (Snoopy reel in hand) was submerged and soaking wet (don’t worry, he was a strong swimmer). After some crying, drying and trying to convince my parents that I was at fault, my parents looked to me for an explanation as to my brother’s saturated disposition. I merely shrugged, and was therefore unpunishable.

It was the perfect crime. I had singlehandedly, at the age of four years old, devised and orchestrated a chain of events that lead to my brother’s annoyance and discomfort. The crimes would only become more elaborate as the years passed.

A therapist might analyze my actions on that day and conclude they constituted a foreshadowing of sociopathic tendencies. I, however, would contest that my actions prophesied a love for fishing with my brother…and also for pushing him into lakes.

If my analysis is accurate, that prophecy was correct, as my dad, brother and I annually return to the north woods for a summer fishing trip.

The trip is a weekend of masculine activities. We drink beer, we grill brats, we drink more beer, we grill burgers and, ah, sometimes we fish. Does it still count as fishing if you don’t actually catch any fish? I’ve never been sure how to answer that question because we usually don’t catch anything.

Despite our mediocre fishing skills, the trip is a highlight of the year. I can honestly say I’ve learned some of the most colorful curse words in my vocabulary from listening to my dad try to turn over the old Evinrude motor on our family’s fishing boat. God bless that poor little machine.

All jokes aside, the north woods are an amazing place. Being in a small boat in the middle of a big lake is a cathartic experience. When it’s 7 a.m., the sun is just starting to rise over the tree line and you can feel the crisp cold air, so pure being brought into your lungs – without calling it a religious experience, I’ll say it beats being in the classroom.

I can’t tell you for sure whether there’s a god or not. I don’t know if there’s any meaning beyond this existence. It seems to me there’s moments you spend where you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else or with anyone else, and you know those moments are real.

I can’t think of a better example of one of those moments than being with my dad and brother, in a boat on a lake up north somewhere, having a beer and catching no fish.

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